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Report: Obama Says in My Core, I Believe America Will Be OK; Obama Gives Last Press Conference; Obama Commutes Manning's Sentence. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 18, 2017 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Them, what did you think of him laying that out.

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER SENATOR: I thought it was sort of funny because this president who has done more to attack people of faith, try to get little sisters of the poor to buy abortions, to me, that's unbelievable that the President would even use that as a marker. This President has been anti-faith, and has tried to drive a secularism into this country, and so I hope he speaks out but I hope he speaks out differently than what he actually did as President. That's number one, on the issue of voting there are legitimate concerns about making sure that everybody has an opportunity to vote, but I think what we are seeing here is the continuing division that somehow or another requiring an identification that if you want cough medicine you have to get it on an airplane you have to get it, but if for some reason if you want to vote in deciding the leaders of our country you don't have to prove you are who you are. But that to me is not discrimination.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But that's an easy -- I think your party at its best is color blind meritocracy which is admirable in that regard, tends to turn a blind eye in your state legislatures to what courts are saying are deliberate attempts to disenfranchise people, but saying the only way you can justify some of these bills is because you're deliberately trying to exclude people. You have North Carolina they actually went in court and the court said the combination of all these things together is just an attempt to exclude and I think if your party spoke out against that more then I think we would have a better conversation. I don't think reducing it just always to voting I.D. is helpful because that's not all of what's been going on.

TAPPER: I want to talk about some other things President Obama said. The little sisters of the poor you're referring to the contraception mandate?

SANTORUM: Yes.

TAPPER: OK.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I appreciate your sensibilities, it seemed to me he was being pretty generous and light hearted without being drawn into confrontations with the President- elect and there was a certain of generosity of spirit because the President-elect hasn't always been as kind in squeezing his prerogatives as he leaves office, but the question is why is he leaving as such a popular President if he's trampling all over these sensibilities?

SANTORUM: I think you saw it he's a very winsome and likable person. And he is good father, a good family man, someone who talks about issues in a way that is as I said winsome and caring. I think his policies are wrong and that's why I find it painful, but I think the reason that he is doing maybe as well as he is because of the stylistic differences between the man who is going to be inaugurated in a couple ofays and the way he is combative and Obama he's got brass knuckles but velvet gloves over it.

TAPPER: Let's go to Michelle. At least 49 or 50 Democratic members of the house are boycotting the inaugural on Friday and his response was he's not getting in the middle of that, he's going to be there.

MICHELLE KOSINKSI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This was really his chance to say something about this. The White House has been asked about it. We heard Josh Earnest the press secretary yesterday say he didn't feel that action harmed the transition or contributed to divisions in America. That's been the White House's official take on Democrats boycotting but it was the President's chance to either criticize those Democrats a little bit. Nobody expected him to speak out against them or to justify what they were doing which I think was probably the more likely that he would weigh in but he decided to stay completely out of it so that tells you that for this event, his last press conference he didn't want to be overly critical and weigh into controversy and come out on one side or the other.

[15:35:00] He wanted to try to be inclusive, talk about we'll wait and see how that happens including in his discussions with his President- elect, he gives advice, and their pleasant but he always end with a little bit of a warning in example to the discussions they have had that you can't do this job alone or -- with people who disagree with you, I have a lot of hope moving forward, you have to be an active citizen, safeguard your democracy. He said I want to take time off and be quiet with my family but if I see these things emerging to a greater extent I am going to have to speak out against them, so didn't want to be critical but also wanted to put people on notice that he still feels the way he does. I don't think anybody would make any mistake about that and he's not going to be quiet about things once things happen.

TAPPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski at the White House. We have much more to talk about, President Obama may have tried to avoid an explicit confrontation with President-elect Donald Trump but he did weigh into many contentious issues including his commutation for the sentence of Chelsea Manning. We'll be right back.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: President Barack Obama gave his final press conference. There were a number of topics he was not asked about including Iran deal, ISIS, the war in Syria, the genocide in that country. But here was one topic that was front

and center that was for the commutation of the sentence for Chelsea Manning who had been convicted of putting out all kind of classified information on the web. Let me go to you Senator Santorum because I know your criticism of the President to do this, his basic explanation was Chelsea Manning has served her time serving seven years in prison which is more than what most people get for this offense. But I didn't really hear more why they took this step when in 2010 the administration was so strongly critical of handing over this information to WikiLeaks.

SANTORUM: Yes, and they fought against this commutation. I look at this as just an unbelievable giveaway to Republicans entering into a week in which Donald Trump as we talked during his press conference a week ago, at this table has serious problems with the intelligence community, serious problems with the credibility of the American public and dealing with intelligence and being able to be a commander in chief and work on those things. And here President Obama gives the intelligence community an absolute upper cut an absolute knockout. And takes that issue off the table for the Democrats.

AXELROD: So, you think he did it out of a spirit of fair play?

SANTORUM: Maybe I should give him more credit --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But Donald Trump has praised WikiLeaks so he's in a bit of a bind here himself because he has praised WikiLeaks during the campaign wanted more e-mails to come out --

SANTORUM: Yes, but those are e-mails from a private server, we're talking about secrets that jeopardize men and women in the field in uniform and this is a dangerous thing.

BORGER: Chelsa Manning gave birth to WikiLeaks there is a relationship there, so he's not clean on that either.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I see this differently. First of all, I'm very proud that the President did this.

SANTORUM: Why?

JONES: For a couple reasons. First of all, seven years is a long time, but this President has actually been very, very tough on whistleblowers and from the left part of his party and especially for the younger millennials they love this guy but baffled with his stance with regard to whistleblowers so that sticks in the craw of a lot of younger voters so Chelsea Manning became a symbol -- you guys are all shocked.

SANTORUM: Can we get a distinguishing between whistle blower and traitor?

TAPPER: Chelsea Manning considers herself to be a whistleblower because Manning enlisted in the army, went to Iraq, saw things that shocked her including that helicopter incident that was the most famous part of what she leaked. But I don't know what that has to do with this wholesale dump of hundreds of thousands of documents? VAN JONES: Listen, I think Chelsea Manning already said that was bad

but I'm trying to give you a perspective outside of the D.C. consensus that this is a horrific mistake that Republicans and Democrats are punishing him for and I share in the view that this goes in some way of repairing part of the younger voters and seven years is a long time. Should Chelsea Manning have done it in the way, no, but that striking video for this younger generation, you remember the picture of the young woman kind of burning in Vietnam, that's their image and this person they had this available I think it's important that we at least allow for the people that think he did the right thing.

[15:45:00] TAPPER: Let's talk about the fact that the President's war on whistle whistleblowers, he used the espionage act and reporters were in the crosshairs, and there were a number of times where a lot of reporters were in a tough position today. There a lot of people who don't that this president has been particularly supportive of freedom of the press. But today you would have thought that he was Studs Turkel in Chicago helping to write the freedom of information act, he was very for press.

AXELROD: I didn't know Studs wrote the freedom of information act.

TAPPER: He and that crew.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The one thing that struck me just going back to the notion of the President issuing a whole slew of warnings for Donald Trump, it seems as though he's been taking ques from Donald Trump's own aides that the way to really influence him is to do it is on television, because he watches a lot of television and that is where he consumes a lot of his information and maybe gleans some of his opinions. I thought that was really

fascinating.

His last event was called a press conference, he did it in the room, a very small room, but it is an important room that since the Nixon administration -- am I right -- has been where presidents and their spokespeople come and frankly take it from the press corp. And the fact that he made such a point of talking about the essential free press have to be in the building -- because of the talk about moving them across the way to the executive office building. And saying that we, the press, are not to be sycophants and this is a guy as you said who did not always have the greatest relationship with the press and really angered many people in the press corp. Because of what you were talking about says a lots about how important it is and we said it and will say it again, a free press and adversarial press is to the core of our democracy.

TAPPER: And John, he also called on a reporter with an LGBTQ publication and gave an articulation of how happy he is that there has been progress made on that front.

JOHN KING, CNN, ANCHOR: The fact that he called on diverse publications -- that was a signal as well. And the Trump campaign within its right to say hey, what about Breitbart news, what's the President-elect's decision, but to the legacy questions that came up, he said American society has changed and I think on gay rights, LGBT issues, a lot of progressives would remind President Obama he was a little late to get on the train, when he came to office he opposed same sex marriage. The courts did most of that work, but did talk about that and in the military and how there are a lot of people who gave these dire warnings and there's still some debate but that that has worked out okay and then he talked about being the first African American President, and just celebrate the moment. A two-term President is leaving, the next President will be inaugurated in a couple of days. But he said that he thinks people of every race, color, gender will succeed him in due time. It's a white male, this time, but that's been the proud point of this administration and you covered the white house and there are people saying he wasn't being black enough, why doesn't he talk about race issues more, others say he done talk about race enough. There were a couple of efforts there to --

TAPPER: David, you wanted to make a point?

AXELROD: I thought what was interesting was some of his comments at the end of the press conference where he became most reflective and speaking about how he spoke to his children and how they handled some to have bitterness of the last eight years and he told them the only thing that's the end of the world is the end of the world.

[15:50:00] And that registered so strongly for me because having known him 25 years and been along a lot of the way one of the signature qualities of Barack Obama is that of times of maximum stress and challenge he was always the calmest guy in the room while everybody was freaking out and getting nervous. The second thing was this notion of not succumbing to cynicism and staying engaged and staying involved, that's something he really believes and I think that's something he's going to the second thing was this notion of not succumbing to cynicism and staying engaged and staying involved, that's something he really believes and I think that's something he's going to spend the rest of his life -- however long that is hopefully long, to encourage his kids and younger generations to believe in this process and participate.

TAPPER: You just heard from President Obama in his final news conference. Next, we are going from the incoming Vice President Mike Pence, that interview when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. A beautiful afternoon here in Washington, D.C., the incoming Trump administration will get to work on day one, possibly rolling out a number of executive orders and actions as early as next week. I guess that isn't really day one, day three? Political correspondent Dana Bash just joined me. She sat down with Vice President-elect Mike Pence. You talked about Obamacare on day one agenda?

BASH: That's right, Obamacare, what to do about Russia. The President-elect made a lot of promises of things he's going to do right off the bat. We started there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Mr. Vice President-elect, thanks for joining me.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Thanks, Dana, you, too.

BASH: I want to focus on what you are going to do first. The President-elect said during the campaign that he would announce his plans to renegotiate NAFTA on day one. Terminate all of Obama's executive orders, stop Syrians from coming into the country, get rid of gun-free school zones and military bases. Should we expect all or any of those on day one or Monday when he says he's going to start the real business?

PENCE: I think you can expect that a President Donald Trump is going to hit the ground running on day one come Monday morning. And the first week there will be a series of executive actions, both putting executive orders into place, repealing some executive orders. Going to continue to work very enter jet cli with the Congress to both repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously.

BASH: On this day one situation, the question is whether or not any of these specifics are going to happen.

PENCE: They may. We're laying out now a series of executive orders and actions which may actually span over the first several weeks --

BASH: Can you give me a hint as to one or two of them?

PENCE: I could, but, look, I want to keep the surprise there. We're literally laying out those plans. But I can tell you the President- elect and I and our whole team is -- are very humbled by this moment. The approaching 58th inauguration, but very anxious to get to the white house and get to work for the American people.

BASH: The President-elect has said now more than once he wants insurance for everybody. What does that mean?

PENCE: Well, look, the truth is Obamacare has failed and all you need to do is look at the fact that premiums in many states around the country have gone up more than 100 percent this year alone. It's put a tremendous burden on families, on businesses. Step one is to repeal the taxes and mandates at the very heart of Obamacare. What the President-elect has made clear is that he also wants the Congress at the same time to pass a replacement bill that will lower the cost of health insurance and literally make health insurance affordable for every American.

BASH: What does insurance for everybody mean?

PENCE: I think it means making insurance affordable for everyone, but also allowing for the kind of reforms in Medicaid on a state by state basis that will ensure -- make sure we have health care coverage for the most vulnerable in our society.

BASH: So, making it affordable and you said the most vulnerable, but not making -- I'm guessing you're not talking about a mandate because that would be anathema to what you were talking about. When he says insurance for everybody, that sort of sends a signal that people are not going to lose the health insurance that they have.

PENCE: Well, our commitment is to an orderly transition out of Obamacare. We don't want anyone to be anxious who has insurance through an exchange or through the process of Obamacare. We don't want people to be concerned they're going to lose that coverage and face hardship for their families. But we want to set into motion the kind of reforms, first in Medicaid for the most vulnerable. And secondly for every American that will allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines, allow people to choose their own doctor, move into primary care, and we really do believe that the American market place itself with the right kind of reforms and incentives and perhaps tax credits can come together to make health insurance truly affordable for every American.

BASH: Senator Orin Hatch in charge of the health committee writing health care laws told my colleague that you have to be over-careful about promising health care. What do you say about that? Do you worry you are over promising whether it's flawed or not, that they could potentially lose?

PENCE: I think the President-elect and I are deeply commit today keeping our promises to the American people and in a very real sense, the American people made a decision on Obamacare in this last election. People know that it's failed. Remember when Obamacare was passed, I was working in the Congress at the time. We were told that the cost of health insurance was going to go down, and the reality is that the exact opposite has happened. And the President-elect and I believe and we've assembled a team, doctor price is a part of those discussions as well, that we believe is going to put together a replacement plan that we hope gets bipartisan support. I was on Capitol Hill over the last two weeks talking with Republicans and many Democrats about their ideas for replacement of Obamacare. Rest assured, President-elect has made it very clear we're going to have an orderly transition and we're going to repeal and replace at the same time.

BASH: The President-elect actually said that you are going to repeal and replace at the same time, but that could come in an hour and it will happen as soon as Tom Price, the HHS secretary, is confirmed. I haven't found anybody on Capitol Hill who has seen that plan. Have you seen it?

PENCE: I've seen a lot of great ideas --

BASH: But there's no plan, you don't have legislation --

PENCE: It's being crafted right now. We're working with a leadership of the house and the Senate, our team, and we're getting very --