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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Returns to Campaign Mode, Touting U.S. Jobs; White House Chaos Slows Search for Flynn Replacement; FBI's Comey Talks Russia in Closed-Door Senate Briefing; Hundreds Detained by Immigration Officers; Former CIA Chief Petraeus A Possible Flynn Replacement; White House Chaos Slows Hunt For Flynn Replacement; Trump: "Fake News Media" Is "Enemy Of The American People"; Trump Returns To Campaign Mode, Touting U.S. Jobs; Case Over Trump's Brand Raising Ethics Concerns. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 17, 2017 - 17:00   ET

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


SCIUTTO: -- Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Brianna Keilar in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:08] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, boot and rally. After another frustrating and contentious week, including the firing of one of his top aides, President Trump gets out of Washington for a long weekend of campaign-style visits and speeches touting jobs and America first.

National security chaos. A top candidate to replace Michael Flynn takes himself out of consideration, reportedly put off by the chaos at the White House. Who's willing to take the job and take on some of the president's most trusted aides?

Dispatching his deputies. The vice president and the secretaries of state and defense hit the road for important visits with U.S. allies and adversaries. What messages are they bringing about the new president and how he is changing U.S. policy?

And what's in a name? After a decade-long fight, Beijing finally allows the Trump Organization to put its name on construction projects in China. What is behind the sudden switch? And will it cause ethics problems for the Trump brand?

Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight President Trump is in campaign mode. His visit to the Boeing aircraft plant in South Carolina had the look and feel of a political rally. The president bragged that jobs in the country have surged since his election. He also avoided all the contentious questions and issues that he left behind at the White House.

Still, the president seems to be having trouble with one job in particular, and that is replacing his fired national security advisor, Michael Flynn. CNN is told a top candidate took himself out of the running, because the atmosphere at the White House seems chaotic.

And we're also following the growing fear and anxiety over immigration raids that rounded up hundreds of people illegally living in the U.S. Are more raids ahead as the Trump administration follows through on promises to crack down on illegal immigration?

And we're following new ethics questions now that China, after a ten- year fight, finally changed its position on allowing the Trump Organization to put its name on construction projects there. We're going to speak tonight with Texas congressman and Intelligence Committee member Joaquin Castro. He was briefed by immigration officials this week. And we have our correspondents, analysts and guests with full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with CNN's Jim Acosta and President Trump's switch back into campaign mode.

What's the thinking there at the White House, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, now four week into his administration, President Trump is trying to get back on track so the president is returning to what worked during the campaign, hitting the road and getting in touch with voters. But it's just a short break from the controversies waiting for him right here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is hitting the reset button, big league.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to fight for every last American job.

ACOSTA: The president tried to steer his administration back on message, talking jobs at a Boeing jet factory in South Carolina, all part of a concerted effort in the coming days to put a turbulent first month in office behind him.

TRUMP: God bless you. May God bless the United States of America, and God bless Boeing.

ACOSTA: Noticeably absent from the speech at the Boeing plant...

TRUMP: It's all fake new. It's all fake news. Russia is fake news. Russia -- this is fake news put out by the media.

The news is fake, because so much of the news is fake.

I'm changing it from fake news, though.

ACOSTA (on camera): Doesn't that undermine...

TRUMP: Very fake news.

ACOSTA (voice-over): ... his attacks on the media that dominated his bombastic news conference at the White House...

TRUMP: The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water.

ACOSTA: ... where the president was firing off in all directions.

TRUMP: In the old days, when I made a speech, I got paid a lot of money. Now I have to do it for nothing. So not a good deal.

ACOSTA: But the president, who will be down in Florida for the weekend once again, won't be able to escape his nagging problems at the White House, where he's still in search for a national security advisor. One candidate offered the job, retired Admiral Bob Harward turned down the position, sources say, because of the chaos in the administration, calling the offer an expletive sandwich. A senior administration official said there was zero truth to that, pointing to Harward's explanation that he was passing due to family considerations.

For now, retired General Keith Kellogg will serve as the acting national security advisor and is very much in play to stay on permanently, the president tweeted.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're talking to a lot of people, but there's also General Kellogg, who's there. He's a three- star. He's extraordinarily talented. He's been on the team. He's also been the chief of staff of the NSC. So he's also very much in contention.

But he's doing the job right now. It's not -- just to be clear, it's not vacant. I mean, with the job -- Kellogg is doing the job, and he's an extraordinary man.

[17:05:04] ACOSTA: The White House is also looking to clamp down on its messaging, hiring veteran GOP operative Mike Dubke to become communications director, removing that role from press secretary Sean Spicer, who was trying to do both jobs at once. Top Republicans on Capitol Hill say they're looking forward to more discipline from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not a great fan of daily tweets. I've not been a fan of the extra discussion that he likes to engage in. But we're going to soldier on. We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And as for the president not referring to the fake news media during that speech in South Carolina, Brianna, I guess the president just could not resist. Let's put this up on screen. In the last hour the president posted this tweet, the top one. He actually deleted it in a few minutes, but then reposted it again. He says, "The fake news media is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people. Sick." The first one there is the one he deleted.

The second one is the one he just reposted a few moments ago. And the only real difference there is that he added a few more news outlets. I suppose he felt, Brianna, that he left some out.

Of course, fact check here, Brianna, we are not the enemy. That goes without saying.

But meanwhile, the other part of the president's reset attempt this weekend will take place tomorrow when he holds a campaign rally in Florida. Advisories for that event, Brianna, are coming from the president's campaign website, giving the impression that he's already thinking about four more years when many people in this town are wondering can he last four more week -- Brianna.

KEILAR: We should point out no "SICK" in all caps in the second tweet. You don't have room for that, of course, when you add other Twitter handles.

Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

ACOSTA: I'm feeling well. So that part's true.

KEILAR: Very good. Jim Acosta at the White House for us.

Let's get more on the fired national security advisor Michael Flynn. Barbara Starr is looking into why this job has become so hard to fill. What are you hearing, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.

All indications are that President Trump will take a look at some of the leading candidates during his weekend stay in Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

But his challenge now is finding a marquee name to fill the job.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The firing of Michael Flynn as national security advisor has thrown the White House into an urgent and so far unsuccessful search to fill one of the most important jobs in the barely month-old administration.

TRUMP: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.

STARR: President Trump thought he had the problem solved at his White House press conference.

TRUMP: I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position.

STARR: But just hours later, in a stunning "thanks but no thanks," retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a highly respected former Navy SEAL, turned down the job. Publicly, Harward said financial and family considerations governed his turndown. But senior military officers rarely turn down a president.

A friend of Harward said he was reluctant to take the job because the White House seems chaotic. Senator John McCain also highly critical of the White House.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think there is significant dysfunction in the national security apparatus of the Trump administration.

STARR: A Republican official told CNN that Harward wanted assurances he could have his own White House team. The presence of Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, who now has a permanent seat on the National Security Council, will be a challenge for whoever takes the job.

The White House says there was never a formal offer to Harward and it's considering other candidates, including retired General Keith Kellogg, who's filling the job temporarily. President Trump tweeting, "General Keith Kellogg, who I've known for a long time, is very much in play for NSA, as are three others." Retired General David Petraeus also said to still be in the running.

But with the potential for a crisis from North Korea, Iran, or Russia at any time, the urgency to put an advisor into place is only growing.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm very concerned that we still have a hole in this position in the National Security Council staff has not been organized.

STARR: Perhaps the most dire assessment from General Tony Thomas who runs Special Operations, saying earlier this week, "Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I'm concerned our government be as stable as possible."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And tonight, some additional names emerging as possible contenders. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is pushing John Bolton, a one- time acting U.N. ambassador, but Mr. Bolton and Mr. Trump had very different views about the war in Iraq.

[17:10:08] Another name emerging, very interesting, Army three-star General H.R. McMasters. Very respected, knows his business, very competent, by all accounts, someone very well known in military and intelligence circles, and because he's active duty, he's a general who would not be allowed to say no to the president -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Very interesting. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

With us now to discuss all of this more is Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees. And I want to start on intelligence, Congressman, as we are just learning that members of the Senate intel committee received a briefing from the FBI director, from James Comey, and the subject was Russia.

Is this a briefing that House intel members, committee members like yourself are going to receive or have received?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: I certainly hope so. Obviously I don't know what was discussed in that meeting, but both the House and the Senate want to have full and fair investigations into the connection between Russia and the hacking of the 2016 presidential election. And also, Brianna, there's a fundamental question that every American

deserves an answer to, which is this. Were there any Americans who conspired with the Russian hackers who interfered with our 2016 presidential election? And if so, those Americans should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, no matter how high up the chain it goes. So, I hope that this meeting is getting closer -- getting us closer to figuring that out.

KEILAR: Do you have any sense that there is maybe some new information, possibly even pertaining to what your question is right there? Because all of the senators walked out of this meeting, and obviously, you know, this is very sensitive information. But they were extremely reluctant even to talk in general terms with reporters. Does that say maybe there is some new information to you?

CASTRO: It's quite possible. Of course, anyone who's on the House or Senate Intelligence Committee is often very careful about what information they divulge. There is a criminal penalty that you can be subject to if you divulge classified information.

But I think everybody wants to be sure that we not only have the investigation, but that it moves ahead at a brisk pace. And when you start hearing leaks and media reports about stuff that you've not been briefed on at all, and have no clue about, you start to wonder whether you're being -- you're receiving all of the information that you should.

KEILAR: The House Intelligence Committee seems to be differing when it comes to the Senate side about what they're going to be looking at. There's this -- many questions about Russia, including Russian meddling in the election. And listening to the Republican-led Senate side, it seems like they're more interested in just what Russia's role has been.

Chairman Burr has dismissed this idea that they're going to look into leaks, which is certainly what President Trump wants Congress to look into.

But then on the House side, on your side, we have conflicting reporting. Our Manu Raju says the chairman of your committee is saying he's not going to be looking into discussions between Trump and Flynn. He's interested in leaks.

And then Jason Chaffetz, the head of Oversight, says actually the House Intel Committee is going to take the lead on Russian intel; and oversight is going to look at leaks and Flynn issues. Do you have an idea of which is which?

CASTRO: Well, you know, myself and many other House Democrats advocated -- and I believe some Senate Democrats advocated -- for an independent bipartisan commission to take this out of the hands of both the Senate and House committees. Neither -- that has not been approved in either chamber at this point.

But, you know, whether it's done completely in Oversight -- you couldn't do all of it completely in Oversight because you have classified stuff -- or it's handled in the Intelligence Committee, we have to do everything we can to get to the bottom of the question that I presented. And it should be a full investigation. It should be about the relationship between anybody in the Trump campaign and Russia, the government, and Russian intelligence agencies. I think it's also fair to consider the leaks.

But I've got to say this. My fear is that some of this information may be leaked by folks, because they fear that the investigation is not moving at the pace at which it should. And, so, there's a danger if people feel like there's no other way for it to get out, then they're going to force it out.

KEILAR: And you say a look at the leaks may be fair. But I also wonder, looking at the other side, you also seem sympathetic to people who are leaking based on what they're leaking.

On the other side of this, if you were to imagine that Democrats were in charge of both chambers of Congress, and the president was Democratic, and there were leaks coming out that were counter to that president, I can just imagine Democrats taking this exact same tact with all of this.

[17:15:03] CASTRO: You know, there's no doubt that in politics parties sometimes will circle the wagons to protect the president, for example. But at some point, when the evidence becomes compelling, you've got to do the right thing and put your country above your political party. And with Russia and what happened in the 2016 election, it's time for everybody to do that now.

KEILAR: All right. We have many more questions with you. And as always, we have new developments coming in. So Congressman Joaquin Castro, stick with us. We'll be back after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: And we are back now with Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro as we follow some reports of growing anxiety over President Trump's immigration reforms.

[17:20:09] Federal agents have been busy, rounding up hundreds of people who have been living in the U.S. without proper documentation. Congressman Castro, you -- and we should mention to our viewers, you're on the Intel Committee -- you attended a meeting yesterday with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. What did you learn? What can you tell us?

CASTRO: Well, it was a meeting with both Republicans and Democrats. The Hispanic Caucus had originally requested a meeting, and the ICE director and ICE had agreed to do it. And then that meeting got cancelled, and the caucus was told that it had to be a bipartisan meeting and that only certain Democrats could attend.

So I was able to attend, thanks to my friend and ranking member, Adam Schiff, who is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. I was basically his designee in that meeting. But what we learned is this. Basically, the only people who aren't

fair game at this point, as far as I could tell after that meeting, are DACA recipients who have absolutely clean records. So, for example, there have been a few DACA recipients that have been picked up in the last few days by ICE. Those are folks who...

KEILAR: And this, we have to be clear, Deferred Action for Children. So folks who were brought in..

CASTRO: For Childhood Arrivals.

KEILAR: That's right.

CASTRO: Right.

KEILAR: And they've known no other home.

CASTRO: So there are about 700, 800,000 folks who, under the Obama administration, took advantage of the DACA opportunity. So they have, essentially, a status to be here, permission to be here. And so it seemed like the only people they weren't going to go after, had some hesitation about going after, are the DACA recipients; and it's the DACA recipients who basically have a spotless record, who don't have some perceived gang affiliation or any kind of other offense.

We looked down a list of the folks that were rounded up, what offenses they had committed. On there were things like trespassing, traffic tickets; obviously, some major offenses. So we left there, many of us, with the impression that -- that, you know, they're basically going to target as many people as they can, based upon the budget that the Congress will give them.

KEILAR: But...

CASTRO: The ICE director...

KEILAR: ... Secretary Kelly says that 75 percent of the people who have been rounded up are -- that these are serious criminals. And you tweeted yesterday, after attending the ICE meeting, "It's hard not to conclude that PresidentTrumphas started his mass deportation plan."

Why do you think that -- why do you think this is different from President Obama, who also deported many, many people, more than George W. Bush, but with an increased focus on criminals?

CASTRO: Well, ICE openly admits that the mandate given to them by our new president, President Trump in his executive order a few weeks ago, is broader. In other words, the mandate to deport -- about who to deport is broader than the Obama mandate. You're right, the Obama mandate was to focus on criminals.

There's also a debate over the definition of what constitutes a criminal. I think most of us, when we think of a criminal, we think of somebody who -- who committed a robbery; certainly a murderer, a rapist. Under immigration law, basically, anybody who's caught in the country and leaves and then comes back has a felony on their record, so they are now considered a criminal, for example.

So when they say "criminal," it doesn't mean people who are necessarily violent or dangerous. It can mean somebody who's had a status violation because of an immigration law.

KEILAR: Let's talk about Senator Ted Cruz. He's been taunting you a bit over reports that you're considering taking him on in his Senate seat. He said during a radio interview this week, "Joaquin is welcome to hop in the race. Come on in; the water is warm." Are you going to jump in there?

CASTRO: Well, you know, I said that I would take about eight more weeks or two months to decide. You know, it's obviously a big undertaking. You're talking about Texas, which is a large state. It's costs a lot of money to run here. But the people of Texas and the people of this country are hungry for change. And Texans most of all want a senator who's going to go to work for them every day and not just work for his own political ambitions. And so I'm taking a serious look at it.

KEILAR: All right. Well, we'll talk to you about that in about eight weeks, Congressman Joaquin Castro. Thank you so much for being on.

CASTRO: Thank you.

KEILAR: And coming up, one of the most intriguing possibilities in President Trump's hunt for a new national security advisor. Could it mean the comeback of former CIA director David Petraeus?

Also ahead, new ethics questions as China, after a decade-long fight, changes its mind and allows the Trump brand on construction projects.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:29:14] KEILAR: President Donald Trump is in Florida for the weekend, but back at the White House, the search still on for a replacement for fired national security advisor Michael Flynn. And one top possibility for the job took himself out of the running because, we are told by sources, of the chaotic situation at the White House.

Let's bring in our political and national security experts. Phil Mudd, to you first. Part of the issue, as we understand it, we've heard even from David Petraeus, the former CIA director who is up now for this gig, that the person coming in should be able to have discretion over who the staff is. And right now, the White House wants to keep all of these Flynn acolytes in play. Do they need to clean house in order to really attract a top-notch national security advisor?

[17:30:00] PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I don't think so. You can't, at this point a month in, remove every troglodyte who's been put in position by somebody with influence under the president. Let's look at this carefully. You walk into the president's office and you say people who've been loyal for you for some time, I want them to leave, and you've only been in office 30 days.

KEILAR: OK. But what about like a deputy, like a couple key deputies? Like shouldn't someone - should someone - and should someone -

MUDD: Yes.

KEILAR: OK. So, not everybody, it's not a housecleaning.

MUDD: Yes. Yes.

KEILAR: So, what should they be - so, who should they be --

MUDD: I agree with you there. They should be able to bring in that first line for a couple of reasons. Number one, you cannot have people doing end of rounds every time they want to talk to the president because they were with him on a campaign. Number two, the primary responsibility of that National Security Advisor is to ensure discipline across government and within the White House on issues like Iran, China, North Korea. No way you ensure discipline with the egos running around the White House unless those egos say, "I'll get crushed if I don't answer to the boss." So, I would agree, at the top level, you got to have an agreement with the president. They're not my people, and if they walk in without my authorization, throw them out.

KEILAR: What is your read on the names that are being thrown out there, would you like to see more qualified applicants? Do you feel like the names out there are good ones?

MUDD: I think the names I've seen are quite good. I knew Admiral Harward, he would have been a great choice. I think General Petraeus would be a great choice. I don't think the list is going to be that long. And by the way, I've had a few questions about people saying, who should put their names forward? There's a rule of thumb in Washington. If you put your name forward, you're disqualified because that means you want the job too much. Each one of these jobs is a daily enema. You should never apply for the job. You need - you need to have poise and authority to do this. That's very few people in Washington, D.C., and you've got to go toe-to-toe with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, President and Vice-President, very heavy hitters. So, short list and they shouldn't be nominating themselves. The White House should be approaching people saying, do you want this?

KEILAR: (INAUDIBLE) a day to Phil Mudd. (INAUDIBLE) a day to Phil Mudd. We were like what? All right. So, that aside, Mark Preston, you're watching all of this go down. This is such chaos. Is this just a data point and a larger graph?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR: It's a finely-tuned machine. I mean, I don't know what you're talking about chaos. This is not chaos. Now, listen, the bottom line, 50,000 feet looking at how the administration is moving along. And I'll preface this by saying this happens in every administration. It just doesn't happen at this level. It doesn't happen at -- the fact that you don't have people who don't want to go into the administration. A good thing that happened today, thought, where we expect to will happen, is that they're going to get a Communications Director that is very well-respected, low key, kind of behind-the-scenes guy. When that officially gets named and this gentleman gets the job, it's going to upset some on the right, the alt-right that is, because he's considered a mainstream-type of person. But that's - you know, the White House needs some people in there like that.

KEILAR: Yes. And so much work for Sean Spicer. I mean, I don't think a lot of people realize he was doing the coms director job and the press secretary job. It's incredibly too much work for one person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KEILAR: What do you think when it comes to the Nationality Security Advisor of David Petraeus as a possibility?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, some of the reporting that our White House team had last night on this, is that it doesn't seem like everyone inside the west wing is so eager to bring on somebody who has some baggage of his own. And so, we heard David Petraeus -- remember when he was being floated as Secretary of State, he did a tryout on one of the Sunday shows, and he tried out some lines about how he was apologizing for his past behavior with Paula Broadwell, and then - and during the time of the writing of her book -

KEILAR: Yes. He's - I mean, to be clear, he's still under probation until April -

CHALIAN: Exactly, right.

KEILAR: -- because he pled out for sharing classified information.

CHALIAN: And I think one has told our folks, is that the last thing this White House needs is somebody on probation. That being said, David Petraeus obviously has a lot of good, there's no doubt about that. And the guy is a world-respected expert in this field. I just don't know if he is going to be the right person for this White House at this time.

KEILAR: And he's widely regarded, in a bipartisan way, he's brilliant. But these baggage is serious, and I was talking to a democrat today, Jackie Speier, who said, "No way."

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, in the phrase that she used is he shared classified information with his mistress. I mean, that's the thing. Even though Paula Broadwell herself has come out and said, "Listen, he should be given a chance." It seems like given all the controversy that has surrounded this White House and some of the picks so far, and obviously what happened with Michael Flynn, hard - just hard to see them wanting to bring in someone classified information and mistress in the same sentence. It just seems really messy.

KEILAR: Michael Flynn is gone, but this controversy is not gone. You have congressional committees that are going to be looking at this, but they are led by republicans. Are you getting the sense that anything substantive will come out of this or do you expect they're going to pull punches?

[17:34:48] HENDERSON: Well, I think -- you know, I think something substantive could certainly come out of it. Democrats want more of an independent counsel, something like a Select Committee. Mitch McConnell seems reluctant to do that, wanting this to go through the Senate Intelligence Committee. Some serious folks on there. Richard Burr is on there, Marco Rubio, they want to look at this. You know, it's obviously different in the house, they want to look more at the leaks rather than the substance of the leaks. But I think one of the things that's unknown here is what are we going to get more in terms of leaks? And if there is going to be public pressure on these republicans in terms of investigating this even more.

KEILAR: I know you guys were watching Donald Trump today. We're going to talk about this after the break. Is he sort of on this permanent campaign that is going to continue this weekend? And senate republicans pushing through another controversial Trump nominee, but will his old e-mails come back to bite him when they go public next week?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:00] KEILAR: And we are back now with our experts. So, Mark Preston, yesterday, the president spent more than an hour, and a lot of it, he was just blasting the media during this news conference that he had. So, then today, when he was in -- when he was in North Charleston, South Carolina, and he didn't talk about it, it was like, wow! But wait, then there's a tweet, right? OK, here's what he said, "The fake news media failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN, is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people." He can't not -

PRESTON: He can't stop himself, right? I mean, listen, night, yesterday, day today, down in South Carolina, looked presidential, looked unhinged yesterday, you know, looked like he was the leader of the free world, talking about the economy, jobs, what have you. Yesterday unhinged, doesn't talk about the media today until he gets down to Mar-a-Lago. Like you wonder, why he is not on the golf course at this point? You know, why is he out there tweeting?

KEILAR: What do you - what do you make of this? And is this -- is this damaging for him when he had such a focused message today?

CHALIAN: Yes. My question about his obsession with the media and his complete - being completely consumed by concern about his media coverage, is how is that obsession going to help him enact his agenda? I just -- every day, if I were him, I would ask that question. How -- if I send this tweet, if I do this, how am I -- I get that it riles up his supporters. I get - I want to know how it gets Obamacare repeal and - repeal and replace, I want to understand from his thinking, how he thinks that gets the border wall built? That I just think he has such big agenda items, he wants to deliver on the promises, and he can't get away from being totally consumed by his reviews. KEILAR: Because your capital, your fuel is finite. He's got this event on Saturday in Florida paid for by his campaign. So, this is a political event.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KEILAR: Some have said, what's he doing? He's like in permanent campaign mode, but is that really so bad?

HENDERSON: I mean, he needs this. I mean, Kellyanne Conway has talked about angulation of the crowd being his oxygen. He needs the roar of the crowd, he loves it, give and take, so I think for his spirit -- in his spirit and his soul and sort of how he feels about himself, he needs to be in that comfortable environment. I think it's one of the reasons he goes down to Mar-a-Lago so much, because people are coming up to him, you know, club members, how are you doing, Mr. President, you're doing great, and all of that stuff, yes. I mean, it's better for him, I think, to be down there in terms of how he feels about himself. Maybe he's not reading the papers as much, maybe he's not watching Don Lemon either at night, and -

(CROSSTALK)

PRESTON: I bet he's watching Don Lemon at night. Come on.

HENDERSON: He totally is. Yes, I think he's taping it for later, at least. So, yes.

KEILAR: And he's better out of town, right?

HENDERSON: He is. He totally is.

KEILAR: And this is - this is part of it, right? When you're in Washington, it seems almost universal for presidents. It's kind of the worse in a way.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.

KEILAR: Right? You're cooped up.

HENDERSON: Sometimes reporters feel the same way.

KEILAR: Sure.

HENDERSON: You know, you want it get out, you want to able -- you know, see different things. And yes, he -- it's interesting because initially he said he wanted to be in the White House all the time and working. In an interview months ago, he talked about being in the White House -- it's not good for him. He needs to be out. Melania is not there with him. He's like Home Alone meets Citizen Kane when he's there.

KEILAR: And the White House - and Phil, I want you to weigh in on this. I mean, the White House does go with him, right? So, what do you think of this, observing all of this as he's heading out of town and seems to be doing better? MUDD: I think this is pretty straightforward, making this pretty complicated. This is a guy who looks in the mirror and he wants to see Adonis and we see Shrek. I mean, it's not that complicated. Over time, if you look at the value of media, from when I joined - from when I first started watching media, reports from the Vietnam War that brought home to America, what was happening in that war, to what happened with the media in Vietnam, fast forwarding to the free coverage, tens of millions of dollars' worth that the media gave him during the campaign, what we have now is very simple. The man can't take a punch and as soon as the punch gets turned on him, he turns on the people who make him look like Shrek. I think this is pretty simple, we have a narcissistic president that can't take a punch. It ain't hard.

KEILAR: But he has a lot of people who have intense fealty for Donald Trump, who really intensely support him and do not feel that way at all. I mean, when he says that, he is correct.

MUDD: Sure, but look at where we've come in the past year or two, we have a man who owned a brand, that is Trump Hotels, that is great golf courses, that is Trump Wine, that is Trump Water. He could own the way he's presented to the world. Now, he gets to the fish bowl of Washington, D.C. where power is what's important, not money like New York, and he realizes that a lot of people, A, don't respect him, and B, are damaging the brand, not of the company, but of the person. I don't think he can take the transition because he can't own the brand any more.

[17:45:03] KEILAR: What do you think of that?

CHALIAN: Well - and that's why I think we're going to see him on the campaign trail. I think the transition has been hard for him. So he's getting back to the thing where he is most comfortable, where he had the most success in the last year and a half since he got into politics. And he -- yes, I think the adulation is an energy boost for him, but I also think it's an opportunity for him to reframe his agenda, get his prescriptive message forward. We saw it today in North Charleston. I am sure we will see some of it this weekend in Florida as well. And he seems, from our reporting and other people's reporting, he seems frustrated being restricted inside the White House to just 140 characters. That's why he went out to give that press conference yesterday, which was a rant. But now, maybe we're going to see him start sort of campaigning on his agenda again.

KEILAR: I know -- I know another guy who was frustrated by being constrained, and that was President Obama as well. Thank you guys so much, Nia, Mark, David, I keep skipping over you. I did this earlier, too.

MUDD: That's OK.

KEILAR: Phil, thank you guys so much. And still ahead, new questions after the swift resolution of a decade-old fight to allow the Trump organization to put its name on construction projects in China.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:50:00] KEILAR: Even though President Trump separated himself from

his company before taking office, we're following some very interesting new developments involving the use of Trump's name on construction projects in China. And our Brian Todd is following a trademark fight that could have some major repercussions. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this was a trademark fight that Donald Trump had waged for years, a fight that Trump kept losing. But just before the election, Chinese officials mysteriously reversed course, and Trump came out on the winning end. Tonight, ethics watch dogs are warning, "Watch this case closely because China may now want something in return from the president."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The Trump brand in the United States famous for Trump tower, Trump buildings, clothing lines, Trump wine, and at one point, Trump steaks.

TRUMP: I understand steaks. It's my favorite food, and these are the best.

TODD: But in China, Donald Trump doesn't have exclusive rights to his name.

TRUMP: There is nobody that knows how to build like me.

TODD: Tonight, a case in China where Trump tried to win rights to the trademark for his name, is drawing fire from ethics watchdogs. In 2006, Trump applied for the rights to trademark his name for construction services in China. But it was rejected because a Chinese businessman had applied for the Trump name first in the construction realm. Matthew Dresden, a trademark lawyer who studied the case, says Trump kept trying and kept losing.

MATTHEW DRESDEN, INTERNATIONAL TRADEMARK ATTORNEY: His trademark application was rejected, and rejected, and rejected. And he kept appealing, appealing, appealing.

TODD: Then last September, just as he was on the brink of winning the presidency, the other man's Trump trademark was invalidated. By November, Trump's application was pushed through by a Chinese trademark review board. This week, Trump's trademark for construction services was published for registration. Why, after ten years, did Chinese authorities suddenly reverse course?

DRESDEN: The Chinese trademark board does not make these decisions publicly available. So, we don't know on what basis they made their decisions. I think these decisions were not made in a vacuum.

TODD: A spokesperson that the Chinese Embassy in Washington tells CNN, the case was handled in compliance with China's trademark law. But ethics critics say it could look like China gave Trump something of great value, and will want something in return. NORMAN EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS COUNSEL: China is going

to want concessions from Mr. Trump, and now, this is the first and what will probably be a series of efforts to influence him.

TODD: Trump could potentially be violating the constitution, because of a clause that prohibits public servants from accepting gifts of value from foreign governments.

EISEN: I think it's fair for Americans to ask, "Wait a minute, is Mr. Trump going to be influenced in his decision-making by these kinds of gifts?"

TODD: Trump's defenders say he is now even more famous, so he has a better claim to trademarking his brand. In China, the Trump name is already being used to sell luxury toilets. But they're not produced by the Trump organization, and then make no money from them.

SHERI DILLON, TRUMP ORGANIZATION ATTORNEY: The Trump brand is key to the value of the Trump Organization's assets.

TODD: But the latest trademark case is just one of many that have raised questions about whether Trump's continued ownership of the vast Trump empire, exposes him to ethics breaches.

ERIC DEZENHALL, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: Do you want to protect your brand or do you want to make the presidency be something that is above that whole process? It's hard to do both.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: We pressed the White House on the criticism that China might try to leverage president Trump after smoothing the way for his trademark. They referred us to the Trump Organization, and attorney for the Trump Organization told us, the companies had several legitimate trademarks in China for years, that in this case, they were simply trying to protect their trademark from someone who was squatting on it. And the attorney said, the accusation that the president could be compromised by that trademark decision by the Chinese as quote, "Completely baseless and shows a disregard for the facts." Brianna?

KEILAR: Is there any indication, Brian, of just how valuable, when we're talking money, that this trademark is?

TODD: That's kind of hard to get at, Brianna. Even for experts on trademark law. One indication is in a letter that Trump wrote to the then Secretary of Commerce back in 2011, about all of his trademark fights in China. Trump complained that he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to secure his name. And if you look at Trump's fight over this one trademark that we're reporting on, he kept fighting that for ten years, even when he kept losing. That must have been worth something significant to him.

[17:54:59] KEILAR: Brian Todd, thank you so much for that report.

And coming up, a closer look at the chaos in the White House. Sources say it's because of this man, Steve Bannon, a top aide who tends to favor disruption. Also, U.S. Defense officials tell CNN the Kremlin is testing the new administration. How will President Trump react to a spy ship off the coast, as well as other provocations?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Happening now, on the trail, the president escapes the turbulence in Washington to a place where he feels more comfortable campaigning. A day after his testy news conference, the president is launching a new attack on journalists tonight, calling us an enemy of the American people. And on the road, the vice president travels to Europe to reassure allies who have jitters after watching what's been happening in the U.S. Capitol. Are Mike Pence and other top Trump officials sending a different message to the commander-in-chief?