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A Possible Trade War; Press Must Keep its Mouth Shut; Mexico Not Going to Pay for Trump's Border Wall. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 26, 2017 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And that does it for us. Thanks for watching. Have a great evening. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The White House has a blunt message for the press. Shut up!

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon telling the New York Times the press should, quote, "keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while."

Meanwhile, it's looking like one step forward, two steps back for the Trump White House. Mexico's president canceling his visit in the wake of Presidet Trump's order to begin building a border. Trump later saying the decision to scrap the meeting was mutual.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters that Trump wants to hit Mexico with a 20 percent tax on imports. Only to walk that back hours later saying the president is still weighing his options.

So much to get to. But I want get straight to CNN's Leyla Santiago, she's in Mexico City, also CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Zeleny, and senior political analyst, Mark Preston, also David Gergen is with us as well.

Again, lots to talk about. So, Jeff, we'll start with you. The U.S. relationship with Mexico in crisis tonight. What can tell us about the days' developments?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Don, it is indeed the first diplomatic standoff of this young Trump administration, the Trump presidency here. And it all started of course over that long- running campaign pledge to build the wall.

Now whether that campaign promise becomes a governing reality, the -- you know, the controversy here really bubbled over today, where the president of Mexico said look, I'm not coming to the U.S., I am not coming to meet with you next week, Mr. Trump if payment of the wall is central issue here.

So, President Trump was flying to Philadelphia today to meet with republican leaders. One of the things they were going to discussing was paying for the wall. But midflight, I was on that flight with him on Air Force One, he found out that the meeting next week is canceled.

So, in fact, you know, all diplomatic talks at least between the two leaders are on hold for right now. And this is indeed something that is an issue. It's causing alarm for many lawmakers simply because they do not want to start a trade war with Mexico. It is our third largest trading partner and they think that this is not good by any means.

LEMON: All right. Jeff, stand by at the White House because I want to go to Mexico City now. CNN's Leyla Santiago is there. Leyla, Mexico's foreign minister is responding tonight. What is he saying?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is pretty fascinating what he's saying, Don. He's talking about how everything went down with the back and forth. And so, he says that he was at a meeting at the White House in the middle of working out the logistics of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's meeting on January 31st, when he saw the tweet from Donald Trump.

He asked for a break, immediately called the Mexican president immediately who then said go in there, tell them it's off in a cordial, respectful way.

LEMON: Leyla, I'm sure you've been speaking to the people of Mexico. What are they saying about this feud with the U.S.?

SANTIAGO: You know, over the last few weeks actually I've been talking to Mexicans on the street about the wall, about the relationship, and one of the words that are -- several of the words they use, racism, you know, being humiliated.

So, when I was talking to one family, this is sort of something that stuck with me today, when I was talking to one family and I told them what happened, that the Mexican president had canceled the upcoming meeting, when I told them that you can - you can sort of see them smile, as if they felt that dignity was restored.

And it didn't even matter to them what the consequences could be as far as trade or immigration. It was just that they felt that they were not going to be bullied.

LEMON: What is the foreign minister saying about this 20 percent tariff proposal to pay for the wall?

SANTIAGO: Well, the foreign minister is saying, look, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to respond to that until there's actually action. But I did speak just a little while ago to a Mexican senator who's been very vocal against Trump. And he was pointing out, look, he put that 20 percent tax, and we're not going to pay for that wall, the American consumer will be paying for that wall.

Then he took it one step further, saying and it's not just the price of products coming into the U.S. from Mexico, which by the way, 80 percent of Mexico's manufactured exports end up in the U.S., we're talking about cars, all sorts of stuff.

He said it's not just going to be the American consumer, it could also be U.S. jobs, because millions of jobs depend on that free trade with Mexico. And if we see that trade in any way put in jeopardy or minimized, suppressed, that could affect U.S. jobs as well.

[22:04:57] LEMON: All right. Leyla, stand by. Mark Preston, are we in for a trade war with Mexico?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I don't think we'll actually get to that point where we get into a trade war. But we're seriously in some very precarious times right now when we have so many other problems around the world right now, whether that's with North Korea or fighting ISIS or even just getting more jobs back here in U.S., to be fighting with Mexico over this issue.

You know, when Donald Trump talked about building that wall, Don, it seemed like an easy thing to do, but it is not very easy whether it's the financial burden, the 10 to $15 million that it would cost to build it, or quite frankly, actually physically putting it in place. And quite frankly, what we're seeing today the diplomatic problems that it's causing.

LEMON: Did they expect this problem? Do you think that they foresaw, David Gergen, when, you know, people were chanting Donald Trump saying build that wall. I mean, all -- this is all within the first week that this would be such a problem.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they probably didn't mind if there was sharply negative reaction in Mexico. You know, his modus operandi now if we are doing things is to create chaos, to create enemies and then play off that and see if he can find a solution.

And so, Don, I think this transcends Mexico. It really sends a signal about what kind of president he's going to be with a lot of countries. If you're in almost any Latin American country now, you know, this is not exactly a friendly invitation to work with Donald Trump and the Trump administration in the future.

But others are going to watch this. And I can tell you, in Asia it's going to be watched very closely. I just came back from Hong Kong a couple of days ago, and I will tell you the big fear there is that whatever happens between the U.S. and Mexico may well happen between the United States and China. And that's the big one. That these two big, huge countries if they get into trade war for things like this, it's going to be one hell of a mess.

LEMON: Back to the White House now. Jeff, the president spoke in Philadelphia today to republican members of Congress at their GOP retreat. What came out of that meeting and how are lawmakers reacting especially after a week of Trump peddling conspiracy theory here?

ZELENY: Well, Don, I think first and foremost, the House members and the senators in the room, republicans, are indeed thrilled that they have the first majority in 10 years of the House, of the Senate and White House. So, there is definitely enthusiasm and there is also a bit of trepidation about what exactly this agenda is going to be there. But the president was coming in, he was thanking them for their

support, talking about his own victory of course. But then really laying out some agenda items and he really is holding a lot of meetings with the Speaker Paul Ryan, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Really throughout the week they've been meeting several times, had long conversations back stage tonight. So, there's really, we are seeing somewhat of a gelling here.

But Speaker Ryan, I thought very interestingly sort of bluntly told reporters there in Philadelphia, look, this is not a conventional president, you're just going to have to get used to it.

Let's listen.


PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't share that opinion that he changes his opinion on day to day. You'll see different emphasis but with respect to the core agenda that we have laid out for our members, that we are planning and coordinating in the House and Senate, we have done this in conjunction with the administration, we ran on these issues all of 2016.

This is going to be unconventional presidency. I think you know this by now, Casey. And I think -- I think we're going to see unconventional activities like tweets and things like that. And I think that's just something we're all going to have to get used to it.


ZELENY: Well, unconventional presidency, I think that is perhaps an understatement. It was also casual Thursday you saw. This was a congressional retreat. So republicans were all without ties. Mitch McConnell had jeans on today. They were really trying to discuss their agenda going forward, and Donald Trump of course was there special guest and was talking in about agenda.

One thing he didn't do, Don, is take questions. I've been at these meetings with President Obama and President Bush, as well. He took questions from lawmakers. Donald Trump did not do that today and he also didn't say how he's going to pay for all these things that he's proposing. That's what worries fiscal conservatives the most. How is he going to pay for it?

LEMON: Yes. Mark Preston, we are learning something that is very interesting, learning that the president called the National Parks service because he was angry over tweets, allegedly called them, comparing his crowd size to President Obama's. What can you tell us about that?

PRESTON: Well, look, I mean, we saw what had happened over the past couple of days when tweets went out that were not necessarily favorable to Donald Trump's theory that he had, you know, what, millions of people that had come to watch his inauguration. What this does demonstrate, though, and continues building on this

narrative that Donald Trump is really being sidetracked by these minor things. These minor things to all of us but major things to him because these issues are issues of importance because they affect him. They're about him personally.

[22:10:00] And I think when we look at grand scheme of things right now in how he governs, if he continues to be sidetracked by these, if he's so concerned about his image all the time, that's going to be problematic as he's going ahead to try to get things done.

Because whether it's going to be working with Congress or whether it's going to be trying to negotiate trade deals with other countries, not everyone is going to be his friend and everyone is going to say that he's the greatest or that he is the best. And he's got to get over it.

LEMON: Yes. David Gergen, I would like to turn to something different now. President Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon who spoke to the New York Times about the media, and he says, "The media here is opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the President of the United States."

So, David, have you ever heard something like that come out of the White House before?

GERGEN: I've heard it inside the White House, Don, on more than one occasion, you know, the White House staff, presidents get really angry at press. I've never heard it come out this way on the outside of the White House. And it was stunning.

I do think he has a point that those of us in the media should have some humility that we should be listening more. That there are, you know, there are forgotten Americans out there we don't know as well as we should. But when he tells the -- you know, the press you're the opposition, shut your mouth. You know, Mr. Bannon, we're not shutting our mouths. We're not shutting our mouth. You cannot intimidate us.

LEMON: Yes. Well put. Jeff, he also says this. Steve Bannon, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." "The media should keep its mouth shut." You heard what David Gergen says and he'd not going to keep -- we're not going to keep our mouth shut. What's your reaction, and what's the reaction from the press corps at the White house?

ZELENY: I think he does offer a bit of important point of listening. I think we all need to listen more to what country is saying, to what voters are saying. The president included. Yes, he won and there is a, you know, there is a sweeping call for change but this is not one and done situation.

We are checking with voters constantly who wanted change and demanded change and what we'll be watching for the next four years is to see how they, if they believe this president is answering that and delivering it for them. So, in terms of shutting our mouths, no, of course we're not going to

shut our mouths. We'll do our jobs like we always do our jobs in any administration, asking questions on behalf of the public, looking for truth, what the government is doing. But of course, we can all listen more. I think that's actually an excellent piece of advice that Mr. Bannon had.

LEMON: Yes. I think everyone agrees with that. Mark, the other part though, do they understand that there are also many people in the country who did not vote for Donald Trump, as well, and they should be listened to?

PRESTON: Sure, they understand that they didn't get those votes. But someone like Steve Bannon, I don't think they care. I mean, the reason I say that is just look how the first few days, you know, almost a week now of this presidency, has gone. They have played to their base. They have fallen through on issues that got them there with their base.

And quite frankly, I don't think that they think they have to play to those who didn't vote for him. And if you're not going to get on the train then you're going to be left behind. And I really think that's going to be the governing philosophy. At some point, Don, you and I, David and Jeff all know that that's not a winning way.

So, at some point, they are going to have to change their tune and Steve Bannon is going to have to change his tune. But that stuff again, he was playing us. He's trying to play the media against the American public. He was trying to play to his base to hear those comments and say, Steve Bannon, right on. So, he feels like he's probably doing the right thing.

LEMON: Winning doesn't always mean that you're right, it just means that you won.


LEMON: Thank you very much.


LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead, Leyla. Yes?

SANTIAGO: I just think that's an interesting point that that's the message coming out of the White House. Because that's exactly what I'm hearing here from Mexico's government. They actually want President Trump to do a little more listening and a little more understanding.

The Mexican senator I spoke with today said there seems to be a lack of understanding on how much we are connected given trade, given immigration, any of the issues that you may have with the neighboring country.

But it's interesting that we are hearing that message come out of the White House because we are also hearing that message come out of the Mexican presidency, saying I wish that there was a little more understanding and listening from the White House.

LEMON: Essentially take your own advice. Thank you very much. I appreciate all of you. When we come right back, President Trump meeting tomorrow with British Prime Minister Theresa May, but she got some advice ahead of the meeting from someone you might not expect.


LEMON: Mexico's president canceling next week's meeting with President Trump over the executive order to build the border wall and Trump's insistence that Mexico will pay for it.

Meanwhile, Britain's Prime Minister set to meet with the president tomorrow.

I want to talk about this with Bill Richardson, the former democratic Governor of New Mexico who is also a former American Ambassador to the United Nations. Governor, good evening. Thank you so much for joining us. Pleasure to have you.


LEMON: So, tomorrow the president will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House. Two new leaders both elected on populist platforms and they will have a joint press conference.

CNN is reporting that before he left office, before he left, President Barack Obama encouraged the new prime minister to become close to President Trump. Could this be the beginning of that do you think?

RICHARDSON: Well, yes. I think Britain is our top ally, always has been, always supported us. But you know, President Trump has not started out too well. He started out by canceling the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that was 11 countries that he upset.

Now we're in a potential trade war with Mexico and Canada. So, my hope is that with Prime Minister May that the special relationship with Britain is retained. We need to work together on so many issues on Syria, the United Nations, on economic issues, and Brexit.

Yes, President Obama is right. This is the key relationship for the United States and we've started off by the other key country, Mexico. This is the lowest I've seen the U.S./Mexico relation in a long time.

LEMON: Yes. Someone said since 1948 or something, you know, something close to that.

Listen, Governor Richardson, I want to get your reaction to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceling his meeting with President Trump. What do you think of that?

[22:20:06] RICHARDSON: Well, he had no choice. I think President Trump his idea of negotiating is, you know, it's bullying. Its bullying CEO's, bullying his primary opponents, bullying nations. You can't bully nations because Pena Nieto has a constituency right now. He's weak in the polls. Right now, there are huge gasoline lines, and higher gasoline prices.

Trump says he wants him to build a wall and pay for it, he wants to renegotiate NAFTA, and now an import fee of 20 percent, which by the way is illegal under NAFTA. You can't do that.


RICHARDSON: It's supposed to be free trade between Canada, Mexico and the United States. So, you know, paying it back is really -- he can't probably make too many concessions now.

LEMON: Right.

RICHARDSON: So, I think President Trump has negotiated and negotiated against himself and we have little leverage now.

LEMON: I want to talk to you a little bit more about NAFTA and the policy towards Mexico, but first I want to play this. Because the president spoke about his policies regarding Mexico and the canceled meeting today at the republican retreat. This is him in Philadelphia.


TRUMP: We put in place the first steps in our immigration plan ordering the immediate construction of the border wall, putting an end to catch and release, expediting the removal of criminal -- this is so important to me. From day one I've said it. And I mean the immediate removal of criminal aliens -- they are going to be gone. Fast.


I will not allow the taxpayers or the citizens of the United States to pay the cost of this defective transaction - NAFTA, one that should have been renegotiated many years ago except that the politicians were too preoccupied to do so.

To that end, the president of Mexico and myself, have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week. Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless.


LEMON: Governor Richardson, you have been an ambassador and a negotiator in your career. President Trump was elected by a lot of Americans the strength of his deal making ability. Mexico's foreign ministry tonight told reporters that Mexico is ready to make NAFTA better. What are your thoughts on how this is unfolded so far?

RICHARDSON: well, I think U.S. and Mexico need each other. It's not one-way street. You know, Don, Mexico and Canada are our biggest trading partners. Mexicans buy American goods more than Japan, Germany, Britain and China combined.

In other words, they're great consumers. So, it goes both ways. I think the problem with NAFTA, there are some labor and environmental issues, yes, let's negotiate that. Let's renegotiate it. Get Canada is part of it.

But you don't do it under duress, and I think what President Trump has done -- I read the "Art of the Deal" the way you advance yourself in commercial relationships with casinos, real estate is beat up your opponent, you humiliate them and then they come to your position.

Well, with nations you can't do that. Because these political leaders have constituencies.


RICHARDSON: Mexico is nationalistic. Look, I was a border governor, I have Mexican heritage, I was one of the few democrats who voted for NAFTA, I was in the Congress then. You know, these are very complicated issues that require preparation. You can't just have foreign policy by tweet, by bullying, by executive orders, by speeches.

We have to prepare and work towards what is best interest of the United States. And you know, my worry, Don, is Mexico has leverage over us. We need Mexico supporting the drug war. We want drug lords extradited like El Chapo. We want their support on migration issues, on trade issues, on so many other cross border issues.

I was a border governor. And to back off the president of Mexico, make him look bad, you humiliate him, it's not the way to do it.

LEMON: Yes. And to that end, when you're talking about negotiating with Mexico because there are -- let's see if I can find it here. They are our third largest supplier of imports. And there's a list of things that Mexico would -- that Americans would have to pay 20 percent more for, right, they come from Mexico. Vehicles, computers and electronics. Appliances, fuel, medical instruments, fruits and vegetables, beer, and so on.

Mexican foreign minister tonight says that 20 percent tax would be paid by U.S. consumers. Do you think most Americans would like to pay 20 percent more for these types of items in exchange for a border wall?

[22:25:02] RICHARDSON: No, of course not. They don't want to pay more for that. This is why NAFTA I believe on the whole need some adjustments but it's been good for both countries, created jobs on both countries.

In my state in New Mexico, Border States, NAFTA has been very good. There are lot of NAFTA businesses created because of that pact that was passed years ago.

So, look, I think these issues need to be negotiated in a diplomatic way with finance ministers, with secretaries of states. We don't even have any of our cabinet members in national security except the national adviser. But we don't have trade negotiator, commerce secretary, secretary of state.

There's going to be a lot of preparations instead of the president sending tweets and sending executive orders hastily arranged and then backing off. I think he's backed off on this 20 percent import fee because it's illegal. You can't do it under NAFTA.


RICHARDSON: The president needs to be prepared; he needs to learn foreign policy. You can't negotiate a business deal, the "Art of the Deal" and be a president and protect America's national security, it's totally different. He's got to stop being the "Art of the Deal" reality negotiator.

He's President of the United States. I want him to succeed but it's making it very hard. You know, we're only into sixth day. We've alienated 11 countries. I hope we don't do that tomorrow with the prime minister of Britain.

LEMON: I've got to -- I've got to go a break. Thank you, governor. I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for coming on.

RICHARDSON: All right.

LEMON: Up next, grading President Trump first week in the White House, how does he stack up against the last republican President George W. Bush?



[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tomorrow marks President Donald J. Trump's first full week in office.

Here to discuss now of how he's doing so far, he's Frank Bruni, the columnist for the New York Times. Frank, I want to talk to you something that we learned just moments ago that President Trump will speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone Saturday. What's your reaction?

FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Well, you know, we were waiting for this moment. I'm not surprised at all, and I look forward to the Saturday Night Live skit as well.

LEMON: Yes. yes, so not a surprise to you...


BRUNI: No, not a surprise. I mean, they've been throwing the love bombs each other's way for a while. So, yes.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk to -- you wrote a column and then also your colleague wrote a column as well, which I'm anxious to speak to you about. Michael Grynbaum, right?

BRUNI: Yes. LEMON: Your colleague at the New York Times and he wrote this about Bannon in an interview with him. He said, "The media should be embarrassed," this is Bannon saying, "This is embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call. I want you to quote this, Mr. Bannon added."

"The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country, they still do not understand why Donald Trump is the President of the United States." What do you think?

BRUNI: Well, you know, I think there's one good point in there, which is there are things about America that we all missed during this last campaign, you know, and there were voices in American we didn't hear. But I think that statement is the height of arrogance and the summit of defensiveness.

Let's remember here what we got so wrong and what we don't understand. How well do Steve Bannon and Donald Trump understand America when they lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes? Yes, I know voter fraud. Prove it, right.

How well did they understand America when Donald Trump right now sitting on a 36 percent favorable or approval rating or however that one is classified. You know, he is, this is the end of a week that has been chaotic, that has had a White House that cannot stay on message in which Donald Trump stood before the wall of heroes at the CIA and talked about how many times he'd been on the cover of Time magazine.

I hear in Steve Bannon's voice someone who realizes that he has hitched his ideology in his wagon to a man who does not act in a stable and concentrated and disciplined manner. I think he is as frustrated with Donald Trump as he is with the media and he's trying to make us the enemy so that we won't be listened to when we call out important things about the way Donald Trump is behaving and running this administration.

LEMON: Interesting that just say that because history will tell us, for example, by comparison. When you look, -- you covered bush '43 White House, right?

BRUNI: I did.

LEMON: How do you think Donald Trump this transition, how are they stacking up the first days of...

BRUNI: I mean, this is night and day. This is a degree of disorder and chaos that I don't think we've ever seen in the first week in modern times. And if you talk to White House reporters who, and I'm an opinion columnist I can -- I can speak my mind.

I mean, they're stunned and they're unsettled by this in ways they can't really fully communicate because of the way they do their jobs. If you talk to republicans who are sort of just outside the Trump circle or who toggle back and forth across the membrane of Trump world, they're stunned by what they're seeing. They're seeing an administration that's not very prepared, they're seeing a president who doesn't seem to know what he's talking about. I mean, look at the claim of the pro-golfer and all of that that we've just gone through.

And also we're seeing something that we need to really, really look at carefully and not stop talking about, which this attempt to control information, to distort information, and to suppress information.

You know, there's the order that went out telling people in various agencies say nothing until it goes to the White House. The Washington Post has just reported that Donald Trump summoned the acting director of the National Park service and said I want photos that are better than the ones I've seen. I don't want you tweeting things that make it looked like my crowd is small.

And you know, Steve Bannon is telling us that we have no credibility and we shut it, should shut up. And this is an administration that in its first week had press secretary come out and berate the media with falsehoods - falsehoods.


BRUNI: And then one of the senior advisers comes out the next day and says all those are just alternative facts. Who has credibility problem here, is it really the media or is it Donald Trump and the people around him?

LEMON: So, is this gas lighting or is this, you know, projection?

BRUNI: It's gas lighting, it's projection. It's destruction above all else. If they can convince Americans that everything we say is suspect then they can do as they please. And that's the scary part.

LEMON: Your piece in the New York Times this week is titled, "The wrong way to take on Trump." I have of it right there. And here is what you, you used the examples of Saturday Night Live writer who tweeted about Barron Trump and then Madonna's f bomb late speech at the women's march last weekend.

[22:35:03] You said that these things are passing for impassioned advocacy and it should not be done that way.

BRUNI: It just looks like petulant theater.


BRUNI: I mean, the problem is that there is so many subs -- there's so much substantive ground in which to confront Donald Trump and his administration. That when you stand at a microphone, as Madonna did, and curse you actually take people's eye off the ball.

LEMON: That's what you said right on the screen.

BRUNI: Yes. It's mantra.


LEMON: You said that this was the outrage and no better than it proves that you are no better than he is, it's theater.

BRUNI: Well, it gives the people on his side a way to say you know, you all think that you're so virtuous and high minded explain to me that tactic, explain to me that behavior? And as I said, there's so many substantive things to talk about here. That when you just of vent in that undisciplined and vulgar way, you allow people to focus on something other than what you really want.

I mean, I think Madonna wants people to focus on the threat you know, to women's health. I think she wants them to focus on the threat to LGBT rights. She -- she doesn't get that attention when she stands at a microphone and curses and that's how nobody talks about afterwards.


BRUNI: This is about not playing into Donald Trump's hands and this is about not surrendering your own credibility and it's about staying on the moral high ground and not letting this administration and this man tug the level of discourse down as low as they would like to.

LEMON: Well, that's interesting that you say that, because that's the same advice or the same criticism that people have had at the White House. Maybe there are -- there are some good things -- or at least Donald Trump is doing what he said he is going to do, right at least, you know with the executive orders, at least trying to put it in place.

If not for self-inflicted wounds, where he's talking about things that there no facts to back up, you know, the media would be talking about that. So, the same thing with Madonna.

BRUNI: Right.

LEMON: What gets the headline is you know, the controversial thing that you...

BRUNI: That's right.

LEMON: ... that you say.

BRUNI: And Madonna has been around long enough, she should know that.


BRUNI: And she should know that when behaves that way, she's not really going to get out the message she's supposedly end up.

LEMON: You mentioned earlier this golfer Bernhard Langer, and this another one of your colleagues, Glenn Thrush wrote about, he talked about that. But also in the statement Langer responded saying, "Unfortunately, the reporter in the New York Times and other news outlets was mischaracterization by the media. The voting situation reported was not conveyed from me to President Trump but rather - rather was told to me by a friend. I then relayed the story in conversation with another friend who shared that with person with ties to the White House. From there it was misconstrued."

So, is this a mischaracterization or is it possible the president related to them that way?

BRUNI: If I followed that story correctly, and a lot of this is coming from different places, Donald Trump was the one who put the words in the pro golfer's personality.

LEMON: From several different sources.

BRUNI: Right. And the pro golfer was saying in a statement, wait, you know, this is a friend of a friend of a friend who said to me, et cetera. And I think it's a pretty unsettling glimpse into Donald Trump. If Donald Trump said this to the lawmakers who reported this back to the media, it's a pretty unsettling glimpse into his standards for truth and accuracy but not the first time we gotten that glimpse.

LEMON: Frank Bruni, thank you.

BRUNI: Thank you.

LEMON: I appreciate it. When we come right back, the president versus the press. What's behind Donald Trump's escalating media war?


LEMON: It's not unusual for a president to see the press as adversaries but President Trump may be taking it to whole new level, to the next level.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, Timothy Naftali, CNN presidential historian, and Kurt Bardella who resigned as a spokesperson for Breitbart and is now president and CEO of Endeavor Strategies.

Good to have you along. Carl, before we get to that media and adversary and all that, let's talk about the president is going to speak to Vladimir Putin, we are learning by phone on Saturday. Wouldn't you like to eavesdrop on that phone call?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. Look, we have two things going on at once here. We have a kind of pathology of lying, which is what we're here to discuss I believe. And we also have an enormous amount of presidential activity in the area of policy. Some of it perhaps wise, some perhaps very unwise.

And we need to parse through both. And of course, we all want to know what that conversation is going to be about and whether Putin has a lot to do with his election or doesn't have a lot to do with his election. We're still trying to find out what the facts of that are.

LEMON: Whether it starts with thank you, and you're welcome. BERNSTEIN: We need to do a lot more reporting.

LEMON: Absolutely.

BERNSTEIN: I agree with Mr. Bannon about that.

LEMON: That we need to be doing a lot more reporting.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely.

LEMON: So, let's talk about that. That we need to do a lot more -- yes, a lot more reporting, do you think we need to shut up and do a lot more listen -- you know, listen. Blaming the media and this whole adversarial relationship is blood sport for politicians. It happened before.


BERNSTEIN: He said something beyond the pale. He said that the media is the opposition party.

LEMON: Opposition and should keep its mouth shut.

BERNSTEIN: Exactly. It's outrageous but really the truth is the opposition party right now. The truth is the opponent of what Donald Trump is doing because he and his surrogates are lying in a way that those of us who are reporters with a lot of experience, I've been around 50 years, I've never seen a president of the United States or his people lie with this kind of intensity and regularity in the first days of the presidency rather than focus on the policy.

Look what -- Frank Bruni was just talking about this extraordinary thing of going to the park service to lean on the park service.


BERNSTEIN: This is about pathology, not policy.

LEMON: Go ahead, Brian.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to give my time over to Carl. I mean, I can't say it better than that. I was just, as you were talking, I was thinking, what we're doing here. What we're talking about, this is not anti-Trump. It's pro-truth. That's what we're here trying to do.

And sometimes we do make mistakes and humility is valuable. And I'm glad that Bannon said there should be more listening. I can agree with him on that. There should be more listening. But for him to say that we're the opposition party is definitely inappropriate. He knows that, he's trying to push buttons.


LEMON: I think that's what -- I think that's...

BERNSTEIN: And also a lot of talk about how quote, "the media got this election wrong."


BERNSTEIN: There were lots of people in the mainstream media after Donald Trump got the nomination especially and me on this show and others who said there's a really good chance Donald Trump is going to win.

[22:45:05] LEMON: We said that a lot. And even according to their own reporting...


BERNSTEIN: But that's true.

LEMON: ... he didn't think he was going to win on election night. Yes.

STELTER: (Inaudible)

BERNSTEIN: Exactly. This Bannon is also contributing to this false narrative.

LEMON: Carl, yes. I've got to get other folks in. I want to play this and then I'll get Kurt and I'm going to get Timothy. But I want you to listen, this is my colleague Christiane Amanpour who has for decades, she has of decades of experience covering oppressive regimes around the world and here's what she says.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: He's playing a strategy which involves creating straw men and women, creating an enemy out of the press, and then, you know, dividing, diverting, obfuscating while other things are going on.

That's the only thing I can imagine. Obviously, there are many other things -- I want to say totalitarian regimes in the past which used the same kind of strategy. And I mean, if I were going to be funny I'd say that he's angling for an order of merit from President Sisi, Putin, Erdogan, and all the others, that's how they treat their press.

That is what they believe the press, it should at compliant state propaganda unit in the service of the president. It is not the tradition of the American press, so of course, we're not going to shut up. And should we?


LEMON: She's saying essentially what my colleague Gloria Borger said, we're not supposed to be state-run media. We're not, that's not our jobs.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I mean, those of us who have studied authoritarian regimes know that the first step is you want to intimidate people who would be saying things that the leader doesn't want to hear.

And I have to tell you as someone who worked for federal government at some point, that one of the most chilling things that I learned in the last few days is the effort by the president to tell the National Park Service what it could and could not provide as information to the American people.

You know, we rely on a lot of things are not terribly sexy sources of information that the federal government gives us like the unemployment rate.


NAFTALI: If you start to politicize that, if -- and in this case, you know, Richard Nixon tried to do it but he would always do it through someone else. Donald Trump does it himself. If Donald Trump tries putting pressure on civil servants to provide data that is parallel to his reality, we're i trouble. Because...


STELTER: He's going to post show me pictures to show the media lies.

LEMON: yes.

NAFTALI: That is -- that is the beginning because then, what are the American people are going to think? They are going to hear from the President of the United States and from the U.S. government that climate isn't changing.


NAFTALI: And then if we say, it's changing they'll say we're lying because we went on...


LEMON: You're saying show me pictures meaning of the crowds?

STELTER: Yes. The (Inaudible) of the park wanted pictures of the crowd...


LEMON: Everybody says time stamped that the picture that they were comparing one is sent, and I think it's 8.53 or 8.55 P.T., which is Pacific Time. And so the folks on social media will say, that's 8 o'clock in the morning or almost 9 a.m., yes, Pacific Time but not Eastern Time, which is five minutes before the president was sworn into office.


STELTER: There's so much photo tweet that is going on.

LEMON: There's a difference between Pacific Time and Eastern Time zones. It is time stamped. Both pictures were taken around the same time.

Kurt, you worked with Steve Bannon, he relishes in being provocative. I'm wondering what he's trying to achieve here with this strategy. Did he get us talking about it? What's going on?

KURT BARDELLA, ENDEAVOR STRATEGIES PRESIDENT AND CEO: Well, I think Steve inherently believes that to be successful in there, that's what success looks like, they need an opponent, they need an enemy. During the campaign they had 16 or 17 republican presidential candidates to foil off of.

During the general election they had the legacy of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to foil off of. And now that they are in power they need to create another opposition, another enemy and they are going to make the press that.

I also think that this is as much about accountability than anything else. They are trying to tear down all the pillars of accountability that hold them to the truth so that when the president has bad news, when the president doesn't like a report, they can go into the Oval Office and say, well, of course they wrote that. They're the opposition, they're the enemy. Don't listen to them. Listen to us.

And it's a way to inoculate themselves from being held accountable by the president. And also to continue to narrow of who the president listens. I think it's a very, very dangerous thing when you have a president who is going to be more specific and not broad and where gets his information where he's looking to get facts.

And when you look at what advisers are supposed to do, to paint a real time picture of accuracy so that the president can make most informed decision possible, they are going to try to manipulate the data, the information, they are going to try to censor the government.

And what happens when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that maybe unemployment is not where they want it to be, where jobs are supposed to be coming from. The president and his team are going to look at them and say don't make that public. Come back with data that fits our narrative.

LEMON: I've got to get to the break. But I think -- and we'll talk about this. Because Sean Spicer said it's like the weather forecast. The facts are. We'll be right back.


LEMON: All right. So, let's bring my panel back in. We're talking about the relationship with the media and new Trump administration.

This is, Brian, in an interview the Press Secretary Sean Spicer talked about the alternative facts comments by Kellyanne Conway. And he said this.


SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES PRESS SECRETARY: When the facts are sometimes when you look at a situation, you know, and same way that you can look at weather report. And one weather report comes out, and says it's going to be cloudy and the one next says that there's going to be a light rain. No one lied to you. It just means you interpreted the data in a way that you felt got you to a conclusion.


BERNSTEIN: Weather reports are about what is going to happen, not what happened. We're talking about lies about what occurred. Let me just one thing very quickly about Steve Bannon, and that is that I would speculate here, not report, that he is very concerned that the story is now moving to Donald Trump' emotional stability and maturity.

And reporters and republicans on Capitol Hill are talking about it. It's a big part of the story.

NAFTALI: Let me just say, this is not normal. OK. This is unprecedented. We've had unstable presidents before but they had people around them who tried to protect them and the American people. That was the Nixon case.

But let me tell you what we've got now. It's always true that White House spins.


NAFTALI: It's the glass is half full, they say, we might say it's half empty. We now have an administration that invents the glass.


NAFTALI: That's the difference.

[22:55:00] LEMON: Kurt, you have insight. Because you worked with Breitbart and you know, you left there, you resigned and again, you've worked with Steve Bannon, you know these folks who are in the White House. So, give us, is it like -- you know, do they believe facts are like a weather forecast?

BARDELLA: Well, yes. I think it's more, you know, we talk about alternative facts, for them it's very much an alternative reality, an ultimate reality. And again, I think that in their minds they did it their way and they won. And they don't need to change. Everybody else needs to change.

And as long as they believe that, you know, the media will cover anything that they do, as long as they believe, as soon as Donald Trump tweets something it becomes breaking news, saturating every television and every online news site, they're going to keep doing what they're doing and they could care less about the relationship with the press in their traditional way.

Press people, you needed to have some symbolic relationship with reporters. You needed to rely on them to help get your message out and communicate with the American people. They now believe as we saw during the election they can do whatever they want. And whether you like them, whether you hate them, whether they call

you names and assault you, that you're going to cover them more than anything else going on in the world. And as long as that's the case they feel like they feel like they have the leverage and the freedom to say and do whatever they want.

LEMON: I think Timothy said it best. You said we're not are war -- it's not a war with the press, it's a war with information.


NAFTALI: It's a war with information. And the one thing that -- the one thing that those who love the first amendment have to remember is they need not be defensive about it. That's why the founders gave it to us. Don't be defensive. There's nothing wrong with defending the right to free speech.

And free speech covers the media but it also covers everybody out there who wants to learn the truth.


NAFTALI: That's the philosophy of today.


BARDELLA: You know, Don.

LEMON: That's why be cool -- go ahead.

BARDELLA: One thing though that was interesting...


LEMON: I got to go. Quickly, though.

BARDELLA: ... because I have worked in my time with Breitbart was they are obsessed with getting coverage. The worst you could do in Steve Bannon's lexicon is to not talk about them at all.

LEMON: I've been saying that for months now. Especially we need to be more judicious with the tweets because it often changes.


LEMON: Thank you all, panel. We'll be right back.