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Trump Prays, Visits CIA, Counts Heads; Spicer Claims Biggest Inauguration Audience Ever; Massive Rallies Against Trump; Trump Still Campaigning; Arquette and Moore on Anti-Trump Marches; Massive Crowds March Against Trump; Interview with David Axelrod; Trump Tells CIA He's Behind Them, Then Turns Political. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 21, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:22] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish coming to you live from our Nation's Capitol on the first day of the Trump administration. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Our new president prayed and then traveled to Langley to meet with employees of the CIA. He complained about the media, including contradicting crowd estimates for his Inauguration, and then sent Sean Spicer to the White House Press Room to make this claim just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an Inauguration period, both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the Inauguration are shameful and wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Day one of the nation's divide is, well, huge. Protest marches staged by women here in Washington and over 600 sister marches across the U.S. and around the globe Trumpesized of yesterday's inaugural festivities. Many celebrities and politicians spoke and marched. Two of them are here to report back. Documentary Godfly, Michael Moore and Oscar winning actress Patricia Arquette. When Trump delivered his Inaugural Address and indictment of the establishment, former President Obama still told him, "Good job." What does David Axelrod think of this? We'll find out. But first President Donald Trump is nothing if not consistent. For the last 18 months many waited in vain for a pivot that never came.
From the moment he descended the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy, through all the primaries and caucuses, the GOP Convention, and three debates. He maintained a steady populist tone and yesterday was no exception. He wrote an Inaugural Address that was intended for the 46 percent who supported him, not the 73 million who voted otherwise. We've grown accustomed to politicians extending olive branches and making public pleas for unity, even if they don't mean it. Yesterday, he felt no such obligation. The closest he came was to say, "What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people." Equally sad. If he had done so, his words would have been missed by the 60 or so House Democrats who didn't attend the Inauguration.
I think all of Congress should have been there. They'd be under no more obligation to support the Trump Agenda by having participated, but they'd have upheld a public face in support of the Office of the Presidency. Just as it was wrong for President Obama to have been treated with such contempt by so many for so long. It is equally destructive for the nation that an incoming president not be given a chance to prove his detractors wrong. It's possible to support the institution of the presidency and the peaceful transfer of power without applauding its latest inhabitant's plans. Not everyone who was there yesterday was doing so in celebration. Just ask Hillary Clinton. The morning after our bitter election, President Obama standing next to Vice President Joe Biden and surrounded by White House staff spoke to the nation and he said this, "Now everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember that we're actually all on one team.
This is an intramural scrimmage. We're not Democrats first, we're not Republicans first, we are all Americans first." Barack Obama was right. Yesterday may have been the Inauguration but as President Trump's Inaugural Address and today's march proved, the recent campaign isn't ending any time soon. Joining me now to discuss this and more, Tom Barrack, President-elect Donald Trump's long-time friend and Chair of his Presidential Inaugural Committee. I think I said President-elect. I have to stop saying that now. The President of the united States.
TOM BARRACK JR., CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: You get a 24-hour transition.
SMERCONISH: It's like writing a 2016 or '17 on your checks in January.
BARRACK: It is.
SMERCONISH: Let's talk about what just happened today. He went to the CIA and saw fit to talk about crowd sizes in the space behind us at the Inauguration. Was that appropriate?
BARRACK: Sure. Look, I think it's appropriate. Appropriate because this president is just putting its fingerprint on what it's going to be like for him to be president. And it's the same consistency of Straight Talk. So, he went to these people to pay tribute. I don't remember -- President Obama I think went to the CIA and President Bush did also at some point to say, "Look I'm behind you, I believe in you, the rhetoric that you've heard is confused and let me explain why." And then he talked to them like he would to a rally group, instead of the protocol of what everybody was anticipating might be done to an Intelligence Community. I think that's what was upsetting. But the consistency of the man as he gave them straight talk and it was on his mind.
This whole idea of crowds is not worthy of all of us spending our dialogue. It was a wonderful tribute at the Inauguration, President Obama, another great president was great, whatever it was in both instances was significant. For President Trump, it was phenomenal. He had a week, six days of the events. It was a different security regime, we can talk about all the elements that made it more complicated. But it was equally awesome. And now he's President of the United States and he's off to work.
SMERCONISH: But he needs to have thicker skin, right? He's the president now. He's got to be able to turn the other cheek and if elements within the media want to have a debate as to this photograph versus that photograph, you know, that's on all of us in the pundit class. Wouldn't you agree with me that as President of the United States, he's got to be done with all that?
BARRACK: Yes, look I think that wasn't the issue.
SMERCONISH: And would you say that to him?
BARRACK: Well, I think the issue wasn't that. I think he agrees with that nor is he saying just make it equal. And I think what upset him was the tweeting. In other words, that if he's criticized for tweeting and being irresponsible on a set of facts, that he holds the press equally accountable for what -- this all started from a tweet. It's not worthy of all of the time that we spend on how it got started. But I think what upset him was that. It started with a tweet from a New York Times reporter that got re-tweeted by the National Park Service. And the allocation of apples, apples and oranges to oranges is complicated, and so is the time and the sequence. Of course the president when he was president-elect he's looking out and seeing a full mall.
Now remember that mall is cordoned off by fences, you have 99 mags and 400 people an hour, you had a parade route that was blocked by protesters. So you had a couple hundred thousand people who couldn't get in. And what the numbers were is not in his bailiwick. It's my bailiwick way, right? So, I can calculate what we think the numbers are.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask you this, do you have the sort of relationship with him? I'm concerned about an emperor having no clothes kind of a situation when he was a captain of industry, now he's the President of the United States. It would seem to me that you're probably one of the few who could speak to him mano a mano and say, "Mr. President, you can't engage CIA personnel in a conversation about crowd size at your Inauguration or trash the media in front of the CIA. For goodness sake, you're standing in front of a wall. Where we're paying homage to those that we've lost in service to their country. Can you say that and do you say that to him?
BARRACK: I didn't say that to him. But, look, he would accept that a thousand percent. And I tell him what I think and his first-class staff do the same. He has a rationale. Look, the man became President of the United States against all odds and we keep on talking about pivot. He didn't pivot and he won the election.
SMERCONISH: I just said that.
SMERCONISH: There was never a pivot.
BARRACK: No. And he won the election. So he sees a fissure just with the CIA -- he got a standing ovation from all of the CIA staff because I think they finally felt the personality of the man. And I think that's all he's doing. And he's not trashing the press. You know, you guys are punching back and forth a little bit in finding a space. Is it elegant all the time on either side and it's needless, right? We're all saying, "Look let's get about making America united, making it better, making it build integrity.
BARRACK: He's doing it his way.
SMERCONISH: Let me -- let me -- let me pursue that subject then. And I try and be an equal opportunity offender in the way in which I approach this. So you just sat here and you heard me say that I think every one of those House Democrats should have been there as Americans like Hillary Clinton, they should have been there yesterday and accepting at least the process. My criticism of him yesterday is that that speech, I thought for sure there would be a few paragraphs of inclusion along the lines of, "Let me speak to the many who didn't support me, who supported a third party or Secretary Clinton." And that moment never came. I was shocked by that.
BARRACK: Look, he is one of the best listeners, honestly, that I've ever seen. He had to give that speech to his constituents. If it would have been anything else, it would have been hypocrisy. It doesn't mean that it's -- that it's exclusive. I came to Starbucks on the way on this. I mean, I thought the display of the Women's March was terrific. And most of them are charming and they have a point of view and they're expressing it in the proper way and this is the beauty of -- I mean, I said this is America. You have a president who is elected the first day, you have a demonstration of women from everywhere who are responsibly giving him another point of view and he's hearing it, just like he does on global warming and all of the other issues.
The way this president is interacting with the community is different and we're all going to have to get used to it, right? Whether it's right or wrong, it's a much more intimate, blunt message than we're used to. And the way the media and he are dealing, I honestly think that he'll have a great relationship with the media once it gets to parity. And that's all he was saying today.
SMERCONISH: However many there may have been here today and across the country and around the globe, they've got grievances and they want to know that he hears them. Does he hear them?
BARRACK: Absolutely, he hears them. Absolutely hears them. And, look, the great thing is the man was really not a politician. So he doesn't have these entrenched themes. He's pragmatically approaching each and every thing. So, when he sees the women moving across America, he's paying attention and saying, "OK, how do I curate these issues in a responsible way to pay attention on all bases?" And he will because he doesn't have philosophical bias against him. He has a constituency. He knows what the constituency was that got him elected. Now his job is I've got a constituency who were never Trumpers that I need to bring back into the Always America.
SMERCONISH: That's my point. But I'm not hearing him make that overture. I didn't -- I didn't hear it yesterday. And if his reaction was to wake up in the White House today and to see that crowd size as he's en route to the CIA, and to -- instead of saying, "You know, I understand some of -- some of the issues that are being raised by these women, men, too, across the country and around the globe, and I want them to know I hear them and let's build bridges." But instead, Tom, it was -- well, you know, it's a bad pun if I say, "You know, mine is bigger than what happened today." But that's what he turned it into.
BARRACK: Not really. If you think about it from his point of view, yesterday was the most incredible day for America. There's peaceful transition of Partisan power, and he was moved. When he went to Arlington Cemetery.
BARRACK: I saw a change in the man. I mean, he's a very emotional person, a very sensitive person. When he got on to the Mall and the concert and started saying, "Wow, I really now am leader of the free world." I think he was disappointed this morning at just the point of view. In other words, that these photographs that were shown. He felt were deceptively displayed to show a point of view that was not encouraging to a new administration. So he said, "If that's the case, I'm going to take it on head on." And that's -- that's all that it was. It's not saying he's not listening to any other point of view. He listens. And it's his first day. You know, they're just finding the electricity in the White House.
SMERCONISH: I get it, I get it. He needs to learn to turn the other cheek and some among us need to learn to give him a shot.
SMERCONISH: Because it's day one, OK?
SMERCONISH: That's the bottom line.
BARRACK: Look, I really believe if we all just sit for one minute, give the guy a hundred days. Let's all get on to him. Let's be hopeful and let's help him and let's present a positive point of view, not a negative point of view. We have a world out here. I mean, just in the consequence of what he has today, he has a hundred calls from world leaders and we all look like idiots. The beauty of the democracy is we can have different points of view. But we've been through this for two years. Now we have a president.
SMERCONISH: I know but it hasn't ended. Like I thought, "Holy smokes, men. The campaign is over." It's not over, unfortunately. And for some it will never be over. Anyway, I appreciative that you would come on and discuss it given your role as Chair of the Inauguration. So, thank you for that.
BARRACK: No, thank you.
SMERCONISH: Folks are already tweeting me. @SMERCONISH. I am sure. Let's put up on the screen while Mr. Barrack is still here. See what has come in. "First full day Trump embarrassed the U.S. in front of the world with that ridiculous whine about crowd size. We're a laughing stock." You want to take that on? Or did you just take it on?
BARRACK: Yes. I think -- I think the same consistent theme is it's not a laughing stock. What he's looking is parody with the press saying, when you present a point of view that's not accurate or you tweet something that's not accountable, you should be held equally accountable as I am when I tweet and you criticized me. That's the issue.
SMERCONISH: Tom Barrack, I appreciate you being here. Thank you.
BARRACK: Great, thanks.
SMERCONISH: Coming up. Today's anti-Trump demonstrations were massive and remarkable. What impact, if any, will they have? And are they like Trump obsessing over the report of attendance at his Inaugural? I'll speak to famed participants Michael Moore and Patricia Arquette. Plus, Donald Trump visits the CIA, tells them he's behind them and blames his feud with them on the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AND AUTHOR: We got through day one. The headline read, "Trump takes power." I don't think so. Here's the power, here's the majority of America right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That was legendary filmmaker Michael Moore addressing today's Women's March on D.C. The first day of Donald Trump's presidency brought more than 600 massive anti-Trump protests around America and the world. In D.C. among many celebrities and politicians who addressed the crowd, I caught up with Moore as the protest in D.C. was winding down. President Trump, I have to get used to saying that.
MOORE: Yes, so do I.
SMERCONISH: President Trump spoke at the CIA today and he addressed among other things the issue of crowd size, the size of the crowd yesterday compared to today.
MOORE: He's talking about that at the CIA?
SMERCONISH: At the CIA. MOORE: It's his first meeting at the CIA?
MOORE: And he's obsessed with how big the crowd was yesterday.
SMERCONISH: Versus today.
MOORE: Versus today?
MOORE: Oh, my God. Well, first of all, did he even see this today? I'd never seen anything this huge here. I was at the protest against Nixon at his inauguration. It was a tiny crowd compared to this. I couldn't see the -- I couldn't see how far back it went and I was on the stage.
SMERCONISH: So even you were surprised as one who spoke?
MOORE: Yes, yes. They said 200,000 would come. I thought, you know what? It's going to be closer to half a million. By the end of it -- and the Metro Subways were still jammed with people getting off four hours later. It had to be around a million in my estimation for having been to so many demonstrations here. And I think the reason why is because I asked the crowd during my speech, "How many of you are here for the first time at a demonstration in Washington, D.C.?" And I would say half of the crowd raised their hands. And I thought, "Yes. Yes." Because I talked to a group of ladies from Asheville, North Carolina. They were -- they call themselves the Asheville Nine. And I said how many of you are here from Asheville that had never been here before to the demonstration?
SMERCONISH: All nine?
MOORE: Eight had never been here at a demonstration.
SMERCONISH: I listened to your speech. You talked about running for office. I mean, you had a message. Your message was, "Hey, I ran when I was 18 years old in Michigan."
SMERCONISH: For the school board.
SMERCONISH: And I was elected.
SMERCONISH: And you wanted them to get out there and do likewise.
MOORE: Yes. I want as many people as possible, anybody watching this, I want you to run for office. Even if it's just for precinct delegate. Everybody has to now get off the bench and participate in the democracy. This is not a spectator sport. It's a participatory event. And I'm telling you, if you are feeling bad that the gene pool has been so depleted when it comes to politicians, in both parties, this is the time now to get up off the bench. If you think you can do better, I'm going to tell you what, you probably can do better. Don't hold back now. This is the time to get involved. Run for office. You know, form your local rapid response team. Call Congress everyday. They have a phone number. You pay for that number. 202- 225-3121. Right?
SMERCONISH: Spoken like a man who's dialed those digits.
MOORE: I have dialed those digits. And I'm not -- and here's the -- and here's the good news. A human being picks up.
MOORE: It's not a robo-thing. It's not -- it's not somebody in Singapore, you know, that has been outsourced. They've actually kept the jobs right here behind this. A person picks up the phone and says -- and I say, "I want to talk to my Congress person. But I don't know his name." "Well, what's your zip code?," she goes. 10003. Well, bingo. There's -- there it is. And then they ask you would you like the private line? They'll give you the direct line. That's how cool this democracy, still is.
SMERCONISH: This part of Michael Moore looking out at that sea of people today, not just women but that sea of people saying, "Damn it. Where were you all on November the 8th?"
MOORE: I think this crowd was there. I mean, I'm sure they voted. It's what didn't we do to bring our friends and neighbors?
SMERCONISH: What's answer to that?
MOORE: Next time don't -- first of all, too many -- I'm sure these people here today would admit that they were doing an end zone dance, a victory dance, popping the cork back after the contention in the summer. Everybody said it. The network said it. The polls said it. She's going to win. And she did when you count a national vote.
SMERCONISH: Popular vote.
MOORE: But that's not how the system works. I don't like the system the way it is. I want to change it.
MOORE: But didn't anybody at the DNC or in the campaign in Brooklyn do some math and go, "You know what, it is an Electoral College thing. How are we doing in those States?". And I'm like trying to call them in the summer, in the fall. Listen, I live in Michigan, this isn't good. Hillary hasn't been to Wisconsin in seven months. They love her. Let's get her out here. Come on, you know. And couldn't get through.
SMERCONISH: One final issue. MOORE: Yes.
SMERCONISH: What of the idea that says, "Hey, give the guy a chance." I mean, it's day one for him and you've got hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people coming out today. He's not done anything yet.
MOORE: I actually usually believe in that sentiment. The problem is he has done something. He spent 18 months viciously offending and attacking mostly people who are voiceless and powerless. He didn't set the table for us to sit down together and break bread and work together. That's the problem. We didn't start that. He started that. He has never apologized for it. And even in his -- in his speech yesterday was still in this angry mode. And this guy is constantly -- it's like you said he's over at the CIA right now talking about, "My numbers are bigger." And it's like, "Dude, you won." Don't be a sore winner.
Why are you still fighting and refighting the election and the numbers here today and all this. You sound like a guy who thinks he lost. He thinks you protest too much about the protest. You know, it's really -- but you see, can I just say quickly that's his Achilles heel, that he is so sensitive.
SMERCONISH: Sure. Sure. Yes.
MOORE: Such a thin skin. So I encourage everybody, we need to form an army of comedy and satire. This is his undoing. He can't take Alec Baldwin? Wait until he starts taking the rest of America who was ridiculing him and making fun of him. Using their sense of humor. That will get -- that discombobulate him so much. It could be his undoing. I honestly believe he could be the first president brought down by satire.
SMERCONISH: I know I said that was my last question. I promise this will be.
MOORE: OK. I promise -- I promise to make it the last sentence.
SMERCONISH: I've never seen so much creativity as I saw today on the signs.
MOORE: Oh, they were great.
SMERCONISH: Has the word been normalized?
MOORE: Oh, that word. Women have normalized it and owned it.
SMERCONISH: But not us.
MOORE: No, no.
MOORE: I think that's not a good idea. And I think women have had enough of us and our language. SMERCONISH: Right.
MOORE: That it's time to show some respect. But let them own the word. The word has now power that they're going to use with it. But you're right. Not just that but the creativity of all these signs. I think my favorite sign was the one that said, "Yes, I don't usually like carrying signs but, geez, this guy is so bad. I had to carry a sign today." So, it's a -- it's real. A lot of work to do. But I think everybody feels good about the fact that they know they're in the majority. And in past demonstrations, on this wall. Martin Luther King. You go back all the way.
He didn't have the majority of the country with him at that time. The (inaudible) have the majority of the people with him at that time and yet victory after victory after victory has moved this great country forward to being in a better place and it will happen again.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Michael.
MOORE: Thank you very much, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Appreciate it. Another celebrity participant in today's D.C. March, the woman who won best supporting actress Oscar for the 2014 film, "Boyhood," Patricia Arquette, who memorably used her victory speech to plea for Woman's Rights and Equal Pay. Patricia joins me now along with fellow marchers, Georgetown Freshman Libby Bloom and her mom and -- who flew in last night from Seattle just to participate. Patricia, it's day one. You heard perhaps what I said to Tom Barrack, who was the Chair of the Inaugural festivities. Doesn't he deserve a chance? Meaning President Trump?
PATRICIA ARQUETTE, AMERICAN ACTRESS: Well, you know, I think he really put a lot of people in a nervous position during this whole campaign. He had a lot of divisive speeches and he didn't choose to meet with women leaders then, he didn't choose to meet with advocates then, he didn't choose to meet with Black Lives Matter then, he didn't choose to meet with the Muslim community then. That's part of the problem. And for a lot of people, how are you going to lead this half of the country? How is that going to happen? How are we going to come together as a country and meet in the middle? And all feel comfortable with this.
So, people, I think, were really depressed when he won and needed to come out and say we're afraid for our country, we're afraid for democracy, we're afraid for civil rights. And it's -- it is concerning that his response, instead of, I hear you, I am your leader, I'm going to lead for all the people. Because you can't just say that. You've got to act like that. You've got to do things towards that. Instead of saying that, I want to meet with these advocates, I want to meet with these woman's groups, I want to meet with these people. I want to hear what your grievance. I want to hear what your fears are, he's not saying that.
SMERCONISH: We live in our own respective silos. Does it occur to you that perhaps, politically speaking, you play under his hands in so far as you are an A-list Hollywood actor, you won an Oscar and if you're the face of this type of opposition. And I know, believe me, you are surrounded by many other faces. But the celebrity component kind of cuts both ways. I want to have you here on my program. But he gets to say to the middle of America, "So much of Hollywood (inaudible)."
ARQUETTE: I want to tell you something. I've been really trying hard to get the press to allow me to bring with me advocates who are women of color, who are disadvantaged groups of women. Women who never get an opportunity to communicate. And I can't tell you how many people pulled out of interviews because of that. So I'm going to put that on the press and I'm going to say, you guys need to change that because we do need to hear different women's voices, we need to hear from Native American women who are basically invisible in their own nation. So he can say it's Hollywood. But part of it is that the press only wants to talk to Hollywood.
SMERCONISH: OK. All right. These two aren't Hollywood. I met them today at the march.
ARQUETTE: And I appreciate you bringing them.
SMERCONISH: OK. Ann, you flew from Seattle. Why?
ANN BLUME, MARCHER: I flew from Seattle because I felt like I needed to participate, that I needed to engage and feel like I can make a change. So I got on the plane and five hours later there were 200 new friends because everybody --
SMERCONISH: All coming?
A. BLUME: All coming for the march. So I do feel as though there's a collective energy by being here at the march that's very, very powerful.
SMERCONISH: Libbe, you are first year at Georgetown.
LIBBE BLUME, MARCHER: A freshman at Georgetown. Yes.
SMERCONISH: OK. Why today? Why were you out there?
L. BLUME: I was there --
SMERCONISH: Why the hat? Tell me.
L. BLUME: I wanted to be there with my mother, who's my hero. And I just felt like I had to do something, I had to take action. My generation, we're the future. And I thought like all my friend went there, we were all doing this together. And it was just such a good feeling to be there with everyone and have friends and make friends and we're wearing pink hats and just felt like a team and it was great.
SMERCONISH: Patricia, were you blown away by the outpouring? Did you anticipate this?
ARQUETTE: No, I didn't. I mean, I did anticipate actually a lot of people and I anticipated a lot of people at all of these marches but not to this level. I've been to D.C. many times and I have never seen anything like this. And even the photographs are inaccurate because you would look down one street and it would be packed as far as you could see and you turn down another street in a whole different direction was packed as far as you could see. So the march didn't stay on the parade route.
ARQUETTE: It broke off and it was just a natural, random march, and it was everywhere.
SMERCONISH: Ladies, I wish I had more time. Thank you all for being here.
ARQUETTE: Thank you. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Appreciate it very, very much. Keep tweeting me at Smerconish. In fact put one up so we can all look at it together at the same time. Let's see what just came in.
"Smerconish, I appreciate Michael Moore's perspective on getting the electorate more involved. Hasn't he added to the partisanship, too?"
Has he added to the partisanship, Patricia? Do you add to the partisanship?
ARQUETTE: I think everybody who has an opinion probably adds to the partisanship. You know, but again, sometimes I'll fight with members of my own family, doesn't mean I don't love them.
ARQUETTE: Doesn't mean we can't have a conversation. I may have a strong opinion. My brother may have a differing, strong opinion. But in a healthy family, you communicate these things with a certain level of respect. But you don't hang up the phone and never speak to that person again. That is an unhealthy sort of a relationship.
SMERCONISH: You saved it until next Thanksgiving.
SMERCONISH: That's what we do in our house.
Up next when -- thank you again. When newly sworn-in President Donald Trump finished his inaugural address, his predecessor mouthed the words, "good job," despite the fact that Trump remarkably had implicitly criticized not just President Obama but all other ex- presidents in attendance.
I want to ask David Axelrod about that and I'll do it next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [18:37:33] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That was Sean Spicer earlier today. David Axelrod joins me now. Here's my question. What the hell?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I -- you know, I know Sean Spicer very well and so do many people in this town. He's a very credible person, he's a very experienced person. And I can only assume that he was sent out there to do what he did because it made no sense to go out there, to go on a rant about the size of the crowds, which, you know, I mean, and make representations that clearly weren't right and then leave without taking questions.
But it followed 18 hours in which the wheels kind of came off in many ways. First the president goes to the ball for the military personnel last night and spends his time mostly talking about himself when he is the commander-in-chief. These are the young people who he may have to send into battle, who have enlisted to protect our country. It should have been an opportunity to express his gratitude.
Then he goes to the CIA today, stands in front of the Wall of the Fallen there, the American heroes, and uses it as a backdrop to complain about how the crowds were covered on his inaugural day. Unthinkable.
SMERCONISH: I want to back up the 18 hours because your old boss, our former president, seemed to have mouthed the words "good job," at least as we were doing the lip reading. Do you think that Barack Obama believed that it was a good job in the inaugural speech that was delivered?
AXELROD: I think he probably believed it was a good job of Trump delivering the message Trump wanted to deliver. And I would agree with that. Trump spoke to his supporters, it was basically a campaign speech updated for inaugural purposes but he didn't, as we spoke yesterday, expand his base. I think it probably thrilled those people who voted for him, that 46 percent of the public who voted for him. But the point here is this is your debut on the stage as the leader not just of America but of the free world. And some thought should be given to what you do and say. And it seems to me that he is behaving on whim, on his own whim, and others are allowing him to do it. He needs less enabling and more stabilizing here.
[18:40:05] SMERCONISH: I believe that your boss was treated with contempt and disrespect from day one by some who never got over his election and never let him off the canvas so to speak for eight years. And I don't want a repeat of that.
AXELROD: I agree with that. I agree with that.
SMERCONISH: OK. So how do we -- how do we keep it fair? AXELROD: I'm making clinical judgments here. I'm not -- you know, I
would have been happy if the president had gone to that ball last night and done what he should have done as the commander-in-chief. I would have been happy if he had gone to the CIA and talked about the important role that they play in keeping this country safe and the meaning of those stars behind him. I would have been very pleased if he had done that and I certainly would have been happy if they hadn't sent poor Sean Spicer out there to do what he did.
The question is, can they fix this? And, you know, they got plenty of time to do it, but each one of these erodes credibility.
SMERCONISH: We agreed together yesterday we would have liked the 60 House Democrats to be behind us at the inauguration. I'm sure you got a lot of blowback from that after you said it here, I know I did after I said it here, but that's the kind of fresh beginning. I'm not asking anybody forget what transpired in the campaign, not to forget the "Access Hollywood" tape and so forth but there's got to be some kind of a coming together where we say we're going to have our disagreements but business has got to get accomplished.
AXELROD: I certainly agree with that. And you know, I've rejected this notion that Trump is not a legitimate president. He's not only legitimate, he is the president. He's all our president, not just the president of the people who voted for him. But then he has to recognize that as well and really reach out to people and in Friday there's a lot of symbolism to what a president has to do, particularly in these early days when he is being evaluated by the American people and by the world.
And this has to be given some thought. This has to be given some care. This can't be reactive, it can't be peevish, and it can't be foolish, what this whole debate about the size of the crowds is foolish. And I wonder whether part of it is he understood that there was a huge crowd of protesters here in Washington today and he was worried about invidious comparisons to the fairly sparse relative to other inaugural ceremony crowds that was out here yesterday. And you know, these are the kinds of things that get to him. He has to have a thicker skin.
SMERCONISH: Got to turn the other cheek.
AXELROD: Yes. Absolutely.
SMERCONISH: Got to turn the other cheek.
David, thank you.
Twitter is on fire. Put another one up on the screen quickly if you can while David Axelrod is still here. "Smerconish, until you and the lying media start telling the truth expect to be blasted by POTUS Trump. Period."
You see what I put up here, David?
(LAUGHTER) SMERCONISH: Still to come, after attacking the intelligence community's abilities, Donald Trump paid his first visit to the CIA today and told him he was behind them and then the speech got a little political. Was that the right way to begin? We'll discuss.
[18:46:45] SMERCONISH: On his first full day in office, President Donald Trump paid an official visit to the CIA and announced that he was behind the agency. This despite repeatedly attacking the work of the intelligence community, especially in the past several weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There's nobody. These are really special, amazing people. Very, very few people could do the job you people do. And I want to just let you know I am so behind you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So how was he received? Joining me now, Malcolm Nance, former counterterrorism and intelligence agency officer for Special Ops, Homeland Security and Intelligence Agencies and author of "The Plot to Hack America: How Putin Cyber Spies and WikiLeaks Tried to steal the 2016 Election."
How did it play, Malcolm?
MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR, "THE PLOT TO HACK AMERICA": Well, from all accounts that I have from my fellow intelligence officers, it played very poorly. Donald Trump standing in front of the Wall of Honor where I have friends whose names are in logged in that book, whose hands -- whose stars I've put my hands on. Having that political talk there, ignoring the dignity and sanctity of that hallowed ground, to the officers and the intelligence community, CIA officers, as well, it was a disgusting display. And I'm not sure whether that was the staff who initiated the clapping.
SMERCONISH: And yet --
NANCE: But it shouldn't have happened.
SMERCONISH: Well, I was going to say, I mean, look, to my ear it seemed like he was well received. I think there was also a combination of applause and laughter when he spoke of having carried that room and saying something like I'm not going to ask you how you voted. But you're saying that despite what we may have heard in terms of the applause meter, you don't think it played well?
NANCE: Well, no. I think it played poorly with the officers who weren't at work that day. This is a Saturday. I don't know who would have been invited there, perhaps some people on the guard staff, maybe cafeteria staff, but the officers who come in to work on Sunday and the watch standers who were standing watches and other divisions, they might have been able to shake away, but this is not who they addressed.
Donald Trump referred to the agency and its staff at one point as Nazis, referred to them as disgusting and ludicrous, his staff have actually lied to my face about their belief of what the CIA was doing. I don't think it's going to play well at all. And I mean, it was just showmanship for him. But I think he dishonored the actual true meaning of the people who gave their lives who swear Nathan Hale's oath every day, that they regret that they have but one life to lose for their country.
SMERCONISH: John Brennan is gone now. The president as president- elect certainly had his differences with the head of the CIA. Do you think that the spat that he had with Brennan transmitted to the staff, meaning that there were spillover and that they sided with Brennan as opposed to the incoming the president?
NANCE: The fight that Donald Trump has is not with just the executive leadership. His fight was with the day-to-day work, the analysis of what the people are doing there. Their collection operations, their operations out in the field.
[18:50:07] He said these were the exact same people who brought us the Iraq war. He's claimed that some of these people are, you know, in their analysis of what was going on with the Russians and the Russian hacking, were equal to the Nazis. I mean, this is just absolutely ludicrous. That is street-level collections operators, analysts, and people who are doing the day-to-day work, keeping this nation safe.
It's not just about John Brennan. Bringing in Mike Pompeo is going to help. But he's going to have to reset his relations with the entirety of not just that agency, the other 15 intelligence agencies that he's spent months insulting, as well.
SMERCONISH: Monday will be an interesting day with regard to Congressman Pompeo.
Malcolm Nance, thank you so much.
Still to come, your best and worst tweets, like this one. Put it up. "Smerconish, what the hell, right?" Well, I mean, that's really the appropriate question, given all that has transpired in the last 24 hours, it's hard to keep pace. Back in a sec.
SMERCONISH: Keep tweeting me at SMERCONISH. I don't see them until you do, so put it up. Let's see what just came in. "Smerconish, these liberal lunatics lost. Elections have consequences. Sound familiar?" Yes, the words are ringing in my ear, for sure. I think these, quote-unquote, liberal lunatics would say that the crowd size today was an affirmation of who won the popular vote, and so the debate will go.
Hit me with another one. "I think that what upset him was a tweet. Tom Barrack just admitted @smerconish that Trump became unhinged by a tweet. By a tweet." Look, I thought Tom Barrack was a straighter shooter in the conversation that we just had. And I wanted to know from him, does he have the sort of relationship where he can say to the president, this is something you can't do because you're the commander-in-chief. And I don't know that he gave me a direct answer to that, but I think he made it pretty clear that he does have that relationship, and I'd surmise that he had said that to President Trump.
One more, quickly, if we can. "Smerconish, you have a voice that @POTUS obviously listens to. Please tell him he is making the U.S. government look like a joke. So sad." I couldn't be any more clear than I was. I think it was a mistake for the president to engage in a discussion as to crowd size of the inauguration versus the protests, because I think it demeans everything that just transpired. Whether he listens to me, I seriously doubt.
I'll see you next week, back at our usual 9:00 a.m. Eastern start time.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the breaking news this evening. Massive protests in Washington, D.C. and around the world. Tonight hundreds of thousands marching against Donald Trump. We are live around the nation. Plus the White House tonight --