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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump's Poll Numbers Historically Low; Putin Critic in Coma; Cracks in Trump's Wall; Interview with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia; "Get Smart U.S.": Trump Responds to Paris Attack. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired February 3, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:20]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wouldn't it be fitting if the Gatorade on the Patriots' sideline this Sunday were orange?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Cracks in the wall, some Republicans telling CNN they're worried about President Trump's border wall, how much it will cost, who will pay for it, how they can build it on private property. Will any of these concerns be enough to block it?

Another Putin enemy ends up in the hospital. He spoke out against the Russian leader before he ended up in a coma. That time, he recovered, but now he's hospitalized again, his lawyer suggesting he may have been poisoned.

Plus, if you were hoping to escape politics for a few hours during the big game Sunday, I have got some bad news for you. A sneak peek at this year's Super Bowl's commercials' not-so-subtle messages.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We have some breaking news just in to CNN. These are the results of a brand-new national CNN/ORC poll that we are bringing to you right now. Two weeks into his term, President Trump's approval rating is 44 percent. His disapproval rating is 53 percent.

This is, empirically, the worst showing for any newly elected U.S. president in the history of polling. Diving deeper into policy, Americans are split over some of the president's key initiatives.

CNN political director David Chalian joins me now to dive into the numbers.

David, obviously, some of the polls, especially the state polls, were off this election cycle, so there are no doubt a lot of skeptics out there wondering, why should we believe these polls? Why should we?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And I always think skepticism is good around polls. It's not an exact kind of science, but you're right to note what we saw in the election season was really around state polls where there was a problem that didn't match the outcome. It was because of the likely voter model, when you're trying to figure out exactly who is going to show up at the polls.

That is a bit of puzzle you have to solve. This kind of poll, Jake, that we're talking about now, this is a poll of all adult Americans. You're not trying to figure out who is showing up at the polls or not. It's just a public survey research of all Americans and where the American population is.

TAPPER: All right, so, let's dive into the president's approval rating. Most presidents get something of a bump when they first take office. Not here?

CHALIAN: Not here, not at all.

As you said, take a look again at that overall approval rating number, 44 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove. And it is a record low approval rating at this stage in a presidency. Take a look compared to previous presidents at this stage of the presidency.

You see that little yellow bar down there, that's Donald Trump now. All his predecessors are compared. As far back as polling goes, back to 1953 and Dwight Eisenhower, every single one of them has been polling higher in terms of approval than Donald Trump is at this point in the presidency.

TAPPER: And the disapproval is even worse than the approval.

CHALIAN: That's right.

TAPPER: And let's dive into some of these policies, because we're finding out how the public feels about a lot of these executive actions that Donald Trump is pushing.

CHALIAN: So, two of his key policy proposals that have been dominating headlines in the first couple weeks of his administration, majority of the Americans oppose them.

Take a look at the travel ban first. How do Americans feel about this? Fifty-three percent of Americans, a slim majority, but a majority, oppose the travel ban; 47 percent are in favor. Let's look at that 47 percent, how it splits by party, because partisanship tells the story here.

Only 12 percent of Democrats favor the travel ban, 46 percent of independents, so, again, a minority of independents, and 88 percent of Republicans. Where you sit on the partisan divide is where you sit on this issue of the travel ban.

And if you want to look at the Mexican wall, another policy, again, majority oppose. Take a look at these numbers; 60 percent of Americans oppose building a wall, only 38 percent favor it. That 38 percent is a number that has been going down in the last year-and-a- half. TAPPER: Fascinating. David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: It's Donald Trump's wall. He wants Mexico to pay. But in the end, congressional Republicans, they are going to be the ones who own it.

New today, it looks as though President Trump's plan to build that wall along Mexico's border is facing a major problem. Some Republicans are worried it's going to cost too much and they're not sure if they want it at all.

CNN senior congressional reporter Manu Raju is live from Capitol Hill.

Manu, what seems to be the biggest concern?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the price tag, Jake.

Remember, to get this project done, Donald Trump has promised Congress will first appropriate money and then that the Mexico will reimburse the United States completely afterwards. But a number of Republican lawmakers are concerned with the price tag and they're skeptical that Mexico will actually reimburse the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (voice-over): It was a centerpiece of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

[16:05:03]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will build a wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall. We're going to stop drugs from coming in.

RAJU: But Trump's campaign promise to build a wall along the entire border with Mexico is now crashing into a different type of wall on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of Republicans are pushing back on his plans, which could cost anywhere from $12 billion to $15 billion and could add to the deficit.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I don't want to see any spending, additional spending on anything done that's not paid for, any topic.

There are so many things that people are talking about spending money on, and at the same time lowering the amount of revenues that we take in here in the country. And it's just a recipe for disaster.

RAJU: But Trump continues to insist that Mexico will fully reimburse the U.S. for the wall.

TRUMP: Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen. RAJU: But a number of veteran lawmakers are deeply skeptical.

(on camera): He's obviously talking about having Mexico pay for it. Do you think that's actually a viable option?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No.

RAJU: Why do you say that?

MCCAIN: Because it's not a viable option.

RAJU: So, then, taxpayers could be left with the bill?

MCCAIN: The taxpayers are paying a lot of money right now. One of the biggest problems we have is the enforcement of existing law.

RAJU (voice-over): Other prominent Republicans agree.

(on camera): Do you believe that Mexico will actually pay for this wall?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I doubt that they're going to pay for it.

RAJU (voice-over): The skepticism comes as Trump is facing dwindling public support for the wall. A new CNN/ORC poll finds a solid majority of voters opposed to the plan, with just 38 percent supporting it, a sharp drop from the 52 percent who backed the wall in 2015.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: And, Jake, Trump is still moving ahead, in his first move, one of his first moves as president taking executive action ordering construction of the wall.

And behind the scenes, they're developing a proposal to send to Congress that would fund this wall if Congress were to approve. House Speaker Paul Ryan saying it would be billed as emergency spending, meaning it would not be offset, but it could even run into resistance from the number two Senate Republican, John Cornyn, who told me, Jake, he does not want to add one penny to the deficit -- quote -- "period," when talking about the wall, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks.

Let's turn now to a subject where there seems to be partisan agreement on Capitol Hill. The White House is steadily intensifying rhetoric its against Iran.

In a statement this afternoon, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn chided the international security for being -- quote -- "too tolerant" of Iran's -- quote -- "bad behavior" and Flynn warns those days are over.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is live for us.

Jim, what bad behavior specifically was General Flynn referring to, just the missile test?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're talking about the missile test, but it is a blanket warning to Iran, Jake.

The Trump administration is ratcheting up the pressure on Iran with these new sanctions, while saying ominously that no options are off the table when it comes to curbing the threat posed by Tehran.

But just as the White House is talking tough, a key official here is doing some cleanup after a major gaffe on the issue of terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump delivered a brief but stern message to Iran from the Oval Office.

TRUMP: They're not behaving.

ACOSTA: The Trump administration is backing that warning with new sanctions on Iran, hitting 25 individuals and companies connected to that country's ballistic missile program, punishment for Tehran's missile launch from last weekend.

While officials caution the sanctions won't impact the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration, the White House is weighing its options.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has been very clear. He doesn't take options off the table.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Does he have the right to this?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Insist that they agree with him?

CONWAY: Well, he has a right to form a team.

ACOSTA: That tough rhetoric is competing with an embarrassing gaffe from a top spokesperson for the White House, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who tried to justify the administration's travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries in a mistake-filled statement on MSNBC.

CONWAY: I bet it is brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. And most people don't know that because it didn't get covered.

ACOSTA: For starters, President Obama did not ban the Iraqi refugee program. But the more alarming error, there was never a Bowling Green massacre.

In fact, in 2011, two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were arrested on a series of terrorism charges. Conway later clarified on Twitter: "Honest mistakes abound." But critics are pouncing. Hillary Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, slammed Conway for a completely fake Bowling Green massacre. "Please don't make up attacks."

Conway fired back: "I misspoke. You lost the election."

[16:10:00]

The pro-gun control Brady Campaign ripped Conway for promoting fake news about a shooting that never happened "to justify the reprehensible actions of this administration."

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Apparently, according to the Trump administration, fake news is synonymous with any bad press they get. So, if they get bad press, it's fake. At the same time, they have demonstrated a ready willingness to invent facts at will.

ACOSTA: But the White House did embrace some real news, declining to quarrel with the Labor Department's new jobs number, a low 4.8 percent unemployment rate cheered by the president as the sign of a strong economy.

TRUMP: I think that it's going to continue big league. We're bringing back jobs.

ACOSTA: That is a major departure from the campaign, when then candidate Trump repeatedly blasted the unemployment rate as phony.

TRUMP: Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment. The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.

ACOSTA: The Democratic Party's two-word take on the January jobs report: "Thanks, Obama."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Two other big developments here at the White House today. The president signed executive orders to start chipping away at Obama administration banking reforms that came after the financial crisis.

And the White House, Jake, is touting U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley's tough talk directed at Russia, fully supporting her warning that she delivered yesterday that Russia must get out of Crimea in Ukraine to have those sanctions lifted -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you so much.

She reportedly oversaw a CIA black site, and now she is the spy agency's deputy director. Is the Trump administration trying to send a message with her appointment? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:26] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. More on our politics lead. President Trump's travel ban for seven countries continues to send shock waves throughout the world. We learned in a Virginia courtroom that since the president signed his executive order on immigration and travel one week ago, the U.S. has revoked more than 100,000 visas from foreign travelers from the seven countries included in the temporary ban. The State Department puts that number at fewer than 60,000. Visa holders from those countries currently in the U.S. will not be able to return to the U.S. if they leave the country.

Here to talk more about the president's policies and other issues, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIR: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: Do you think revoking those whether it's 60,000 or 100,000 visas, does doing that make the United States safer?

WARNER: I think by revoking these visas, we have not made America safer. I think this was demonstration of an action that had not been thought through, the fact that it was kind of amateur hour in terms of how they approached this. I was very disappointed with both Homeland Security Secretary Kelly's response when he met with us and the acting head of the Customs and Border Patrol.

And you know, Jake, it's pretty unusual if you can find something that both ISIL and Iran, obviously they are sworn enemies, Shia versus Sunni, but both ISIL and Iran has been used -- using since the ban for propaganda purposes.

So, I don't think we've made the country safer at all. I think this ban needs to be rescinded. It's not who we are as a nation.

TAPPER: Senators Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse announced yesterday that their Senate subcommittee on crime and terrorism will investigate Russia's influence on the U.S. election. You're the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so you know a lot of things the rest of us don't. In terms of things you can tell us about what do you still want to know about the role Russia played?

WARNER: I want the American people to know how extensive this intervention was, how there was frankly a thousand Internet trolls in Russia trying to manipulate our news. There was a number of weeks ago if you Googled ODNI, Director of National Intelligence and hacking, you come up with five or six Russia sites first. So, the fake news, the RT, the use of these trolls, I want folks to understand with more detail.

And I think there's more information to come out about the selective hacking and then the leaking of this information. The fact that the first John Podesta e-mail was leaked two hours after the so-called "Access Hollywood" tapes came out was more than coincidence. And I think we all deserve to know whether there was contacts between any campaign organization and the Russians prior to the election.

There's obviously been materials that have been leaked out. I can't comment on those. But for the sake of the country and for the sake of the administration, we've got to have this investigation, take us where the facts lie, and I'm committed to doing it through the intelligence committee, in a bipartisan way. If we can't do it there, we'll find another way, but the American people need to know.

TAPPER: Are you worried or concerned at all that the Russians have something on the president and are able to use it to suggest that he'd do things that Russia wants him to do?

WARNER: Jake, I'm not going to comment on that. I don't -- I can't definitively answer that question. But there's a lot of smoke and I think we need to get to the bottom of it. If it proves out that there were no contacts, the Trump administration should be pleased with that. If otherwise, we're in a lot of challenge.

TAPPER: Earlier this week, President Trump elevated his chief strategist Steven Bannon to the National Security Council Principals Committee. You've introduced a bill to change that. Why should the president of the United States not just have discretion as to who he wants on his own National Security Committee or Council?

WARNER: For 70 years, Jake, the National Security Council has been made up of the top minds from national security from intelligence, and there's been a strict wall between foreign policy and national security issues and overt political interference. I mean, George Bush didn't put Karl Rove on, Barack Obama didn't put David Axelrod on.

You know, what this president has done was not only put his top political person, frankly somebody who's got pretty frightening views in my mind on the National Security Council, he also took off the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the chairman of the overall intelligence community, the Director of National Intelligence. I think that is reckless and my legislation would put those individuals both back on.

[16:20:02] He would have them only as needed. Put them both back on as permanent members. And if you want to put somebody that's not traditionally on, that's political appointee, that's your political Svengali -- fine, get congressional approval.

TAPPER: Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, thank you so much. Always appreciate it, sir.

WARNER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: President Trump says Iran is, quote, "not behaving". Is he setting himself up for his own red line moment? That story next.

Then, he almost died in 2015 from a suspected poisoning. Now could history be repeating itself for this Putin critic?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Sticking with our politics lead. We have lots to talk about with our panel today. So, let's just dive right in.

Michael, let me start with you. President Trump talking about the attempted Paris Louvre attack, tweeted, quote, "A new radical Islamic terrorist just attacked the Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down, France on edge again, get smart, U.S."

Not the first time that he's told an ally, and thank God nobody, you know, wasn't successful. Not the first time he told an ally, essentially, you know, I told you so.

MICHAEL SCHERER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TIME: Well, you know, he did all through the campaign, too. He identifies the bad guys he wants us to focus on. He identifies the victims he wants us to focus on. He's telling a story.

You look at his Twitter every morning, I wake up now with his tweets on my phone.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You and everybody else.

SCHERER: You know the story --

TAPPER: In a cold sweat.

SCHERER: You know the story the president wants to tell and this one he believes was instrumental in getting him elected. He said to me late 2015 that it was because of the San Bernardino attacks that he really got a bump, that identifying this threat saying I'm going to protect you from this threat. I'm going to be tougher on this threat really helped.

The Paris attacks, he also rode very hard. I think he's going to keep doing it all through his presidency.

TAPPER: And yet, Mary Katharine, six Muslims slaughtered by a white male right wing terrorist, and though he did offer condolences to Prime Minister Trudeau in a private phone call, he hasn't said a word on that. And that one actually had a body count.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I'm glad there wasn't a readout from that conversation with Trudeau that went a bad direction. So, that's a plus.

Look, I think you're right. This is a story he wants to tell. That one does not follow his narrative. And I think that is largely -- large part of why he was elected because people saw an inability or an unwillingness of many on the left to identify this problem and they thought this is a real problem.

It does not follow, however, that all of the things he's going to do in office are going to make that problem better. I have some disagreements with many of those.

TAPPER: Yes, but I mean, Nia-Malika, I guess the issue is that the truth of the matter is, whatever one believes about a narrative, if you look at FBI statistics, they're not conservatives, they're right wing anarchist terrorists. But they actually are killing more people per year than Islamic extremist terrorists. And, you know, dead is dead if you're an innocent victim.

HENDERSON: Yes, dead is dead. He has I think consistently identified certain enemies and some of those folks, Muslims, and that's why he called during the campaign for a Muslim ban. He talked about undocumented immigrants, right? I mean, they were sort of the enemy without.

He's never really identified necessarily an enemy within, these kind of enemies that we've had. Dylann Roof, people like that, and right wing nationalists.

So, yes. I think this fits. I think we're going to see more of it. But I think how he can continue this narrative now on his watch, right, when things go wrong on his watch, whether it's an issue of terrorism. It's going to be hard for him to not need to escape blame and point to policies as being ineffective because they'll be his policies and his administration.

TAPPER: Mary Katherine, you're talking about things that President Trump is doing to try to stop the threat of Islamic extremist terrorists.

HAM: Right.

TAPPER: That might not be effective. Take a look at the cover of the latest issue of the German news magazine "Ders Spiegel" that came out today. Donald Trump having decapitated the Statue of Liberty. I guess that's kind of supposed to be an ISIS-style pose. That's a tough cover to look at. But that's -- those are our European allies.

HAM: Yes, "Ders Spiegel" is not known for its subtlety, so we should note that. I also think that, look, there are sensible things you can do. There are precautions you can take. There are ways of naming the enemy that are important and that language is important. It doesn't mean exactly what Donald Trump is doing is working.

But I also think it perhaps invoking Europe and some of the problems that it has had specifically with its immigration and lack of assimilation and specifically refugees might not be as helpful as it thinks in the U.S. with convincing people who back Donald Trump, because they have very serious real problems. That's what people on the right are afraid people are telling them this doesn't exist when it does.

TAPPER: Sure, no, absolutely. But one of the things in this country that is one of the reasons that national security experts say is one of the reasons that we don't have the same problem, knock on wood hopefully ever, but at least not right now, that they have in Europe when it comes to homegrown terrorist is the Muslim community in this country is assimilated.

SCHERER: I think we're going to see this tension play out throughout the entire presidency. Trump is not moving off this message. This is who Trump is. This is what he thinks his power comes from with his voters.

At the same time you had over the last few days a lot of the old government national security infrastructure asserting itself, the statement on Israel which moderates his position onset almighty building. The statement from Nikki Haley on Ukraine at the U.N. yesterday, which is very much in line with the Obama administration. Even the Iran sanctions are also kind of in line with the Obama administration, not being really disruptive, though the kind of sanctions you can put in place and it doesn't shake everything up.