Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Trump Says Let's Do a News Conference Today; Trump Says He Inherited a Mess; Trump Says Nobody Talked to Russia During Campaign. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 16, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] ANNA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Instead of going to a therapist's couch he goes in front of the presidential seal and gives this performance.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Was that a good thing?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Anna, I don't think was about performing though I think for President Trump, he has heard these stories, many of which we have a gap in the facts, none of us have seen the Flynn transcript for instance.

BALDWIN: Correct.

MCENANY: None of us know if there were -- wasn't he one on the campaign who contacted who these people are, we actually do know Manafort was one of the people listed but we don't know the content of those communications, whether it was regard to business or President Trump. So, for President Trump it wasn't about performing it was about supplementing the record. He has seen the transcript, he does know in his knowledge whether people communicated from the campaign or not. To supplement the record I think was really important for him and I think that was the catharsis if anything.

NAVARRO: I will tell you why it was performance. It was performance because he never lost his cool. It was uncanny to see the fun he was having, this was a very good actor, a very good TV producer doing his thing.

BALDWIN: Does that make an actor, savvy TV producer, does that make for a solid President?

NAVARRO: Some people will say yes, some people will say no, those that say yes, there's nothing he can do to change his mind, the people that say no there's little he can do to change our mind.

BALDWIN: Maeve, go ahead.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: That is the president the American people elected and to Kayleigh's point I would much rather him be up there answering questions and at least give us a window into his thinking of all these issues. There were substantive issues talked about for example his reaction to the court order and how he was having his lawyers tailor his executive order to the court decisions, though he thinks it is a bad court decision. He gave some clues to his thinking on DACA, you mentioned that earlier, I thought that was the most interesting parts of the press conference because it tells us that he is thinking about what he's going to do on immigration and maybe there will be some surprises there, so the more that we can get a window into his mind and thinking I think the better off the press is.

BALDWIN: I think it's worth, just again, he said on DACA, I will deal with DACA with my heart it's tough especially with children. As Maeve also pointed out on Russia and the executive action to be announced next week to be tailor ordered to the court decision. Mike Baker, former CIA, you're listening to this on tone, performance, substance, what do you think?

MIKE BAKER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I think I got nothing. I'm like everybody else trying to process the press conference so this may be way outside my pay grade. I can talk about it in terms of the leak issue.

BALDWIN: You're an American voter.

BAKER: But in looking at his conversations and the questions asked about the leaks for example, look, every administration is essentially the same, this one is OK more interesting or entertaining whatever word you want to use, but they love the leaks when they fall on their side, and angst and driven to find the leakers when they go against their agenda. In the previous administration with President Obama, same thing, and all back through the ages, the fact that they're looking at investigating the leaks related to General Flynn, one of my colleagues said the exact right thing, it's not going to stop the leaks. We're going to continue to see this particularly now that I think whoever is responsible for releasing that information and it was wrong to do it, and I don't know whether it came from the intel community or it came from a staffer somewhere on The Hill, or somebody who had access, limited access.

But at the end of the day they're emboldened now because they saw the result and so I think we're going to see the increase in this sort of trouble and the problem over the years we've never really dealt with this. I don't want to get in the weeds of how we dealt with past leaks but we're almost living in a society now where there's no consequence, nobody feels they should keep their yaps shut despite agreements they have signed. And now you have newspapers printing front page stories based on nothing but anonymous leaks. So, I guess to wrap up this rambling message I've got, I would caution people to drift towards the center. We are in a moment right now where we are all going to exhaust ourselves over the hyper-panic on the left side over the fact that Trump is president, and on the right side, the fact that from their perspective he can't get a break because everybody is beating on him every day.

[15:35:00] We are going to be exhausted if we don't take a step back, this is not end of the republic, end of days. We should investigate the things we should

investigate, focus on the big issues, we should hold this president accountable just like any President and administration accountable, but have to realize at some point this is not the end of the republic that some people think it is nor is everything he does correct.

BALDWIN: So well said and balanced. People I've talked to Mike on both sides of the aisle said it feels like their head is on a swivel. You are totally right. Quickly on the leaks in case you are just tuning in and watching us talking about the President talking about everything for over an hour. This is what he said specifically on leaks.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes, we're looking at them very, very serious. I've gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies and I've actually called the justice department to look into the leaks, those are criminal leaks, again, we don't have our people in h because we can't get them approved. We just had Jeff Sessions approved. So, we are looking into that very seriously. It's a criminal act.


BALDWIN: I want to thank my panel there as we've been talking about the President. Coming up we'll talk to a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. What Congresswoman Waters has to say about all this coming up.


BALDWIN: We are back here on CNN I'm BROOKE BALDWIN. President Trump just wrapping a wide ranging lengthy news conference, we're hearing words like rant, whine, reset. You be the judge of what the president had to say here.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

TRUMP: I told you General Flynn obviously was dealing that's one person as he should have been.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: During the election?

TRUMP: Nobody that I know of.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, you're not aware of any contacts during the election?

TRUMP: How many times do I have to answer this question?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you just say yes or no.?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse, Russia is a ruse, I know you have to get up and ask a question. Russia is a ruse, I have nothing to do with the Russia.


BALDWIN: Let me bring in Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Congresswoman welcome back to the show.

REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: My goodness. Where were you quickly when you saw this thing on TV?

WATERS: I was in my office. I didn't see all of it. I talked with my staff about the portions I did not see but what's interesting is the question just asked about whether or not any of his aides of people involved in his campaign had contacts with Russia during the campaign.

BALDWIN: He said nobody I know of.

WATERS: He hasn't answered that question yet and from the time I really started taking a good look at him and whether or not there was collusion, I began to think there certainly has been collusion and the way to get to it is to do the investigation, find out who had contacts, Flynn kind of gives us an open door into the way they were dealing with them and talking with people in the way that he talked with the ambassador before the President was basically the President of the United States and so, he won't answer it because if he does answer it --

BALDWIN: But Congresswoman, he did answer it in saying when he was asked this question were your campaign aides talking to Russia, again his answer was nobody I know of. Is that not good enough for you?

WATERS: No, that's a legal answer. That's the kind of answer a lawyer will give you to say when they don't want you to admit something. You give yourself an out because you say nobody that I know of. And when you get caught you can say I didn't lie to you, I said nobody that I knew of and I didn't know of at the time. I mean, that's just a way to get around answering the question.

BALDWIN: Let me play a little bit more sound. This is when he was talking about the now former national security adviser General Flynn and the question initially was did General Flynn talk to the Russian ambassador about sanctions this is precisely how Trump answered that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

TRUMP: No, I didn't. No, I didn't, no, I didn't. --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But did you fire him --

TRUMP: Excuse me, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence very simple. Mike was doing his job, calling countries and his counterparts so it certainly would have been OK if he did it I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it I didn't direct him but I would have directed him because he's doing his job, it all came out that way and in all fairness, I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night, say he was doing his job. And I agreed with him. I would have directed him if he didn't do it.

[15:45:00] BALDWIN: He said Mike Flynn was doing his job, talked to 30 plus other countries and also said I would have directed him to talk sanctions. How to you respond to that?

WATERS: Well, you know, it's very simple. First, I think I would want to know is why did it not get revealed that he had talked with the ambassador until it was exposed by "The New York Times," and secondly, because the President had known about it two or three weeks ahead of time why didn't he tell Pence he had that conversation? Why wasn't Pence in on the strategy or whatever was being done when he got involved with the conversation with the ambassador? This President simply does not tell the truth.

As a matter of fact, what he tries to do is deflect the press from talking about the real issues by coming up with another issue. Now he wants to make the issue the fact that there have been leaks. Yeah, there have been leaks since you know there was a government, but that's not the issue at this time and I'm so pleased that the press is not letting him get away with deflecting away from whether or not there was contacts to Russia during his campaign, I believe there was. I believe there was collusion, I think he's trying his best to get away from talking about it but as I look around those people --

BALDWIN: Let me go back to you believe there's collusion, you mentioned the I word, impeachment and I pressed you.


BALDWIN: We have to be so careful with our language, there's a big difference between believing there's collusion and there's collusion.

WATERS: Yes, there's a big difference and what I have said over and over again and what I have said is I believe it. We have to drill down in order to come up with the information and the facts. And I think that leads to collusion. That's what I've said over and over again. I continue to say that I believe there was collusion. And I have reasons why I found out a lot of information that still is not being talked about in the press.

BALDWIN: Anything we should know?

WATERS: Well, yes.

BALDWIN: Anything you can talk about that you can share?

WATERS: No, yes, yes, I want you to look at what I call his kremlin clan. I want you to look at not only Flynn and Manafort and Ross, and Tillerson and Stone, all of them.

BALDWIN: We are, we are Congresswoman, we are.

WATERS: OK. The other thing is I'm looking at is Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank. Because I believe that the loan or extension of credit did come out of Deutsche Bank for the hotel I want to know if that was the Russian division of the Deutsche Bank and want to know whether or not he's in conflict because Deutsche Bank is under investigation et cetera. And what is he going to do --

BALDWIN: Understand, all valid questions and we're asking them I can assure you, but let me pivot to question from April Ryan. She stands up and asks President Trump about concerns about inner cities and here is what he said.


TRUMP: You look at the numbers in Chicago, there are two Chicagos as you know, there is one Chicago that is credible, luxurious and all and safe. There is another Chicago that worse than almost any of the places in the Middle East that we talk about every night on the newscasts. So, we are going to do a lot of work on the inner cities, I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities.

APRIL RYAN, JOURNALIST, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, inner city agenda as well as --

TRUMP: Am I going to include who?

RYAN: The Congressional black caucus?

TRUMP: I tell you what, you want to set up the meeting?

RYAN: No, no, no.

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours? Set up the meeting.

RYAN: I know some of them.

TRUMP: Let's go. Set up a meeting. I'd love to meet with the black caucus, the Congressional black caucus. I think it's great. I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman cummings and he was all excited and then he said oh, I can't move. It might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting.


BALDWIN: So, we know and here's the tweet, Congresswoman, that you all have asked the President for a meeting. You sent a letter back on January 19th, but haven't heard back. So, where does this stand? Is the CBC meeting with the President?

[15:50:00] WATERS: I have no idea. And first of all, it was inappropriate for him to ask the journalist to set up the meeting.

BALDWIN: Of course, it was.

WATERS: He should have an office that is organized in a way that he would have people with certain responsibilities. That is not her responsibility to set up a meeting. But, of course, they have been running this government like children. They don't know what they're doing. And key stone cops in every operation that he's done, and, so, April does not have the would have people with certain responsibilities. That is not her responsibility to set up a meeting. But, of course, they have been running this government like children. They don't know what they're doing. And key stone cops in every operation that he's done, and, so, April does not have the responsibility to do that. Even if he wanted to do it, he'd have to send a formal respectful request. Of course, I won't be meeting with him but some of the others would.

BALDWIN: You wouldn't take a meeting with the President?

WATERS: Oh, no. I've said that over and over again.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Democrat from California, thank you, ma'am.

WATERS: You're very welcome.

BALDWIN: We were talking about April Ryan, let's talk to April Ryan. April, it's so nice to have you on the show. I saw you stand up and ask that question. My goodness, what about first responding to Congresswoman waters saying you shouldn't be making a meeting. Were you insulted about that insinuation?

RYAN: Not at all. The Congresswoman is absolutely right. I'm from the old school where we just report. I'm not supposed to be the news. So, the issue is I'm a reporter. I would love to be in the room as a reporter writing what's going on. Now, if they would like to invite me, and I'd welcome that, but as far as facilitating that meeting or convening that meeting, that is not my place. I believe that they -- every white house has someone to deal with this kind of meeting or this kind of bringing together of people. And the CBC has put out a letter and tweeted as you showed, Brooke, that they have made a request. I don't know why they did not respond, this white house didn't respond. It's up to that person in this white house to do that.

BALDWIN: Let me back up two steps, because what wasn't included in that sound bite was your great question. What were you asking of the President?

RYAN: I was asking the President about the inner cities of America. He said it was his platform. It was his platform, one of his platform issues when he was running for the white house. And he also is dealing with the issue of HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities. And I asked about that, this executive order that's supposed to come out later this month, not today, later this month. And this executive order deals with taking HBCUs out of the purview of the department of education and placing it directly under the white house purview. And, Brooke, as you know, HBCUs are very dear to the black community. HBCUs have been there for us to make a middle class in black America. It's a big component of making a middle class and the CBC is very concerned about that as well as other issues and I kind of folded everything all into one.

BALDWIN: Sure. And, April, how many years have you been covering the white house? Roughly?

RYAN: 20.

BALDWIN: 20 years, OK.

RYAN: Four Presidents, yes.

BALDWIN: We found out this whole press conference was called when President Trump walked into the oval office and told a member of his senior staff essentially today is the day, I want to hold this press conference. It was sort of hastily put together.


BALDWIN: Have you ever seen anything like this in your 20 years?

RYAN: Never.

BALDWIN: What was it like being in the room?

RYAN: Well, first of all, you know, sometimes there are times when they put something together when there is -- that hidden variable, that variable that comes out of nowhere. And they'll put something together and people assemble before a formal -- this was a formal press conference in the east room of the white house. We were told they had 45 minutes. It was so fast in putting it together that the white house press office staff did not have place cards for us. Many of the veteran people or the people who --

BALDWIN: You were a couple rows back.

RYAN: I was way back. Many of us who had seats in the briefing room, who have work space here in the white house, we had to find our way. So, I said, okay, I'm in the fourth row. I'm going to get my question in some way or the other. But many of us, if you look Maura, she sits in front of me in the white house briefing room and she was way in the back. So, it was a very interesting dynamic. And the way I understand they may change that for the next one, but they are still learning. There is a big learning curve.

BALDWIN: Is there a next one?

RYAN: I'm sure, he said he enjoyed it. He said can't you tell I'm enjoying? I don't know him yet, so, he seemed to enjoy it. It was painful for us, but pleasurable for him. But he said he enjoyed it so we'll see, it probably will be another one.

[15:55:00] BALDWIN: April Ryan, I have so much respect for you and what you do over there at the white house.

RYAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Keep on keeping on.

Thank you. Quick break. We're back after this.



TRUMP: If we could get along with Russia that's a positive thing. We have a very talented man, Rex Tillerson who is going to be meeting with them shortly. And I told him, I said, I know politically it's probably not good for me. The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it's so great. That's not great. That's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.


BALDWIN: We've been listening to the President there standing in the east room giving a massive sort of surprise press conference for over an hour. I've got Dave Adelman who has been seated, editor emeritus, world policy journal, columnist contributor and Nia-Malika Henderson is with me, senior political reporter. David, let me turn to you because you just sat down and said you met with we won't say who, but a senior army general at the pentagon. When it comes to Trump's comments on Russia --

DAVE ADELMAN, EDITOR EMERITUS, WORLD POLICY JOURNAL: What's very interesting was he made the same circuit I did last fall. He went to the Baltic states very recently in Poland. And found as I did, they are petrified with all the disarray in Washington and how that's going to affect America's ability and desire to continue to go forward and help those countries survive if there is, as many of them believe there will be, a test by Russia of their sovereignty.

BALDWIN: He said, you heard Nia, I don't think we have time for the sound bite, but essentially the sound about he would shoot the ship off the coast of, you know, Connecticut. But when you think about 46 percent of this country elected him, 46 percent of this country at least must have loved watching the President.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that's right. And the answer where he said he's not going to telegraph what he's going to do before he does it will satisfy folks that voted for him. It's not going to satisfy his critics who are Republicans, right? I mean, it's Republicans who really want to see a more hawkish approach to Russia, hawkish, more hawkish approach to foreign policy more generally. Listen, I think this was a kick of the Russia can down the road a bit press conference answer. But listen, Russia is going to come up again and again and again and a lot of this conversation is going to be pushed by fellow Republicans, folks that typically would be on the same side of Republican President, but they aren't on this issue.

BALDWIN: While I have you, Nia, I have one more minute before I hand it over to tapper. I have been watching it all and the word that I'm hearing, rant, diatribe. April Ryan was in the room and she said he seemed to really enjoy it and there could be more of these press conferences. What did you make of it? 30 seconds.

HENDERSON: She's right, he said he was enjoying it, it was vintage Trump, a ruckus atmosphere, nothing like I've seen.

It was campaign Trump. We're going to see campaign Trump again on Saturday in Florida. He mentioned that rally two or three times, an airport hangar in Florida. This is where he gets his energy. We'll see this again.

BALDWIN: Absolutely incredible. Nia, thank you. David, thank you. We have so much more coming at you today here on CNN after this press conference. It was the President himself when he called it when he walked into the oval office. I'm Brooke Baldwin.