Return to Transcripts main page


Source: Trump's W.H. Full of Unforced Errors, Staff Wars, Future War with Democrats; Trump, Netanyahu Talk Moving U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; Lawsuit against Trump for Business's Foreign Ties; Sean Spicer Blasts Media, Kellyanne Conway Talks "Alternative Facts"; Trump Criticized for Remarks at CIA; Trump Signs 3 New Executive Orders; Trump Sued for Not Releasing Tax Returns. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 23, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: That said, someone who is very close to me said, you know, Donald Trump listens to a lot of people, but in the end, Donald Trump listens to one person, and that's Donald Trump.

And the difference between Saturday and Sunday was huge. That he realized after Saturday -- I mean, sometimes you can't tell someone something and then they see it. And i think he realized that what happened at the CIA was not great. And what we saw was a completely different demeanor on Sunday, and today as well. Some of this -- sometimes Trump is going to be Trump, some of these early missteps.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: How does that learning curve, that you're basically describing, how does that apply to another area where you're deeply sourced, in terms of the conversation about moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or just the conversation and the relationship with Israel in general? Prime Minister Netanyahu put out a statement and spoke this morning, and I thought it was really interesting when he said it's time for thoughtful diplomacy. He's speaking to his folks, the people in Israel, urging that his government "not to shoot from the hip," were the words from Netanyahu. What are you hearing?

GANGEL: I think what we saw, the readout of the phone call -- we had the phone call between Trump and Netanyahu. The invitation is for early February. That's a couple of days from now. If you go back, Netanyahu didn't go to see Obama until May. Sharon didn't go to see Bush until March or April. This is right away.

And a senior Israeli official said to me today that there is no question, they are very happy. There is a profound difference in the relationship. And Netanyahu said, at one point, in his readout of the call -- and i was told that it's not an accident -- he said that he and Trump agreed there would be "no daylight" between Israel and the United States. Not exactly what their relationship was like with the Obama administration.

On the embassy, this is key. David Friedman, who will be the ambassador, if he's confirmed, has said that he looks forward to living and working in Jerusalem. And the officials i spoke to say what they think is going to happen, to watch for it, that he will live in Jerusalem.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He has an apartment there.

GANGEL: He has a house there. The U.S. government also has an apartment at the King David Hotel where he could stay. And they may not change the plaque but, if every day, he is going to work in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, instead of in the building in Tel Aviv, that's not just a symbolic change. That will be a major change, if Israeli officials are now doing business and seeing the U.S. ambassador in Jerusalem.

The other thing i was told is, they really think Trump means this, that this is not just another campaign promise. And they think the change may happen within the first year, maybe sooner.

BERMAN: It will be a big, big change.

BOLDUAN: Huge change.

BERMAN: Jamie Gangel, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

GANGEL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Jamie.

BERMAN: Just three days into his administration, President Trump already being sued. We're going to speak live with one of the people who just filed a lawsuit over the president's foreign ties. Does this lawsuit have any legs?

BOLDUAN: Plus, the new White House press secretary got off to a rocky start behind the podium this weekend, after which the phrase "alternative facts" was born. His first official daily briefing is scheduled in just hours. What will happen this time? CNN will carry it live.


[11:37:54] BERMAN: Just a couple of hours now, from what the White House is calling its first official press briefing, 1:30 p.m. eastern time. CNN will carry it live. In truth, press secretary, Sean Spicer, already spoke to reporters in the briefing room. That's a fact. What he actually said, not so much. He blasted the media for reports on the inauguration crowd size.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intervention framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that it gathered on the National Mall. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.


BERMAN: Then counsellor to President Trump, Kellyanne Conway, defended Spicer using the term "alternative facts." Listen to this.


CHUCK TODD, NBC MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium, for the first time, and utter a falsehood? Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on day one.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: No, it doesn't. Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's a falsehood and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.


BOLDUAN: So with us now, Kayleigh McEnany is here, a CNN political commentator and contributor to "The Hill" publication. Matt Bennett is here, a Democratic strategist, former White House deputy assistant for intergovernmental affairs under Bill Clinton.

Guys, great to have you here.

Let me first say Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway are professionals. We've known them for a very long time. I was on the mall on Friday. What Sean Spicer said on that lectern was simply inaccurate. Kayleigh, is this how you wanted this weekend to go?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Reince Priebus did the best job in explaining what Sean Spicer was trying to get at. Reince Priebus was saying this was not about crowd sizes. They were using this as an example of what they felt was unfair media coverage. I thin, probably a better example would have been the fact that "The New York Times" called his speech dark and divisive. MSNBC called it Hitlerian. They should have used that as an example rather than the crowd sizes.


[11:40:06] BERMAN: Because, because you could actually point to those as being factual --

MCENANY: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- as opposed to what he said about the crowd size, which was false.

MCENANY: Reince Priebus went on to further explain, what we were meaning was the white tarp made it look different. One of the pictures put out by one of the newspapers was taken before Trump began speaking. I think Reince Priebus did a really good job at explaining that and Sean Spicer should have taken the same --

BOLDUAN: But even what Trump was saying, there is no way of proving what he has here. This was the largest audience to ever witness as inauguration, period, in person and around the globe, is what he said. Number one, the National Park Service doesn't make estimates anymore. We do have Nielsen ratings where it compares the domestic audience. You can't gauge international viewership.

MCENANY: There's no way to prove it, that's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: You cannot.

MCENANY: It's a board statement. There's no way to prove if it's false or accurate.

BERMAN: This is just false. It's a silly argument, what he said wasn't true.

The question is why, Matt. And Reince Priebus, i agree with Kayleigh that what Reince Priebus had to say was fascinating. He said he sees an effort to delegitimize the president of the United States, coming from the media and Democrats. The question is, what is the White House trying to do now? Are they trying to delegitimize the media?

MATT BENNETT, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They absolutely are. Another thing Kellyanne Conway said on "Meet the Press" is that they'll have to reevaluate their relationship with "Meet the Press" if Chuck Todd were to continue pressing her on why Sean Spicer lied. He flat-out lied. A falsehood is a lie. An "alternative fact" is a lie. So, she's threatening that. They've threatened to move the press out of the press room. They've threatened to not do regular press conferences. I think they're setting the stage from moving away from the traditional relationship between the White House and the press, and that's very, very dangerous. This is how most of the world gets their information about what's going on with the president and the administration.

BOLDUAN: Kind of juxtapose that with what else was going on with the marches and the coverage of the marches. Matt, I do want to get your take on that, because is there an obvious step forward, when you look at the marches that happen the next day, an obvious step forward for those marches? Because what you heard, as Kayleigh was pointing out, the criticism going to Trump and his speech on inauguration day, you can have the same criticism, you hear the same criticism of what you heard from those who were at those marches, which is neither side is reaching out to win over anyone.

BENNETT: Look, i think the marches were enormously important, because it allowed just a gigantic number of people to express enormous frustration that they're feeling about this president, the way he's conducted himself during the campaign and during the transition, and even during the first 48 hours of his presidency. We don't know yet whether these marches will galvanize these folks into action in ways that are truly constructive. But i certainly think so, and i hope so. I think people have kind of woken up to the reality that we live under a president unlike any we've ever seen before, who is willing to have his team go out and utter blatant lies. And unless someone is pushing back, particularly if he's trying to go around the mainstream media, unless a large number of people are pushing back, then this is going to go unchallenged. And that's very, very dangerous for the nation and for the world. BOLDUAN: Definitely raises the stakes for this first official

briefing that's happening today. We'll see what efforts, if any, for Sean Spicer to kind of cool the temperature on this a little bit.

Kayleigh, thank you so much.

Matt, great to see you. Thank you so much.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BERMAN: Sean didn't take questions yesterday. He will take questions today.

BOLDUAN: The questions in some of our interviews with Sean could lead to more heat, rather than less.


BERMAN: Sean can take it.

BOLDUAN: He can. He's done it for many years.

Coming up, "President Trump should be ashamed for a despicable display at the CIA." Those are the words are from former head of the CIA, John Brennan. Details on that, ahead.

[11:44:06] BERMAN: Plus, is President Trump already in violation of the Constitution? A new lawsuit says yes. But does this thing really have any legs?



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can only say that i am with you a thousand percent. And the reason you're my first stop is that, as you know, i have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.




TRUMP: Right?


TRUMP: And they sort of made it sound like i had a feud with the intelligence community. And i just want to let you know, the reason you're the number-one stop, it is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: That was just part of what President Trump said during his first remarks at CIA headquarters as president. It was seen as an opportunity to ease strained relations or reinforce his support for the intelligence community, as he said there, but he is facing criticism from some in that same community for his focus not on the relationship but other issues, including his relationship with the media and the size of the crowds at his inauguration.

BERMAN: He was complaining about the coverage of crowd size at the CIA.

Joining us now to discuss is Ambassador John Negroponte, the former director of National Intelligence, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and a number of other countries, we should say.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

Look, you saw the remarks, i imagine, that President Trump gave at the CIA. He did do some outreach to the members of the CIA but he also complained about the press coverage of the crowd size at the inauguration, among other things. I just want to know your reaction.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE & FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: Well, my reaction, first of all is, it's positive that he went out there, as his first stop after taking office. I think that's a good thing. I would like to hear more about his plans for continued engagement with the intelligence community.

As far as the atmospherics or the politics of this and some of the commentary that was made by John Brennan and others, i would rather just stay away from that. I think the president is going to work out his relationship with the press over time.

But as far as intelligence is concerned, i understand that he took the daily intelligence briefing today, the president's daily brief. I think that's positive, after having had given some indications earlier that he might not do that on a regular basis. And that's the kind of news I'm looking for. What is the extent of his engagement with the intelligence community, with the intelligence reporting? Is he getting the kind of information he needs to help him guide him through the decisions he's going to make in the national security and foreign policy realm in the future?

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, you touched on it, but i do want to read what the now former CIA director John Brennan said in a statement after Donald Trump spoke and made a speech standing in front of the CIA memorial wall. This is what he put out in a statement through an aide, "Former CIA director Brennan is saddened and angered at Donald Trump's despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of the CIA's memorial wall of agency heroes. Brennan says that "Trump should be ashamed of himself."


BOLDUAN: What do you say to that? How do you react to that? NEGROPONTE: Well, I'm a little bit shocked by his language, frankly.

I don't think it's appropriate for anybody to talk about a president, not to mention one who has only been in office for a couple of days, in those kinds of terms. He's talking the language of someone who probably won't be able to reconcile himself to Mr. Trump being president.

BERMAN: So you think Director Brennan went too far?

[11:49:58] NEGROPONTE: i think it's way over the top.


NEGROPONTE: What if Mr. Trump had invited until Mr. Pompeo is confirmed.

BERMAN: It would have been a complicated relationship, to say the least.



NEGROPONTE: That's for sure.

BERMAN: But you said you don't want to comment. What the former director was talking about is giving a political statement about the media, about the crowd size and the like in front of the wall of heroes. He was talking about the appropriateness of that. Do you care to comment on the appropriateness of that?

NEGROPONTE: I just think that what I'm looking for are indications. The president has given indications in the past that he might not be that mindful and not be that attentive to what the community intelligence has to tell them in terms of their reports and their assessments. I think he's giving indication that he will. Let's -- that's the really important thing. That's the nub of the matter. I hope that his first steps portend a greater degree of attention to the intelligence community and the product that they put before him.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about that for just a second. As John mentioned at the beginning, you're a former ambassador to Iraq. One of the other things that he said in his speech had to do with Iraq and oil. Listen to this, Ambassador.


TRUMP: The old expression, To the victor belong the spoils." You remember i used to say, "Keep the oil." I wasn't a fan of Iraq. I didn't want to go into Iraq. But i will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. I always said, in addition to that, "Keep the oil." I said it for economic reasons.

But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil, you probably wouldn't have ISIS because that's where they made their money in the first place. So, we should have kept the oil. But, OK, maybe we'll have another



BOLDUAN: Ambassador, what do you say to that?

NEGROPONTE: I can tell you what President Bush's policy was because i discussed it with him a number of times. He did not want to fuel the contention that we had gone into Iraq because of the oil, so he almost bent over backwards not to make a special effort to gain access for us to the oil resources. So, he let the sort of competitive field play out in a natural way, if you will, which meant that other countries were able to bid as well. That was President Bush's policy. I've heard others say, given the price we paid, perhaps we should have made a stronger effort to get access to Iraqi oil, but those were not my instructions. I never got a single instruction to try and get greater access to Iraqi oil, nor do i believe did my successors.

BERMAN: The question now is, will people under President Trump get those directions.

Ambassador John Negroponte, former director of National Intelligence, always a pleasure to talk to you.


BERMAN: Thank you so much for your expertise, sir.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Ambassador.

NEGROPONTE: Thank you.

BERMAN: We are waiting for President Trump to sign some new executive orders inside the Whitehouse. Among the orders we're expecting, he'll pull the United States out of the TPP, the Trans-Pacific trade negotiations. We're also expecting to get an executive order that deals with abortion

Dana Bash is with us right now as we wait for these pictures of the president doing this.

We talked earlier about trade. But this action on abortion that the president is taking is something that will please a lot of Republicans.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. This is language that tends to go -- become law and then be taken out of law when there's a Democrat and Republican in the office.

I see the pictures going in there. Briefly --

BOLDUAN: Dana --

BASH: Go ahead.

BOLDUAN: -- i did this to you before

BASH: No problem. I get it, Live TV.

BOLDUAN: -- and I'll do it again. Live TV.

Let's listen. This is the tape -- the press pool heads into the Oval Office. Let's listen in.

SPICER: All right. We're going to sign three memorandums right now. First is withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific- Partnership.

TRUMP: Everyone knows what that means, right? We've been talking about this for a long time.

Thank you.

OK. Great thing for the American worker what we just did.

SPICER: Next the federal government employee hiring freeze.

TRUMP: Except for the military.

SPICER: Except for the military.

TRUMP: Except for the military.

SPICER: Next is the policy on regard to Mexico City.


SPICER: That's it.


TRUMP: Thank you very much.

[11:55:22] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, reaction to the lawsuit today?

CONWAY: Without merit.

TRUMP: Without merit. Totally without merit.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. Appreciate it.

TRUMP: Thank you.

BERMAN: A lawsuit has been filed against him saying he's in violation of the emoluments clause, essentially that he is getting foreign payments from his businesses and that's against the Constitution. The president said that's completely without merit.

BOLDUAN: Dana Bash is with us.

Dana, to cut you off, apologies for doing that. So, they sign -- it was three things today. One, we were just discussing as we went in. This is called the Mexico City policy. This is a policy that was implemented by President Reagan. President Obama overturned it in just the first days of his administration as well.

BASH: That's right.

BOLDUAN: That stuck out to me in terms of this is not only something that would make Republicans happy, but that's also symbolic.

BASH: Very much so. So, we tell our viewers, it's known as Mexico City Language, but what it does is, in this case, what Donald Trump has signed is a ban of any NGO, or non-government organization, they cannot receive federal U.S. dollars of any kind if they either perform or promote abortion services. So, that's what he just signed. If you're an NGO and you allow this, you can't get money from the federal treasury. That had not been the case for the past eight years because it was the case, and then President Obama changed it, now Donald Trump is changing it back.

You're absolutely right, this is something that the conservative base, they were up in arms about when President Obama made it OK to use federal funds or at least for these NGOs to do so, and that's why this is a nod to conservatives by President Obama, saying i heard you, I was your nominee, I am your president, and I voted for that -- I mean, and i returned that to becoming against the law.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Dana, great to see you. Thank you so much for walking us through that.

You see that big moment. The big executive actions that Donald Trump took today, just saw that video from the Oval Office.

BERMAN: You heard the president talk about this lawsuit that's been filed against him --

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- by this group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

We want to bring in Noah Bookbinder. He is the executive director of this group that filed the lawsuit.

Noah, thanks for being with us.

Explain to us the grounds you're filing this on.

NOAH BOOKBINDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Sure. Essentially, what we're saying is the president is violating the Constitution. The Constitution says that a government official, including a president, cannot take payments or gifts from foreign governments. Donald Trump, by continuing to own his businesses is getting all kinds of payments from foreign governments. That's in violation of the Constitution. We're asking a judge to go in and tell him he can't do that. He needs to do what he should have done from the beginning and separate himself from his businesses so he's not doing that. He's working in the interest of the American people. He's not going to be tempted, instead, to help those countries he's getting payments from.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, President Trump, when asked about it, just said this is totally without merit. One of the big questions here, as we run out of time, Noah is standing. You have to show that your organization has suffered direct harm to this alleged violation of the Constitution. Where is that harm?

BOOKBINDER: Sure. Since the beginning of the republic, it has been possible for people and organizations to sue for violations of the Constitution. What we have here is, we are an ethics organization. We've had to drop everything and good work we would do to police government ethics and prevent money in politics, to deal with this constitutional crisis of ethics. That has made our work harder and more expensive. And we're coming in and saying that we're affected as are the American people. There's good law saying that we have standing in cases like this, and we look forward to taking it to a court.

BERMAN: Noah Bookbinder, thank you for your time. Sorry we didn't have more time. But the various executive actions and whatnot that the president signed today did took us off our charted path.

BOLDUAN: There will be more discussion about this, I'm sure.

BERMAN: Indeed.

And we should say the president at the White House claims he has resigned from his businesses as of the inauguration. We'll find out more about what that means.

BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

Busy day today. Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR, everybody.

BERMAN: "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

[12:00:09] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing some time with us today.

It's a busy first Monday for President --