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Interview With Washington Congressman Adam Smith; March For Life; Putin and Trump to Talk; President Trump Meets with British Prime Minister; Pence Rallies Anti-Abortion Activists, Trump Pledges "Full Support"; Trump Touts Pipeline Project, But Impact May Fall Short. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 27, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Don't want them here. At the Pentagon, President Trump goes to new extremes to try to keep foreign terrorists out of United States. This hour, who will be impacted by the commander in chief's new executive action?
Reaching out. Mr. Trump embraces America's special relationship with Britain while trying to ease the fallout from his strained relationship with Mexico. How did he perform when faced with his first major diplomatic test?
Marching in D.C. Anti-abortion activists converge on the nation's capital, cheered on by Vice President Pence, the annual event turning into a celebration as demonstrators anticipate President Trump's pick for U.S. Supreme Court.
Hitting the opposition. President Trump echoes the words of his top strategists, labeling the news media as the opposition party. The president ramping up his war of words with journalists attempting to do their job.
We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, President Trump orders new limits on the flow of refugees from certain countries that he considers to be hotbeds of what he calls radical Islamic terrorism.
Mr. Trump signing the action at the Pentagon to establish the extreme vetting measures he often spoke about during the presidential campaign. The president also attended the ceremonial swearing-in of his defense secretary, James Mattis. Mr. Trump publicly declaring today that he will let Mattis overrule him on the very sensitive issue of torture.
Mr. Trump says he thinks torture works, but acknowledges General Mattis does not. The president went to the Pentagon shortly after welcoming the British prime minister to the White House, his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader. They emphasized their areas of agreement. But when asked about lifting sanctions on Russia, Mr. Trump said it is too early to discuss that.
Prime Minister May made it clear that Britain wants to keep the sanctions very much in place. Mr. Trump also addressed his strained relations with Mexico's president. He says they had a friendly hour- long phone conversation today, a day after Pena Nieto canceled the trip to Washington.
We're told the two presidents agreed try to resolve their dispute about who will pay for Mr. Trump's wall at the southern border.
I will talk about that with Congressman Adam Smith and a former U.S. envoy to Europe, Daniel Baer. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they are all standing by as we bring you full coverage of the day's top stories.
There's a lot to cover this busy day for President Trump.
Jim Acosta is at the White House. Jim Sciutto is at the Pentagon.
Jim Acosta, first to you.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are some differences on display here at the White House today. President Trump certainly seemed to leave the door open to lifting the sanctions on Russia, something British Prime Minister Theresa May flatly rejected.
It is also worth noting the prime minister said that President Trump told her he was 100 percent behind NATO, an alliance the president has said it outdated in the past. This change from the Obama era could be felt immediately at the White House today at this news conference, Wolf.
While Barack Obama spoke in paragraphs, Donald Trump spoke in sentences. But in his brevity, it was clear the Trump agenda is taking hold.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The focus at President Trump's news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May was less about the special relationship between the U.S. and Britain and more about the frayed relations between his administration and Mexico.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a very good call. I have been very strong on Mexico. I have great respect for Mexico. I love the Mexican people.
ACOSTA: The president revealed only a few details about his morning phone call with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto one day after the Mexican leader abruptly canceled his trip to the White House next week, in response to Mr. Trump's plan to build a wall on the border.
During a remarkably brief 18-minute news conference, the president still had no details on who is paying for the wall. TRUMP: We are going to be working on a fair relationship and a new
relationship, but the United States cannot continue to lose vast amounts of business, vast amounts of companies and millions and millions of people losing their jobs. That won't happen with me. We're no longer going to be the country that doesn't know what it's doing.
ACOSTA: The readout of the call from the Mexican government stated that had both leaders will now negotiate over the wall in private, saying the two men agreed at this point not to speak publicly about this controversial issue.
But it's worth noting that line does not appear in the White House statement on the call.
TRUMP: This was your choice of a question?
TRUMP: There goes that relationship.
ACOSTA: The president needled Prime Minister May from a question from a British reporter over Mr. Trump's support of the use of torture. President Trump said he would defer to Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said torture doesn't work.
TRUMP: I don't necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he will override, because I'm giving him that power.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There will be times when we disagree on issues on which we disagree.
TRUMP: This is the original in many ways.
ACOSTA: Even though both the president and the prime minister were talking up relations between the U.S. and Britain, there was some distance evident over the sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
TRUMP: We will see what happens as far as the sanctions. Very early to be talking about that.
MAY: We believe the sanctions should continue.
ACOSTA: But the president and prime minister do have one thing in common, both riding into office after populist movements in their country, though President Trump tried to push back over perceptions of his hard-charging persona.
TRUMP: So, I'm not as brash as you might think. And I can tell you that I think we're going to get along very well. It's interesting because I am a people person. I think you are also, Theresa. And I can often tell how I get along with somebody very early and I believe we're going to have a fantastic relationship.
ACOSTA: Now, the White House says the president will have other phone calls this week with French President Francois Hollande German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Along with the Britain, these two countries have been instrumental in keeping a lid on Vladimir Putin in Europe. It is no surprise, Wolf, that on the same day they will all be on the phone with each other when President Trump talks with Vladimir Putin, some very critical calls we will be getting readouts on this weekend, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, very important phone calls indeed.
Jim Acosta, thank you.
Now to the president's new executive action on extreme vetting and other action he took today as part of his pledge to take on the terrorists.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is over at the Pentagon for us.
You have got the details, Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
We just got new information from a defense official describing this meeting between President Trump on his first visit here to the Pentagon and his new secretary of defense, James Mattis. We are told the meeting took about an hour long. It took place in the Tank, which is a secure meeting room where the Joint Chiefs normally meet.
Topics of discussion, global threats, things such as North Korea, accelerating we're told the fight against ISIS. We know that there are a number of options the president has asked for to do that, but also military readiness. That was the subject of one of the executive orders today.
The other one far more controversial, banning immigration to the U.S. for a time for people from seven Muslim majority countries, setting up what appears to be a religious test for entry to the U.S.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): In his first visit as commander in chief, President Donald Trump announced new extreme vetting measures for immigrants from Muslim majority countries trying to enter the U.S.
TRUMP: I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don't want them here.
SCIUTTO: Also on the agenda, Trump expected to lay out his vision to top commanders on what he wants in a new and more aggressive plan to fight ISIS.
Mr. Trump is establishing a series of objectives for fighting the terror group and setting a 30-day deadline for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to report back. Still, some of the options under consideration do not represent a radical departure from the current strategy of airpower backing local fighters on the ground.
A U.S. official tells CNN the Pentagon may propose arming Kurdish fighters inside Syria, an option the Obama administration decided against, deeming it too risky. It may also recommend deploying U.S. artillery and attack helicopters to the battlefield in Syria, as well as adding more American boots on the ground to support the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels and their offensive to retake the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa.
Trump telling FOX News that the U.S. will win the fight.
TRUMP: We are fighting sneaky rats right now that are sick and demented. And we are going to win.
SCIUTTO: Today, in a press conference with British prime minister and U.S. ally Theresa May, Trump said he is also considering cooperation with U.S. adversary Russia against ISIS, this although both his defense secretary, James Mattis--
GEN. JAMES MATTIS (RET.), SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin.
SCIUTTO: -- and CIA Director Mike Pompeo told lawmakers during their confirmation hearings that Russia has done little to nothing to combat the terror group.
REP. MIKE POMPEO (R), KANSAS: Russia has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nothing to aid in the destruction and defeat of ISIS.
SCIUTTO: Trump is scheduled to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekend, this amid growing speculation on Capitol Hill that President Trump may ease or lift U.S. sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration for Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
TRUMP: As far as the sanctions. Very early to be talking about that.
But we look to have a great relationship with all countries, ideally. That won't necessarily happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Trump's openness to lifting those sanctions, that phone call with President Putin this weekend causing a great deal of consternation on Capitol Hill, Wolf, from Democrats and Republicans.
Senator John McCain releasing a statement today saying in his words it would be reckless to lift those sanctions and going on to warn President Trump it would be naive and dangerous to consider Vladimir Putin a partner -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
Let's talk more about this with the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be on.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about this extreme vetting process. The president says it will be very vigorous.
And are you OK with the U.S. tightening up the vetting process for refugees coming into the United States and at least for the time being banning refugees from certain countries?
I mean, we already have a very extensive vetting process that usually takes 18 months to two years and is incredibly rigorous. And it would be one thing if President Trump put out, OK, here is my new vetting process, but he hasn't done that. He has just banned refugees from, you know, the Muslim countries that he named.
And I think that simply creates greater problems for the U.S. Look, this ISIS and al Qaeda's message. This is a war of Islam against the West. When the U.S. comes out and says, we're not taking Muslims, that simply feeds into the narrative that helps ISIS and al Qaeda recruit.
Like I said, we already have a vetting process, and there is no evidence that any refugees that we have let into this country have committed any act of terrorism in the U.S.
BLITZER: Do you think the president can take these extreme vetting measures without additional congressional authority? In other words, can he do it through executive action alone?
SMITH: Yes, I don't have the legal background to know what you can or cannot do through executive action.
It seems early in his presidency President Trump is going to test those boundaries. Obviously, it would be better if it was done legislatively, if it was done with the cooperation of the executive and the legislative branch. But we will see what he comes up with.
But in the meantime, an outright ban while we're waiting for that with no, you know, specific idea when that ban is going to stop I think goes against American values and goes against American interests.
BLITZER: In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, with David Brody, in fact, the president said today that Christian refugees let's say from Syria or Iraq should get priority. Do you believe it is in line with American values to give a religious
test or a fast track to certain religious groups?
SMITH: Absolutely not.
We were founded on religious freedom. And if we are going to be successful in fighting against ISIS and al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups, we are going to have to make it clear that our fight is not against an entire religion. It is against the extremists within that religion.
In fact, we are going to need Muslim allies more than anybody else if we are going to be successful in this fight. So, if you lump them all together and say they are all bad, like I said, that just makes al Qaeda and ISIS very happy and makes recruitment easier and drives that wedge and starts creating the clash of civilizations that I, for one, want to avoid.
BLITZER: But you understand, Congressman, why a lot of Americans believe extreme vetting of refugees coming into the United States will protect them?
SMITH: I do.
I think in large part it is because people aren't aware of the vetting process that already exists. And, again, they are not aware, apparently, of the fact that we have not had terrorist attacks from refugees. Gosh, you think of all the shootings that have gone on in the U.S., most of them have been committed by U.S. citizens.
So we have a strong vetting process in place already. So, the outright ban again sends that anti-Muslim message that I don't think is going to be helpful to the U.S. interests.
BLITZER: But there have been terrorist attacks committed by refugees in Europe, for example. People have snuck through the process and have sympathy for ISIS. But what the president and his supporters are saying, they want to prevent what is going on in France, elsewhere in Europe from happening here in the United States.
SMITH: I completely agree with that.
But Europe doesn't have the same vetting process that we have. And I think the track record shows that. Again, if the president had come out and said, look, here is what is wrong with our vetting process, we don't do this, we don't do that. He has had plenty of time to look at what our vetting process is.
He can describe it and tell us what is wrong with it. That's not what he did. He just said, no, we're not taking any more refugees until further notice. And, again, I do not think that is our best interests.
BLITZER: You're the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. I want you to listen to what the president said today about the use of torture. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have a great general who has just been appointed secretary of defense, General James Mattis.
And he has stated publicly that he does not necessarily believe in torture, or water-boarding or however you want to define it, enhanced interrogation I guess would be a word that a lot of -- words that a lot of people would like to use. I don't necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he will override, because I'm giving him that power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of that?
SMITH: Well, first of all, I'm very glad that Jim Mattis is the secretary of defense. I have worked with him very closely in many of his previous posts while I was on the Armed Services Committee. I think he is a very smart man and very capable. And it is good that he is in the place that he is.
To have a secretary of defense with Jim Mattis' credibility to sort of balance out some of the more extreme statements and positions that the president has taken is a positive.
But, also, extensive studies have been done on this. And, basically, torture doesn't work. Interrogation works when you do it in an entirely different way. And we have had this researched and studied all over the place. It isn't even effective in terms of getting information, because when you are torturing someone, they will pretty much tell you whatever you want to hear. That doesn't make it true.
And then of course there is the fact -- and John McCain has been very outspoken on this. And I really applaud him for taking a stance that this is not American values to torture people. And part of the reason is because John McCain was tortured by the Vietnamese. He knows what it's like and he knows that it is not something the United States should engage in, on our value basis alone.
Beyond the value basis, Jim Mattis is right. It doesn't work. It is not the most effective way to get information out of suspects. It makes no sense whatsoever. And I guess I can be glad that President Trump is yielding to Jim Mattis' greater experience and greater expertise on this issue.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Smith, thanks so much for joining us.
SMITH: Thanks. I appreciate it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, are President Trump and the British prime minister on the same page when it comes to NATO? I will talk to a former U.S. envoy to Europe, Daniel Baer. He is standing by live. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news from President Trump's first White House news conference. He took questions with the British prime minister, Theresa May. She made a point of trying to publicly pin down the president on supporting NATO. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: On defense and security cooperation, we are united in our recognition of NATO as the bulwark of our collective defense.
And today we have reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance. Mr. President, you said you were 100 percent committed to NATO. He didn't speak up on that point on his own.
But we are also discussing the importance of NATO continuing to ensure it is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber-warfare as it is to fight more conventional forms of war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Daniel Baer. He served Under President Obama.
Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.
DANIEL BAER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know that President Trump, he has been very critical of NATO, saying it is obsolete. Do you believe he is now 100 percent behind NATO as we just heard from the British prime minister?
BAER: I certainly hope so.
I think it is important to see what President Trump's actions are, rather than words. And his words so far have been deeply concerning. But he certainly should be 100 percent behind NATO. NATO is the most successful military alliance in the history of mankind and has been fundamental to American security and the security of our European allies for the last 70 years.
BLITZER: But a lot of those NATO allies, they don't make the financial contributions to the entire NATO budget that the U.S. wants them to make. Shouldn't they be paying more?
BAER: There's been a longstanding policy that we would like to see NATO allies contribute 2 percent of their GDP to defense spending.
And the progress in recent years on that has number good. And there's more progress to be made. But as we continue to work on that, we shouldn't abandon or discount the value that NATO continues to deliver to the United States.
We should remember that one time that NATO alliance has been invoked to support an ally was for the United States after September 11. NATO is important to U.S. security. It is something we should invest in for our own sake. And we should continue to work with our partners to make sure that they're making good investments in it, too, because it serves all of our interest.
BLITZER: I will out, though, that only a few, maybe three or four, if that, of the 28 NATO allies make that 2 percent financial commitment.
But maybe it is getting better, but there is a long way to go in that specific area.
Ambassador, let's talk a little bit about Russia and lifting sanctions on Russia. The president was asked about that today. He was noncommittal, as one of his top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, says it is under consideration. How much resistance could the president see from key allies if he were to move in that direction? And, as you know, he has got a phone call with Putin tomorrow.
BAER: I think president prides himself on being a deal maker.
And it would be a really lousy deal maker to give away your best leverage, which is the sanctions right up front. I really hope he will think long and hard about that.
I also think that we have already seen from a number of folks from his own party on the Hill their caution that this would be naive and foolish move if the president were to take that step.
I think there's a bigger picture here, which is that sanctions -- obviously, nobody wants sanctions. Sanctions aren't something that anyone wants to see in place. But the sanctions are in place for a good reason, which is that President Putin and the Kremlin have violated international law, have the violated rules of the international order, in their invasion of Ukraine, in the ongoing occupation of Crimea.
And there needs to be consequences for those rules in order to uphold them. And people around the world and our allies in Europe look to the United States to be a leader. We don't just stand up, we stand for something.
And I think it is important that President Trump understands that the sanctions are a tool to enforce the rules of the international system. That something we all have an interest in.
BLITZER: President Trump, as you know, he will speak with Putin tomorrow, the first phone call since he was inaugurated a week ago.
What should be President Trump's major message to the Russian leader tomorrow? BAER: I think President Trump's major message to the Russian leader
tomorrow should be he is prepared to engage, but that he is prepared to engage within the context of principles of the international system and that he would like to see a Russia that obeys the rules of the international system, that works in partnership with us and with others according to the rules of the international system, rather than undermining it, as Russia has done in Syria and Ukraine and elsewhere around the world.
BLITZER: You have been for the last several years -- and we've interviewed you several times -- the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
You finished your tour of duty. How did the transition work for you? In other words, how much briefings did you give your Trump administration diplomatic counterpart to help them prepare for their new assignment?
BAER: Well, Wolf, President Obama gave us all instructions that we were to do everything we could to make sure the transition was smooth.
He wanted us to work through the last day to make sure we were setting up our successors for success. I actually offered -- it is in the foreign affairs manual, the State Department's internal regulations, that all departing ambassadors should come to Washington on their way to their home and spend five days doing consultations with folks to debrief and to brief them on what is coming up and where challenges will be, et cetera.
I offered to do that, but the transition team said that they had carefully considered the request and respectfully declined. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to provide that service, but I look forward to finding out who my successor will be. And my door will be open in the spirit of advancing American interests and supporting their effectiveness going forward.
BLITZER: So what I'm hearing from you is they really didn't care to hear your views, is that right?
BAER: I think it is fair to characterize it that way, yes.
BLITZER: All right.
Daniel Baer, the former U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, you're back in the United States. Thanks very much for joining us.
BAER: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on President Trump's phone call with Mexico's president and the notable difference in each country's readout.
And the president echoes a top adviser. Why does he believe the news media are now the opposition?
BLITZER; All right. Let's get some more now on the breaking news with our analysts and our experts.
[18:32:56] Mark Preston, the president went to his first news conference with the British prime minister today. Coming off a pretty tense feud with the Mexican president over the border wall, who's going to pay for that wall. Did President Trump turn over a new leaf today?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Far be it for me to make any predictions about Donald Trump and how he's going to act day-to- day, let alone minute to minute.
But we did see a less confrontational style today, Wolf. What's interesting is we reported yesterday that President Barack Obama, before he left office, actually had a conversation with Theresa May, as well as the Australian prime minister, asking them to kind of cozy up to him, to be his friend, to try to get him to understand the weightiness of the job as president of the United States.
But what he didn't do today, he really stuck on the issue with terror when it comes to torture. He didn't waiver off of that, which has infuriated the likes of John McCain, who put out a very long scathing statement about that.
And he also didn't move away from Moscow either, as well. You know, the idea that Moscow could be an ally right now of the United States. Again, another issue that John McCain doesn't care for.
BLITZER: He did say he would defer to his defense secretary, the issue of torture and enhanced interrogation, water boarding, whatever you want to call it.
Nic Robertson is here in Washington. Usually, you're overseas in London and other places. It was a pretty friendly tone with the British prime minister, Theresa May. But there are some serious differences there, as well.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, absolutely. And Theresa May was, on the issue of NATO, I think she was very keen to get that point across, in turning to President Trump and saying, "Yes, we have agreed you will a hundred percent support NATO."
But it was interesting to listen--
BLITZER: Watch this video, by the way. They're holding hands as they're walking in the portico there.
ROBERTSON: Cute moment. And they had to know they are on camera, and doesn't that make them look close. And doesn't Theresa May put that in the bank when she goes back home and faces off with the European leaders, who by the way, speaking about this relationship today, just before they were meeting.
But to the point you're saying, Theresa May, interestingly kind of shut down -- you know, the British press are a pretty feisty bunch when it comes to questions. And she kind of shot them down asking questions about Syria and about Russia, because she said, "We'll be talking about those together later." So those are two issues where there are differences.
Also, big difference on climate change. There's also difference in tone and maybe substance on their view on Iran and difference on the issue of torture absolutely. That came up. That was part of the conversation today.
So there are differences, but she seems to have tackled those differences in a deft, diplomatic way that, apparently, President Trump has responded positively, recognizing that there's benefit for both of them making this go-around of diplomatic relationship work and look good.
BLITZER: Yes, those two British journalists who asked questions of President Trump today were feisty.
BLITZER: Tough questions indeed.
Abby, let's talk a little bit about his phone conversation, President Trump's phone conversation with the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto. The Mexican communique said it was a great call; they had friendly discussions, blah, blah, blah. But they both agreed that they're not going to talk publicly any longer about who's going to pay for the wall, because they disagree on that issue.
That was -- that part of the statement was missing from the White House communique, although Sean Spicer, what, he's now suggesting yes, they did agree they're not going to talk publicly about payment for the wall.
ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, you can see why the White House didn't want to put that in their part of the statement. It's not exactly Donald Trump's mode of operation to have any foreign -- any agreement with anybody to not talk about anything. So, you know, they left that out.
But I think you can also see why it's important for both of them to actually stick with it. Pena Nieto is at 12 percent approval. Trump is maybe a little bit double that. They're both in perilous places. These public conversations are forcing their backs against the wall, making it much harder for them to have real conversations about what's going on.
Meanwhile, you know, this is the kind of stuff that is normally hashed out between diplomats and sort of back-channel conversations before it gets to the principals. And there's really no evidence that any of that has happened. They're having public negotiations over really big issues in that bilateral relationship out in the open, and it's hurting both of them.
BLITZER: Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, saying just a little while ago they agreed not to discuss how it will be paid for publicly, that they will continue to have those discussions privately. Which was in the Mexican communique.
It was pretty extraordinary, Phil Mudd -- you're a former CIA officer -- that the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief, said he believes water boarding and enhanced interrogation torture works. The defense secretary, General Mattis, doesn't believe it works. He's giving him the -- he's giving him the authority to be in charge on this issue. That's pretty unusual for a president and commander-in-chief to defer to the defense secretary.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Time out. Mark this down in the calendar. Wolf Blitzer is wrong. He didn't defer to the defense secretary for anything.
He wrote a check during the campaign for people who believe that we should be aggressive with al Qaeda or ISIS detainees, and he's saying, "I don't want to sign that check" and hiding behind his defense secretary. In my judgment, he never intended to proceed with enhanced interrogation.
If you think this is erroneous, he wrote a check on Hillary Clinton e- mails: "Lock her up," which came up repeatedly. I'm not a politician, but I am a voter. He's not signing that check.
Sam thing -- we heard this, this week -- on his tax returns. "Yes, I've got an audit. I'll release them." Not going to sign that check.
Same thing on "I've got a secret plan for ISIS." We heard this repeatedly, including from Kellyanne Conway in September this year. You know what the secret plan is? Let me tell you: Breaking news. "Pentagon, you got any ideas? Bring them over, and maybe we'll sign up to those."
We've got a truth deficit in the Oval Office, and I think the detention and interrogation issue is another example.
BLITZER: So what you're saying, Phil, is that he never really wanted to engage in waterboarding.
BLITZER: But this is his excuse. Let the -- give the authority to General Mattis.
MUDD: That's right. The general gets to take the incoming on this one, Wolf. I think it's pretty clear to me.
BLITZER: What do you think?
PRESTON: I mean, it's very -- it's very Donald Trump-ish, if that is actually the case.
I wonder if he even cares, quite frankly. I mean, I wonder if -- if he doesn't actually have an opinion on waterboarding, whether he agrees with it or doesn't agree with it. But to Phil's point, if this is the route, and we are to believe the
route, it allows him to save face with his base and allow General Mattis to take the incoming and then move on.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We have a lot more coming up. The vice president, Mike Pence, makes history. Details of high- level White House support for anti-abortion marchers here in Washington.
[18:4:56] BLITZER: Strong backing from the Trump administration for the annual anti-abortion march here in Washington, with the president himself tweeting support. Our senior Washington correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has details.
Brianna, the vice president, Mike Pence, he addressed the marchers today.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He certainly did, Wolf. And folks there were very enthusiastic about it. The anti-abortion movement is more energized than it's been in decades.
And Trump administration officials are vowing to champion the cause. Supporters think that, with Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate, this may be their best shot yet to limit or even ban abortions.
KEILAR (voice-over): Vice President Mike Pence addressing the annual March for Life gathering, the highest ranking White House official ever to address the group in person in its 44 years.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Life is winning again in America.
KEILAR: A signal from the Trump White House that anti-abortion policies are a priority. While in Congress, Pence led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and he came with a promise from President Trump.
PENCE: I like to say over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we're in the promise-keeping business. That's why this administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers. And we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America.
KEILAR: Also at the march, top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway pledging action.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Allow me to make it very clear. We hear you. We see you. We respect you. And we look forward to working with you.
KEILAR: Anti-abortion activists are newly optimistic about rolling back Roe versus Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like our prayers have been answered.
KEILAR: As they look forward to President Trump's announcement next week of his pick to fill the vacancy on the court left by Antonin Scalia's death last year.
DEANNA WALLACE, STAFF COUNSEL, AMERICANS UNITED FOR LIFE: We have four years with a president who has promised to consider this issue once choosing his Supreme Court justices and the pro-life movement is sending a message here today that we are paying attention, we are here and we expect President Trump to keep that promise.
KEILAR: In an interview with a Christian Broadcasting Network, President Trump insisted they won't be disappointed.
TRUMP: I think people are going to love it. I think Evangelicals, Christians, will love my pick and will be represented very, very fairly.
KEILAR: His plan it call into the gathering was foiled by a scheduling conflict, his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May. But he tweeted, calling the march important and pledging his full support.
KEILAR: And organizers told us that every state was represented here, Wolf, as marchers walked from the Washington monument to the Supreme Court. This was a large gathering of at least tens of thousands. A lot of young people, too, you would have noticed if you saw the crowd. Churches and youth groups are well-represented, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I was walking around, and I saw them.
Thanks very much, Brianna Keilar, reporting for us.
Let's get back to our panel.
Abby, how significant is it that the vice president went there in person to address everyone?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, you know, before the Trump era, Mike Pence is known as a strident social conservative. This is his wheel house. He has really strong relationships with these groups as does Kellyanne Conway's strong personal relationships.
And when he was chosen as Trump's advice president, it calmed a lot of nerves about where Trump was on some of these social issues. In the past, Trump has said very positive things about abortion. He during the campaign was kind of both sides of issues and went way too far when he talked about punishing women who seek abortions.
So, Mike Pence has always been this kind of stabilizing force and as we go into next week, a lot of these groups are looking to Pence to exert his influence on the Supreme Court pick. It is a really, really big deal for some of these folks. They want to move forward with, you know, anti-abortion legislation that will inevitably be challenged and end up in Supreme Court.
BLITZER: Mark Preston, let me play a clip. The president gave a third interview in three days. The Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brodie who asked the president if he agrees with his top strategic adviser Steve Bannon that the news media is the opposition party. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think the media is the opposition party in many ways, and I think that -- and I'm not talking about all media. I know people like yourself, but I know people in the media that have I tremendous respect for, respect them as much as anybody. So, I'm not talking about everybody.
But the big portion of the media, the dishonesty, the total deceit and deception makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely. I think they are much more capable than the opposition party. The opposition party is losing badly.
Now, the media is on the opposition party's side. And I actually said to myself, I said, they treat me so unfairly, it's hard to believe that I won. But the fortunate thing about me is I have a big voice, a voice that people understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The news media is a stronger opposition party than the Democrats.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Yes. So, if you're the Democrats, you have to wonder, well, what about us? We're supposed to be the opposition party. Come on, come after us.
Let me just dispel a myth here, because this really has been eating at me. You know, all through the campaign, but specifically in the past few weeks. Here, you know, in the media, we all want Donald Trump to succeed and we want him to do really, really well.
I mean, the bottom line is we don't want him to fail. But it's our job just to report and analyze about what he does, what he doesn't like, though, is when we go out there and report the truth about some of the things that he says or some of the actions that he takes and that's very unfortunate. And quite frankly, it's a bit dangerous to him to be out there right now describing the media as the opposition party.
BLITZER: Yes, he watches the media, especially the cable channels, constantly by his own admission. What did you think of his comments?
[18:50:00] MUDD: Look, let's step back here for a moment. The president is -- I'm not part of the media. I'm a former CIA officer. I only appear on CNN, so I feel like I'm impartial here. He's accusing us of being dishonest? After I mentioned during the
campaign, we're going to lock her up. Nope. We're going to give you my tax returns after the review. Nope. We have a secret plan. Nope.
Going back earlier, we've seen this in reports from his TV show, "The Apprentice," top-ranked show, he knew when he put that information out, it was false.
My response to the president is, we're dishonest? I want to know why there's an air gap between what you say and what the truth is because it happens every day.
BLITZER: How is this playing in Europe?
ROBERTSON: They're looking at the president and looking at his words and find with surprise on Hillary Clinton, on locking her up, that didn't happen, revealing his taxes, that didn't happen.
You know, there is a credibility gap and they're questioning anything that he says. Is he going to follow through, what does it really mean? This great meeting he had with Theresa May today, in two days time, what is she going to wake and find what he's tweeted? What are the repercussions there? And she took a political gamble coming here, hitching herself to his administration in so many way so soon, and so early.
But to the point of the press, I mean, you saw how strong the questions were from the British journalists today. That's a tradition in Britain, it's a tradition in Europe to ask strong and tough and hard and searching questions of politicians.
Look what is happening in Turkey today, right now. The leadership there, President Erdogan, is shutting down the media in that country. That's where Theresa May is going to tonight, by the way, to Turkey, to see President Erdogan. That's not a democracy by any stretch.
So, trying to shut down the media is not a message that resonates with allies in Europe.
BLITZER: Yes, doesn't resonate here as well.
All right, guys. Stand by. There's more coming up.
We have some more breaking news: President Trump orders extreme vetting of immigrants. How is it different from the current policy?
And will a pipeline project really create the tens of thousands of jobs President Trump is claiming? We have a reality check.
[18:56:27] BLITZER: President Trump touts it as a colossal project that will create tens of thousands of jobs and revive an ailing American industry. But the impact of the newly revived Keystone pipeline may fall short.
CNN's Rene Marsh has been investigating all of this for us.
Rene, you have a reality check.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It's a campaign promise that the president is working to make good on despite the rhetoric, though. It's really not going to move the needle all that much. The economic impact of these pipeline projects will be short term.
MARSH (voice-over): Pipeline projects have drawn massive protests, fueled by fears of an environmental destruction in the event of a leak which could endanger health and safe drinking water.
TRUMP: We're going to renegotiate some of the terms.
MARSH: But with the stroke of a pen Tuesday, President Trump put the controversial projects, including the stalled Keystone XL pipeline back in play. The $8 billion project would stretch nearly 1,200 miles across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, carrying more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canada to the United States.
TRUMP: A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs.
MARSH: But a 2014 State Department report found only 3,900 workers will be required to build the pipeline and those jobs will only last a year. Just 35 positions would be permanent.
JACK GERARD, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: The president's been very clear --
MARSH: Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, does not dispute the State Department's numbers.
GERARD: Twenty thousand, 5,000, what is it? It's thousands of jobs. They're great, well-paying jobs. Let's focus on the benefits.
MARSH: Then there's the pipelines themselves and who will make them.
TRUMP: I am very insistent that if we're going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be made in the United States.
MARSH: But Calgary-based TransCanada, the owner of Keystone XL, has already bought pipes and materials for the project.
In 2012, President Obama visited an Oklahoma storage yard holding pipes that had already been purchased.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Oklahoma!
MARSH: This was before he rejected the project over climate concerns.
And a Cornell University study found that almost half, perhaps more, of the primary material for the pipeline was produced by foreign companies. A sticking point for some lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
REP. MIKE DOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I wish I could sit here and say that that steel is coming from the United States of America. Unfortunately, TransCanada's contracted with an Indian multinational company, Welspun Corp. Limited, and a Russian company.
MARSH: CNN asked TransCanada if President Trump's demand for American steel is a deal breaker. In a statement, the company said, "We have previously purchased pipe. We will need time to review and analyze the plan when it is released to determine its impact to KXL."
DANIEL WEISS, CLEAN ENERGY EXPERT: TransCanada would have to give up a $2.5 billion investment, just write that off.
MARSH: Well, TransCanada says the pipeline will generate tens of millions of dollars in property taxes and add some $3 billion to the GDP. The State Department estimates there would be a total of 42,000 indirect jobs created. However, those will also be temporary -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good reporting, Rene Marsh. Thank you very much.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.