Return to Transcripts main page
Mexican President Cancels Trip; Trump's $15 billion Wall; U.S./Mexico Relationship. Paying for the Wall; Trump's Executive Actions; Trump Orders Voter Fraud Probe. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 26, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:22] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
We've got some breaking news for you here on CNN, beginning with this border wall blowup. President Donald Trump has just confirmed that he will not meet with the president of Mexico, who minutes earlier tweeted he had just canceled his visit to the White House set for next week. This is what Mr. Trump just told Republican lawmakers moments ago during their annual retreat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've said many times that the American people will not pay for the wall. And I've made that clear to the government of Mexico.
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 and I want to go a different route. We have no choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That was Mr. Trump.
Let's go straight to Mexico City to our correspondent there, Leyla Santiago.
Can you tell us more from what the Mexican president was thinking and if, in fact, this was a mutual decision?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that the Mexican president is not backing down from his stance either. He too is saying we're not paying for the wall either.
Now, let me sort of back up so we can explain to how we got to where we are right now. Yesterday a group of senators called for the president to cancel this meeting after President Trump announced that he would be signing the executive orders to move forward with this wall as the foreign minister and the economic minister from Mexico were on their way to Washington D.C. So then President Pena Nieto, here in Mexico, responded with about a three minute video saying - and he posted that on Twitter saying, I don't believe in walls. I'm certainly not paying for a wall. But I can offer you some friendship. And I also want to add that the foreign minister has also said, look, you want to build this wall, that's fine, that is your right. Asking us to pay for it, that's a different story, and that's where they draw the line.
So it's sort of been this development hour by hour by hour. This morning, President Trump tweeted, saying that if they're not going to pay for this wall, we shouldn't meet, and that's when President Pena Nieto also tweeted that he planned to cancelled this meeting.
And this could be seen as a sign of him trying to sort of - sort of trying to hold on to a better legacy of standing firm. Let's also mention that former President Vincente Fox sort of egged him on saying, look, we've got to stand our ground. So it wasn't just a group of senators. It wasn't just a former president. The people, this country, was sort of calling on him to protect Mexico's interest and maybe - and also reinstill some dignity for the people of Mexico in this new relationship.
BALDWIN: It's important to hear the Mexico side of things, the Mexico response.
Leyla, thank you so much, in Mexico City.
This diplomatic dustup comes just as Senate Republican leaders say building the wall may cost up to $15 billion. And a surprise endorsement from the most budget conscious Republican in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying, yes, indeed, Congress will foot the bill.
With me now, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, who is at the White House for us.
Jeremy, let's just talk a little bit more about what the president had to say just a little while ago and how - let's get into the practicality, right, of this $15 billion wall. How does he move forward with this?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Absolutely.
Well, the first thing that he had to do was get congressional Republicans leaders on board and he does seem to have accomplished that as of yet. You know, it's very interesting to see folks like House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell getting behind this border wall idea, which really Republicans have moved away from in recent years with both McConnell and Ryan really being quite hesitant about fully supporting the wall during the Republican primary campaign and into the general election even.
So clearly Donald Trump here has the Republicans support on board. What he needs to do now is the fact that this is all hinging on the fact that he says he can get Mexico to pay back the United States for the wall. And now he said that this meeting now is canceled next week after the Mexican president said so himself. And Donald Trump issuing sort of a veiled threat during this speech saying, you know, listen, if we can't meet and if we can't have a meeting of the minds, then we may have to go a different route. [14:05:00] It's unclear exactly what that is. But, you know, President
Trump, during the campaign, signaled that if he could not come to an agreement with Mexico, there would be other ways of getting money from Mexico, whether that's withholding - withholding aide, whether that's imposing trade tariffs. There's a number of ways - routes that he might consider. But as of now, you know, this seems to be the first roadblock in his way to trying to actually get Mexico to pay for the wall. Something that they have, of course, very firmly resisted.
BALDWIN: They have. Jeremy, thank you, at the White House.
Let me bring in Ambassador Miguel Basanez. He was Mexico's ambassador to the United States, leaving that post in May of last year.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for the time. I know you're at Tufts now.
AMB. MIGUEL BASANEZ, FORMER MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Sure. Thank you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: You were - I mean you were President Pena Nieto's chief pollster. You have known the man for, you know, three decades I understand.
BALDWIN: You know, here you have President Trump coming out and saying, oh, you know what -
BALDWIN: This meeting was cancelled. This was mutual. That it would be fruitless. OK, I hear you laugh, but he says it would be fruitless for the Mexican president to come. Why are you laughing, Mr. Ambassador?
BASANEZ: Absolutely. Well, because if Mr. Trump was expecting the Mexican government to pay for his silly wall, he is completely wrong. On top of that, the wall is just a PR strategy of him because not really function that could perform, as you very well know. But, of course, the negative impact of what he's doing into the Mexican relation, that is a real thing. The wall is not a real thing, but the damage that he's doing to the Mexica relation is very real.
BALDWIN: You - the damage is important to talk about, but I think also so is context, Mr. Ambassador. I just want to bring our viewers' attention to, you know, it was a big day on the campaign trail, a lot of cameras in Mexico City. It was August of last year when Mr. Trump - and we remember Hillary Clinton did not - Mr. Trump accepted the invitation to go to Mexico City, despite all this talk of a wall, they met and they had some kind words afterwards. Here they were.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, I want to thank you. It's been a tremendous honor. And I call you a friend. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So fast forward to now. The wall, he says, will be built in a couple of months and P.S., Mexico will reimburse. Such a contrast in tone. Is this just politics, Mr. Ambassador?
BASANEZ: Well, do you remember that after that visit he said that in Mexico and a couple of hours later, in Phoenix, he said, Mexicans do not know, but I will build a wall and they will pay for it. They don't know, but they will. So he was really playing tricks and games and that is not the way to conduct international relation between sovereign countries. So he does not understand the way to conduct himself as a president.
BALDWIN: Well, let's talk about that. You can't play tricks and Mexico is so important to the United States. How, sir, do these two leaders maintain, continue their diplomatic dance from this moment forward?
BASANEZ: Well, you have the professional diplomats, the career diplomats. I understand the career diplomats at the White House just re-signed a few hours ago say projection of what Trump is doing and certainly the peso and investment may be damaged. So the Mexican economy may get the heat, but on the same side of the coin, Mexican political system is kind of finding they come an enemy that is unifying the country around Pena Nieto that, as you know, his popularity has been damaged since Trump's visit to Mexico.
BALDWIN: I remember.
BASANEZ: Then the Mexican population reacted very negatively to that visit.
BALDWIN: I remember. And perhaps that's part of what played into Mr. Pena Nieto saying, thanks but no thanks.
Ambassador Miguel Basanez, thank you very much for you time.
I want to hop over now, though, to a Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger, who just left the room there in Philadelphia.
Congressman, good to see you.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Hey, good to see you.
BALDWIN: So, you know, it's no secret you -
KINZINGER: How is it going?
BALDWIN: It's a busy day these days in the world.
You know, it's no secret, congressman, that you have been critical of Mr. Trump in the past. But when it comes to this faceoff with Mexico that we were just chatting about, did the president do the right thing by tweeting - essentially tweeting the president of Mexico this ultimatum?
KINZINGER: Well, look, I'm not a fan of tweets as an instrument of foreign policy. So, you know, of course, I'm a little uncomfortable with that. But I have recognized that, you know, each new president has kind of a way of doing things and Twitter is going to be President Trump's. So I don't necessarily think that's the best way to do it.
[14:10:04] But in terms of the negotiating strategy, look, I really believe when all is said and done, all the dust settles and it's frankly posturing on both sides. I mean Mexico has to posture (INAUDIBLE). The United States has to posture when you're (ph) talking about NAFTA.
KINZINGER: I think when it comes down to it, there's going to be a renegotiation where both sides probably get a little something out of it and we continue with our very important alliance with Mexico and Canada at the end of the day.
BALDWIN: We'll see on the pennies, nickels and dimes, though, for Mexico and if the reimbursing, right, that's one mega issue that they don't clearly see eye to eye on but you have the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, saying today, you know, that building that wall along the border will cost somewhere in the ballpark of, you know, $12 to $15 billion, but he doesn't say how Congress is supposed to pay for it. You know, it's supposed to be, you know, already existing funds, but are you - are you OK with going to your constituents and saying, you're footing the bill?
KINZINGER: Yes. So I actually see the issue of immigration - so I'm for comprehensive immigration reform. But I think part of the reason we haven't been able to move forward is because a lot of Americans believe that the government's failed to enforce the basic law of immigration, including the border itself. I'm a guard pilot. I've flown the border. So I think funding the border, you know, it's part of national defense. Same with obviously raising an Army or an Air Force or a Navy. I think funding that's going to be important.
But, for me, and it's going to tell you where I'm going to be a dog on this -
KINZINGER: Is to continue to say, beyond just building the wall and building a fence, we need to move forward to say, what are we going to do with the 15 million people that aren't here legally. We're not going to deport them all. We need a process for legalization so that we can move forward with an immigration system that works so we're not here 20 or 30 years from now dealing with this same issue.
BALDWIN: But, congressman - but, Congressman Kinzinger, I hear all of this, but the question is, money coming out of your constituents' pockets. Are you OK with asking them for that for the wall? KINZINGER: Yes, I am. I am.
BALDWIN: You are?
KINZINGER: I mean, look, it's - my constituents have asked for this. They voted largely for Donald Trump and even - even with my hesitancy. And, look, it's defense. When it comes to defense, when it comes to things like defending the sovereignty of the country, I think spending the money's important. We're going to find out - I don't know how the whole Mexico's going to pay for it thing is going to work out. That's up to the president to articulate. But I think it's going to be important. It's going to be done.
BALDWIN: The whole Mexico's going to pay for it thing.
KINZINGER: Yes, right. So I think - I think it will be articulated, but that's where we're going to end up, at the end of the day, I think it's people - what people want us to do.
BALDWIN: Do you think - you know here you have Speaker Paul Ryan, who is famous for, you know, pinching pennies. He's agreeing to funding this thing right off the bat at $15 billion. Does that surprise you?
KINZINGER: No, I can't speak for him. I will speak for - I mean, look, Republican orthodoxy and belief is -
BALDWIN: You know the man.
KINZINGER: I do. I do. But I can't speak for him and obviously that's for him. But when it comes to defending the country, when it comes to things like that, Republicans have been very clear that that's one of the very first roles of the federal government, as well as building infrastructure, which I'm a supporter of Donald Trump's plan of building infrastructure.
So, look, this is a big, comprehensive thing. Obviously we're in a huge debt and deficit. We're going to have to figure out, you know, how to reform, how government works, I think reform entitlements for younger people like myself, not current seniors, and ultimately do what we have to do to rebuild our military and protect our border and fix the immigration system once and for all so it works.
BALDWIN: Yes, I should have also said off the bat, speaking - just thank you so much for your service to our country. Of course I know exactly who you are.
KINZINGER: You bet (ph).
BALDWIN: Let me ask you this, just switching gears. There are reports the president's considering, you know, reopening these so-called black sites overseas and he says he would - he would consider reintroducing, you know, interrogation methods like waterboarding. Let me just play this clip. This is when he was talking to David Muir for ABC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest level of intelligence and I asked them to question, does it work? Does torture work? And the answer was yes.
I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don't want to do, that's fine. If they do want to do, then I will work for that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally, but do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And then also, quickly, congressman, here is what House Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: And torture is illegal. And torture's not legal. So - and we agree with it not being legal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Congressman Kinzinger, you know, the - you look at what Mr. Trump said. He appears to be open to enhanced interrogation methods. You juxtaposed that from what we just heard from Speaker Ryan, what we've heard from a number of other very, you know, high posts now in his cabinet. It's not a united message. Do you have an issue with that?
KINZINGER: I do. I do. Look, this has been, you know, from inauguration I think the president's done a lot of good things, but he's taken his message off. He's derailed it. Arguments about crowd sizes, this kind of thing.
[14:15:05] Look, I've said on torture and I hope this is where the president really is. I don't know, because I've only heard what you've seen. But I hope it's a matter of, hey, look, in extreme circumstances, when we have thousands of Americans lives and we know some - a bomb's going to go off, for instance, within an hour and we have to do everything we can to find out where it is, we need to have tools in our pockets. But never - and I've been through resistance training as a military pilot -
KINZINGER: I've been through these interrogation techniques, not waterboarding, but things like that, this is not what you (INAUDIBLE) and it's not the most effective. The most effective is bringing people into your confidence and, you know, getting them to spill the beans or to trust you that way. But at the end of the day, I don't think we can rule it out entirely for any circumstance because we never know what we don't know. And so I think that's the big key. But, look, Congress - and you heard it with Speaker Ryan, we're going to be very clear that this is not going to be something we revert to. And we have a huge role in that and a huge say.
BALDWIN: Congressman, I appreciate you. Thank you so much for hanging tight for us in Philadelphia.
KINZINGER: You bet.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Next here, Republicans used to really criticize former President Obama for all those executive actions. Remember that? So how do they feel now about Trump's new list of executive actions he's signed off on? We'll discuss that.
Also just in, President Trump's administration just fired top officials at the State Department. We have the back story.
I'm Brooke Baldwin and this is CNN's special live coverage.
[14:20:14] BALDWIN: And we're back to our breaking news I'm Brooke Baldwin.
These are pictures from just a little while ago of President Trump there in Philadelphia at this big Republican retreat. You know, he just said that he and Mexican's president agreed to cancel next week's summit at the White House over the whole back and forth over building the wall and who will be paying for it, or reimbursed for it.
This comes as President Trump addresses Republicans in Philadelphia at this annual retreat they have. And this relationship is interesting. Both sides have been divided on a number of issues, recently including Mr. Trump's baseless claims of massive, in the millions, you know, of voter fraud.
We have also learned that he will sign an executive order this afternoon calling for an investigation into that despite what Republicans are saying. Republicans and beyond.
So let me bring in our panel. Joining me now, CNN's special correspondent Jamie Gangel is here, CNN political commentator Mary Katharine Ham, who's also the senior writer for "The Federalist," and David Becker, executive director and co-founder for the Center of Election Invasion and Research. So we can talk about some of these numbers that the president has referenced.
But, Mary Katharine, let me just begin with you here on the big, you know, Mexico news and the wall and we heard President Trump say this was this mutual decision to, you know, cancel this meeting with Enrique Pena Nieto for now. But this wall, according to Senator McConnell, is like $15 billion, right? That's the price tag. And of all people, I was just trying to talk to Congressman Kinzinger about this, you know, of all people it's Mr. Penny Pincher, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who says, cool, fine, let's do it.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, and I think it remains to be seen if he'll say, OK, we're going to pay for this in other ways because Republicans genuinely like to do that. It is true that defense and that kind of thing is part of what Republicans are OK with spending money on. So there's that part of this. But, look, the tweeting - everybody has an opinion on the tweeting, I think my least favorite part of the tweeting is the foreign policy part where it actually - the words of the president matter more in those instances than they do in some sort of domestic dispute, or fights with TV stars or whoever. So - so these are the - these are the parts where it really does matter. The interesting thing about Trump, though, is that chaos has served him throughout the election. It made him president partly. And he does seem to come out on top of things that to me look unwise and look immature and don't look like the right move, and then I am proven wrong. So I am - I am open minded about that.
BALDWIN: I - you know, listen, as we all should be, but just quickly, you brought up Twitter, because we know that - that President Trump had tweeted about this, sort of saying, OK, if he doesn't show up. And then, you know -
BALDWIN: The next step was, President Pena Nieto not. And maybe that was cover for the U.S. president.
Jamie, let me just turn to you because the other piece of this, right, and we heard him in Philadelphia, like the first 15 minutes, going through all these executive actions - and he's been very productive in the first couple of days - all these executive actions he's signed. A, how realistic are they? B, using Dana Bash's term, you know, twilight zone of, let's remember all the Republicans railing on Obama for all of his executive actions and pot-kettle?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, we are through the looking glass here. And I would say that in his head Paul Ryan is counting to ten over and over and over again. Look, what I'm hearing is the Republicans are going to give him some room to run right now.
GANGEL: He did win.
GANGEL: On the other hand, Tea Partiers, Paul Ryan, fiscal conservatives, $15 billion for a wall that theoretically was supposed to be paid for by Mexico, not saying that - you know, but in Trump's words - they are really worried about it. They have a case of the jitters about it.
BALDWIN: The Republicans are worried about it?
GANGEL: Absolutely. This is an infrastructure spending. Republicans say to me, well, he's going to be making that deal with the Democrats. These are not traditional Republican fiscal conservatives. You know, it's, show me the money time. Where are we going to get all of this. And they're really worried about the deficit down the road an what that's going to be.
That said, for now, they're going let him run with it. BALDWIN: What about the executive actions and how Republicans were
furious with President Obama. Granted he sort of unsigned some of what the president - the former president did, but still?
GANGEL: You know, this is Donald Trump being Donald Trump. And he seems, just the way he did during the campaign, and Mary Katharine just said this, he gets away with things that other people don't get away with. So, again, I think we're going to see a split here. There's privately how the Republicans feel about it and publically, for now, everyone's being quiet.
BALDWIN: OK, David Becker, your turn here because I want to ask you about the - you know all these totally baseless allegations of millions of - you know, illegal votes for this historic presidential election where he won. You directed research for the 2012 Pew Center study that Mr. Trump keeps referencing as his proof for these illegal votes. Here is what the president told ABC's David Muir.
[14:25:20] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: When you say, in your opinion, millions of illegal votes, that is something that is extremely fundamental to our functioning democracy, a fair and free election.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sure. Sure. Sure.
MUIR: You say you're going to launch an investigation into this.
TRUMP: Sure. Done.
MUIR: What you have presented so far has been debunked. It's been called false. I call -
TRUMP: No it hasn't. Take a look at the Pew reports.
MUIR: I called the author of the Pew report last night and he told me that they found no evidence of voter fraud.
TRUMP: Really? Then why did he write the report?
MUIR: He said no evidence of voter fraud.
TRUMP: Excuse me, then why did he write the report?
MUIR: So I guess I'm -
TRUMP: According to Pew report. Then he's - then he's groveling again. You know I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they want to write something that you want to hear, but not necessarily millions of people want to hear, or have to hear. There's this -
MUIR: So you've launch an investigation?
TRUMP: We're going to launch the investigation to find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: OK, David, you - you are the "he" here. The question, why did you write the report. I just want to hear in your own words what your report found and what it didn't find?
DAVID BECKER, EXEC. DIR. & CO-FOUNDER, CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION & RESEARCH: So the report that I directed when I was at Pew as the director of the elections team there, it was released in February of 2012. And as we said, at the time of the release, and we've said all the way through during the past five years, the report was about the inefficiencies created by voter lists and voter records that can't be kept up over time, mainly just because of life events that occur in everyone's life, when people move and when they die. And it's very difficult for election officials to get that information just so they can process a change in the voter record before that.
We're seeing this with some of President Trump's own advisers, with the treasury secretary nominee and Steve Bannon and others. It's not fraud when they have two registrations in two places. It's just because they moved and there's no way for the state they moved from to know about it. That's what the report was about.
And nothing in the report addresses voter fraud. There's a big difference between the administrative inefficiently of having a voter record that's out of date to the federal crime of casting a ballot illegally. And we know that the first thing happens very often, but through multiple studies that have been done, including studies done by the Bush Department of Justice, the Federal Election Assistance Commission, and investigative efforts done by Republican and Democrats secretaries of states who have done a wonderful job on this, we know that the second part, the fraudulent ballots being cast, that happens exceedingly rarely.
BALDWIN: Happens exceeding rarely. So there's the answer to the president's question, why did he write it.
How about the answer to the groveling, according to the president, you know, how he characterized you, David?
BECKER: You know, I don't - I can't speak for the president, obviously. I certainly didn't send him the report and didn't - we - nobody that I know that of - of that was associated with the report asked him or anyone else to site it for any particular reason.
I think the important thing here is that there - this is a piece of nonpartisan research. It's been used by Republicans and Democrats to great effect. It's actually led to a big improvement in the voter lists nationwide thanks to things like online voter registration and data sharing that states are doing across the country. So that's very - that's a very positive thing. And certainly the only consideration I have here, and I think anyone else who's associated with this research would agree, is that we just want to make sure that the research is accurately portrayed and certainly he seems to be mistaken about what the conclusions of that study is.
BALDWIN: OK. Maybe you send the report again. David, thank you. David Becker, Mary Katharine Ham and Jamie Gangel, thank you to all three of you.
Coming up next, cleaning house. Four top state department officials are out, fired by the Trump administration. What we're learning about the back story in this very delicate transition time.
Also ahead, from waterboarding, to black site prisons. Is the new administration considering major changes in how the CIA operates? Will its agents in the field listen to those orders? We'll talk to a former CIA officer who actually blew the whistle on interrogation tactics. That's next.