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Trump Signs Immigration and Border Wall Orders; Trump Vows Voter Fraud Probe; Trump's Ability to Govern; Trump Signs Order for Border Wall Construction. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is next. For our viewers here in North America, "Newsroom" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Wolf, thank you. We'll take it.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

A big day of breaking news just days into President Trump's first week in office. The White House briefing just ended, jammed packed with new headlines.

But let's begin with the president starting to make good on a major campaign promise. He just signed executive action that will fund a wall along that U.S.-Mexico border. We're waiting to get tape of him actually signing that executive order, so we'll turn it around for you. But the president also just revealed though that Mexico will not be funding it the way a lot of Americans were expecting. Instead of actually paying up front, Mexico will be reimbursing you, the American taxpayer, as the president clarified to ABC News in a clip that just released minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Are you going to direct U.S. funds to pay for this wall? Will American taxpayers pay for the wall?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately, it will come out of what's happening with Mexico. We're going to be starting those negotiations relatively soon. And we will be, in a form, reimbursed by Mexico, which I've always aid -

MUIR: So they'll pay us back.

TRUMP: Yes, absolutely. One hundred percent yes.

MUIR: So the American taxpayer will pay for the wall at first?

TRUMP: All it is, is, we'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico.

MUIR: Mexico's president said in recent days that Mexico absolutely will not pay, adding that it goes against our dignity as a country and our dignity as Mexicans. He says quite simply they're not paying. TRUMP: Well, I think he has - David, I think he has to say that. He has to say that. But I'm just telling you, there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps in a complicated form. And you have to understand, what I'm doing is good for the United States. It's also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.

MUIR: When does construction begin?

TRUMP: As soon as we can. As soon as we can physically do it. We're -

MUIR: Within months?

TRUMP: I would say in months. Yes, I would say in months. Certainly planning is starting immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Planning immediately, starting construction in months, we all heard it there with ABC News.

We have Leyla Santiago, she's our CNN Mexico City correspondent, and Jeff Zeleny, though, I want to begin with you, our senior White House correspondent there in Washington.

We're waiting, by the way, to hear from Trump momentarily at the Department of Homeland Security, but, you know, walk us through the details of this executive order that Trump just signed.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, President Trump just signed moments ago - he's at the Department of Homeland Security, which is across town here in northwest Washington, a compound where the Homeland Security Department is. And he signed executive orders pertaining to immigration and that wall he has been talking about so often.

The details of that are this basically. He is going to reverse the Obama era catch and release plan, which is a controversial plan where if border patrol agents would sort of, you know, stop someone, arrest someone, they would release them in some respects. So catch and release is done.

He's going to expand border parole agents along the border. I'm told that they are going to expand detention spaces along the border, more prison spaces, more places to hold people. And his top priority, of course, he campaigned on it, was to direct Congress and DHS to use existing money to start building that wall. And he told ABC, as you saw there, that he hopes construction of that will come in months.

But the question, Brooke, that lingers if this executive order does not address is how the U.S. will ever get money from Mexico back from that.

BALDWIN: Right.

ZELENY: He said it would be more complicated and, Brooke, it will be very complicated.

BALDWIN: Let's go to Mexico and talk about that and get, Leyla, you know, Mexico's response to Jeff's point on how Mexico reimburse the American taxpayer and all of the headlines from Washington today, Leyla.

LEYLA, SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it is certainly making headlines here, Brooke. As we've been here on the streets of Mexico City, we've heard people talking about it. But Mexico has again and again said we will not pay for that wall. More specifically, the economic minister yesterday said, hey, if the U.S. tries to tax remittances, we will walk out of any sort of negotiation. If they try to make us pay for that wall, we will also walk away from any negotiations.

But from Mexico, what seems to be seen as disrespectful by Mexicans is the timing of all of this. Mexico has sent a delegation today to the White House for the first face to face diplomatic meeting between the foreign minister, the economic minister and some top White House aides. And on the very day that this was sort of supposed to set the tone for a future meeting with the president of Mexico and set the tone for the relationship, Trump signed this executive order, announces sort of how he plans to move forward with those campaign promises. And the timing of that has really been seen as disrespectful from many Mexicans here.

BALDWIN: Disrespectful. All right, Leyla, thank you, in Mexico City. We're going to keep an eye on Homeland Security as we await President Trump there.

[14:05:06] But as for the White House briefing, so we just heard again today from Sean Spicer, his White House press secretary, just confirmed the president's tweet, the administration is vowing a major investigation into the baseless allegation that up to - somewhere between 3 and 5 million votes in the historic 2016 presidential election were illegal. Now, sources say the president complained those ballots cost him the popular vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think in terms of registration where you've got folks on rolls that have been deceased or moved or registered in two counties, he - this isn't just about the 2016 election, this is about the integrity of our voting system.

Voting is the most sacred right that we have as Americans. This is what is the hallmark and the foundation of our democracy. And to insure that we know that every person's vote counts equally as the next citizen is probably one of the greatest things that we can do. So -

QUESTION: But aren't there check and balances already in place (ph)?

SPICER: I - I - part of the reason we need to do a study is to make sure - look, there's - I don't want to start throwing out numbers, but there's a lot of people that are dead that are on roles. There are people that are voting in two place - or that are on the roles in two different states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So many of these claims, Jeff, have been refuted. You know, we're about to talk to someone who knows all and that. But how will they investigate this?

ZELENY: Well, Brooke, that is a great question that there's not a lot of specifics on that. Elections, it's important to remember, are conducted state by state. There's not a federal election's board. These are conducted, you know, in my respects, by local jurisdictions as well here. So interesting that Sean Spicer said that they are going to focus on New York and California. He named those two states in particular. Of course he lost those two Democratic leaning states very big. But he said it would go beyond 2016. So more than that.

But the question really here is, is there a true investigation to be done? Some people at the Justice Department are not exactly sure. In some respects, the fact that two people - or that the same person, excuse me, is registered in a couple states is something that happened. And, in fact, Steve Bannon -

BALDWIN: Right, two states.

ZELENY: President Trump's chief strategist is registered in Florida and New York. He moved. It's just something that happens. So just today, when there were questions about this in Florida, in Sarasota, Florida, they took him off the roles because this became public because he registered in New York. So the burden is not on the voter to unregister in a new place, it is on the local jurisdiction, they are supposed to get a letter from the new place.

But, Brooke, you can imagine how that would work, having one government entity talking to another one. So the point is, yes, there are people who are double registered, but there is no widespread evidence that these people are voting in both places.

BALDWIN: Sure. And then it's questions on execution.

Jeff, thank you.

Let's go to Pamela Brown, our justice correspondent, on that piece of this.

So, OK, the president says to, you know, maybe the DOJ, all right, investigate. How do they execute that?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a good question, Brooke. Officials I've spoken with today are hoping for some more clarity from the administration if it indeed wants the Department of Justice to investigate this because in order for the Department of Justice, which typically investigates voter fraud allegations, to launch something like this it would need a specific, credible allegation, predication to open up an investigation. And officials I've spoken with today say that simply does not exist right now. It is true if a federal - if a candidate, you know, like a

presidential candidate, is on the ballot, that would fall to the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate if an allegation comes in, such as someone calling in and saying that there was evidence of voter fraud.

On Election Day, Brooke, the Department of Justice dispatched people really across the country to be available for this issue if this does arise and basically they're saying, look, there's not enough here right now to open up an investigation. The president, of course, could decide that he wants to appoint a special prosecutor, investigator. That is certainly within his power to do so. He could ask Congress to use its special powers to investigate. It's sort of unclear about how this is going to proceed. You heard Sean Spicer today, Brooke, say that perhaps a task force will be created later this week. We hope to find out more details on how this is all going to work.

BALDWIN: Pamela, on the execution, thank you very much.

Gloria Borger, I know I have you too. You know, sort of, as we've been talking about voter fraud and the 3 to 5 million and where's the proof, I mean the big picture question is, does President Trump's disregard for the truth threaten his ability to do his job, to govern?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it does. I think that - and forget about his upset over the pictures on the - on The Mall here on Inauguration Day.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: That's small potatoes.

[14:10:01] BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: What this does is essentially undermines his own election. It also undermines the election of everybody in Congress, everybody at state levels and says, wait a minute, there is widespread voter fraud, 2 to 3 million, for example. You know, is it a coincidence that Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote by 3 million? Of course - of course not. And what Sean was trying to do today was to take us off the president's charges of widespread voter fraud and direct the discussion instead towards something that most people agree on, which is that there are very messy voter rolls in this country that need to be cleaned up because you've got 50 different ways of counting votes. It's not a federal program. And the country confronted this after the 2000 election when there was the recount in Florida and nobody would disagree that there has to be a good way of counting votes and cleaning these rolls up.

As for some massive conspiracy of 3 million people to vote illegally, there is no proof of that. And, quite frankly, there's nobody really interested in doing an investigation that spends taxpayers dollars on it that would cost a lot of money.

BALDWIN: On the proof note, I've got somebody who is - whose job it is to fact check this kind of thing. She's Myrna Perez. She's sitting with me, senior counsel, NYU Brennan Center for Justice. Assisted in NYU Brennan Center's research on voter fraud.

So I woke up this morning and I was reading all of this and I was like, we've got to talk to the Brennan Center. So thank you so much for coming on.

MYRNA PEREZ, SENIOR COUNSEL, NYU BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Sure. Glad to be here.

BALDWIN: You know, you all independently fact checked Mr. Trump's claim of voter fraud.

PEREZ: What we have done is been studying voter fraud for the past decade. We've been studying it under different administrations.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PEREZ: We've been studying it throughout. And one of the things that I think is super important to remember is that there is no evidence of widespread concerted conspiracies to -

BALDWIN: Prove it to me. How do you know that?

PEREZ: Study after study.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PEREZ: There have been numerous studies up where - you know, the Brennan Center has independently looked at. There have been numerous books on this. There have been investigations at the state level. There have been investigations at the national level.

Voter fraud is rare. And one thing that is important is that Americans of all political leanings want a secure and safe election. And one of the things that I find so troubling about inflammatory statements that aren't based in evidence is that they distract from actual problems that are happening to voters today. We know that our voting machines in many jurisdictions are too old. We know that our rolls need to be cleaned up. We know that numerous voters aren't able to access early voting opportunities. We know that far too many Americans aren't on the registration rolls and should be.

And instead of actually trying to move forward and advance these kinds of pro voter reforms that need to happen, that are common sense, that would save money, that would make our elections run better, we're having these allegations that are completely baseless. This time it is our voter rolls need cleaning. They do. That is not in dispute. What - but it's coming in a context and in an allegation of the fact that the system has been rigged, which is something we heard him say prior to the election.

BALDWIN: I remember talking to Republican secretaries of state like in Ohio, Mr. Husted, who -

PEREZ: Right. Exactly. Husted, yes, he came out and said, we've got clean elections, right.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PEREZ: I mean, you know, Republican after Republican, election administrator after election administrator will say, you know, there are - we need to be better resourced, we need to have more resources and more support to do our job, that of serving the voters better -

BALDWIN: Sure, but is fraud a concern?

PEREZ: But that is different than there's widespread cheating like this happening.

BALDWIN: You would know, as the authority with the Brennan Center. Stay with me.

Gloria, let me just bring you back in the conversation because I understand you - you have some extra insight that may explain why the president just can't quite let go of these -

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: You know, the baseless claims of illegal votes. Who did you talk to?

BORGER: Well, you know, numbers have always been important to Donald Trump, especially as it relates to his popularity. And when we were doing the documentary for Donald - on Donald Trump, I did a segment on "The Apprentice." And I spoke at the time to Jim Dowd, who did his public relations for "the Apprentice," and this is, of course, before Jim Dowd recently passed away, but take a listen what he told me about Donald Trump and ratings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM DOWD, FORMER PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER, "THE APPRENTICE": I've never seen anyone in the television industry - I've been in it 20 years - who cared as deeply about ratings, positive or negative, as Donald Trump. When we started to get to 5, 6 million, you know, you're talking a top, you know, what used to be a top ten show. And now it's like number 82. So it was - but he would never - he would never say it like that, but I was in the position where I had to give the ratings to, you know - as soon as the Nielsen ratings come out, you can't - those numbers don't lie.

[14:15:07] BORGER: So you had to tell him the bad news, that the ratings were dropping.

DOWD: Right. Right.

BORGER: What was that like?

DOWD: It was horrible. It was absolutely horrible because he wanted me to continue to say it was the number one show on television, which it was at some point, maybe six seasons ago. And, you know, he - he never really came to terms with the fact that the show was a - he'll always say the show was a monster hit, and that's the truth. But as time went on, he never really came to terms with the fact that the format was just not as popular as it once was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That's fascinating.

BORGER: Yes. It was always about the numbers and the popularity. So I think what sticks in his craw, Brooke, obviously, is the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a substantial number, around 3 million. And he just can't get that out of his mind nor can he move forward, move past it, as most Republicans in Congress want him to move past it.

BALDWIN: Ratings, crowd size, popular vote, to his point on numbers.

Gloria, thank you.

BORGER: Sure.

BALDWIN: Listen, if you take all the way, he's had a very productive last couple of days, his first couple of days in the White House. Coming up, we're waiting - live pictures here - of the department of Homeland Security where Mr. Trump will stay true to his promise all along the trail to build that wall, signing this executive order today. He says he wants to start building in months. We'll take him live. Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:20:36] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Live pictures here, a packed house there at the Department of Homeland Secretary, where we're waiting to hear from President Trump. This just after he signed that executive order to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Another order calls for a cutting of funds to sanctuary cities. The president also vowed to make Mexico pay for the wall, even though he says the U.S. will pay for it first, right, so Mexico, he says, will reimburse.

Joining me now, Congressman Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat who had previously slammed the president over his border policy, and Marco Gutierrez, political activist and founder of the group Latinos for Trump.

Gentlemen, welcome back, both of you.

MARCO GUTIERREZ, CO-FOUNDER, LATINOS FOR TRUMP: Hi there. It's a pleasure.

REP. FILEMON VELA (D), TEXAS: Good afternoon.

BALDWIN: Congressman Vela, we had chatted, I want to say it was last summer, and just to remind our viewers, you had a colorful way of putting this wall idea. Can you remind us?

VELA: Well, I just think that building a border wall is a really bad idea. The fact is, is that Mexico is an ally, not an enemy. It's our third largest trading partner, our second largest export market. And to the extent we import goods from Mexico, 40 percent of those goods are made with American products. And the idea that in the 21st century you would build a wall between two countries who have those kinds of bonds doesn't make sense to me.

BALDWIN: I think you said something to the - it doesn't make sense still. You said something to the effect of, well, Mr. Trump can shove the wall up his you know what. I mean you have not minced words on this.

Marco, my question to you is, you know, Mexico isn't paying for this wall, at least according to Mr. Trump. It's going to be the American taxpayer and then Mexico will be reimburse. So would you mind paying for this?

GUTIERREZ: You know, I think it's a symbol to enforce compliance in this plan. And, you know, three days we have a president. Congratulate, America, you have a president that means business. So, yes, Mexico will pay for the wall in different ways, but it's a business -

BALDWIN: How is the president - how is the president going to get Mexico to reimburse?

GUTIERREZ: There is going to be different ways, but you have a deficit that - we have money that's coming into Mexico that can be allocated to fund the wall.

BALDWIN: And so just as a voter, you don't mind footing the bill?

GUTIERREZ: We have to enforce compliance and the immediate thing to do is allocating funds. How we're going to end up with the balancing at the end, I - you know, that's up to - in three days we can't - we can't figure that out.

BALDWIN: OK. I don't know if that's a no or a yes, but, Congressman Vela, let me go to you.

VELA: OK.

BALDWIN: You know, according to Mr. Trump who sat down with David Muir over at ABC News today, he says that the wall will be built in a matter of months. Can you comment on that?

VELA: Yes, Brooke, to be clear, I feel the same way I did back in July, but the fact is Mr. Trump won the election. But this is the thing. This is where the American public is being lied to because he has persistently said that the American public would not pay for the wall and that Mexico would pay for the wall. But Mexico has been very clear that they're not going to do that. So, you know, I call this the great big lie because there is no way Mexico is going to pay for this wall and this cost, which is a ridiculous cost to begin with, is going to be passed on to the American taxpayer. And I think we have to be very clear-eyed about that as we go forward.

BALDWIN: Marco.

GUTIERREZ: You know, being Mexican -

BALDWIN: Yes, go ahead.

GUTIERREZ: Being Mexican myself, you know, if we wait for Mexico to pay for the wall, it will not be there for a while. So I think that we need to motivate them to do this somehow and -

BALDWIN: But before the motivate though, Marco, let's be crystal clear, it would be the American taxpayer who would be - who would be paying. That goes back to my original question, you know, just give me a yes or a no, would you be OK, since you talk about compliance, would you be OK with footing a piece of the wall?

GUTIERREZ: I think I will be OK with it, yes.

BALDWIN: OK. And then, you know, congressman, how would - I mean, you know, being a member of government, I mean Mexico is one of our, you know, strong ally of the U.S. We know the Mexican delegation, you know, was in Washington today. Talked to our Mexico City correspondent who said all of this happening on the same day of this delegation showing up is, her word, disrespectful. Why - I mean - I realize he's the president of the United States, but how do we - how does he get Mexico to pay for it?

[14:25:13] VELA: Well, I don't think he'll ever get Mexico to pay for it.

BALDWIN: You don't?

VELA: I don't. And I just don't think that's going to happen. What I really do believe is that Mexico, central America and Canada, we're all part of one big continent and I believe that we need to redirect this dialogue so that as a continent we work together to solve many of the complicated issues that each of our countries have to face. And so I think the direction we're going in with respect to this dialogue is just the wrong direction and -

BALDWIN: But would you, congressman, give him credit? I mean can you give the president credit, even though you felt strongly when he was candidate Trump but now he's President Trump, this is something he vowed for months and months and months, he's going to build a big wall and today's the day he signed the executive action. Do you give him credit for follow through?

VELA: I disagree with him, but I do give him credit for doing what he said he was going to do, but I don't think he's ever going to be able to do it because the promise he made was that Mexico would pay for it and that's not going to happen.

BALDWIN: OK. Congressman Vela, thank you. Marco Gutierrez, thank you so much.

And again, any moment, we should be hearing the president discuss precisely this as he is at DHS, Department of Homeland Security, signing this executive action, talking about the wall. Also talking about ending sanctuary cities. There's a lot of - a lot of information on this background note here as we wait for President Trump explain to the American people how he's going to build this wall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)