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INSIDE POLITICS

Democrats Grill President Trump's Nominees; President Trump's First Post-Inaugural Interview; British PM "Not Afraid To Speak Frankly" To Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, "INSIDE POLITICS" ANCHOR: -- to certain Democrats because they can't get any answers about the executive order that the president signed in ObamaCare and what it's going to do. Will people be protected, and they've had -- Congressman Price is not the first of the nominees. He has dodged the question there to essentially concede. I haven't had any deep policy conversations with the president.

REID WILSON, THE HILL: One of the really fascinating things about the nomination process. We've heard from Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruett, Rick Perry, a couple of other nominees that they believe that climate change is happening and that it is caused at least in part by man. We've had more Republicans acknowledge the facts of climate change in just the last few weeks. And I think we have in the last four years.

These confirmation hearings, it's clear that Trump's nominees are very well coached. They're by and large answering their questions correctly and not stepping on the land mines that have been laid out for them by Democrats. And there's a very realistic chance that every single one of their nominees -- of Trump's nominees will be confirmed unlike George W. Bush, unlike President Obama, unlike President Bill Clinton who lost two attorney general nominees for the same thing that the Office of Management and Budget, nominee Mick Mulvaney is going through, not paying taxes on a nanny.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, they've been very --

KING: Part of that is because Democrats were treated. I'm told inside Trump Tower during the transition when these things came up, the president-elect, now president said fight. Don't give up. Fight.

HENDERSON: Yeah. You know a lot of these folks have been very vague. They've been coached in some ways to be vague, and I think that it helped that a lot of them hadn't talked to Donald Trump in terms of deep policy on any number of issues and in some ways you can't really imagine Trump doing that with many of them. One of the most interesting exchanges, I think, was around Medicaid and in time for as trying to get him to admit whether or not the policy of this administration is going to be to block Medicaid. And we, of course, heard from Kellyanne Conway that that is the policy --

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: --to make that a block grant which --

KING: Send it out to the states and let the governors decide.

HENDERSON: -- send it out to the states. Let them decide. Of course, progressives don't like that because they think it's economy turns south, then the first thing to go or to be cut or will be whatever funding that would come from Medicaid. What Tom Price would not say whether or not that is going to be the policy of this administration if that's you're thinking.

KING: It's not just the Democrats who are frustrated. Listen here. Bob corker, Republican Senator from Tennessee. During the campaign, if you remember, Donald Trump was not always a Republican. He's a Republican candidate but, you know, he's talked like a Republican. He said he has no interest in cutting social security, no interest in cutting Medicare. He says. if he was president, that's been said through the campaign. It will not happen. This is Senator Corker trying to do a little budget math with Congressman Mulvaney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE: Mr. Trump did say some things during the campaign t hat I wish he had not said. They're totally unrealistic, make no sense whatsoever. When you talk with him about the fact that it's impossible for us to imbalance the budget with 31 percent of our spending being discretionary, without dealing with these other programs. DO you think he understands that?

REP. MICK MUILVANEY, (R) WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I haven't been quiet and shy since I have been here. It's extremely easy to find quotations from me and so forth.

CORKER: Well, don't take too much time with the answer.

MULVANEY: I have to imagine that the president knew what he was getting when he asked me to fill this role.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG: Maybe.

KING: Maybe. This is an interesting question. It's only the first week, but he is a budget hawk.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

KING: He is such a budget hawk that John McCain says he may not vote for him because he has cut military spending and repeatedly tried to cut more military spending, and John McCain said, "I don't know if I can go for this. "

TALEV: I think on the domestic front, these potential disparities between the President and some of these nominees, Kevin a nominee or maybe nto that big a deal because they're both generally in the same world view, and so is the party that's controlling the Congress. But on the couple like the budget where the president has a lot of plans, including the ObamaCare replacement that costs a lot of money and promises to cut taxes and we have no understanding of how the two meet in the middle.

KING: And you --

TALEV: And on the foreign policy front. Rex Tillerson never really discussing Russia in depth with him.

KING: Right.

TALEV: Some was on the matter --

KING: But you mention the four policy front. Do these mixed messages, does it matter? We'll find out from Congressman Price and Congressman Mulvaney if they get confirmed. Does the president listen to them or does the President stick with his campaign promises?

Mike Pompeo was sworn in as CIA Director. Donald Trump essentially accused John Brennan of leaking that dossier about him, and he had a big fight with John Brennan.

Mike Pompeo comes in to town. He says. "I am mindful that I follow the directorship of a distinguished CIA veteran, consummate intelligence officer, and devoted patriot. That's Mike Pompeo praising John Brennan there. That's not what the president thinks of John Brennan.

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not at all, and I think, look, in a lot of confirmation hearings we've all seen so many of them. A lot of nominees are trying not to answer questions because they want to make this as simple as possible. In many of these cases, they don't know. They don't know what the president thinks on some of these things. They've not been told.

I am not getting the sense that this is going to be a cabinet that is going to have a lot of influence in the west wing. They come in as governors or other things and think they're going to shape the government, and they're often mistaken about that. Most of the shaping of the government happens inside the White House, but, you know, we don't know so much about this president and his ideas and policies that around the edges they could shape it some, but it's Donald Trump's view that, you know, is going to send the message.

[12:35:15] And all these mixed messages here, says it leaves our allies wondering what is the U.S. policy?

KING: That's the interesting part there. A quick break. When we come back, Donald Trump is wrapping up his first television interview as President of the United States with ABC News. A little bit of that. What he had to say about the wall on the Southern border after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The breaking news this hour. Donald Trump is about to leave the White House, go over to the Department of Homeland Security. He used his power of presidency to issue some orders on immigration. In his first one-on-one network television interview since taking office. He sat down with ABC's David Muir and he discussed the wall. Let's listen.

(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?

[12:40:02] DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: 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 will say --

MUIR: So they'll pay us back?

TRUMP: Yeah. Absolutely, 100 percent.

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

TRUMP: All it is, is will be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make for 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, "We're simply not paying."

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Planning starting immediately. The construction the president hopes starts within months. He said a lot of that before, insisting Mexico will ultimately pay for it. We learn anything new from that?

ZELENY: I think we did. Every time he says something now, he is saying it as president. So it is in the sense, the first time he's saying it. But he said, will -- we'll be reimbursed in a format at a later date of payment. It may be a complicated form. So he is definitely not talking about, you know, Mexico writing a check. He's talking about, as Margaret said earlier, something to do with the NAFTA and a border tax, other things here. So sort of explaining what that complicated form is and working out that complicated form to me seems complicated.

KING: Right. So it's very -- and I don't think they quite know yet.

ZELENY: Right, right.

KING: During the campaign, remember, he talked about essentially capturing remittances that --

HENDERSON: Yeah.

KING: -- Mexicans in this country send back the family members back home. Probably unconstitutional. It also takes food out of the mouths of children. So, now he's talking about maybe doing it as part of the NAFTA renegotiation or a part of the boarder t border tax. But that part I think is going to remain a giant question mark. But the idea that within months, he has told -- he wants -- he's into optics.

TALEV: Yeah.

KING: He's very much like the optics in for --

HENDERSON: And do --

TALEV: Yeah.

KING: If he wants to go to that southern border and show, look, I told you, we're building this.

WILSON: Yeah. And they -- I mean this is, a part of sort of laying the foundation for what Sean Spicer might call alternative facts. If we get four years down the road and President Trump is running for re- election, how was he going to claim that Mexico has paid back the wall if it's under this complicated form?

The fact is the money will come out of the pockets of American taxpayers first and then it will be incumbent on the White House to prove somehow that Mexico has paid this back. One wonders, though, given the credibility of the White House and claiming illegal votes and all these facts that are not accurate or not true, what sort of credibility are they going to have then when they're trying to claim that the money has been--

HENDERSON: But you can imagine them still making that claim, right?

WILSON: Yes. Yeah.

HENDERSON: You can imagine him in 2018 or 2020 some sort of video of him walking along the great wall that in his mind seems to be a kin to the Great Wall of China. Yeah, I mean, I think for his supporters who have wanted this, this is a deliverable. It's tangible. It's visual. It's a story. And it's just -- I mean, it's so essential to his identity as president and as a candidate and as a strong person who is going to stand up to Mexicans.

TALEV: And one of the most interesting clues in that clip that we saw is when he says of the Mexican President, of course he say that. Of course, he has to say that --

HENDERSON: Yeah.

TALEV: -- he's not going to pay for it.

KING: Right.

TALEV: Well, he has to say --

HENDERSON: Right. Yeah, yeah.

TALEV: So it -- within there's a little bit of a reveal, which is to say we both have our messaging to our audiences and we can both be right at the same time.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

KING: Excellent point. There's a Mexican delegation coming to the White House today. I don't know if we'll get much of a read-out from that but they're meeting with the president's tom team. And to begin this conversation and to begin more broadly the conversation about modernizing after the president during the campaign, candidate Donald Trump talking about ripping it up.

Now they're trying to approach it a little bit more gently and saying it's been 20 something years. Why don't we sit down and try to modernize. We will see how this goes but the wall and the immigration proposals have our neighbor to the south rattled a little bit. Other allies around the world are questioning things. One of them is going to get the first meeting. The first foreign leader to get a meeting with President Trump will be Theresa May, the British Prime Minister. Well, they have an awesome system. The parliamentary system, the one great benefit of it, question time. She's about to head to the United States, and her critics want to send her a message. Listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: On the issue of my visit to the United States of America, on my -- on the issue of my visit to the United States of America, I am pleased that I am able to meet President Trump so early in his administration. That is a sign of the strength of the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. On the special relationship he and I intend to build.

Can I also say to the leader of the opposition, I am not afraid to speak frankly to a President of the United States. I am able to do that because we have that special relationship.

[12:45:03] A special relationship that he would never have with the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'm not advocating for the parliamentary system. But that part of it is awesome. HENDERSON: Yeah, yeah.

KING: That the Prime Minister has to go in and face the opposition and face questions. As she was pressured very heavily. Stand up to him on climate change. Push him to not back out of the Paris climate change of course. Stand up to him on torture.

About his word today, we can talk more in detail in a minute of a memo, a draft memo to the president saying he could recreate the CIA black sites around the world where you're holding -- hold people who are detained, and you're not subject to U.S. law because it's overseas. This will be a fascinating meeting because she has issues to. She is trying out to engineer Brexit. The removal of Britain from the European Union and she wants a trade deal from the president.

ZELENY: Without question she said I'm not afraid to speak frankly to him. Well, there's a lot of frank discussion to be had here. We'll see how substantive it is.

I mean, all of the meetings so far that the president had this week with congressional leaders, with automakers, with union members, to a person we've talked to, and they've been more ceremonial. This really, I think, will be one of the first substantive meetings, so we'll see what the read-out of it is here. But, you know --

TALEV: Yeah, I think --

KING: -- trade, the NATO alliance. We could go on.

TALEV: Well, wait, I mean domestically --

HENDERSON: Then we --

(CROSSTALK)

TALEV: Domestically and economically this is all going to be about trade and a bilateral trade agreement now that U.K. is kind of pulling away from the E.U. and Trump is turning inward. You know, he is turning away from these multi-lateral trade deals. She is turning towards them. So that will be interesting. But much more broadly beyond any U.S.-U.K. trade deal.

A couple of issues, NATO and also U.S. and U.K. Intelligence sharing at a time when there are big concerns all across Europe, including the U.K., about Russia and the Trump administration's relationship with Russia.

HENDERSON: Yeah. And just the visual, right? I mean, this is President Trump and there were some concerns going in about who he would be on the world stage, and we know he likes that visual, and it will be interesting to see just what comes out of this sort of side- by-side.

KING: Also on the world stage, the "New York Times" is reporting that the Trump administration is preparing another executive order for the president. This one that would clear the way for the CIA to reopen those overseas black site prisons that were shut down opened up to 9/11, and shut down late in the Bush administration and during the Obama administration.

Senator John McCain said this in a statement, "The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes, but the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America." But he says in the United States of America --

HENDERSON: Yeah.

TALEV: On a landing strip in some random country at the airport.

WILSON: Right. And John McCain was one of the harshest critics of the Bush administration's use of this, and the Obama administration as well, when -- and their foreign policy. This is another schism between the traditional Republican Party and Donald Trump. And I would say that one of the things we've learned from this president in his first week in office is that he liked -- and during the entire campaign is that he likes to break tradition.

KING: Right.

WILSON: He accepted a phone call from the president of Taiwan. You know, what is that going to say about the special relationship that Theresa May referenced with the United Kingdom? There are not too closer ally -- there is no closer ally for the United States than the United Kingdom. Is that relationship going to last through an administration that has clearly shown that it doesn't mind ruffling feathers and breaking precedent?

I have to say the best thing about prime minister's question time is how well prepared they all are to take shots at their opponents in person on the fly. You saw Theresa May there taking a pretty good shot at Jeremy Corbin.

KING: Feisty. Got to love that. Everybody sit tight. The reporters share from their notebooks next, including the one person to keep an eye on, on the Trump administration. She said big public differences with him. Will she be able to keep airing them?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:52:49] KING: We close each day by asking our reporters to share a little nugget from their notebooks help get out ahead of the best political news just around the corner. Jeff Zeleny?

ZELENY: Keep your eye on Philadelphia. Of course, our founding fathers had many important meetings there. Well, there's an important meeting starting tonight there with the Republican Party. The House and Senate Republicans are gathering there for a retreat, and the president and vice president are going tomorrow.

Now, this is something that is fundamental for the future and the shape of the Republican Party. It will be fascinating to see if they allow these disagreements to be aired. I am told that leadership has urged the disagreements to be kept to a minimum, to learn more things about Donald Trump as opposed to having him hear more things about them.

KING: We shall see. To be a fly on the wall. Margaret?

TALEV: We talked a lot about reading clues on the differences between cabinet nominees and the president himself. To me the one really to watch is Nikki Haley. For so many reasons, this is the new U.N. Ambassador confirmed with this huge margin. 96-4. Also, she's Indian- American, the daughter of Indian immigrants from India, but perhaps more importantly, she not only holds a lot of different positions from the president, but she actually campaigned very strongly against him.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

TALEV: And is opposed to, a, a Muslim ban, b, strongly supports NATO, c, supports the U.N. So, I guess to me the question is, a, will she have the ban width to articulate these differences at the U.N., and, b, how much is U.S. going to engage in the U.N. in the months to come?

KING: Well, he talks about sending it to China. I think the U.N. is in New York.

HENDERSON: Yeah. Right.

KING: Nia?

HENDERSON: Now, we talked a little bit about Xavier Becerra, who is the attorney general of California, and 20 other Democratic attorney generals of the list of people to watch in terms of how Democrats are really going to fight this administration.

We saw republicans do the same thing when Obama was in office, and I think we're going to see the same thing from this group of 21 attorneys general who are Democrats on any number of issues held on immigration and certainly the environment.

KING: We'll keep an eye on that and maybe see a new rising star. Reid?

WILSON: And sticking in California we talked about Governor Jerry Brown and his effort to be at the vanguard of the Democratic comeback. Jerry Brown is term limited in 2018. The race to replace him is already well underway, and all of the candidates running on the Democratic side are very well aware that they will become, if they win the governorship, the -- essentially the lead opponent to Donald Trump until there is a Democratic presidential nominee.

[12:55:16] Whoever wins will immediately be in the conversation for the White House even if they have no plans of running. And on the other hand, though, Democrats have never nominated a candidate for president farther west than Nebraska or Texas. If it's California's turn, it would break precedent, but this could be the time.

KING: Be fun to watch. Largest state out west. I'll skip the notebook today close with this programming note. The President of the United States will be leaving the White House momentarily. He's going to head over to the Department of Homeland Security. You can drop that. We're not going to do that today. Head over to the Department of Homeland Security and sign new executive orders on immigration.

That coverage will continue. That's it for "Inside Politics" today. Wolf will be with us after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington wherever you're watching from around the world. Thanks very much for joining us up first.