Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Revives False Voter Fraud Claim, Vows Probe; Does Trump's Disregard For Truth Impede Ability To Govern?; Trump To Order Funding Of Controversial Border Wall. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan" starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. We have breaking news this morning, a major investigation into voter fraud. That's what President Trump is promising after continuing his fixation on the widely-debunked claims that millions of people voted illegally in November's election.

This started back up again, of course, when Trump made this claim in a private meeting with Congressional leaders this week, that three million to five million illegal votes cost him the popular vote.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, he defended his boss' claims from the briefing room yesterday, though not providing evidence to back it up, likely because it doesn't exist.

BERMAN: You know, who is among those seeing no evidence of fraud, President Trump's White House counsel, Donald McGhan, in a court filing objecting to Jill Stein's Michigan recount petition, wrote, "All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake."

The president's own guy says, nothing to see here, or at least said nothing to see here. All this on a busy day that was supposed to be about immigration, just a short time from now President Trump will sign executive orders that include instructions on his prized border wall.

Let's go right away to the White House. CNN's Sara Murray is there for us. A whole lot going on, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly do have a way of keeping us busy here. Now I want to start with the voter fraud allegations. Trump sort of upping the ante on this and saying he is going to ask for some kind of investigation, some kind of report into this.

Now it's worth noting once again, there is no evidence that there was voter fraud of the magnitude that Donald Trump has talked about, 3 million to 5 million people who voted illegally, no evidence of that. When people have looked into this before, there are very, very few cases where someone impersonates someone else to vote. Now what Donald Trump could find, as he enlists a study like this, is that there are voter registration fraud instances.

Instances where people are registered to vote more than once, where large swaths of people maybe are registered to vote that shouldn't be allowed to register to vote or people are registered in multiple places.

That's the kind of thing that could give Republicans fodder to sort of crack down on voter registration rules, add more voter registration restrictions. This is the kind of thing that they have lobbied for in years past that has really caused ire among some Democrats.

We will see if that's the direction they're going. But once again, no evidence that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. It does not exist.

BOLDUAN: And voter registration is not actual votes. That's the big distinction that has gotten blended together in these conversations.

MURRAY: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: But then, on the other big topic of the day, Sara, what exactly do we know about these executive actions that the president will be signing?

MURRAY: Well, this would have been the big news, the banner headline, Donald Trump is moving forward very quickly on some of his key campaign promises. He's going to head over to the Department of Homeland Security later today and we're expecting him to sign executive actions to essentially get moving with building this border wall along the border with Mexico as well as adding 5,000 new border patrol agents.

Now this is really something that's going to play out over the next two days. We're going to see immigration action and the border wall today. But we're going to see another round of immigration actions likely focused on vetting and refugees.

We're expecting most of that to come tomorrow. This is going to end the Syrian refugee program. It is going to stop all refugees from coming in for four months. It's going to take a much stricter look going forward at refugees and visas for a number of countries where the Trump administration right now feels like you can't get sufficient vetting done.

These are changes that are going to immediately impact people's lives. There are people who have been waiting for years to flee war-torn countries to come to the United States who will likely not have the opportunity to do that now. These are big actions that we're expecting from President Trump in the next two days.

Real ramifications, interesting to see that the president has opted to sort of create this dual narrative with his voting fraud allegations as well as all of his sort of campaign promises playing out.

BOLDUAN: By design or not? We'll leave that for everyone to get on that one. Sara, great to see you, a busy day. We'll come back to you.

We'll talk about those executive actions in detail in just a moment. But let's drill down on the president's continued and ill-founded claims of massive and widespread illegal voting fraud in the election.

Joining us now is California's secretary of state, Alex Padilla. It is worth noting that California is one of the states that Donald Trump singled out for voter fraud right after the election he put out on Twitter.

So Secretary, two months have passed since the election, have there been any credible allegations of voter fraud in your state in this election?

ALEX PADILLA, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning, Kate. Thank you for bringing up that question because it was around Thanksgiving weekend where President Trump first started not just alleging millions of cases of voter fraud across the country, but naming specific states, California among them.

We pushed back at the time, saying, hey, we take allegations of voter fraud seriously. If do you have any information or proof of it, please bring it forward, we're happy to investigate.

[11:05:06]Months have passed, zero proof, zero evidence. So here is my concern as he's repeating these allegations. First, my concern, as elections administrator, is he's simply setting the tone for any policy changes that will go further backwards as it pertains to voting rights.

You know, we already have needless barriers to voter registration, needless barriers to the ballot box for eligible voters not just in California but around the country.

We see what's happening in Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, et cetera. In California, we're trying to show a different way. But calling for a massive investigation when there is no basis for it is dangerous.

It's not productive. It's a distraction, as you've said, and my fear is that it sets up, you know, changes in law as it pertains to access to the ballot for Americans.

BERMAN: So Mr. Secretary, you called the investigation dangerous. Will you cooperate with the federal investigation?

PADILLA: Look, we cooperate with federal government as we're required to and we're happy to do so. But I think it's also our obligation to push back and say, this makes sense, this does not make sense.

Just as alleging voter fraud on a rampant scale without proof or without any evidence is harmful to democracy so is an investigation that's not based on anything other than somebody's ego. BOLDUAN: And to put a fine point on it, Mr. Secretary, when you say there is zero proof, there is zero proof that -- have there been any allegation of voter fraud in California that your agency is looking at right now?

PADILLA: You know, to my knowledge there is no cases of irregularities or cause for investigation to voter fraud from the November 8th election except the state level. I can't speak for country DAs across the state of California and I can't say something won't come forward in the future. But when you make allegations of 3 million, 4 million, 5 million cases of voter fraud throughout the country, that's impossible.

BERMAN: Again, you called it dangerous. I think you're questioning the motives, I think, of President Trump on launching what he calls this major investigation. Do you anticipate that this will be a fair investigation?

PADILLA: Well, if the first couple of days of the Trump administration, how they played fast and loose with the truth and facts, I have cause for concern. Look, not just myself in California, but my colleagues throughout the country.

We pride ourselves on free and fair elections. An elections process that is absolutely transparent and true to our small "d" democracy. When you start questioning it, when you start creating doubts, that's taking a jackhammer to the bedrock of our democracy.

BOLDUAN: That's a strong statement, saying, a jackhammer to the bedrock of our democracy. He's called for a major investigation, a serious investigation. On the state level, because obviously this is going to come down, even if it's a federal investigation, it will come into your state. What would a major investigation into voter fraud look like on the ground for you guys?

PADILLA: You know, in my opinion, a major investigation should start with the White House, including the president himself, reading the reports that are already out there. There's stuff from Loyola University, the Pew Center for the states, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU.

There's been report after report, study after study, investigation after investigation, for years on these allegations of voter fraud. And what does each and every one turn up? Does it exist? Yes, but it is virtually nonexistent. Small numbers compared to the millions and billions of ballots cast over the last several days.

BERMAN: Like one study said 31 cases in a billion over ten years of voting fraud. So that's not much. All right, Mr. Secretary Alex Padilla, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate your time.

BOLDUAN: Let us know when you hear from the Justice Department.

PADILLA: Will do.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. BERMAN: All right, joining us now to discuss, CNN political analyst, Abby Phillip and CNN political director, David Chalian. You know, David, you were on yesterday after the White House news conference when the press secretary sort of dodged questions or said the president said what he's going to say, I'm not going to question that. You called that astonishing. Now that the president has said he's going to launch a major investigation into what he calls voter fraud, if yesterday was astonishing, what's today?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Actually at least Donald Trump is now trying to follow through here to get his own set of facts from an investigation. I'll give him some credit and not just relying on the already debunked facts.

The problem, of course, is he's now committing taxpayer dollars to investigate something that every expert says doesn't exist. So that's a problem that I think taxpayers may have with this investigation.

Listen, Donald Trump is proving that he simply cannot let go of the notion that he didn't win the popular vote, and that that somehow really hurts him deeply the way it would hurt him if "The Apprentice" was no longer number one in the ratings.

[11:10:02]What that does is, it gets in the way of what has been an unbelievable frenzy of activity in terms of delivering promises out of the gate from this administration, and I can't believe that he doesn't want that to remain the focus. He just seems totally incapable of not moving beyond something that is completely based in falsehood.

BOLDUAN: That's what is confusing to a lot of folks, as you look at the current situation, Abby. This was supposed to be, to sum up, this was supposed to be immigration day coming from the White House, something that you would think the president would be more than happy to have all of the focus on, or is the White House somehow happy to have this driving the day?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no question that the White House wanted this week to have a sense of purpose and focus. Every day was supposed to be focused on something new, some new action. But every time Donald Trump is left to his own devices, at the dinner with lawmakers earlier this week and this morning on Twitter, he has continually brought up this issue about the questions about his legitimacy.

That is not part of a grand plan from this White House. They are in a position now where they have to reverse engineer policy from his statements, which is what you do when you work for the president of the United States.

And it's tough because even members on the Hill are being left in the dark about what this is all about. Not to mention that secretaries of state from all over the country, most of whom are Republicans, have continued to maintain that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

So the question is, who are they going to investigate? And what kind of cooperation will they get even from Republicans on this issue? I suspect the White House is trying to figure that out right now, after President Trump has already made these proclamations on social media.

BERMAN: The California secretary of state just told us he'll cooperate but has concerns whether the investigation will be on the level. David Chalian, there is a theory that the president is a mad genius when it comes to Twitter.

That every time he tweets something, it's to divert your attention from something else and he's really trying to focus you on something specific. But I don't know if that applies today.

I'm racking my brain to try to figure out why on earth he would want take attention away from this fairly meticulous immigration rollout.

CHALIAN: Yes, it makes no sense to me. You'll recall this was one of the bedrocks of his entire candidacy, this immigration issue. We're talking a lot about the wall in this order, but it's also the ending of sanctuary cities and trying to defund them, which is at the heart of the Kate Steinle case, the murder case he talked about at length on the campaign trail as sort of a life force behind this.

So John, I agree with you, I am confounded by this. I do not believe this is some sort of grand strategy to distract us because all its distracting us from is his very own agenda that he's quite proud that he's delivering on.

BOLDUAN: Abby, you hit on this, and I want you to elaborate, the dilemma that Republicans are facing now in light of Donald Trump's comments. You've got Mitch McConnell, he wouldn't even really answer the question if he thinks that widespread voter fraud happened yesterday.

Lindsey Graham thinks this is pure crazy pants, if that's a technical term. John McCain says he just won't focus on it. Listen to this.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I obviously have seen no evidence of illegal voting, but my focus has been on national security. A long time ago, honestly, I've stopped reacting to everything that the president has stated and try to work on the issues and the people that he's going to surround himself with, whom I'm very pleased with as far as national security is concerned.


BOLDUAN: John McCain can say that, but can Republicans dodge this question?

PHILLIP: I mean, let's just put this all into context. Republicans are in literally their golden hour. They have control of the House. They have control of the Senate, and they have control of the White House. And yet, they can't get the focus to be on their agenda, on national security, on health care, on immigration. There is a lot of frustration on the Hill. They want to move on from these questions. Not to mention the fact that allegations of widespread voter fraud in U.S. elections calls into question every single Republican and Democrat, who is up for election in the 2016 cycle.

And, you know, they don't believe it themselves. So it's hard for them. And I think that this is the position they've been in from day one with Trump. They've tried to sort of compartmentalize him and focus on their own thing.

But they have often failed because the questions keep coming and they keep having to answer them. And I think that's going to continue for a while longer.

BERMAN: Yes, you know, Republicans did pretty well in this election that the president says was fraudulent. Just to conclude, remember, there is no evidence that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in this election. It does not exist.

[11:15:09]Abby Phillip, David Chalian, thanks so much for being with us.

In a couple of hours, the president, he will take his first step to build that wall, but when will he take the step to get Mexico to pay for it?

BOLDUAN: Plus another campaign promise, extreme vetting. We are getting a bit more detail on what that may look like today and what countries are on the list. Details on that ahead.

And also this, a former CIA analyst going public for the first time with her role at the CIA. She'll tell us why the president's remarks at agency headquarters over the weekend forced her to speak out.


BERMAN: So if there was one campaign promise identified with then- Candidate Trump, it was to build a wall on the border with Mexico. In just a couple of hours, President Trump will head to the Department of Homeland Security to announce an executive action to do just that. Of course, he also announced that Mexico would pay for the wall, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards just yet.

BOLDUAN: Just yet. Joining us now is Democratic Congressman from Texas, Joaquin Castro. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


BOLDUAN: As John said, if there was only one campaign promise, it would be building the border wall. So isn't this Donald Trump making good on a campaign promise?

[11:20:09]CASTRO: Well, I think most of all, it's bad policy. We already spend about $18 billion securing our border. Net migration from Mexico to the United States is at zero. Also 40 percent of undocumented immigrants are not people who crossed any border but folks who came here on a visa and overstayed that visa.

Donald Trump is also going back on the main point of building that wall, which was he was going to get Mexico to pay for it. The Mexicans have been clear that they're not going to pay anything to build a wall.

And so the American people are going to be stuck with a $25 billion bill to build a wall that most likely is going to be ineffective and then $700 million a year that could go to roads and schools and many other things in this country just to maintain that wall.

BERMAN: So $25 billion is the high end of estimates, other people say it would be $ $14 billion, I've seen $9 billion, but it's a lot of money. And as far as Mexico paying for it, the president says he doesn't want to wait, he wants to start now and he will get Mexico later on to pay for it. That's just what we hear from the White House on that.

It's not just the wall that we're hearing about this week, there's also new border patrol agents. There will be some new policies in place. What measures would you like to see? I mean, do you think these will help? Are there other things you should do in order to make the border more secure?

CASTRO: What we need to do is pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Remember, in 2014, the Congress got close. The United States Senate passed it overwhelmingly. But the speaker of the House refused to put it on the floor for a vote, even though it had the votes between Republicans and Democrats to pass.

That comprehensive immigration reform bill would make sure that we are clear about who gets to stay and who has to go. It also included a border security element.

And so, you know, rather than doing something like building a wall which is mostly symbolic, he ought to be doing real policy and working with the Congress to really solve our immigration challenge.

BOLDUAN: I call it bad policy, the border wall, but it's one of the things that got him elected. I mean, elections have consequences.

CASTRO: You won't get any disagreement from me about that. It also doesn't make it good policy. In fact 59 percent of Americans disagree with building a wall along our southern border.

BERMAN: One of the things the White House seems to indicate is not a priority right now, when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was pressed about it, was the issue of dreamers. During the campaign then-Candidate Trump suggested they might be deported, but, you know, he said he would overturn DACA immediately. Now that doesn't seem to be a priority, we don't know when or if that will happen. Are you at least encouraged by that?

CASTRO: I am. The fact is that you have over 700,000 young people who were brought here through no fault of their own by their parents who find themselves in a legal limbo, really who are not legally or morally culpable for their situation, who are as American as you and I, and are in the United States, have only known this country as their home, and wish to stay and build a future and a life here. So I'm glad that the new president has not repealed DACA.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Castro, thanks so much for your time. We always appreciate it.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now, CNN national security analyst and former Department of Homeland Security official, Juliette Kayyem, and the founder of Latinas for Trump, Ileana Garcia.

Ileana, let me start with you. You've just heard Congressman Castro saying the wall won't work, it's a waste of time and money. Your response?

ILEANA GARCIA, FOUNDER, LATINAS FOR TRUMP: I don't understand how he can make that type of comment, considering that it's not symbolic at all. It's about protection. We can say that there is a big immigration situation, not necessarily all because of the security situation, there is a wall there now. There is a fence. It needs to be -- it needs to be fortified. It needs to be extended.

It needs to be symbolic only for the people to understand that there are a set of laws you need to follow in order to come into this country. There's also a wall between Guatemala and Mexico, which I was told, and once I did the research, that at a given moment, Obama gave Mexico $75 million so that they can secure that wall between Guatemala and Mexico.

So why not then secure the wall or make things better for this country by fortifying the fence, the wall, and helping people understand that there is accountability. It's not just about immigration, it's also about protection. It's also about the drugs that come through. It's about human trafficking amongst other things.

BOLDUAN: So Juliette, the president is going to be making this announcement about this executive action at your former agency, at DHS. What does it mean practically speaking, this border wall? Will the border wall be built, do you think? If it is, what does that mean for security?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think that it's fair to say, I agree with Ileana that this is more symbolic than anything else.

[11:25:04]The wall -- there's about 850 miles of wall already across the southern border. The reason why there's not more is because there's water and there's mountains and also tribal lands.

Finally, red states like Texas, Arizona, and sometimes New Mexico, often don't want the wall for a variety of reasons, commercial activity inhibits land growth, commercial growth.

So in the world of not politics, there are actually rational reasons of why a wall is not built. It doesn't mean there is no security, there is drones. There is surveillance. There is border patrols.

And so I think what this executive order is essentially saying is I didn't forget about the wall. Mexico won't pay for it, but unless it has places where we're actually going to build the wall where there's no wall, I think this is more bark than bite.

BERMAN: What about Mexico, Ileana? Because I don't think Mexico paying for it is part of the executive order today. It absolutely was part of the campaign promise from then-Candidate Trump.

GARCIA: I think that you guys are making too big a deal about who is going to pay for it or not. The fact of the matter is --


BERMAN: Why? Hang on. He made a big deal of it during the elections. I didn't make a big deal of it. Donald Trump in every speech --

GARCIA: Good. I'm glad that he did and that's why he won. That's exactly why he won. And it's not just about immigrants. It's about protection. It's not just about protection because of the whole conspiracy theory that's going on with regards to Mr. Trump. It's about ISIS. It's about people who are not complacent with the way that things are in the United States.

BOLDUAN: But what John is asking you is not about the security situation. He's asking you about the payment method. What John is asking is --

GARCIA: What difference does it make? Obama prior to leaving office gave to Palestine $221 million. You guys are -- it's going to be happen whether you like it or not, you guys can sit here all day and discuss it, it's going to happen.

How it's going to happen, I don't know who's going to pay for it, it doesn't matter. The fact of the matter is it's going to happen. We're so happy that right after that, the biometrics will kick in and finally we'll have accountability in this country.

BOLDUAN: You don't care who pays for it, if it's the American people, you don't care?

GARCIA: We were paying for sterilizations and abortions overseas. I didn't know about that until recently.

BERMAN: All right, Juliette --

GARCIA: Oh, you don't want to talk about that.

BERMAN: Donald Trump said during the campaign that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. We're just asking, is Mexico going to pay for the wall. It's not part of the executive action today. Juliette, you've worked in international fields before, how complicated will it be to get Mexico to pay for the wall? And again, all we were asking is it doesn't appear to be part of the plan today when and if will happen.

KAYYEM: So as everyone who has served in government knows, an executive order can only essentially direct the executive agencies that are under Donald Trump's control. So that would be the Department of Homeland Security, Customs, ICE, you don't direct Mexico under an executive order.

And I think, you know, the payment is relevant. What I'm looking for, obviously, for reasons related to taxpayers, but what I'm really looking for is where in fact this wall will be built.

I think anyone who has worked operationally like myself, and I'll be honest, like the new Secretary Kelly who in his testimony said border controls are a combination of walls and surveillance and drones and border professionals, there's water, big rivers and mountains.

I'm really curious to see if this executive order will actually have geography, will actually say where the wall will be built. And I think what we'll find is that the executive order just reiterates the campaign promises but probably doesn't do any changes operationally, simply because those changes are being done every day.

The border is a very fluid area in which security is being put forward. On the payment issue, you know, look, I'm your national security adviser, but you can't direct Mexico to pay through an executive order.

BERMAN: All right, Ileana --

GARCIA: Drugs continue to come in.

BOLDUAN: Ileana and Juliette, thanks so much for your time. We'll have a lot more time to talk about --

BERMAN: And we'll continue to ask about campaign promises and statements that were made by the candidate and continue to be made by the president. That's what we do.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

Coming up for us, Donald Trump won the election. Could someone please tell Donald Trump that? His fixation with losing the popular vote and how that might get Barack Obama to come out of retirement earlier than he thought. John King is joining us next.

BERMAN: Plus, a former CIA analyst blasts the president for what he calls his publicity stunt while standing in front of the Memorial Wall at the CIA. She calls it a terrifying display of the dangerous way he'll govern. Some provocative words. We'll talk to her, coming up.