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CNN NEWSROOM

The Trumps Attending Church Service. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 20, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And that was their sort of historic themes that two of those people shared, and it went over very well in the day for each of them.

And I think he's going to follow somewhat in that path. I think this is going to be more, just my guess here, more philosophical than agenda driven.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Bakari Sellers, a number of Congressional Democrats not attending but history goes on.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does. And I think that the right to protest is as American as apple pie. I mean, the fact that they're not here is their First Amendment right. But today, for many Democrats like myself, it's not about the man, but it's about one of our greatest American traditions which is about the peaceful transition of power.

And while we may not be fully excited, I remain hopeful. Although the morning started out with Donald Trump getting a sermon from someone who is anti-Muslim, homophobic and brings a lot of controversy with him, I'm hopeful that, at 12:00, Donald Trump shows attributes that we haven't yet seen from him on the campaign trail.

And the number one attribute I'm looking for is that of empathy. I'm hopeful that Donald Trump can understand the struggle of so many Americans in this country because people are looking at him now. Whether or not he believes it or not, or wants it or not, the onus is on him to bring this country together.

And so, right now, I, like many Democrats, like many Americans, remain hopeful. But today is an amazing day where we understand and recognize that America is already great, but today is about the greatness of this country.

COOPER: We're going to hear from six religious leaders, actually, today, more than any other inauguration.

I interviewed three of them last night, Franklin Graham, Rabbi Hier who's the first Orthodox rabbi to address an inauguration -- I think the first rabbi since sometime in the 1980s, he told me -- also Reverend Rodriguez who was not a Donald Trump supporter but who decided to attend.

We had been talking about -- a lot of people are talking about what Melania Trump is wearing. I just want to go over to Derek Blasberg, the host of CNN Style, and Vanessa Friedman, the fashion director for "The New York Times," who are more eminently qualified to even discuss this.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Derek, what do you make of Melania Trump? I mean, she's obviously stunningly beautiful. What is she wearing?

DEREK BLASBERG, CNN STYLE HOST: We can confirm that it's Ralph Loren that she's wearing this morning. And Vanessa and I were sort of joking that it's a brilliant first lady costume.

VANESSA FRIEDMAN, FASHION DIRECTOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, not only is she channeling, as Douglas said, the Jackie Kennedy vibe -- and she doesn't even need to say that Mrs. Kennedy is going to be her role model because her clothes are saying it loud and clear for her -- but by working with Mr. Lauren, she is underscoring a number of different points, which are kind of interesting, you know.

First, because he built an empire on the whole myth of the American dream, you know. And secondly, because the woman he has been most recently associated with, at least in the political sphere, is actually Hillary Clinton.

BLASBERG: And it's interesting that there's a rumor going around that Hillary Clinton, too, will be in Ralph Lauren this morning at the inauguration festivities. Something that I did want to point out about what Melania was wearing is that the heels are so high. You know, it's not the --

FRIEDMAN: Heels are always high.

BLASBERG: But it's not the most practical idea to wear those high of heels for a skip down to Capitol Hill.

COOPER: Well, I also just can confirm that I, too, am wearing Ralph Lauren.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I know America's been wondering. I am wearing Ralph Lauren.

FRIEDMAN: Show us your shoes.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: They're record churches (ph) and the heels are not quite as high. But, you know, it's also actually interesting, when the vehicle opened that the President-elect and Melania came out of, you can actually see what appears to be a gift. It looks like in a Tiffany box on the back seat.

The Obamas actually started a tradition, that they brought a gift to the Bushes when they first went to the White House. I don't know if that's what that is, but it will be interesting to see if they are presenting something to the departing first family. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And, of course, you know

they're going to be having coffee with them later so that would be a perfect time to exchange a gift, I guess, right now at the White House. The outgoing President is apparently meeting with White House staff to say thank you and to say his final goodbyes, which is people they've lived with for the past eight years.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh my goodness. I got to believe that's going to be a very emotional thing.

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

AXELROD: Because I've seen him interact with these folks and they with him, and they become family.

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: That's right.

AXELROD: And it is a very, very, very hard moment when you say goodbye.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

AXELROD: The President has said it's not the job that he will miss, but the people. And they are principal among them, you know.

But watching Melania Trump, I want to just say a word for first ladies generally. They rarely ask for this responsibility. They're mostly reluctant conscripts. That was certainly true with Michelle Obama, and it did take her more than a few months to really find her footing.

[09:04:58] She was mostly concerned about getting her kids situated and keeping her family whole. And she really searched for her identity as a first lady, and it took some time. And she didn't ask to be here. Melania Trump didn't ask to be here.

HENDERSON: Yes.

LORD: That's actually right. You know, having worked for the Reagans, Nancy Reagan had a difficult time in the beginning. And let it not be forgotten that a couple of months in, he was shot.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: And she was, you know, apoplectic about this.

(CROSSTALK)

LORD: And it took her a while to sort of get her groove, as it were, and she was pilloried in the press as a queen and all this. And she turned it around with a performance. I think --

AXELROD: Yes.

BORGER: Yes, right. AXELROD: Yes, it was fantastic (ph).

LORD: -- dinner where she dressed in rags and came out and saying secondhand rose or something like that.

SELLERS: Yes.

LORD: So it's tough.

HENDERSON: Yes. I think that, for Melania Trump, Michelle Obama will have great advice in terms of how you can build a life here. For instance, she obviously moved her mother down here to look after the kids. At some point, she had reluctance about moving right to Washington but decided to do that and really, I think, created a life for herself in Washington.

COOPER: We are waiting for the President-elect -- we can still, now, say he's President-elect, soon he will be the President -- President- elect and the entire Trump family to be leaving St. John's. They will then proceed to the White House. Our Michelle Kosinski is standing by there.

Michelle, talk about what is going on inside the White House right now. David Axelrod was talking about sort of the emotion of those goodbyes to the staff.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

COOPER: We saw that photograph last night of blank frames on the wall outside the Oval Office, pictures of the Obamas taken out, waiting for pictures of the Trump family or whatever pictures they want to go in there.

KOSINSKI: Yes. I mean, we've seen this scene now stretch over the last few days, of staffers cleaning out their offices, taking the last bits that they've left behind, e-mailing out their goodbyes, coming to visit different people throughout the West Wing to say their good-byes in person.

And the mood has been very, very sad. Many of them, they've been so busy throughout the administration. They didn't take the time to try to find jobs for afterwards.

Some of them already have and some of them are going to continue to work for the President and first lady, but many of the lower level staffers say that they just haven't had time to figure things out. They're still figuring out what they want to do with their lives, and they have a sort of sense of sadness that they openly talk about.

So this morning, arriving here before dawn, people described it as surreal. Some of the staffers described it as apocalyptic.

The President and his family spent their last night in the White House. And then early this morning you could see president Obama through the window in the butler's kitchen talking to staff. So we know that he's saying his goodbyes, and he's thanking people as well this morning.

COOPER: I also want to bring back in, if I can, Derek Blasberg and Vanessa Friedman as we wait for Melania Trump and the President-elect to leave the church.

You were talking about Melania Trump wearing Ralph Lauren. First ladies have often kind of worked with a particular designer. I think Nancy Reagan wore a lot of Bill Blass and maybe --Galliano?

BORGER: Adolfo.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: OK. Adolfo. Does that tradition continue?

BLASBERG: Well, there's been a lot of hesitation, I think, particularly with Melania Trump because the fashion industry wasn't exactly embracing to her. And so there was some confusion over which designer she would pick. It's not exactly a surprise that she'd chose Ralph Lauren, who's this American icon of American style.

FRIEDMAN: But what's interesting is that, yesterday, when she made her appearance at Arlington, she wore also an American designer, a New York designer, and a young independent one whose name is Norisol Ferrari.

And then, at the dinner, she also wore a New York designer named Reem Acra, who is much more established and is a Lebanese-born name. So she's really sort of engaged in some sort of outreach to the fashion community and, you know, looking at designers and all their diversity.

BLASBERG: It's interesting because Michelle Obama really raised the bar, I think, of what it means to be a first lady and how to embrace American fashion. And it looks like in the past 48 hours, that's something that's been very in Melania's head.

COOPER: And something like this can change the life of, you know, especially, a young designer that the first lady decides to start wearing.

FRIEDMAN: I mean, certainly, someone like Norisol Ferrari, whose name was probably known to very few regular consumers before this moment, is now going to, you know, experience a time in the spotlight that she probably had never anticipated.

BLASBERG: But an interesting note about that, with Michelle Obama, it was immediate verbal praise, so to speak, in the fashion industry. Everyone loved it if you're on Michelle. And we're sort of curious to see if Melania has the same positive effect on these designers.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, what kind of backlash they may experience.

COOPER: OK. Gloria?

BORGER: The interesting thing to me is, you have Ivanka Trump here who has her own brand, and she has worn her own brand consistently during the campaign.

[09:10:02] COOPER: And the company has marketed that fact right afterwards.

BORGER: Right, and she's been criticized for it.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: Now, Ivanka Trump is going to have a different role. We don't know if she's going to have a West Wing office, but she's certainly tracked to be the most influential first daughter in history. Will that stop?

She is separating herself from her brand right now, and so the question is, will she also separate herself from being a breathing, walking advertisement for the brand of Ivanka Trump?

AXELROD: I mean, this is a big difference because Malia and Sasha didn't have their own brand.

BORGER: They didn't, yes, but they might now. Right? We don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're awaiting Donald Trump, the President-elect, his wife, his family to be leaving St. John's heading to the White House.

We're going to take a short break. The outgoing and incoming presidents joining together at the White House. Stay tuned for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:14:57] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Looking at live pictures from St. John's Episcopal Church. The Trump family has been inside attending a private prayer service on this very historic day in the nation's capital.

Momentarily, they will be emerging and driving across the street. Very, very short little drive over to the north portico at the White House where the Trumps will be received by the outgoing President of the United States and the outgoing First Lady of the United States. So Jake, this will be a significant moment when the President Obama and Michelle Obama, they basically say goodbye to the White House but also welcome in the next President of the United States, the next First Lady of the United States.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: And it's a tradition that began in the - in the 1800s, the outgoing president and incoming president coming together. I think it was 1837 Martin Van Buren outgoing, Andrew Jackson incoming, came over together to the inaugural ceremony. And that was the first time that happened, and that has been a tradition that has gone on ever since. It was sometimes more bitter than that. John Adams didn't go to Thomas Jefferson's inaugural after Jefferson beat him. We should point out that Hillary Clinton will be here today. And not

only will President Obama, outgoing president, but because Hillary Clinton married a former president Bill Clinton. They will be here today. And all of this pageantry and all of these traditions are rooted in much more than just symbolism. These are moments where the nation is trying to come together, trying to put painful episodes, painful campaigns behind them. And it's just - it's just a beautiful day in terms of how much it's steeped in history, the first inauguration, 1789, George Washington. We're going to have another one today.

BLITZER: Momentarily, we'll see them walking out of the church and driving across the street over to the White House (INAUDIBLE)

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And if you see in the lower right corner of your screen, that is where the president will give -- President Trump at that point, will give his inaugural address. That's Stephen Miller, who is Donald Trump's Policy Aide, but also somebody who helped Donald Trump write the address that he's going to give. So he's obviously checking it out.

The other thing I want to say is that, I don't know about you guys, but I always want to know what's goes on inside because you always see the outside of this church every four years. Dan Scavino who is in charge of Donald Trump's social media, took a picture, I think we have it. He took a picture of inside so we can actually show you what it looks like, a little bit of a - of a bird's eye view. Check that out. I don't remember ever seeing it inside. Have you -- do you remember ever seeing inside, a picture like that on inauguration day?

COOPER: Not on inauguration day.

BASH: It's very - yes. It's a very private, intimate -

BLITZER: What part of your screen you see the president-elect and Melania Trump are right in the front row -

BASH: That's right.

BLITZER: -- at this private prayer service. No cameras were allowed inside. It was a private service for the Trumps and their friends, their family, in order to begin this day on a religious note.

BASH: Right. So, it's really remarkable and a treat, frankly, to be able to see what it's like inside that very intimate prayer service.

BLITZER: You heard that the sermon are also involved building walls around Jerusalem from Nehemiah, John King. We've heard a lot about building walls.

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've had heard a lot about building walls. It will be interesting to see if we hear when the president - when the president at that point, does outline his agenda for the American people, does he bring up specifics like that on the speech or is it more, it's time to get things done, it's time to change Washington. Remember, one of the reasons he's the president, one of the reasons he disrupted the Republican Party and took over the Republican Party.

One of the reasons he beat an established well-known political figure like Hillary Clinton, even though voters expressed a lot of doubts about Donald Trump, questioning whether he was up to the job. He won the presidency because they want him to change this town and they believe he will create jobs. You can look at a lot of negative polling numbers about our new president, as Jake noted earlier, the most unpopular man to assume the presidency in modern history, and yet, there's also is some hope in the country that his business experience and his breaking up - disrupting Washington will lead to a better economy.

We'll see how this plays out. But as we wait for this moment, this is just remarkable because so much of today is to send the projection of continuity of government, the American democratic experience. Even though we have bitter divisive campaigns, we turn the page without skipping a beat. The current president hands off to the next president. Consider the history. The history here, you cannot forget that Donald Trump spent a couple of years of his life trying to delegitimize the presidency of the man who is about to hand over the White House to him. But President Obama during the transition has said, I have a job, I have to be a professional, this is what the American people said, and I'm going to do it.

BASH: And then he learned that from George W. Bush. They said that George W. Bush and his team set the gold standard for how to do a peaceful transition. And that's what they try to immolate that now.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny is getting some new information for us on the inspiration for the president-elect, what he's about to say in his inaugural address. What are you learning, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Wolf. As Dana was just talking about the history there, Donald Trump indeed has been studying some history on his own. He's been reading, I'm told, and watching and even listening to some old inauguration addresses from years gone by particularly, untold drawing optimism from Ronald Reagan.

[09:20:08] Now, as you know, you're on the west front of the capitol. I'm on the other side of the capitol, on the east front. And until Ronald Reagan, all of the inauguration ceremonies we're actually on the east front of the capitol here, facing the Supreme Court and the library of congress. After 1980, it switched to the west front. But I am told that Donald Trump is particularly inspired by that. But also has been looking at others. You can see behind me here, this is the carriage entrance of the senate.

All the VIPs will be coming in this door, particularly Hillary and Bill Clinton. We'll be watching for them. It is a big moment that they are coming here today as well. But Donald Trump looking at all those old addresses, even President Obama's, I'm told, to draw inspiration for, what I'm also told will be a shorter speech than it was eight or four years ago. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, thanks. I want to go to Sara Murray. She's getting some more information on what we can expect. Sara, you're learning more about the tone of the president-elect's address once he becomes president.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We saw Donald Trump last night saying he will be the president who unifies the country. And we can expect him to say something along those lines again, to hit the theme of unity. But that is not going to be the driving force of this speech. The driving force of this speech is the notion of putting America first, putting the American people first, the American worker first.

And Wolf, Donald Trump's aids know that he is not known as a stunning orator. He is not going to deliver a speech the way we have seen from President Barack Obama. But they believe and Donald Trump believes that he is an action-oriented kind of guy. He's not going to lay out a laundry list of proposals, but he is going to lay out his vision for how he is going to make the lives of the American people better. And he and his aides ultimately believe that that is how he is going to unify the country around him, by improving their lives, by convincing people he can make their lives better. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. We'll stand by for that. Jake, we have been told, what, maybe 20 minutes for his address once he delivers the inaugural address?

TAPPER: Yes, relatively short inaugural address. I'm not sure what rhetorical flourishes he's going to use. They've been pretty closed- lipped about what's exactly going to be in there. But there's a lot of talk of getting to work, about his agenda, about what he wants to do. We've heard that as we spoke last night at the Lincoln Memorial. We've heard that throughout the last week or so, talking about things that he promised voters during the campaign that he wants to do, especially when it comes to rewriting trade deals and trying to bring more jobs.

You know, I heard an interesting analysis the other day from an economist. Don't take these numbers specifically, but it was something along the lines of growth in this country has been about 2.5 percent, but really, when you break it down, for the top 20 percent of the country growth has been about 5 percent. And for the top - for the bottom 80 percent of the country, it's been at zero. And in that, I think we can see one of the reasons why president-elect Trump was able to inspire so many people in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan, people who feel like they've been ignored. People who feel like Washington, D.C. has not treated them with dignity, with any sort of regard in terms of the trade deals that they've made. And I think president-elect Trump feels very inspired to get to work on those issues. And my understanding is, we're going to hear some of that reflected in his speech which should be relatively short. Thankfully, Wolf, thankfully not as long as your first inaugural.

MURRAY: Fun fact.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: William Henry Harrison, and he spoke for an hour and 45 minutes and died --

BLITZER: That was way too long. Way too long.

TAPPER: -- and died 30 days later.

BLITZER: That's not a good --

MURRAY: But apparently, he really got sick from the White House water, but that's another story. The shortest -- fun fact, the shortest inaugural address in history --

TAPPER: George Washington.

MURRAY: You read the same list of facts, 135 words.

BLITZER: Yes.

MURRAY: Little longer than a 140 characters, but --

BLITZER: They could have tweeted that speech.

MURRAY: Yes, almost, almost. Almost.

KING: Yes. In that Ronald Reagan speech, Jeff Zeleny was just talking about -- that Donald Trump considers one of his models. Ronald Reagan stood there behind us. His ultimate alter of Washington power and said Washington is the problem, government is the problem. That was the theme of Reagan's first inaugural. It will be interesting because Donald Trump is - his candidacy was such an outsider, disruptive candidacy. How much? How much? He says he's now working more closely with the republicans here in congress, he ran against them in the primaries, he mocked them as much as the democrats in the primaries, really interesting to see. He's not only trying to unify the country, he also is trying to -- one of the reasons he is here today is because the American people don't think this town works. They think this town, frankly, would mess up a free lunch. And that's Donald Trump's challenge. To Jake's point, never held elected office, haven't served in the military, never done this. But his task is to make this town work. That's why he was elected.

TAPPER: And we're going to see -- we're going to see President Obama leaving the Oval Office in a few minutes. We're told that he has left the traditional letter written by one outgoing president to an incoming president. He has - he has left that letter behind.

BLITZER: This is -- this is the video on the lower right-hand part of the screen over here. You see the Oval Office. You see from the Rose Garden, and we'll see the president writing - you know, leaving that personal letter -- it's a tradition. Every president leaves a note, a letter, for the incoming president.

[09:25:10] TAPPER: We've seen - we've seen the one that George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton, which is an entirely in keeping with his character, graceful and beautiful note. Just in the last couple days, the national archives released the ones left by Bill Clinton for George W. Bush and George W. Bush for Barack Obama. I am -- they're all of a theme about, it's a tough job, but the American people are a wonderful and resilient people, honor them, honor this office. And I suspect that President Obama wrote something similar. They tend to be very nice and inspiring notes.

MURRAY: We don't know what he said in private to Donald Trump in that note. But we do know what he said in his final tweets under the @potushandle. He said, "It's been the honor of my life to serve you." This was just recently set out.

BLITZER: There, you see the president, walking in the Oval Office.

MURRAY: There he is.

BLITZER: It looks - it looks like he's going to leave that little note right there at the - at the desk.

TAPPER: On the resolute desk.

MURRAY: That's remarkable.

TAPPER: And you see the ladder to the right, through the door there, this is -- the next five hours, once they leave for this inaugural, the staff has to turn that building around in the course of four or five hours. One family moves out, another family moves in. That is also part of the remarkable nature of this day.

MURRAY: But this is amazing to be able to get this - literally a peek in the window of the White House as he's spending his final moments there.

TAPPER: So much action going on in that building today within the next six hours. They redo 132 rooms, they move out one family and they move in one family, the best movers in the world.

MURRAY: We can get another peek there.

TAPPER: It is tradition, so it's such a beautiful tradition.

BLITZER: Let's see. There he is, the president walking out. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is the rain holding out?

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OUTGOING PRESIDENT: So far, so good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feeling nostalgic?

OBAMA: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any final words for the American people?

OBAMA: Thank you.

TAPPER: Any final words for the American people. Thank you. BLITZER: He is grateful to the American people. He had eight years as President of the United States. Let's listen one more time.

JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OUTGOING VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, good morning. Keep the rain away, will you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're working on it.

BLITZER: There you saw the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden walking out of the (INAUDIBLE) as well. Anderson, these are moments that certainly everyone will remember down the road, very historic day.

COOPER: It's extraordinary to see that, not only just sort of the peek inside the White House, but then to see President Obama, Vice President Biden. David Axelrod, I mean, for eight years ago, you were there as they moved in. What do you think as you see President Obama about to leave?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, first of all, I think about those two men, who were rivals, they ran against each other. They didn't know each other all that well when Joe Biden was chosen as vice president, and they've become such close friends. You know, there are many instances in history in which presidents and vice presidents go their own way and they don't have much of a relationship.

COOPER: We saw that with Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

AXELROD: Yes, and I suspect George W. Bush and Dick Cheney aren't in close touch all the time. But I think these guys are going to be friends for the rest of their lives because of what they went through together and the bonds that they grew. So that's one thing that occurs to me. But I -- you know, I've spoken to the President in the last few days. I think he's well satisfied that he did his best, and he is not going - he is not leaving there, you know, they're his fingerprints won't be on the door jam. He believes this is a healthy thing to - this transition of power, and he is ready to move on.

COOPER: Well, he's also, I mean, 55 years old. He has a whole other act, several acts --

AXELROD: And that is one of the things that he thought about when he ran, you know, and the time was right. He thought it was the right time for him to make a contribution, but he also knew that he'd be done with his presidency and still have, hopefully, many useful years ahead of him. So I expect to see him not in a -- as a leader of a party or the point of a spear in a political debate, but in trying to inspire others to step forward.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN SMERCONISH HOST: And yet, as between those two, as between the vice president and the president, the younger man's political role is cast and over in terms of elective office, but maybe not the vice president. You know, the vice president leaving that door ajar as he gets ready to get back, literally, on an Amtrak train later today and go back to Wilmington, Delaware, where the political future still undefined in his future.

END