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North Korea, Test Fire Ballistic Missile; President Trump's Inner Circle Still Focused on Numbers from Election Day; President Trump Will Have Face-To-Face Meeting With The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tomorrow; Democrats And Republicans Are Concerned About The President's Mental Health. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 12, 2017 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for spending some time with me.

At this hour, President Trump is on his way back to Washington after a weekend in Florida where he was hit with the first big international test of his presidency. North Korea, test firing a ballistic missile that traveled about 300 miles before crashing into the Sea of Japan. Now this news broke while the president was hosting the Japanese prime minister at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. So far what we have learned from the president and what he has come out and said on the reported about all this, is simply this 25-word statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan. It is great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.

Elise, is President Trump expected to handle this in a different way than the President Obama would have?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he is and he is going to have to, Ana. I mean, the Obama administration exercised the policy of what they called strategic patience, which is essentially don't negotiate with North Korea or have anything to do with them and keep applying pressure until they agree to give up their nuclear program.

But eight years later, you have only seen a series of North Korean nuclear tests, a barrage of missile tests and a lot of experts and critics say they delayed themselves into a much bigger North Korean missile threat. And so I do think that President Trump specifically is going to be looking to put more pressure on the Chinese government. He has made the issue of North Korea something that he wants to negotiate as part of, you know, a larger deal with China and maybe would be willing to give China a little bit of something if they would just put more pressure on North Korea, because clearly as their biggest benefactor and their ally in the region. China has much for influence.

So I think that's one thing. I think you are also going to see an increase of U.S. defenses in - near the Korean peninsula. You heard from Kames Mattis, the defense secretary who was there last week, reaffirming that U.S. commitment. And you heard this morning on the talk shows, the White House policy adviser Stephen Miller said that the U.S. is going to be beeping up its capabilities.

So I think you will initially see a bit of a tougher approach. But at some point, the administration is going to be faced with the question of whether it's going to negotiate with North Korea to try and ease those nuclear and missile threats or it's willing to take some action to curb it, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Elise Labott, thank you.

Joining me now Victor Cha. He is the director of government and international affairs at Georgetown University and also the former director of Asian affairs on George W. Bush's National Security Council.

Victor, good to have you with us. The entirety of the president's statement was just that the U.S. stands behind Japan 100 percent. Does it surprise you that he didn't directly send a message to North Korea or even mention South Korea in that statement?

VICTOR CHA, DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENT AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Not really. I mean, I think that this was a desire not to overreact to this North Korean missile test, they did not test the ICBM. I would imagine that we will see more statements and actions to come over the week, from the administration. And so in that sense, I wasn't entirely surprised that the initial reaction was a bit understated.

CABRERA: Of course, this launch took place while Japan's prime minister was spending the weekend with President Trump here in the United States. How did the launch change the discussion between the two leaders?

CHA: Well, I would imagine that North Korea was one of the top issues that they discussed during the summit and during his time in Florida, so I think the North Korean actions just re-enforced for both leaders why this is the number one threat to both Prime Minister Abe and to President Trump. And I think the North Korean actions were deliberately timed after what was a pretty good week in terms of U.S. policy in Asia, with regard to President Trump's call with Xi Jinping and then the very good summit. That Prime Minister Abe and secretary Mattis's trip to the region, North Koreans, you know, I think did this as a way to try to say, look, we are here and we are not going to be an easy issue to deal with.

CABRERA: Right now the national security advisor General Michael Flynn is accused of breaking the law, the Logan act, and has critics calling for him to be fired, to step down. How much does that impact the advice that this group can give the president at this time? CHA: Well, I think the precedent is going to get advice from a wide

range of people, including these folks in the state department, embassies, from the intelligence community, as well as the national security county and national security advisers.

I mean, this is approximate threat. And North Korea is testing of this particular missile could form the basis. The engines that they tested for this missile could form the basis of a long range ICBM test in the future. So this is approximate national security threat. And I think that President Trump will use all of his advisors whether it from intelligence community or from his NSE to figure out what the best path ways to go forward.

[19:05:20] CABRERA: Victor, we just learned that the U.N. Security Council will hold consultations on an urgent basis tomorrow afternoon. What would you expect to come of those discussions?

CHA: Well, I think the first thing is that they will all acknowledge that this test by North Korea was another violation of standing U.N. Security Council resolutions. I think they will ask all members, U.N. member states to abide by the sanctions that are enumerated in those resolutions, and particularly with regard to China. And China's latest scare means to cut down on coal trade with North Korea which would affect the finances that North Korea has for building these missiles. There may be a statement that comes out of the U.N. Security Council as well. I don't expect a full-fledged resolution, though.

CABRERA: We keep hearing over and over again that China is like the lynch pin in all of this. Why isn't China tougher on North Korea?

CHA: Well, I think, Ana, the simple answer is they don't want to be so tough that it causes the regime to get destabilize and then to collapse turning the Korean peninsula into a U.S. military ally, a Democratic military ally right on China's border. But there's a lot more that China could do, they promised to do so in the last Security Council resolution, particularly as I said on coal. But in the last order of 2016, North Korean coal imports were at a record high. So they are clearly not doing what they're supposed to do in terms of complying what resolutions that they have signed on to. And I would imagine why the folks you see in the next coming week is going to be adapt China doing more.

CABRERA: When he was a candidate, President Trump made this suggestion for dealing with North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Wouldn't you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons and they do have them. They have no carrier system yet but they will very soon. Would you rather have Japan, perhaps, they are over there. They are very close. They are very fearful of North Korea, and we are supposed to protect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And does that seem like a realistic policy for helping Japan? Would Japan even want that?

CHA: No. I don't think Japan is interested in producing nuclear weapons. You know, I think what those sorts of statements reflect is the stakes that are at play in this issue. If we are not able to prevent North Korea from becoming a full-fledged nuclear weapons state, you know, there could be ripple effects in the region. And I think that's what those comments were referring to.

But this is missile test, this is the ninth time they have tried to test this missile. The last two times just before the election were unsuccessful. This was a successful launch. And it could mean that they are perfecting aspects of their missile program, this newest missile, the Musadan missile, that they may want to send out to others including possibly the Iranians or others.

So this is both (INAUDIBLE) reflect the stakes that are playing this issue in have both the United States, Japan and its allies really need to focus on and it's the number one security issue.

CABRERA: Real quickly, you brought up Iran just there and its nuclear capabilities. We know it fired a test of a ballistic missile recently as well. Which is the bigger threat, which country?

CHA: I mean, I think the real threat is North Korea. I mean, Iran has a developing nuclear program. North Korea has an existing nuclear weapons program that is growing every day. And they are actively and very aggressively engage in military testing program to try to create a missile that can reach the United States.

So I think while the stakes are high in both cases, and there has been a lot of attention paid to the Iran case, the North Korean case, as President Obama told President Trump reportedly in their White House meeting is really going to be the number one issue in this administration.

CABRERA: All right. Victor Cha, thanks for offering your expertise for us.

CHA: Thank you.

CABRERA: Still to come, people in President Trump's inner circle are still focused on the numbers from Election Day. A senior White House official staying on the claim that millions of people voted illegally. So what's their strategy here?

Plus the fight for the president's travel ban, could a new executive order come as early as tomorrow?

And later, Sean Spicer's tough week from fighting with the press to late-night parodies, does the White House press secretary have a PR problem?

That's all ahead. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:12:50] CABRERA: President Trump says all options are on the table when it comes to trying to reinstate a controversial travel ban. The president teasing, he could crack a brand new executive order to shake off the core obstacle his current ban spacing.

So let's bring in CNN's White House correspondent Athena Jones with more details.

Athena, break down the travel ban options the Trump team is now considering.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana.

Well, they are considering and pursuing several options, a range of options is how a White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller put it in several interviews on the Sunday shows today. And those are some - two camps really. One is continuing to fight for the travel van in court whether it is in the Supreme Court, another hearing in an bank polar hearing in the ninth circuit or various other method in the courts or issuing new executive order. They are taking it further executive actions. That is what the president a tease to reporters on Friday saying that there could be a brand new executive order as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Now, he did commit to that time frame. In an interviews today what with Stephen Miller and what the another Trump aide (INAUDIBLE), it sounded as though, the White House was still working out exactly how soon it would take these next steps. We do know that President Trump appeals that there is a sense of urgency because he feels that the nation's security is at stake. And so, they want to make to move quickly. But it is not entirely clear that they are going to be ready to actually file a new executive order as soon as tomorrow.

But one thing they could do, what change they could make to the order is, of course, to make it clearer that it is now apply to green card holders also known as legal permanent resident. But there are whole lot of options that they are looking at - Ana.

CABRERA: Let's stick with the immigration theme here. A lot of people talking about those immigration raid in 12 states that happened over the past week. Athena, what has President Trump said about those raids?

JONES: That's right. Those raids have left a lot of people in immigrant communities. And the broader community concerned and fearful. The president tweeted about this earlier today. He said the crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers and others are being removed.

This is also something that his aide, Stephen Miller, talked about trying to send the signal that this administration is going to be tough on undocumented criminals.

What is interesting here is that ICE officials previously told CNN that these raids had been -- the planning for these raids had begun under the Obama administration. So it is interesting to see President Trump taking credit here even though it appears that these large scale of raids, we are talking about some over a 160 people just in the Los Angeles area, another 200 in several other states. So it is interesting to sort of not really clear what is going on there - Ana.

[19:15:47] CABRERA: Well, it is interested because President Obama was a deporter in-chief by some accounts according to Laraza (ph) back in the day when they were upset with what he was doing. But we never saw this wide scale protest that we are seeing now. And instead of blaming Obama for what is happening, President Trump owns it. So he obviously is happy to see what is going on. And so, we will continue to follow where it goes from here.

Athena Jones, thank you so much.

Coming up, Trump and Trudeau, the president set to meet with the Canadian prime minister tomorrow and perhaps talk about some things they simply don't agree about. We are got a preview next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:20:11] CABRERA: Welcome back. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera.

Now in the next few minutes, President Trump aboard air force one, is scheduled to land at base Andrews after a weekend in Florida. He has a high stake meeting tomorrow with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One this is for sure, these are two very leaders with both men having very different outlooks on the world, especially when it comes to trade and immigration.

I want to bring in CNN international correspondent Paula Newton, who is here with me.

Paula, Prime Minister Trudeau has said he is going to come here with the idea that he is seeking common ground with the new U.S. president.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You bet he is, Ana. He needs the common ground. I mean, in Canada's case, in terms of trade, 75 percent of everything Canada exports comes to the United States. It's an existential threat for Canada if President Trump makes good on any of these trade threat that had been made to other countries.

So what's going on in Canada, in terms of trying to have a thriving North American economy, Justin Trudeau is trying to say all the right things. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We both got elected on commitments to strengthening the middle class and support those working hard to join it. And that's what we are going to be focus on in these meetings, making sure that millions of good middle class jobs on both sides of our boarder, that are dependent on the smooth flow of goods and services and people back across our border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: It looks cold.

NEWTON: Essentially, Ana. He was on a tour of the far north there, and that was where he was happened to be asked that question. But, you know, a lot of people are looking at the optics of this, Ana. I mean, you can't get a leader perhaps who is more different in a way from Donald Trump. And especially, he is a multi-literalist. He is a liberal progressive. Half of the women in his - a half of his cabinet is filled with women. He has the Sikh defense minister. These are the (INAUDIBLE). And yet, Ana, they have been so disciplined, so studious, not just him, all of his cabinet members have said, look, you do not criticize Donald Trump. You do not criticize U.S. policy. I can tell you I have tried a million times to talk to him about it, it had not worked and they were like that even before the election.

CABRERA: And while he may be careful not to criticize, he still has said something about Donald Trump's travel ban and not necessarily in agreement with what the president has done here?

NEWTON: In a way. And our viewers can parse for themselves. I mean, what was making a lot of news when the travel ban came in is that Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted that look, Canada, we can put that tweet up right now. He is saying, look, to those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. #welcometoCanada.

Let's not get too excited here. Remember the night of the election that the Canadian immigration site crashed. And right now, this is very serious in terms of we are seeing the numbers at certain border points in Canada, double and triple, from people not presenting themselves to the border but sneaking into Canada and making refugee claims when they get there.

CABRERA: From where?

NEWTON: From the United States. And so, they are doing it across the (INAUDIBLE), but also in (INAUDIBLE) through New York state into Quebec through Vermont into Quebec.

This is an issue that will come up tomorrow. And the point is, you know, Justin Trudeau is a son of a former Canadian prime minister. His father would always say, Ana, the United States of the elephant or the mouse. What happened in this - that elephant just move a little bit? You get crash. So the point is they are going to be incredibly careful. And even I have spoken to officials about this influx even on the border, again, all of this, you know, outcome of the travel ban, being very quiet about that as well.

CABRERA: Interesting. Yes, it will be interesting to hear what comes out of their meeting tomorrow and what their message is looking forward.

Thank you so much, Paula Newton. Good to see you here.

Coming up, Senator Al Franken's blunt statements with the president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lies a lot. He says things that aren't true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Why he says both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about the president's mental health.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:25:28] CABRERA: We have live pictures right now. Air Force one just landed at Joint base Andrews outside of Washington D.C. President Trump returning home after a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago with stay with the Japanese prime minister.

Now, Mr. Trump has a busy week ahead, including that first face-to- face meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tomorrow. And live pictures. Are we going to see the president settling off here? He also has a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Again, live pictures from air force one, President Trump arriving back in Washington, D.C. tonight.

Thanks for staying with us here in the CNN NEWS room. I'm Ana Cabrera.

Democratic senator Al Franken says President Trump's repeated claims of voter fraud have not only Democrats but some of his Republican colleagues now questioning the president's mental health. Here's what he told Jake Trapper this morning on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Is it true that Republican colleagues of yours express concern about President Trump's mental health?

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: A few.

TAPPER: Really?

FRANKEN: Yes. It is not the majority, but it's a few.

TAPPER: In what way?

FRANKEN: In the way we all have this suspicion that, you know, that he's not, he lies a lot. He says things aren't true. That's the same as lying, I guess. He, you know, three to five million people voted illegally. There's a new one about people going into Massachusetts.

TAPPER: Thousands and thousands in a bus, yes.

FRANKEN: Yes. And, you know, that is not the norm for a president of the United States or actually for a human being. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: We should note, CNN cannot confirm Franken's assertion that a few of his colleagues have expressed these concerns.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN political commentator and former communications director for Ted Cruz Alice Stewart. Also with us, "New York Times" contributor Wajahat Ali.

Alice, I will start with you. The president obviously doesn't want a headline like this out there, even if he thinks it's absolutely ridiculous, how does he combat it?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You combat it just by taking it head on. Look, it is unequivocal facts matter, and that goes for whether they are spoken by the president, the administration or those in the media. And it's important that everyone be factual. And while on occasion, the situation of the story line may have changed from the president. But for members of the Senate or members of Congress to question his mental health, that's uncalled for. That is reprehensible and there should not be any of that. And I think for this to continue, I think it's just disrespectful and uncalled for in the presidential arena.

[19:30:18] CABRERA: Wajahat, what do you make of it?

WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, I don't know Donald Trump. I don't think Alice knows him. And I don't think Al Franken does. But you know does know him, who has been friends with him for 20 years and Donald Trump attended his wedding? Howard Stern. And Howard Stern said the following.

Quote "Donald Trump has a very sensitive ego." And the president, he quote, "will be detrimental to his mental health because he wants to be liked. He wants to be loved. He wants people to cheer for him." And also he said, last time I checked, Donald Trump was Democrat, pro- Clinton and very pro-abortion. So a, either Donald Trump has a multiple personality disorder because he is saying everything else differently. Or b, he might be delusional because I love this, I don't know why people don't pick this up. The day after he was inaugurated, he goes to the CIA. And he says the rain stopped when I came out and spoke, and then the sun came out. And then when I stopped speaking, the rain came out again.

That's either a lie or he is delusional because we were all there which should terrify all Americans. So I think these concerns about his mental health or his pathological lying about three million illegals who allegedly voted for Clinton right before they did the Bowling Green massacre, should have us all concerned.

CABRERA: Wajahat, we did hear again Stephen Miller, senior policy advisor to President Trump, doubling down on the unsubstantiated voter fraud claims this morning on ABC's "This Week." Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR: Voter fraud is a serious problem in this country, you have millions of people who are registered in two states, who are dead and registered to vote, and you have 14 percent of noncitizens, according to academic research, at a minimum are registered to vote, which is an astonishing statistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't make -- hold on a second. You just claimed again that that was illegal voting in New Hampshire from people bussed from the state of Massachusetts. Do you have any evidence of that?

MILLER: I'm saying anybody -- George, go to New Hampshire, talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problems in New Hampshire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: For the president right now, we are looking at live pictures as he walks off the plane, air force one back in Washington, D.C.

Back to you, Wajahat, when you hear Stephen Miller come out and continuing to fuel the narrative of voter fraud in the U.S., not just voter fraud, but widespread voter fraud, what's your response?

ALI: Lies, shameless lies, it's pathetic, and voter fraud which doesn't exist is really threatening to Republicans because they want to engage in voter suppression with voter ID laws against African- Americans in places like North Carolina. So Donald Trump has an out here. He can simply say I was mistaken. You know what? There weren't illegal votes. Guess what, guys? I won the election. I won. I can relax.

But I'm so fixated on proving the biggest of everything, my fingers, my hand, the crowd sizes that I will now lie and have Sean Spicer lie and now have Stephen Miller lie, and talk about voter fraud. And he identified voter fraud as voting in two different states being registered in two different states. You know who else is registered in other states? Steve Bannon and his son-in law Jared Kushner. It happens all the time.

So if you are going to go against voter fraud, if you find out there is voter fraud, you got go first after president Bannon and Jared Kushner.

STEWART: Just because you are registered in two states, doesn't mean you are voting in both of those states.

ALI: No.

CABRERA: But there have been instances in which we know that that has happened and there are cases of that voter fraud, not widespread, however.

Alice, go ahead.

STEWART: I think it's important to remember where this began. When there first became questions about voter regularities and Russian hacking in the elections, President Trump was frustrated, understandably so, because he felt that that was a way to delegitimize his victory. And that's what start in questions and conversations and talk about voter fraud. And it's morphed into what we have now which is repeated claims about millions of people that voted illegally and voter fraud which I, myself, don't believe there's evidence of that. I have worked as deputy secretary of state, and these elections are run state by state. And it's virtually impossible to have such widespread voter fraud as they are claiming.

But that being said, if they truly feel that, give us some kind of evidence so we can have can continue to have faith and this investigation that plan to carry out. So we will understand, OK, there is actually - there. And I think if they were to do that they would get a lot more run way on the story. Otherwise, I think it would be more important for them to focus on what we just saw in the split screen. It was a successful weekend with the Japanese prime minister where they worked on building a strong relationship with them and facing what we saw this weekend, ballistic missile testing from North Korea and showing a strong front. Those are the kind of things that are positive that he should be focusing on instead and not destructing from other things that - to this point, not a lot of people put a lot of credibility in.

[19:35:04] CABRERA: And if there is evidence of that widespread voter fraud, I think we all agree, we welcome it. Bring it.

Alice, "SNL" had a sketch last night featuring the president having his day in court over that blocked travel ban. Let's talk about that issue after we take a look at that sketch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, look, I have read the ban, OK. It seemed rushed even to me, and I decide three court cases in an hour, OK. I see no evidence that it will help. So I'm sorry to say --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to settle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to settle out of court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They always settle Pocahontas and so are you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Sir, no I won't. And let me just say, you are doing too much, OK. I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So she says, you're doing too much. "SNL" poking fun at how much we have been covering in just the past three weeks. Alice, what's your response?

STEWART: I think on one hand it's good that they are following through on campaign promises. They are promise keepers, as the vice president continues to say. A lot of what he told voters that he would do with regard to securing the border and building the wall and repealing and replacing Obamacare. And putting up good strong in cabinet members. He is following through on that and that's a positive sign. And also the measures he made, the executive orders with regard to law and order and safety and protecting our law enforcement officers, those are things that are sorely need in this country.

But at the same time, with regard to the travel ban executive order, they could have taken a little bit more time to make sure that the legalities of that were sound on the front end and make sure all the Ts were cross and Is were dotted in arguing that first people there. All of that unfortunately before the courts, we would be in a much different situation. But I do strongly believe the law is on their side with the travel ban. And I think if they rework the executive order they will be successful and won't face legal challenges if they were to rewrite it and go about it another time.

CABRERA: Wajahat, do you agree?

ALI: No. I think, instead of issuing these executive orders it would be nice if he actually wrote them and didn't rely on Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. And it would be nice if he actually understood how the law works. And it would be nice if he actually took his intelligence briefing and didn't tweet against John Lewis and Republicans and so called federal judges and advocate for the purchase of Ivanka's clothes and, you know, go against Nordstrom and all the other step.

But look. He doesn't know what he was doing. This shows rank incompetence of his administration. I agree with Alice, that had they reworked it, he would have a better chance. But it is an unconstitutional Muslim ban. Let's call it what it is, a Muslim ban. And it was beautiful to see Donald Trump who loves litigation, get totally trumped, anonymously, in a 29 page beat down, legal ruling by the ninth circuit court, 3-0 unanimous ruling which took the time not only to focus on the narrow ruling of the TRO, the temporary restraining order, but also remind the President Trump that there's a judiciary checks and balances and separation of powers and he's not the emperor.

CABRERA: Got to leave there, guys.

Alice Stewart, Wajahat Ali, got to get in a break here. Appreciate you both in offering your thoughts to us tonight.

Coming up from political fireworks to late night parodies, take a look at Sean Spicer's tough week as White House press secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the silliest thing I have ever heard. SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: OK, this is silly. OK,

next. OK, thank you. You have asked your question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:10] CABRERA: After a much-hyped debut, actress Melissa McCarthy was back on "SNL" last night again playing White House press secretary Sean Spicer where she likes to call him, Spicy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here is how it's going to go down, you have got your TSA agent right here, OK. And first you got Barbie coming in. Nice American girl, back from a dream vacation. We know she is OK because she is blond. And she gets in. Easy, we understand that perfect. Now who's up next? It's Melana. Whoa, slow your roll, honey. And then we are going to pattern down and we are going to read her emails and if we don't like the answers, which we won't, boom, Guantanamo Bay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I mean, how does she do it without reacting herself to how ridiculous all of this is?

That "SNL" parity got their rough week though got the real life White House press secretary has combated exchanged with the White House press corps have almost become daytime TV with the "New York Times" putting it this way.

The soap opera at the White House is outscoring actual soaps like "General Hospital" and "the Bold and the beautiful." Mr. Spicer's rating in fact are on par with prime time entertainment like "Master Chef Junior" on FOX and the ABC sitcom "Dr. Ken" which draw around four million viewers each. Here's a taste of why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Audience comment were about that the president doesn't have time to tweet about everything. He's tweeting about this.

SPICER: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not tweeting about something else.

SPICER: I came out here and actually spoke about it and said the president spoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the president's time?

SPICER: You're equating me addressing the nation here in a tweet? I mean that's the silliest thing I have ever heard. OK. This silly. OK, next. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So after that happened here were the headlines.

From "Politico," Sean Spicer loses his cool with the press.

From "GQ," Donald Trump can't help but make Sean Spicer's life miserable.

And from "the Washington Post," Sean Spicer went full Melissa McCarthy today.

I want to bring in CNN media analyst Bill Carter.

Bill, can you remember of another time when a White House press secretary has a week like this?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: No. I honestly can't - I mean, you know, I guess the plus side for Sean is that he's the best known press secretary in memory, but the down side, the bad side that he is kind of a laughing stock. And I don't know how he gets out from under the characterization now, other than I think embracing it. I don't think being combative is working. I think it is only making it worse in the sense that people say, wow, he is doing what he is doing Melissa McCarthy now.

CABRERA: Yes. Because this is the Trump administration, are people being maybe hyper critical?

[19:45:06] CARTER: Well, I do think that the Trump administration is now being scrutinized for everything they do, because as you showed in the earlier clip, it seems like every hour there's a new alert based on something that is happening, that people are like, just, they just makes their head spin.

So, you know, (INAUDIBLE) is being called on themselves. But yes, it's a critical eye being turned on it. I don't think you can deny that. And I think if you're talking about "Saturday Night Live," especially, you are talking about, you know, the premier satirical entertainment in the country right now which has, you know, come into itself again in the biggest way. It's been in years. I mean, the ratings are spectacular right now for "Saturday Night Live." You are talking about ratings. You know, they had the highest ratings last night than they have had in six years. So it's really very successful for them.

CABRERA: Now "Vanity Fair" went as far as to declare Spicer President Trump's very own Baghdad Bob, a reference to Saddam Hussein's former spokesperson. How big of a PR problem does Spicer have?

CARTER: He has a bad problem because the press has now decided, first of all, that they don't believe a lot of what he says, because a lot of what he says has proven to be wrong, including things about fraudulent voting, et cetera. But also, he is having trouble. He is just having trouble talking. There was another, you know, video of him, collected mistakes which again, she may reference, Melissa McCarthy, trying to pronounce names and messing them up. He is just getting to be a punching bag. And you know, being portrayed as Baghdad Bob is just about the worst thing you can think of a press spokesman right now because basically that means nothing he says is credible.

CABRERA: I can't help but feel bad for him being somebody who is on TV and knowing the kind of scrutiny people are sometimes thrown at you. How effective though has Melissa McCarthy's portrayal on "SNL" been at shaping public opinion of Sean Spicer?

CARTER: I think it has been tremendously effective in the sense that people don't really know the press secretary. I mean, they watched him a little bit, because he made sort of noise by attacking the press. And then she comes on and it was a big surprise. The first time she comes out was the big surprise. So really it was explosive. And now she comes back and repeats it. And it's like really pounding him over the head with a sledgehammer. I think he is under duress.

And I do think it's interesting of the story that he asked about using a water gun with the press, and that would have been a good idea, I think, because of what at least said he is playing along. Playing along is the best way to get out from under this. I hope he can fight it.

CABRERA: OK. Let's move on from "SNL" real quick.

A newspaper in the Dominican Republic had to apologize for using a photo of Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump as president, instead of a photo of the actual president. What's your reaction to that?

CARTER: I mean, it is an incredible mistake, obviously. But it sort of, again, gets to the point that people are crossing over, and they have something that the Alec Baldwin impression is being seen by an enormous number of people. And so, you know, some foolish person in the Dominican Republic made that mistake. But boy, it just - it underscores that there's just not a lot of real serious thoughtful stuff going on in terms of the way people are reacting to this president. They are reacting in really visceral ways. They either love him or they hate him. It's really extreme.

CABRERA: All right. Bill Carter, good to have you. Thanks so much.

CARTER: Anytime. Thanks.

CABRERA: Quick break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:36] CABRERA: From the president's tease of a new tax plan to a heated debate over his labor nominee, CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans tells us the top things to know before the bell tomorrow.

Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. The president giving the stock market rally new life. Wall Street

wanted a pivot back to pro-growth policies and away from immigration controversy. And the president's photo-op with airline executives included one particular sentence that gave them hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will be announcing something over the next two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A tax cut plan in two to three weeks, that was a key moment there and the Trump rally could roll on if the administration keeps talking tax cuts. White House press secretary Sean Spicer says it will be the most comprehensive reform since Ronald Reagan was in office. Now, that maybe the goal, but getting it done is a whole different story. And investors will be paying close attention.

Also this week, confirmation hearings for labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder. He is the CEO of the company that runs Hardies (ph) and Carl's Junior. On Capitol Hill, he will face Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who are both on the committee hosting his hearing. Senator Chuck Schumer asked him to withdraw his nomination, saying putting him in charge of enforcing American labor laws is like hiring the FOX to guard the Hen House. Expect Democrats to cast him as a greedy burger baron who flows labor law for process. One of his biggest supporters, though, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says Pudzer would be one of the most qualified labor secretaries in history, a big complement. McConnell's wife was labor secretary under President Bush. She is now secretary of transportation -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Christine Romans, thank you.

Coming up, what do Sean Spicer and Beyonce have in common? The answer might surprise you. The politics at tonight's Grammy next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:58:09] CABRERA: Awards shows have been very politics this year. And the Grammys tonight will likely be no exception. And while most of the nominees like they didn't vote for President Trump, it almost sounds like their songs were written about the Trump White House.

Jake Tapper brings us this week's state of the Cartoonian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): This year's Grammy nominees are quite relevant to our current political situation. Perhaps President Trump was channeling Adele's mega hit "Hello" when he called president Putin.

Perhaps White House press secretary Sean Spicer was thinking about Beyonce's hit "formation" when he criticized the state department officials over the controversial travel ban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that they should get with the program or they can go.

TAPPER: Rihanna's popular song, "Work." It might have been motivation for senior counselor Kellyanne Conway's comments about her many, many media appearances.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I have been spoken literally millions of words on TV, I'm sure. I have been on CNN over a thousand times in my career, I'm sure.

TAPPER: And is it possible, White House senior strategist Steve Bannon is channeling demi Levato?

Just think of our current White House drama using those beautiful songs and maybe it will be much easier to listen to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Jake Tapper, where do you find the time?

That's going to do it for me.

Up next on CNN, it's a "PARTS UNKNOWN" marathon. Anthony Bourdain travels to Rome, Sicily, and the great island Buena's Aires, back to back episode coming at you next.

I'm Ana Cabrera. It is so great to have you with me. I hope you have a wonderful week.

Good night.