Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to Sign Orders on Border Wall, Immigration & Sanctuary Cities; California Governor Vows to Defend Immigrants; Trump to Slash Refugee Number; White House Defends Voter Fraud Claims; Trump Calls for Voter Fraud Investigation. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:33] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us as we await an early but defining moment of the Donald Trump presidency. A busy first week of executive actions turns this afternoon to a signature Trump issue, immigration. The president, we are told, will order federal resources directed to perhaps his most memorable campaign promise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would build a great wall. And nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. And I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.


KING: Also on tap, executive action to add border patrol agents, step up enforcement of immigration laws and to abolish so-called sanctuary cities. The immigration focus will continue tomorrow, we are told, when the president will detail his controversial plan to restrict refugee flows into the United States and to ban U.S. entry for residents of several majority Muslim nations.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the Cold War we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. I call it extreme vetting. I call it extreme, extreme vetting.


KING: Plus, in a very, very busy first full week, the president says he's closing in on a Supreme Court pick. And, again, he's putting fellow Republicans in a tough spot by repeating his false claims that he lost the popular vote because millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Look, I've already commented on that. I see no evidence to that effect and I've made that very, very clear.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg, Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN and Reid Wilson from "The Hill."

So let's start next hour -- the president, we might even actually see him leaving the White House this hour, near the top of the hour. He goes over to the Department of Homeland Security and he is, again, in his first week, using the power of the pen, his executive actions to keep this one particularly -- it was a signature campaign promise.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG: Yes, jobs, jobs, jobs, and build a wall. Everything else is extraneous, right? These are the core central messages of the campaign, and that is at least the process that's going to begin today, but really it's just beginning today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is beginning today. And this is the part of the immigration and roll-out. It's also part of him seeing now firsthand the government that he is now controlling. He has visited the CIA. Now he'll be visiting the Department of Homeland Security in northwest Washington, a few miles or so from the White House. So he's getting a sense of this -- you know, the establishment, the government he's inheriting.

But immigration is something that he campaigned for mightily, but we're going to hear a lot of talking about the wall and, as it comes up, who is going to pay for it. He said Mexico, but -- and how much it is going to cost here. So I am told this is part of a -- a few step process. The refugees will be coming potentially tomorrow or later on, but today is about directing this DHS, his agency now, to build this wall.

KING: But to Jeff's point, we don't know exactly how much it will cost.


KING: We do know, and there's a Mexican delegation coming to the White House today. And we do know the Mexican government has said, no way no how --


KING: That they're going to pay for it. But we don't know how much it will cost. We don't know how much it will take. We also don't know -- Donald Trump talks about a wall all the way --

HENDERSON: Right, a great wall.

KING: A great wall the way across.

HENDERSON: A beautiful wall. Yes.

KING: A lot of the governors don't want that. HENDERSON: Yes. Yes. Imminent domain issues.

KING: And his own homeland security secretary has said, I'm not sure it would be that effective.

HENDERSON: Yes, environmental issues. I think we've seen great theater from Donald Trump over these last couple of days. You know, the idea of sitting at a big desk and signing orders and essentially proclaiming what he wants to do. It sort of fits with what Donald Trump's idea of the presidency is, what it should look like. And now it's about the details, right? It's about how much this wall costs, how he actually gets it done, and whether it actually addresses the problem. I mean if you think about who's coming over. Now a lot of those folks are from central America. A lot of them turn themselves in at the border. And it's not the -- it's not what it used to be in terms of people climbing over.

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: And also there are a lot of -- there are more border agents there than there have ever been. But, listen, this was his promise, and we'll see what it looks like, and we'll see how the actual governors in these different states and the Congress reacts. This is never something that they really liked. They had wanted to do different things in terms of immigration reform. But, listen, he's the president now.

REID WILSON, "THE HILL": And one of the big differences within the Republican Party is there is a schism between how border states Republicans feel about immigration and how Republicans in the rest of the country feel about immigration. John McCain and Jeff Flake in Arizona are not immigration hardliners. They are, you know, they're -- they're much more for a sort of comprehensive reform because their states are the ones that deal with it. Their states are the ones that are engaged in billions of dollars in cross-border trade with Mexico. And making any of this harder -- making any of that sort of international exchange harder is going to have a negative impact on Arizona, on Texas, on California, on New Mexico and states that actually share a border.

[12:05:33] KING: But if you're a Trump voter, this was one of his biggest applause lines during the campaign. You see him in his first week keeping this promise. So he's -- if you're a Trump voter, you're happy the president's doing this. But we do see some conservative grumbling on the dreamer issue. The younger -- younger, you know, undocumented who were brought here when they were very young by their parents, so essentially carried across the border before they could make that decision themselves. During the campaign, the candidate Trump talked about rounding them up. He sounded much more compassionate lately. Here's what he told "Time" magazine about -- a little more than a month ago. "We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud. That got brought here at a very young age. They've worked here. They've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never never land because they don't know what's going to happen." He sounds compassionate there. Speaker Paul Ryan has said no way are you going to round these people up and throw them out. But a lot of conservatives say, why hasn't the president, as promised during the campaign, also repealed President Obama's executive orders that allow them to stay?

ZELENY: It's a great question. I still remember -- it was one of the early interviews that he did when he was running. It was in the Iowa caucuses, I believe. He told our friend Chuck Todd at NBC News, he said, Chuck, they all have to go, and we'll figure it out later. That was a stunning thing that saying even these children would having to go.

Margaret and I were both in the White House briefing yesterday. someone asked the question about these dreamers. And Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said, look, he is going to focus first and foremost on people who pose a threat to this country and then work on the dreamers later. So this is not a priority. So there is some grumbling out there on this issue specifically.

HENDERSON: Yes, and the numbers he's given on that are something like two to three million. Of course we know Obama did deport something like two million people. Got the nickname -- disparaging nickname deporter-in-chief among many Hispanic groups. But it is true that I think there is a part of Donald Trump's base, particularly people who are active on conservative radio, people like Laura Ingraham, who are very disappointed with what seems to be his soft pedaling and back pedaling on this issue.

TALEV: But, you know, the wall is, to some extent, a shiny object that's distracting from really the much more far-reaching stuff that we're expecting in the coming days.

KING: Right.

TALEV: These major shifts in terms of visa policy, refugee policy, the U.S. role in the world, sort of in that sense. That's a big deal. Also really interesting to watch will be what sort of leverage Donald Trump has to pay for this wall. He's already kind of sat down this marker, forced Mexico to say, I'm not paying for the wall. You pay for the wall if you want the wall. What leverage does he have? Is it the NAFTA negotiations? Will it be tied to that? How is it that he intends to either get his way or split the difference and claim victory at home and then the Mexican leadership (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Right, that's one of the many questions. Implementation of the wall. Some people prefer, you know, using cameras. Others think that there's the --

TALEV: Right.

HENDERSON: A virtual wall, yes.

KING: Land issues. There's some tribal lands in play here. That will end up in the courts without a doubt.


KING: As he tries -- as they try to expand the wall. And also he was -- he's very -- he says today he's going to end sanctuary cities. Candidate Trump was scathing in his criticism of San Francisco and other cities that he says are protecting the undocumented, especially when they commit crimes. The California governor, Jerry Brown, among the Democrats who says, Mr. President, you can issue orders in Washington, but we will fight you.


GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: We may be called to defend those laws, and defend them we will. And let me be clear, we will defend everybody, every man, woman, and child who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the wellbeing of our state.


KING: So this is not going to be easy.

WILSON: No, Jerry Brown ate his Wheaties yesterday before the state of the state address. He laid out a lot of sort of areas of opposition to the Trump administration on immigration, on health care, and on -- well, I mean, pretty much everything else that the Trump administration has promised so far.

California has set itself up as the Vanguard against -- or the bulwark against some of Trump's most aggressive moves, especially on immigration. Just before that speech, he swore in Xavier Becerra, the now former congressman who's the new attorney general, specifically to take on the Trump administration on everything from immigration to climate change and anything else that might be subject to federal rules.

To Margaret's point earlier, though, one of the sort of longer term impacts that Trump is going to have beyond even his presidency is going to be NAFTA. What does NAFTA look like in the long run as he sits down to renegotiate this thing? He's always talked about getting better deals for the United States, but he has never defined what provisions of any of these particular trade deals he actually objects to, whether it's the TPP or NAFTA or trade agreements that Congress has passed earlier.

[12:10:04] KING: The details.


ZELENY: We talk so much about who is the leading Democrat, who is the leader of the Democratic Party. Well, as Reid just said, Jerry Brown, the governor of California, he's not in this building here, but he may have the biggest imprint in terms of what the Democratic Party is doing to fight back against Donald Trump. And they have hired Eric Holder, from the Covington & Burling firm here in Washington to represent California and other states who will join in on this. So that is going to be a fascinating thing to watch in the next four years. And Xavier Becerra is in a great position to emerge as a, you know, a leader in this party as well.

KING: Right, and Jerry Brown likes a good fight.

ZELENY: He sure dos.

KING: And so he'll have his platform.

Let's move to the -- well, we don't know all the details of the tomorrow part, which began in the campaign as a -- the Muslim ban. That candidate Donald Trump, remember him reading the statement, I Donald J. Trump -- or Donald J. Trump will propose. Now they've modified it some. We are told what he's going to do is to suspend the refugee program for at least for months and indefinitely suspend Syrian refugees coming into the United States. Again, he's going to face a constitutional fight on this, and there are a lot of people around the world who say this is just sort of a clever way of essentially implementing a Muslim ban.


ZELENY: Without question.


ZELENY: And it's -- you know, it is scaled back from what he first proposed in December of 2015 in South Carolina, but it is essentially that. So the White House has been very cautious about details on this. There's a lot of chatter out there. I am told that they are not yet certain on the final proposals on this, but it is so controversial in every way.

But I saw something that the Pentagon tweeted out this morning. It was a soldier -- it was a Marine, excuse me, and it says from refugee to Marine, and it showed someone in a uniform. And for all the talk here about how agencies aren't supposed to be sending out messages on social media, that was a powerful message from this Pentagon, this Defense Department, showing that refugees are in our armed services.

HENDERSON: Yes. And the other idea of, does it even address the problem?

ZELENY: Right.

HENDERSON: I mean if you look at the past couple of terrorist attacks that have happened here, they've been essentially self-radicalized citizens who, you know, may have traveled abroad, but, you know, kind of fell into it through online, you know, portals or whatever. So it's not -- it's not clear that what he's going to do is going to actually address this problem.

ZELENY: Right.

WILSON: One of the fascinating elements that's happening sort of under the radar right now is the states and city governments are trying to find a new way to relate to the federal government. We saw a lot of states during the Obama administration, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, suing the Obama administration at every turn. Now they're trying to figure out how to work with the Trump administration and this is one of the issues on which there is still some difference between the states and the feds. There are a number of states that are suing the federal government, now Donald Trump's administration, but the lawsuit began under Obama's administration, to try to essentially remove themselves from refugee resettlement programs. So this is -- this is a big area of divide that's going to continue over --

HENDERSON: Yes. And there's some evangelical Christians who think, you know, taking refugees in is part of the expression of their Christian faith. So there's some of that divide too.

TALEV: Well -- but -- and we may see --

KING: But you sign papers. You sign papers. You have bold actions. And then it's going to take us weeks and months, court cases, maybe even years actually for some of this stuff to filter in, to find out exactly what it is and what it does and how it works.

Up next, there is zero evidence, none, that three to five million undocumented immigrants illegally voted for Hillary Clinton, but that fact is lost on one very important person, the president of the United States.


[12:18:00] KING: Welcome back. A beautiful and a warm day in the nation's capital today.

President Trump takes his official portrait today. You know, the one you'll see in the lobby of just about every federal office building for the next four years. He is president. He's had five nights now in the White House. And he's quickly using his powers to shake up Washington and to keep campaign promises. But -- but, but, but he just can't let go of a few things. Over the weekend, it was the fact that President Obama had a bigger crowd for his first inaugural that provoked a trademark Trump tirade. And it still gets under his skin that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. At a reception with congressional leaders Monday night, the president insisted that only happened because millions of undocumented immigrants flooded the polls and voted illegally.

Listen here now, the former Missouri secretary of state helps us out with a little context.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What kind of conspiracy would be necessary for 3 to 5 million illegally cast votes to take place? Would it be hundreds of people, governors, secretaries of state? What would need to happen?

JASON KANDER (D), FORMER MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE: All of those. Probably thousands of people. I can't even conceive of what you would -- it would be easier to fake a mars landing than it would be to do that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well put, easier to fake a mars landing. Donald Trump this morning, though, again doesn't want to let go, he tweeted out this morning, "I will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even those registered to vote who are dead, and many for a long time. Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures." If we could strengthening voting procedures, if that meant giving states more resources, that would be great, but a lot of Democrats think this is just the opposite.


WILSON: Right, John, it's that last clause that scares Democrats so much. Republicans in state legislatures across the country have pushed a lot of measures to essentially restrict access to the voting booth, whether it's reducing the number of early voting sites, whether it's requiring photo identification laws, photo identifications to come out to vote. Is this the prelude to the next push, not just at a state level -- and there are a number of states that are still working on their legislation -- but at the federal level.

[12:20:04] HENDERSON: Yes.

WILSON: And some kind -- I mean this was the first presidential election we've had in almost half a -- no, half a century without the Voting Rights Act in effect. Now we're seeing what is happening in the post-Voting Rights Act era.


KING: And that's an important policy conversation, if it goes that way. Let's have the personal conversation for a second. What is it that makes him say these things? There is zero, zero evidence. And before we jump in, there's just no evidence. Is there voter fraud in the United States? Yes. There are cases here, cases there. But you have the Republican governor of Texas, the Republican secretary of state of Ohio, the Democratic secretary of state of California saying we look at our elections, we see nothing like this. I think both of you were at the White House briefing yesterday where this was a big deal. Let's listen.


QUESTION: 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, WHITE HOUSE 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 evidence.

QUESTION: What evidence?

SPICER: I -- I --

QUESTION: Senator Ryan today said there's no evidence. The National Association of Secretaries of State say that they don't agree with the president's assessment. What evidence do you have?

SPICER: I -- as I said, I think the president has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has.

ZELENY: Do you believe there was widespread voter fraud?

SPICER: Listen, my job is not --

ZELENY: And --

SPICER: Look, I --


KING: Mr. Zeleny, you got the last word there.

HENDERSON: And some Jeff Zeleny.

KING: Come on. It's -- I feel his pain in the sense that he has to stand there --

TALEV: Has to stand there.


KING: And try -- and he can't say, oh, the president's, like, you know, this is a crackpot conspiracy theory because that's his boss.

ZELENY: Exactly. But the reason I asked that, do you believe that? Sean Spicer is not just someone who arrived on the scene this week. Sean Spicer was the chief strategist for the Republican National Committee. Reince Priebus, the chief of staff now at the White House, was the chairman of the Republican National Committee. They are as close to the election process as really anyone can get. So I wanted to ask Sean if he believes that. And in that -- the answer to the question, he said, he believes what he believes.

So the reason I am told that they sort of announced this investigation this morning, they realized that that whole briefing did not really go well and they knew that they could not put an end to this unless the president himself addressed it. I still think he'll be asked about it, and I believe we'll hear some sound from that. So later today he's sitting down with (INAUDIBLE).

WILSON: You know --

HENDERSON: I mean and -- and --

ZELENY: But the thing is, though, this investigation, it would have to be a state investigation. You wonder if the Justice department should be tying its time up with this.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean --

KING: Right, there is this thing -- there is this thing called the Constitution.


KING: That says the states run elections.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean it -- I mean this has echoes, right, of Donald Trump, the birther, right? I mean Donald Trump is a conspiracy theorist and I think he especially embraces conspiracy theories that he thinks benefit him, right? There are political advantages to for five years claiming that Obama might have been born someplace in Kenya. And there are political advantages now for him to say that there were three million to five million illegal immigrants. I mean that's essentially what he's doing, focusing again on the bad hombres and those sorts of -- those sorts of things.

So, yes, I mean, it's a problem. He's thin-skinned. He's insecure. So he comes up with these conspiracy theories that I think he believes them in his mind because they paint a picture where he's still the winner and he's still the dominator (ph).

TALEV: But there are two things that are true for Democrats in terms of what Democrats are concerned about. And one is that this will become a predicate for, at the federal level, to whatever extent is possible, to create structures that make it more difficult to vote, particularly in southern states, right? So that's one issue. And the other issue, again, from the Democrats' perspective, is that every minute we spend talking about this, we're not talking about gag orders, the EPA, or HHS or the interior department or refugee and visa limits or Supreme Court nominees or any of these kind of other real -- actually real policy things that are happening.

WILSON: But let's be clear, though, there are investigations into the integrity of elections. They're called canvases.

KING: Right.


WILSON: Every state goes through and canvases every single vote. John, you mentioned earlier, Republican secretaries of state, Democratic secretaries of state, for -- for any kind of mass illegal voting scheme to have happened, the number of people who would need to be involved are literally in the tens of thousands.


WILSON: Maybe even in the millions. And they would have to be Republicans. They would have to be Democrats. That's just -- it's not going to happen.


KING: Easier to fake a mars landing. WILSON: If there is --


WILSON: If there is some kind of federal investigation, the result is going to conclude -- and maybe there should be -- the result is going to conclude that there is no voter fraud on a massive scale. And secretaries of state, for both parties, conclude that when they conduct those canvases.

KING: Yes. Is the Trump Justice Department going to conduct an investigation and write a report saying, Mr. President, you're wrong?

TALEV: You're wrong.

KING: We'll see. Strap in, everybody.


KING: Up next, more members of the Trump cabinet are on the job, and their early actions are often in conflict with the words of their boss.


[12:28:56] KING: A gorgeous view there of the Washington Monument.

Welcome back.

It's a busy and contentious week on Capitol Hill for President Trump's cabinet nominees. His choice for health secretary, Congressman Tom Price, was grilled again yesterday. Democrats accuse him of investing in companies he then helped with legislation. And they're openly frustrated with what they consider evasive answers about the new administration's policy plans.



President Trump said he's working with you on a replacement plan for the ACA, which is nearly finished and will be revealed after your confirmation. Is that true?

TOM PRICE, HHS SECRETARY NOMINEE: It's true that he said that, yes.

BROWN: Not that he's ever done this before, but did the president lie? Did the president lie about this, that he's not working with you? He said he's working with you. Is that --

PRICE: I -- I --

BROWN: I know we don't use the word "lie" here because we're polite when presidents say statements that aren't true, but did he lie to the public about working with you?

PRICE: I've had conversations with the president about health care, yes.


[12:29:55] KING: Well, it's frustrating for the Democrats because they can't get any answers about the executive order the president signed and Obamacare and what it's going to do. Will people be protected?