Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Changing the Subject; Crowd Size and Voter Fraud. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, and that's it for us. Thanks for watching. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon starts now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking the news.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And the breaking news tonight is Donald Trump is changing the subject.

I want to get right to our CNN reporters, Jeff Zeleny, David Chalian, and Salena Zito, our contributor here on CNN. Jeff, let's -- we're going to get to this big story in a moment, but we have some breaking news that President Trump is expected to announce something to do with immigration tomorrow. What can you tell us about that?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Don. President Trump is planning to go to the Department of Homeland Security tomorrow afternoon, making his first visit to that department, will continue signing a series of executive actions that he's been doing all week.

These are pertaining to immigration. We are told by aides that there are going to be several immigration executive actions, including focusing on that border wall with Mexico.

In fact, the president sending out a message earlier this evening, just about 20 minutes or so ago, saying that he does, indeed, plan to build that wall. Now he has already talked about this, of course. And all of this is already underway in Congress.

So, unclear why there needs to be an executive action on that. But Don, clearly, a sense that the subject needs to be changed here. And will be focusing on immigration for the next couple of days.

But the Mexican border wall will be the topic tomorrow, followed by perhaps the next day or in the coming days, a series of executive actions, also pertaining to refugees, from some countries, specifically, terror prone, Syria and others. But it will start tomorrow, Don, with that Mexican border wall, when he travels to the Homeland Security Department tomorrow afternoon.

LEMON: David Chalian, what do you know about this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, just what Jeff just pointed out, Don, that I think is important is that Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, has already talked to reporters and publicly said that the administration is working with appropriations to start having funds directed towards building the border wall.

So, if it is happening legislatively, I am curious to see what's going to actually be in this executive action, other than a messaging event for day five, to show that he's staying with delivering on his promises.

They've already indicated they're going through legislative action. Now listen, you take this in the totality of the week. He is hitting all of his major promises. Manufacturing jobs, trade, the pro-life movement, getting the Mexico City policy reinstated.

And now one of the bread and butter issues of his entire campaign, immigration and being tough on the border. He's delivering. The question is, is he going to refrain from saying and doing other things that distract from these kinds of daily messaging of promises delivered that he's clearly trying to do his first week, his full week on the job.

LEMON: Salena, he said that the, that Mexico would pay for the wall, but if is doing to this instance Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, at least not this way.

SALENA ZITO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER STAFF: Right. I think the plan was all along, at least, that's what it's, you know, sort of been translated to, to people, is that they may not pay -- true, Mexico may not pay up-front, but through a series of either fees or taxes or, you know, a complicated grouping of ways to collect the money.

They will event -- they may not pay for it up-front, but I think he's trying to structure it to, that they eventually pay for it. Look, I think it's really smart. He has -- it's really interesting to me, there's this great contrast, right?

So he's done sort of all these great things that he said that he was going to do, like Jeff said about manufacturing, about rolling back some of the EPA regulations on Obamacare, on the Keystone pipeline, and you know, he's had -- he's met with union leaders and CEO's and the car manufacturers.

But all the oxygen has been caught up in sort of some of the things that he's said. So, going right at this tomorrow is smart, and it's getting back to controlling the message, and the important thing, I think, for him to do is to stop this sort of cavalier use of words and focus on the things that he's promised and he is delivering.

LEMON: How much of it -- because, Jeff, if you look at it, it goes between trying to get some of the campaign promises and policy issues done, to saying things that distract from the message. It will be interesting to see if he does stay on point tomorrow.

And if this is just to get the news to stop talking about -- because as you said, I don't know if there's going to be a difference. Or at least David Chalian, get the news to stop talking about things that he's misconstrued.

ZELENY: Well, there definitely is an interest, as David said, to continue in this first week, which really has been a very busy first week in terms of signing executive actions and really going through list by list some campaign promises.

[22:04:57] Now, all of these, we should point out, are first steps. We saw him in the Oval Office again today, the president signing those executive actions on the Keystone pipeline. Now this is not something that's going to happen tomorrow. But basically there's the reversal of a lot of Obama administration positions.

And also, specifically on immigration. He has come under fire somewhat or some questions, at least, from some on the right who are wondering what he's going to do with the DREAMERS, the so-called students that were here.

And Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, answered that question in a briefing earlier today. He said that this president and this administration are focused more on immigrants, illegal immigrants and others who pose this country harm.

They will work on the others sort of going forward. So, interestingly that the president is focusing specifically on the border wall first, which was the anthem of his campaign, and then the refugees here.

But again, as David said, this is something that's been announced and it's out there. So, he is you know, drawing attention to this tomorrow, as he travels to the Department of Homeland Security. That is one of the cabinet secretaries that actually has been confirmed in the small list here.

So, tomorrow, it's about optics, somewhat, as he is taking on this central issue of his campaign and he hopes his presidency.

LEMON: Let's talk about undocumented or illegal immigrants now, Jeffrey. Because today at the White House, at the press briefing, you and other reporters pressed Sean Spicer numerous times on the president's unsubstantiated and debunked claim that millions of people voted illegally, and that's why he lost the popular vote. Look at this and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: You said the president believes that there was voter fraud. I wonder if you believe that. You were at the Republican National Committee at the time and chief of staff Reince Priebus was the chairman of the RNC at that time. Do you believe there was widespread voter fraud...

(CROSSTALK)

SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES PRESS SECRETARY: Is it my job is not, look, I -- this...

(CROSSTALK) ZELENY: And how can he be comfortable with his win if he believes...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: He's very comfortable with his win.

ZELENY: Maybe he didn't win.

SPICER: No, he's very comfortable with his win. It's an electoral- based system, he get 306 electoral votes, 33 of 56 states voted for him.

I think, look, Jeff, I've asked and answered this question twice. He believes what he believes based on the information he's been provided. Yes, ma'am?

ZELENY: What's that mean for democracy, though, Sean?

SPICER: Thanks, Jeff. Ma'am?

ZELENY: If he does believe that, what's it mean for democracy.

SPICER: It means that I've answered your questions.

ZELENY: Have you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And he didn't really -- it looks like he wanted to move on and get off that subject, Jeff. I didn't hear him provide any evidence beyond mixing up some studies that have been completely debunked, did you?

ZELENY: No, I mean, the reality here, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he believes what he believes based on the evidence presented to him, but he was just talking about those studies that we have seen for several months, that, in fact, have been debunked.

The authors of these studies, if it's the Pew Center study or Washington Post report about how deceased voters or people who have been registered in multiple states were voting.

In reality, here, the authors of these studies and others say that the findings have been misconstrued. There is no widespread evidence of voter fraud.

Now of course, there are small instances here and there. But even the National Association of Secretaries of States, the top election officials in all the states, many of whom are republicans. They say, look, there's simply no evidence about this. And if he believes there is, they should show this.

But Don, so interestingly, now, he controls the government. The Trump administration can direct its Justice Department to conduct an investigation. And Sean Spicer had a hard time answering that, he said, maybe we will, but certainly we have no plans to do so. So, it is something that has frustrated a lot of republicans in this

town, as well, that President Trump is still talking about this.

LEMON: Yes. Lindsey Graham, for sure, is saying that he should provide some evidence. And to -- David, to Jeff's point, there is no investigation, at least on his part, he's not said that yet, but it would seem to undermine even his own victory, because even his attorneys are saying that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, if any evidence of voter fraud at all.

CHALIAN: Right. He's questioning the legitimacy of the very election that delivered him to the Oval Office. Also delivered him a, you know, a republican-controlled Senate and republican-controlled House.

So, Don, here's what we have here. You're absolutely right to note that Sean Spicer did not want to answer Jeff's question. He didn't want to weigh in with whether or not he actually believed this as well. Put everything in the president's mouth, a key indication perhaps that Sean Spicer does not believe what the president believes on this.

But there's a fundamental problem going on here, which is that, it is very difficult to move beyond this. It is not going to go away with Sean Spicer simply saying, asked and answered. That is not going to do away with the fact that the President of the United States of America just called into question the very foundation of our democracy of free and fair elections. That is going to require the president himself to address and try to put this back on track.

LEMON: Yes, Salena, you know, I mentioned Lindsey Graham. Manu Raju caught up with the senator. Let's play it. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR: I would urge the president to knock this off. This is the greatest democracy on earth. You're the leader of the free world.

[22:10:02] And people are going to start doubting you as a person if you keep making accusations against our electoral system without justification.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So what happens if more republicans start to do this and there is no evidence presented, Salena?

ZITO: Well, first of all, Lindsey Graham is always going to be someone who is not particularly fond of Donald Trump. I think he famously gave out his cell phone number at a press conference once.

LEMON: He did.

ZITO: Look, the thing about Trump is, he's basically the king of the throw away lines, right? He is careless and somewhat cavalier about words. He always has been. The voters have bought into that. They always saw him as not a politician, not someone that massages words, someone that tends to brag when he talks.

But, you know, they wanted him, at least electorally; they knew what they were getting with him. And I think we need to get inside of the minds of the voters when they're looking at him.

That doesn't mean that we don't cover this, but I also think that it means that there needs to be a sort of equal discussion of what's going on, right? He's said things that he shouldn't have. He's reinforced them. But he's also had sort of a series of great things that happened this week.

Unfortunately, he has let the cavalier things take up all the oxygen. And that's sort of the struggle and the tension that we're struggling with.

LEMON: Yes. But at this point, though, David Chalian, the problem is, he seems to be speaking to the minority of voters, who voted for him. He did win the electoral vote. But for the majority of people who did not, he is not convincing them because there is no -- there are no facts or no evidence to back it up, as Lindsey Graham has said.

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, I think Salena is right, that we are foolish if we don't remember back to the election season of what we missed going on out in the country and get an understanding of sort of the fuel that delivered Donald Trump to the presidency.

I actually don't think that's part of this story, though.

LEMON: Right.

CHALIAN: This story is the leader of the government, completely undermining, without facts, it's not just cavalier, it's just, he's citing -- he's saying he has studies that have been debunked. He has no facts. There is no evidence of massive voter fraud.

This is the foundation upon which everything is built in a -- in our representative democracy. So, I think this is less about, let's get in the mind of Trump voters and how his voters will respond to the story and whether this is just a Washington conversation. This is something much more larger, much more foundational.

LEMON: And whether or not we can...

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: And Don, just essentially...

LEMON: ... and whether or not we can believe what comes out of the president's mouth. Go ahead, Jeff Zeleny.

ZELENY: Don, a decision was made here at the White House today. This, let's step back one second. This all started again if you're wondering why we're talking about this, because President Trump mentioned this in a meeting with congressional leaders last night. It was a private reception, and I am told he was having a conversation

with Senator Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. They were talking about the election, the popular vote came out and he went after this hard saying, you know, that all these allegations of voter fraud, for several minutes, the conversation went on.

But then, a decision was made in this White House, they knew they would be asked about it today, and from the White House podium where U.S. policy is, you know, is spoken, Sean Spicer made the decision to say the president believes this. And indeed, he might believe this, but then, you know, where's the evidence? Where's the facts?

So, the reason it matters is, you know, if he believes something like this, you know, show the evidence? And I can tell you, Don, if his election was marred by voter fraud, what about the other republicans who were elected, democrats who were elected.

Election officials on all sides simply say this is not possible. Voter fraud, 3 million to 5 million people, that would be a massive calamity, a massive scandal. It just didn't happen.

So, the White House trying to change the subject, perhaps tomorrow's Mexican wall, signing those actions will do that. But I think David is right, until he addresses this, you wonder if this will go away.

LEMON: Never a dull moment. Thank you, team. I appreciate it. When we come right back, as he tries to change the subject, does Donald Trump have the right team in place to keep his administration on track? We're going to ask a longtime friend of the president.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Five days into his presidency, Donald Trump working to change the subject as he -- as decisions are being overshadowed by his false claim of voter fraud.

I want to bring in now Tom Barrack. He's the chairman of the presidential inaugural committee. Tom, I'm so glad that you could join us this evening. You've known Donald Trump for a long time. He's a very good friend of yours. So, if you can help our audience to understand what's going on.

So, let's start with these unsubstantiated claims that millions voted illegally, and that the reason he lost the popular vote, that's the reason he lost the popular vote. It's not true. Why do you think he keeps saying it?

TOM BARRACK, CHAIRMAN OF THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: Well, Don, I think you've got a man who is inundated with work, right? So if you just look at the scope of what he's got in the transition, he's taken over the entire regime of the federal government with a small band of men and women.

So, I think when he says these things, he's responding to things that he believes, and he's doing it in a way of normal colloquial expression. So, he has still hasn't transitioned to people scrutinizing these comments with CSI specificity.

So, he means it, he believes its. I think he has facts to back it up. But, you know, what I'm encouraging all of us to do, and what I've encouraged him to do is, the world ready for him to lead. He'll be the best leader that we've had.

If you look at what he's done in the last 48 hours, the man has an incredible, voracious appetite to get things done. He just doesn't have his team in place. He has a great team at the White House.

LEMON: So, listen, I don't disagree with you. I don't think that --I think that he's getting a lot done. He's -- at least appears to be delivering on campaign promises, early on. Some of them still have to shake out, before there, you know, actually completed.

But I just I have to push back a little bit. Because you talked about that he actually believes, Tom. So, let's just talk about the facts here. Because a study that Sean Spicer mentioned during the press briefing, he keeps referring to, where he says, 14 percent of non- citizens were registered to vote in 2008. That has been debunked.

[22:19:58] Every time he or his team goes out, meaning the president, goes back to that, the Washington Post gives it four Pinocchio's.

And also, he keeps conflating this figure -- and I'm sure you have not delve them into this specifically yourself with a 2012 Pew study, which the office of that study shows that there was no voter fraud.

Some of them have been on this network even today saying that those claims are just completely not true. He has not presented any evidence. I just -- the American people should be able to trust what comes out of their commander in chief, the President of the United States' mouth, and he's not giving real information or true factual information, then what gives here, Tom?

BARRACK: Well, the good news for the American people is, I'm not a very good crowd counter at inaugurations, and I'm even worse counter at voting. So, my expertise is not necessary.

But here's what I would say. In his mind, he is taking information that he's got and he's rendering an opinion. And what happens now, which is the good news for the first amendment, is everybody has information available and great journalists like you and others at CNN and Fox, et cetera, give an analytical based on information that everybody has.

He has the right to do the same thing. So, he's just taking information that he has got and putting his own belief on it. And...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Tom, with all due respect, we're not giving opinions here. We're giving the facts here. Because even as I said to our team of reporter and our contributor before, even Donald Trump's own attorneys and his campaigns say there was no voter fraud.

And the court filing opposing Jill Stein's Michigan recount petition, his attorneys wrote this.

"All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake."

I want to move on from the subject, but, but I mean, he's disagreeing with his own attorneys.

BARRACK: Look, he has his own point of view, he's got a basis for that point of view. I accepted that and I'm just ready to move on and allow him to govern.

LEMON: Yes. OK. So let's talk about it. Because you're saying that right now, you know, it's tough for them to even figure out what's going on at the White House, because many people there have never worked in the White House before, which is understandable, to some extent.

So my question is, do you think -- how -- is there anyone in the administration who is saying to him, who should he -- who can he rely on in the administration to say, Mr. President, maybe you shouldn't do that, maybe we should be talking about the wonderful accomplishments in your words, that he's hit the ground running in your estimation rather than those other distractions. Who can do that?

BARRACK: Look, I mean, he has two sets of teams and everybody's telling him that. So, it's a little bit of what happened with Reagan again, in these statements of let Reagan be Reagan, let Trump be Trump.

So, you've got an incredible team, You got Steve Bannon, you got Jared Kushner, you've got Reince Priebus, you've got Sean, you've got Kellyanne, you've got Hope. You know, the battery of people around him in this transition process that are -- that are helping him at the White House level.

Now remember, he doesn't have his cabinet in place. So all the teams, the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, you've got General Mattis in place, you have General Kelly moving in place, you have General Flynn. But the rest of his team isn't in place. So policy is difficult to start dictating. And this is a first class team.

At the policy level of what he needs to implement all of what he's doing, so at the White House, everybody's giving him opinions. But what he's doing is he's curating among various points of view, which he does best. The man's instincts on people and points of view is terrific.

So, right now these executive orders -- executive orders only have efficacy on administrative agencies within the executive branch.

LEMON: Right.

BARRACK: So, the delay in getting a team is exactly what happened to Reagan. If you think of Reagan, you had James Baker, you had Ed Nice, and you had Mike Dever. Kind of the same troika. They had a little bit longer in the transition period. I mean, I think what people don't understand is, running the

government is so complicated, because once you get into place, you have so many constituencies, you have Congress, you have the federal employees, you have all the venders.

And by the way, 15 percent of the American population, one way or the other, is employed by the federal government. So, a president coming in and saying, I want this to happen, it doesn't happen unless the bureaucracy starts moving.

LEMON: OK.

BARRACK: So, we have to give him a little bit of time. He's got a first class team around him in the White House. They need to find the electrical plugs, find the computers, find the right extensions. It takes a little bit of time.

LEMON: Yes.

BARRACK: And if the democrats cooperate with us, he'll get a team in place that's better than anything you've seen, ever.

LEMON: So, do you think -- do you think he may have to cycle through some people? I mean, quite that happens at every administration. Do you think he's going to have to cycle through some of the people around him before he hits his stride?

[22:25:05] BARRACK: I think -- I think the team that he's got is the team that can travel, as long as they can keep up with him. This man has more energy, more focus. I think that's the only question. He'll wear two, three, or four teams.

LEMON: As a friend, honestly, what advice would you give him right now? Because you said he's done -- you know, he's doing a lot of things, at least administratively now, with executive orders and so on. What is your advice to him?

BARRACK: My advice is, leave the campaign behind, focus on what's in front of you, take the low-hanging fruit of consensus, be inclusive. Take those that are a little bit nervous on the outside and show them how good you really are, because I know how good he really is.

And he will find a consensus among those who are concerned, on foreign policy, on issues that people are concerned, with environmental, global warming, all the things that appeared to be a little bit blunt. Focus on them, be inclusive. Let people have their points of view.

I thought the women's march was beautiful. Only in America could you have the first day of a new president's regime and 500,000 women responsibly and vocally giving alternative points of view at the same time. It's America, it's beautiful. he just needs to govern and people will be amaze how good he is.

LEMON: Yes. Back to back, one day after -- right after the inauguration, two different sets of folks out there. Thank you, Tom Barrack. Always a pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on. BARRACK: Thanks, Don. Great to be with you. Thank you.

LEMON: When we come right back, are early missteps by the new administration distracting President Trump from the business of governing the country?

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The president claiming millions of illegal votes were cast in the election.

Let's discuss now. CNN contributor, Emily Jane Fox, a staff writer for Vanity Fair is here. Senior political analyst, Mark Preston is here as well, and Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for the Washington Post.

I'm so glad to have all of you. Sean Spicer made two claims today that seemed to contradict one another. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president believe that millions voted illegally in this election, and what evidence do you have of widespread voter fraud in this election, if that's the case?

SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES PRESS SECRETARY: The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he's stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign. And he continues to maintain that belief, based on studies and the evidence that people have presented to him.

He won very handily with 306 electoral votes, 33 states. He's very comfortable with his win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Is that, Mark, was that kind of a no non-answer answer? Is this the administration trying to have it both ways?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: You know, Don, I've been saying this since Saturday night since Sean Spicer gave that statement. It's not really about Sean Spicer, right? He's in the unenviable position of having to go out and defend the indefensible for Donald Trump.

This really for me now is a bigger issue for Donald Trump. And we talk a lot about democracy and we talk about how he's undermining democracy here in the U.S. I absolutely agree with that.

But on a parallel path right there, what he's doing is that he's calling his own credibility into question, specifically with foreign leaders, specifically with Congress, specifically with business executives. Wherever Donald Trump says something or promises to do something to

them, can you trust Donald Trump? You've got to wonder if these leaders in foreign capitals around the world are looking in at the situation, shaking your head wondering, oh, my, like, how are we going to deal with this. Can we trust the President of the United States? And I think that's something Donald Trump needs to work on.

LEMON: And thank you for putting in that larger perspective. Because it's not just, you know, Donald Trump versus the news media or Donald Trump just speaking to his own supporters. This is much bigger than that. Policy is shaped from that podium where Sean Spicer answers from the president's mouth.

Ashley, you reported in the Washington Post that Trump was not happy with Sean Spicer's statement on Saturday. And here's what you said. You said, "In Trump's mind, Spicer's attack on the news media was not forceful enough. The president was also bothered that the spokesman read at times, haltingly, from a printed statement."

I sort of put the question mark in there, not forceful enough. If you watch the, you know, the news briefing with no questions, and you would understand why I did that. What can you tell us about that?

ASHLEY PARKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, first of all, it sort of gives you a sense of the dilemma that Sean Spicer is in. Which is, the news media and the reporters who he has to maintain a credible relationship, felt he went too far. And basically came out and lied and gave some alternative facts, as the Trump White House would describe them.

And then you have Donald Trump, who's sitting and watching, you know, himself on TV, and he fees Sean Spicer is not forceful enough. So, not only was he unhappy, it was sort of the message, but with Donald Trump, he deeply cares about the aesthetics and the delivery.

So he didn't like the fact that Sean Spicer's suit didn't quite fit him. And he didn't like the fact that Sean Spicer, as I wrote, was reading from the paper, a little bit stumbling and haltingly.

And so, Sean sort of has this multiple masters and multiple things he has to worry about. And on Saturday, he just found himself in a no-win situation.

LEMON: Yes. And how did all of this happen on Saturday? Emily, in Vanity Fair, I know that you have been reporting on this, you have some inside information from your sources.

And you write, in part, "The tide of bad press seemed to swell on Saturday. Another person with ties to the first family told me when Kushner was absent observing Shabbat, he wasn't rolling calls on Saturday when this happened. This person told me, to me, that's not a coincidence."

So, is he implying because Jared Kushner wasn't on Saturday to advise him to handle things, that he didn't handle things as well as he could have. EMILY JANE FOX, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, a source close to the family

told me yesterday that Jared Kushner, who observed Shabbat, which means he can't pick up the phone and make calls and really work on Saturdays at all, you know, Jared has been a moderating voice for Trump throughout the campaign.

And the source suggested that all of these wild things happened on Saturday, Jared couldn't pick up the phone and say, hey, this is not a great idea or let me run this by some other people who maybe have more experience.

We forget that most of these people have absolutely no experience governing or in Washington or in politics at all.

[22:35:01] And so, these are people making huge decisions on a world stage on their second day in office who have never done anything like this before. And so sometimes they need to seek outside advice and Jared's been the one to really pick up the phone and call people. And when he wasn't available to do that on Saturday, we saw things go off the rails.

LEMON: Listen to, you know, to what Ashley said about, you know, the sort of rock and, you know, hard space that Sean Spicer -- and Sean is a grown man, he can make his own decisions.

FOX: Right.

LEMON: And this president, who by most accounts does not seem to realize the power he has or the position that he holds when he makes these statements or when he sends someone out to do that. How can that happen? Is it from because of he's set in his ways, the world he comes from? What's going on here?

FOX: Well, again, he's never been in any kind of situation where his words mean more than just a tweet. He's a man who has spent the last several years tweeting, wherever he's wanted to, because he's a 70- year-old billionaire and he's made...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And that's how he got attention.

FOX: Yes, he's an entertainer. This is a guy who loves attention, who loves to be the center of attention, loves to be on reality television. Who calls the press and make phone calls, you know, trying to plant stories is about himself.

So, he's not used to his words meaning more than just someone who's an entertainer. He's the President of the United States now, and I don't think he has even begun to grasp the responsibility that he holds in that position.

LEMON: Mark, I have to get to the break, but I want to ask you, does this, at this point, does he risk this eroding his ability to govern and to have credibility, not only with the American people, but with, you know, even republicans and people around the world? PRESTON: Yes, in a short answer, absolutely. Because you've got to

be looking at him and wondering, why is he making these certain judgment calls? And when you're talking about a silly issue of him winning the election, but not winning the popular vote, you've got to think about grander issues. I mean, he won the election, move on.

But think about grander issues you have to work with him on. And Don, you know, what you asked me earlier, does this administration want to have it both ways? Absolutely. If it suits Donald Trump, he wants it his way.

LEMON: All right. We'll be right back.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A power struggle behind the scenes at the Trump White House.

Back with me now, Emily Jane Fox, Mark Preston, and Ashley Parker. Ashley, you've been reporting on this power dynamic inside the White House. I want to read part of what you wrote. This is from the Washington Post.

You say, "A number of Trump's most loyal campaign aides have been alarmed by Jared Kushner's efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible challenge to Trump's role as chief consigliore. At one point, during the transition, Kushner had argued internally against giving Conway a White House role." That's very interesting. What more can you tell us about that?

PARKER: Well, it's the -- well, two things, the first things is that everyone has learned is that you never, you never cross Jared Kushner, and if you do, you're never going to win that fight.

With Donald Trump, family is everything and Jared Kushner may be a son-in-law, but at this point, he is as good as family.

In terms of the actual internal dynamic and power struggle with Kellyanne Conway, what we heard was that Jared Kushner sort of went to Donald Trump and to other people and expressed his reservations and concerns that she did not have the president's best interest at heart, and that that was a real issue for him.

Although, obviously, she has not been totally or even necessarily at all minimized. So, you sort of have, as we put in our story, you have Jared trying to elbow Kellyanne Conway out, you have Kellyanne Conway according to some reports we've heard, trying to elbow Sean Spicer out. I mean, it is a very tricky place to work.

LEMON: I'm sure. It seems like there's several people who are trying to have the president's ear and they're jockeying for power and positions, Emily. Who is Trump -- what are your sources telling you? Who is Trump really listening to? And then I have a follow-up about what you said about Jared Kushner earlier, but who is he listening to?

FOX: Well, I think that there is a tight inner circle there. You have Priebus, you have Kellyanne Conway, you have definitely Steve Bannon, and you have Jared Kushner. You have all of his top aides in the office. And then you have the people who he roll calls throughout the day.

I think, as Ashley said, it is a very tricky place right now, some of likened it to a civil war within the west wing. I think that the important point to make is that when the war is over and all is said and done, a source told me today that Jared will definitely be the one left standing. He will be the last one. And I think a large part of that is, he is family. He is unfireable.

LEMON: I want to play what the president said about Jared Kushner during the inauguration dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have in the audience a special person, whose worked very hard, who married very well. It's my daughter, Ivanka. Where is she?

(APPLAUSE)

I sort of stole her husband. He is so great. If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can. OK?

All my life, I've been hearing that's the toughest deal in the world to make. And I've seen it. But, I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job. I feel I have a feeling he's going to -- he's going to do a great job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: As I have said before, that's a lot of pressure to put on a 36-year-old who has no political experience. But my question is, because he said earlier about, you know, rolling calls would -- he wasn't there. He was -- you know, a religious -- it was a Shabbat, and he wasn't there.

Is that -- how much of this -- I don't know if your sources are talking about this -- is to make Jared seem more important by saying, well, you know, the president did this, because Jared wasn't there.

FOX: Well, I think that was one person's take on the situation. So, it wasn't necessarily -- it wasn't someone in the White House who told me this, it was someone who's known Jared for a long time who said that to me.

[22:45:00] I think Jared is important. And I don't think anyone is overstating his bounds. It's not like he's the only person there making policies or making big decisions, but he is definitely a key adviser to the president and someone who he really listens to, and someone who has been there since day one of the campaign.

A source close to him today told me that the difference between Jared and everyone else in the campaign is that Jared is there for one reason and one reason only, and that's Trump, and Trump, who values loyalty so much, that's, you know, invaluable to him, as president. LEMON: Mark, there's something, you know, I want you to discuss. I

want to discuss with you. And this is something that is just disgusting and there's really no excuse for it.

The president's youngest child, with Melania, Barron, the victim of cyber bullying over the weekend after a Saturday Night Live writer posted a tweet mocking him during the inauguration ceremony. This is awful. The White House is responding. Tell us what they're saying.

PRESTON: Sure, let me give you the response from the White House regarding the cyber bullying of Barron Trump, if you can show on the screen.

"It's a long-standing tradition that the children of presidents are afforded the opportunity to grow up outside of the political spotlight. The White House fully expects this tradition to continue. We appreciate your cooperation in this manner."

You know what, Don, I've got to tell you, I've been very critical of Donald Trump, certainly in the past few days, for some of the decisions and things that he's said, but I've got to find common cause with him on this as a father.

I think it's outrageous what has happened. We do not cover, from the news media, the children of presidents. We just do not do that. This child should be allowed to grow up as a child. He should not be thrust into the spotlight.

In fact, we never saw Donald Trump take Barron Trump and put him out there on the campaign trail at all. I mean, we saw him a couple times, but he was very protective about him. And to your point about this being utterly disgusting, this is utterly disgusting.

LEMON: It is utterly disgusting. You can go after the president, you can go after Donald Trump, you can even go after the children who have put themselves, the older children who have put themselves out there.

PRESTON: Right.

LEMON: But for a 10-year-old child, it's just reprehensible.

Thank you, panel. I appreciate it.

When we come right back, President Trump expected to sign orders tomorrow, making a -- making good on a controversial campaign promise.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump planning executive actions tomorrow on one of his most controversial campaign promises.

Let's discuss now, Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times. Good evening, Nick. Thank you so much for coming in.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Good evening. LEMON: First off tonight, I want to get your reaction on the -- on the president's -- he's going to start rolling out his new set of immigration policies tomorrow starting with the action on the border wall which he touted so much during his campaign, and then potentially setting new policies on refugees and visas. Could this be the extreme vetting that he campaigned on?

KRISTOF: Well, apparently, the Homeland Security is working toward a one, cutting off Syrian refugees, the U.S. has admitted 10,000 under Obama, apparently, the aim is to stop that entirely and more broadly to cut off refugees from countries associated with violence like Syria or Iraq.

But you know, what that catches up is last week, I talked to Nadia Murad, a young woman nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, who was a former sex slave. And under that, and she is minority. She is a member of the Yezidi minority. She would be blocked from getting a visa here. Christians who have been persecuted by ISIS would be blocked form coming here as well.

To me, it's retreat from, you know, bipartisan policy over the last few decades.

LEMON: Yes. I want you to listen to this exchange today, this is from the White House press conference. He's our -- our very own Jeff Zeleny questioning Sean Spicer about the president's false voter fraud claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You said the president believes that there was voter fraud. I wonder if you believe that. You were at the Republican National Committee at the time and chief of staff Reince Priebus was the chairman of the RNC at that time. Do you believe there was widespread voter fraud...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Is it my job, is not, look, I -- this...

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: And how can he be comfortable with his win if he believes...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: He's very comfortable with his win.

ZELENY: Maybe he didn't win.

SPICER: No, he's very comfortable with his win. It's an electoral- based system, he get 306 electoral votes, 33 of 56 states voted for him.

I think, look, Jeff, I've asked and answered this question twice. He believes what he believes based on the information he's been provided. Yes, ma'am?

ZELENY: What's that mean for democracy, though, Sean?

SPICER: Thanks, Jeff. Ma'am?

ZELENY: If he does believe that, what's it mean for democracy.

SPICER: It means that I've answered your question.

ZELENY: Have you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Sean didn't answer the question. What does it mean for democracy when the White House questions the legitimacy of the election?

KRISTOF: It's an astonishing moment. I mean, I don't know. Are you using the word liar or false? What do you -- what do you use?

LEMON: Yes.

KRISTOF: So, yes. Well, I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: If you have to use the word you have to call it what it is.

KRISTOF: And I mean, at the New York Times we had this debate. We, in today's newspaper we used the word lie. And saying that about a president is an astonishing thing. There was some internal discussion about that.

But those who argued that one shouldn't use the word lie, I said, well, we don't know the president's intention. And it's only a lie if he knows it's wrong but essentially that's saying well, you know, he may believe the moon is made of green cheese so it's not a lie if he says it is.

It's saying that the president is either a liar or crackpot, and boy, those are unappetizing choices when describing the President of the United States.

LEMON: You know, as I said it's really tough to call. Because and I've said this number of times. I think it was Saturday night where we actually said on air, our very own Jim Sciutto when we were talking about, you know, what he said at the CIA and what he said about the, you know, other crowds, Sean Spicer, and the president, it's tough to call the president of the United States a liar. Because you want to respect the office.

But I think it does a disservice to the American people and even to the president and even to, you know, journalists not to call -- call it what it is. And it is a lie. And so, I mean, it's really tough to do. KRISTOF: I mean, I got, I think that in journalism our role is not

to be stenographers, our role is to be watch dogs, and we have to provide that kind of accountability. And I think when a president or anybody else says something that verifiably empirically false, then one has to call him out on it.

[22:55:03] LEMON: Yes. It's day five of the Trump administration and already we have heard that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election and about the largest crowds ever to witness the inauguration period and about how the dishonest media ginned up the fight between Donald Trump and the intelligence community. None of it is true. What's the political advantage, though, of the Trump team lying?

KRISTOF: I mean, there is an argument that they are trying to rally their base and you know, convince the base that they should disbelieve that lying media. I don't, I mean, I don't think it's in their interest, I think there is a misjudgment there.

And I think, indeed, a lot of people inside the Trump team are deeply concerned about this. You know, after a really bad weekend, there was a little -- there was a period Monday when it seems as if they were bouncing back.

And Sean Spicer was very genial, and then, you know, he seemed to get direction again from Trump himself that you've got to push these things. So, I think the problem is it's coming from Trump himself.

LEMON: I've got to go, but how is alternative facts, how is that playing around the world?

KRISTOF: It's fundamentally it's eroding our self-power.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It was still off a bit.

KRISTOF: I mean, I reported in China for five years and this is what the Chinese communist party did.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Nicholas Kristof.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

LEMON: Good to be with you, as well. When we come right back, what's behind President Trump's obsession with claims of voter fraud, is he afraid he won't be seen as a legitimate president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)