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Trump Pulls U.S. Out of TPP; Trump Claims Illegal Ballots Cost Him Popular Vote; White House Denies Bringing People to Cheer at CIA; Trump's Promises for Day One; Syria's Warring Sides Hold Talks to Save Ceasefire. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:17] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause.

Do you know what this is? This is the third hour of quality news here on CNN. You're watching NEWSROOM L.A.

SESAY: Stay with us.

Good to be back with you.

VAUSE: I'm listening.

SESAY: Even as Donald Trump moves on with the pressing business of the U.S. presidency, he's still struggling to let go of the past. Sources say Mr. Trump told congressional leaders Monday, if not for three to five million illegal ballots, he would have won the popular vote. We should point out there is no evidence to support this claim he just keeps bringing up.

VAUSE: Mr. Trump also welcomed union and business leaders to the White House on Monday and he kept his word on a key campaign promise, officially pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just officially terminated the TPP.


TRUMP: I just a documentary, a very powerful document. And we're going to have trade but we're going to have one-on-one. And if somebody misbehaves, we're going to send them a letter of termination, 30 days and they'll either straighten it out or we're gone.


SESAY: Joining us now, Democratic strategist, Dave Jacobson; and Republican consultant, John Thomas.

VAUSE: Also with us, "CNN Money" Asia-Pacific editor, Andrew Stevens, in Hong Kong; and CNN correspondent, David McKenzie, standing by in Beijing.

Andrew, first to you.

President Trump following through on one of his key campaign promises of withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP. His threats on Monday, the U.S. would sign trade deals only with individual allies.

So, let me ask you this. What are expectations for the U.S. renegotiating bilateral trade deals with 11 other countries that make up the TPP?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: Donald Trump made it pretty clear there, didn't he, that he's going to do one-on-one, and if people don't comply within 30 days, if they breach the rules of that one-on-one, they'll be out of there. He's made it very clear that this is going to be the way forward for him in the wake of the TPP, which was, of course, a 12-member multi-country partnership. The interesting thing here is, when he talks about a one-on-one deal, what does he actually mean, Isha? Because if you look at what he has been saying, he is talking about putting America first, buying American goods first. So what he is saying is, basically, it sounds like, we will negotiate on very much our terms. There used to be a term called mercantilism, which was really a zero-sum game, we win, you lose. That's obviously what Donald Trump is hinting at. It is also that the Japanese prime minister came out after Mr. Trump made that statement saying that they think the way forward on trade deals is to use the architecture, if you like, of the TPP. And Abe is talking about making sure there's proper protection for labor and environmental standards, for intellectual property, et cetera, et cetera. Whether Donald Trump picks that up, we don't know at the moment. But what he signaled, it is going to be a whole new ballgame now for U.S. and the globe in trade.

VAUSE: OK, to David McKenzie is standing by in Beijing.

So, David, it seems the door is now wide open for China to move ahead with its own trade deals and essentially cash in on this decision by the U.S. president.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The big economy on the block, of course, is China. It was not included in those 12 nations that Andrew described. And China now will be seen taking advantage most like of the U.S. pulling back from its economic commitments in the region. But this not just about trade. It's also about politics. And certainly, some of the allies of the U.S., including Japan, in the region, will be thinking potentially that they've been let down by the U.S., who made a big push to get this TPP partnership in the region to try and counteract China's influence in the Asia-Pacific. Now they might try to cobble together TPP without the U.S., but it certainly won't be the -- as strong an option. And it certainly is an opening door for China -- John?


[02:05:00] SESAY: Yeah, David and Andrew, stand by for us.

Let's bring it back to the studio here.

Guys, let me put this to you. The TPP was effectively dead. It hadn't been ratified by Congress anyway. So why make this such a big deal in your first full day in office. What's the message? What's really going on? Is it more about optics than anything else?

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It's 100 percent about optics. This was a big reason got through the primary. He was running a populist agenda to repeal TPP.

It was interesting today. This is a moment when Bernie Sanders congratulated Donald Trump. It's about what Donald Trump said in his inauguration speech about putting Americans first, killing bad trade deals, killing things that hurt American workers. And this is, for Donald Trump, on message. And it's better talking about this than crowd size.

VAUSE: There's been a lot of surreal things happening in the last -


VAUSE: Bernie Sanders praising Donald Trump is the least of them.

But what I don't understand though -- I get getting out of TPP, a campaign promise. But why withdraw from the TPP and hand this huge win to China, while, at the same time, he says he's going to renegotiate NAFTA, the trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico? Surely, if you're going to renegotiate NAFTA, you recognize the benefits of free trade.

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Potentially, yes. Look, I think this was one of the things Donald Trump said he was doing on his first when he had that speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, saying, look, I'm going to rip apart the TPP. It's a widely recognized bipartisan issue. Bernie Sanders campaigned on it. Obviously, Donald Trump did. So, this is one of the few things he said he was going to do on day one that he actually accomplished. But the reality is there are several things that he also said that he was going to do on day one that he has not done, right. He said that he was going to put a term limit ban - pardon me - amendment forward in Congress. He also said he would put a limit on folks who serve in Congress or the White House that they can't lobby for five years. These are things that he has not delivered. I think it will raise real questions about whether or not he will follow through on all his promises. THOMAS: Here's what's fascinating to me about NAFTA, is Trump wrote, "The Art of the Deal," he claims he is a smart businessman, and that America's been having bad deals, and everything needs to be negotiated. So, he is talking about not repealing NAFTA but renegotiating. What does that look like? I think Americans will watch very closely. Can he strike a better deal?

SESAY: Let me ask you this. With withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP, there are going to be American workers thinking things are going to change, right? What happens when they realize, actually, no, it's not going to change, those jobs aren't going to come flooding back. I mean, what does America First look like in reality for people looking for jobs?

JACOBSON: At the same time, he's putting a hiring freeze at the federal level. There are 2.1 million federal employees. He's not going to allow any new employees to come in the federal system. That raises real questions about whether or not he will really stand up for the little guy, for the average worker.

THOMAS: He is, just not the government worker. He's going to stand up


JACOBSON: So he's going to contract out those services though?

THOMAS: Probably.


VAUSE: -- of a Republican president.

OK, let's look at the positives from the first week day of the Trump presidency. A round of meetings with business leaders, also union bosses. We also had the meeting with congressional leaders as well. This is basically being seen as a positive because, Dave, one of the criticisms of President Obama is that he didn't really reach out to these groups. He asked many of these CES who were in the Oval Office, saying how many of you have been in this office before. I think two or three raised their hands.


VAUSE: IF this continues, it's a positive, right?

JACOBSON: I think, generally, the fact that he's opening the doors to the White House and being -- trying to at least be inclusive and bring labor folks and business folks in the White House is a good thing that any president should do. The fact that he flat-out lied to congressional leaders and basically said, well, there was widespread voter fraud, I would have won the popular vote by three to five million votes, had these votes not been put forward, these fraudulent votes. I think that was something widely debunked. I think it really undermines the president's credibility on the heels of several sort of back-to-back lies that White House has put forward. SESAY: John, again, bringing that up, the issue of three to five million illegally, it gets back to his concern about seen as being illegitimate, or not having the mandate.


SESAY: That's what this is all about, right?

THOMAS: 100 percent. And partially, it's an ego thing. He can't ever accept the fact that, in some measurement, one that really doesn't matter in our system, but some measurement, that he didn't come out on top. Whether it's ratings or attendance, he just can't stomach it.

The other good news we saw today was out of the secretary. I think the press conference went well, better than it did on Saturday.


THOMAS: He could have doubled down but he didn't ---


VAUSE: -- the briefing on Monday.

Look, there was a softer tone. He opened with a joke, which fell really flat. While the tone was softer, the substance didn't change. He still repeated the fact the inauguration was the most watched, period. So, he did double down. And then said, we're not going to lie to you. I mean, so, yeah, the tone is different but the substance is the same.

[02:10:04] THOMAS: Well, I think it softened it with saying we all can initially make mistakes. He goes, what I meant was I made a mistake, perhaps, on the visuals but, in fact, looking at the Nielsen ratings, looking at the online view, I still think this was the most watched inauguration.

SESAY: I mean, when you heard that, what went through your mind, when he started talking about tablets and YouTube and all the rest of it? I mean --

THOMAS: I thought that was the argument that, if they went down that rat hole that he should have made at the outset, rather than defending it, saying something that could be fact checked. It's just the truth. There were more people with Barack Obama than there with Trump. Why do they have to go down that rat hole? And I'll tell you why, because the boss tells the spokesperson to go out and fight the fight.

JACOBSON: But here is the challenge. Like, he lost all credibility. What he should have done today is gone out on the podium and said, folks, American folks, people, I am sorry, I lied. I apologize. Let's move forward.






VAUSE: Another alternative fact on the president over the weekend at the CIA headquarters, Mr. Trump said the media created this rift between him and the intelligence community. There was a huge round of applause when he said that. Listen to this.


TRUMP: As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.




TRUMP: Right?



VAUSE: OK, so on Saturday, White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer, said there was a raucous standing ovation by the audience that was there and that they're overwhelmingly enthusiastic about having Donald Trump as their commander-in-chief. We've had a report now from CBS News that the Trump folks actually took about 40 of their own supporters there. They staked it. They were the ones doing all the cheering and all the clapping. Many in the intelligence community, which stay clear of the politics, were very concerned about what the Trump people were doing.

Again, we've got this continued deception about the popularity of the president, and it goes to the core of this administration. Why do they have to continue on with this narrative?

JACOBSON: It's pathetic. And I think it really fans the flames of this growing rift between the president and the intelligence committee -- I mean, the community. The reality is that it was just a week ago that he compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany, and the fact that they were having a quote, "witch hunt" for him. This thing really undermines the credibility of the presidency, of the office, and the fact of the matter is, Donald Trump needs the intelligence community to have a good relationship with him because he needs their intelligence in order to keep us safe.

SESAY: I want to play sound from Sean Spicer, the White House spokesperson, as he hangs on the question about the administration's intention of deceiving the populous about the popularity of the new president.

VAUSE: Stacking the audience.

SESAY: Stacking the audience, yeah.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The people who were working the cameras, those were CIA employees?

SPICER: Honestly, I don't have a seating chart. I think we had a very small footprint going over there. I do not know exactly who went over. I don't know, maybe 10 people at the most. Sarah was there.

10? Were in the travel going over.


VAUSE: Hands up who believes him?


SESAY: Again, he's caught again in something that can be checked, something that is verifiable. Why do it?


THOMAS: That's the great question. They should. If you're going to fudge the truth, do it on things that are more nebulous, with your perception versus mine. Not things with photographs, nothing that can - potentially, media can go back and perhaps get a seating chart, right? Those are the things that are distractions from press conferences like on the TPP when jobs are saved or created here. Trump understands, and you saw it in his inauguration speech, he wants to be the America First jobs president. That is what he wants to be. All of these are sideshows. It's this confliction between Trump can't help himself with he understands where he wants to be on message, and he has to get his act together because it will undermine him. There's a lot more of you guys than him.

VAUSE: Can we establish here and now that it is not the media creating the sideshows. It is coming directly from Donald Trump and those around him.

JACOBSON: Right. For example, the Nazi comment about the intelligence community.

VAUSE: Right.

JACOBSON: The media is just throwing back at Donald Trump the words that he has already spewed out either during the transition or as president or as a candidate. The media is objective. Their goal is to identify the truth, ask the tough questions, and get folks to go on the record so they can convey to the American people, or to the world, what the facts are.





VAUSE: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK, fair enough.

OK, Donald Trump's campaign was long on promises. Many of them were things he said he would actually do on day one of his presidency.

VAUSE: Well, when it was officially day one, how did Trump do?

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


[02:15:08] TRUMP: We start, day one.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's what helped Donald Trump get elected, bold projections that he'd shake Washington to its core.

TRUMP: He's going to be a very busy first day.

TODD: Donald Trump delivered on at least one of those campaign promises.

TRUMP: I am going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country.

TODD: Promising more new jobs, the president signed an executive action to withdraw from the sweeping Asia trade deal.

TRUMP: Great thing for the American worker, what we just did.

TODD: he seems hyper focused on trade deals.

TRUMP: Day one, we are going to announce our plans to totally renegotiate NAFTA.

TODD: Within his first 72 hours, the president has announced meetings scheduled with leaders in Mexico and Canada to begin renegotiating NAFTA.

But he also promised throughout his campaign he'd move on day to un-do Obamacare.

TRUMP: My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law. TODD: So far, he has issued an executive order aimed at loosening the

government's implementation of the Affordable Care Act while it remains on the books. But Donald Trump's own bill to repeal isn't ready yet.

KAREN TUMULTY, THE WASHINGTON POST: The really big ones, like replacing the Affordable Care Act, that is going to be a prolonged and possibly painful process.

TODD: What about, perhaps, the president's most famous day-one promise?

TRUMP: On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall.

TODD: The White House said the process is under way.

SPICER: He's already started work with Congress on the appropriations avenue of that.

TODD: But on another key first-day promise on immigration --

TRUMP: On day one, I'm going to begin swiftly removing criminal illegal immigrants from this country.

TODD: The White House says President Trump places a priority on that, but, so far, no indication of his administration's accelerating the process of removing undocumented immigrants with criminal records, a process ongoing for years.

Another day-one promise on trade, so far, hasn't been kept.

TRUMP: On the first day of my term of office, I will direct my secretary of the treasury to label China a currency manipulator.

TODD: Could day-one promises not kept hurt the president politically?

A.B. STODDARD, EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: If Donald Trump's voters see him heading in the right direction, on energy, on all of these issues, on attacking the health care law, trying to replace it, on pro-growth policies, canceling or renegotiating trade agreements, I think there be satisfied with what they see.

TODD: But his backers will not be happy, analysts say, if the president and his team get distracted and go off on tangents, like they did on Saturday, fighting with the media and discussing things like inauguration crowd size.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., the Syrian government officials and rebels are at the negotiating table for the first time, but they're refusing to talk face-to-face. SESAY: Plus, the great fire wall of China is getting reinforced. Why it will now be harder for users in China to bypass strict censorship online.




[02:20:16] VAUSE: In Kazakhstan's capital, talks to save a fragile ceasefire in Syria are scheduled to end about now. It's not clear if the talks, backed by Russia and Turkey, will be extended later Tuesday. Syria's warring sides each accuse each other of violating that ceasefire. Those tensions spilled over into the negotiations as Syria's rebels and regime officials refused to talk to each other directly. But both sides also indicate they are looking for a positive resolution from these negotiations.

Joining us now, Matthew Chance, live in Moscow, also, Jomana Karadsheh in Amman, Jordan.

Jomana, first to you.

It was not the best day for these negotiations yesterday. Do we know if they actually made any progress so far today?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it seemed the talks were off to a rocky start but that is something you would expect when you have these sworn enemies who bring with them this history of serious mistrust and tension. And if you look at what has been going on, on the ground in Syria, there are reports of violence still continuing. So, what we saw on Monday was the beginning of these talks with these trades of accusations of who is responsible for the violence that is ongoing. But what we are being told, according to our producer, who is on the ground in Astana, is that there is this mood of optimism right now and they did see that yesterday evening. All sides are saying that they are going to try and work to reach some sort of an agreement. I think we might see something come out of it, not necessarily very significant, but considering was involved in these talks, who is backing them and brokering these talks, you could see something come out of them.

VAUSE: Matthew, I guess one reason for optimism here is the new role that Russia is playing, trying to mediate these talks. And also, the process sidelining the United States.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it is certainly true that Russia wants to move away from being a combatant in this conflict in Syria, and towards being more of a neutral broker between the various factions. That puts pressure on its ally, Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, and criticize it, for instance, on its violations of the ceasefire on the ground.

But I think there are a couple of other reasons to be optimistic as well. The first one is the situation on the ground has changed dramatically since the capture of Aleppo by government forces backed by their Russian allies, of course, in the past several weeks. That significantly weakened the rebels and has driven them more towards accepting a possible peace deal.

The other issue, of course, which is driving the optimism is the fact that Russia and Turkey, the two big outside players, the biggest outside players in the conflict, who have traditionally been on opposite sides of the war in Syria, are now in some form of an alliance, and they are speaking together in this peace conference, they are joint sponsors of it, and they're talking on the same page. And so, that is a significant message that this is an important peace initiative that the rebels have to listen to.

[02:25:16] VAUSE: Jomana, the goals are still fairly limited, simply to extend the ceasefire. Political negotiations for a settlement will be put off for the next month in Geneva.

KARADSHEH: Well, yes. Everyone involved in these talks has been clear, saying that the main focus of these negotiations is that shaky ceasefire that went into effect on December 30. It was brokered by Russia and Turkey. But we've had near daily reports of violence in several parts of the country. And as we mentioned earlier, that both sides have blamed each other for the so-called violation. So, they want to try these talks to consolidate this agreement and also deal with issues like humanitarian aid and getting humanitarian relief to different parts of the country. What is not on the agenda, everyone is saying, is that political process, the political transition, the future of President Assad. They're saying that is being left for the United Nations-sponsored talks in Geneva. The talks that were suspended last year expected to resume next month. And as we heard from several officials, saying that these talks in Astana are not meant to compete with Geneva. They are meant to complement, and pretty much pave the way for these talks next month.

VAUSE: But with what Jomana just said, Matthew, there is still a suspicion among Western diplomates that Vladimir Putin and Moscow are trying to sideline the Geneva peace talks in a way.

CHANCE: Possibly. But as Jomana just said, the - officially, the idea is to complement the Geneva track. But there's a key difference between the Geneva talks and the Astana talks, and that's, in Geneva, the representatives of the rebels that are sitting down for negotiations are the political representatives, the negotiation committee, and the difference in Astana is you are talking about sitting down with the actual rebel commanders, the men who control the guns on the ground. And certainly, there is a perception in Russia that that is more conducive to a final settlement or to an extension of the ceasefire to speak to the men who control the guns, rather than the political leaders in some ivory tower. And so, yes, there is a sense, certainly on the Russian side, that this is the more productive formula.

VAUSE: OK, Matthew, thank you. Matthew Chance, live in Moscow.

Also, Jomana Karadsheh, in Amman, thank you as well. SESAY: Well, still ahead, a kinder, gentler Sean Spicer takes

questions from the press, but refuses to back down on those alternative facts. Details on the new press secretary's first White House briefing next.

VAUSE: And the hugely divisive Brexit could face another vote. How a high court ruling might affect how and when the split from the E.U. will happen.



[02:31:15] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.


The headlines this hour --


VAUSE: White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, held his first official briefing with reporters on Monday. Unlike the first official berating, which happened on Saturday, this time, he opened with a joke.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know that Josh Earnest was voted the most popular press secretary by the press corps. So, after reading, check my Twitter feed, AI shot Josh an e-mail last night letting him know that he can rest easy, that his title is secure at least for the next few days.


VAUSE: Well, the tone may have been softer, Spicer refused to walk back the claims he made Saturday about the turnout for the presidential inauguration.

For more, now, the man that some have dubbed Baghdad Sean, CNN senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources" joins us from New York.

Brian, good to see you.

There was a lot covered in that briefing. Spicer answered a lot of questions. And this is what he said about the five-fold statements he made on Saturday.


SPICER: It's an honor to do this. And, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may miss, that we may not fully understand when we come out, but our intentions are never to lie to you.


VAUSE: This seems to be a pattern with Trump's senior people that they sort of want to have their own version of the facts.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Yeah, you can walk back the now-famous phrase "alternative facts" from Sunday. Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump's senior advisors, explaining that Spicer wasn't misleading the public. He was just giving alternative facts. Now, Spicer didn't use that sentence - phrase himself on Monday, but I think it's now embedded in people's minds. The reason there's been these illusions to Baghdad bob, all these memes, all these parodies, all this mocking of Spicer are social media is because you can't just wipe away what happened on Saturday, thanks to one more normal briefing on Monday. This is an issue that will be Spicer for a while, even though he did take more than an hour on Monday. As you've been covering, lots of news out of this briefing. This is still a serious credibility issue for the White House.

VAUSE: One of the reasons Spicer gave for Saturday's outburst, he said it's because of all the negative coverage about Mr. Trump. This is what he said.


SPICER: It's about a constant theme. It's about sitting here every time and being told, no, we don't think he can do that, he'll never accomplish that, he can't win that, it won't be the biggest, it's not going to be that good, the crowds aren't that big, he's not that successful. The narrative and - the default narrative is always negative. And it's demoralizing.


VAUSE: Don't all politicians complain about negative coverage. I guess, you could say, welcome to the big leagues.

STELTER: Yes. Even school board officials complain of negative coverage. Normally, though, it would be behind the scenes. Normally, behind closed doors, as CNN's Jake Tapper said earlier on Monday. Normally, this happens off stage, not on the White House briefing room stage.

[02:35:06] But I think what Spicer said was really valuable. We saw really helpful insight into the presidents view of all of this. There's been a lot of talk about whether he's insecure or not, whether he has a fragile ego or not. That is really what Spicer was getting out with his comments. And he wasn't just talking about Trump either. He was talking about the Trump administration. I have heard similar comments from other Trump aids in recent days, saying you all in the media are out to delegitimize this man's presidency. I do not think that is true, in a newsroom like CNN or other big newsrooms. But that is the view from Trump world. And it was helpful to have Spicer articulate it.

You know, ultimately, Trump's brand is about winning. It is about success. It is about popularity. It is the same reason why he's talking about millions of illegal votes that did not happen. Same reason why is talking about crowd size.

You know, John, Trump is about to sit down for his first TV interview as president with ABC on Wednesday. I am curious to see if these issues come up then.

VAUSE: One of the takeaways from Monday's briefing, things are going to be different around here now that Trump's in charge. Even the old pecking order of when reporters call to ask questions. Listen to Jeff Mason, is the president of White House Correspondent's Association.


JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT'S ASSOCIATION: Well, I think that's just a sign that the Trump administration wants to shake things up a little bit. Sean Spicer, as the press secretary, did that a little bit in the briefing by rearranging how he calls the people and not necessarily following the tradition that has been set before about AP getting the first question or Reuters, the organization I work for, getting the second. But he did ask a lot - or he did take questions from a lot of reporters in the room and that really is the biggest principle is that a lot of people have a chance to ask.


VAUSE: It's all inside baseball. What does this say about the relationship between the administration and the media going forward?

STELTER: It says a lot. That's why this baseball matters. The first question went to the "New York Post" paper, a paper Trump has grown up with, a paper in New York City, a tabloid, a conservative leaning outlet. The second question went to the "Christian Broadcasting Network," a relatively low-rated channel. But, of course, a channel with very passionate viewers, mostly Christian conservatives in the United States, mostly in the heartland.

What he did not do it, what Spicer decided to skip were the first rows of seats. Those are reporters like CNN and NBC and the AP and Reuters. As Mason said, Spicer later circled back to those questions and CNN had a chance to ask question, so did the other major networks, but it is really notable that Spicer, at first, reached to the back of the room, calling on those reporters from smaller outlets first.

By the way, one other important point, he says he is going to take questions from Skype. He's going to have four Skype seats every day, allowing journals from other parts of the country to call him with questions. Could be a great thing, or it could be a way to stack the room with pro Trump media outlets. We'll see about that.

VAUSE: There's a lot we are going to see about in the coming days, months, years.

Brian, as always, thanks so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

SESAY: But we'll be busy.

VAUSE: Good stuff.

SESAY: Time for a quick break. Britain's withdrawal from the European Union could come up for another debate. Ahead, details on an imminent ruling from the U.K.'s Supreme Court.


[02:41:35] SESAY: In a couple of hours, the U.K.'s Supreme Court will issue its ruling on how Britain should go about exiting from the European Union.

VAUSE: At issue is whether Prime Minister Theresa may can trigger the Brexit with her executive powers or whether lawmakers in parliament must approve it first. The prime minister wants to start the process by the end of March.

SESAY: Max Foster is following this and joins us now from London.

Max, thanks for joining us.

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the government will have to take a bill to parliament and try to get it through. It does seem as though, suddenly, all the conservative members of parliament on Teresa Mae's side will vote for it, so it would get through. Also, the opposition Labour Party, the leader there, has said, because of the referendum result, that his M.P.s should also back triggering Article 50, as it's called, so it would probably get through. That could slow things down.

SESAY: As you talk about amendments, what kind of details could be introduced in terms of leverage to hold the prime minister to ransom?

FOSTER: There are Scottish M.P.s that certainly would not vote for it. There is a bit of concern that it could slow the process down in the sense that there's also a debate about whether or not the national parliaments in Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales should have a say. That would complicate things much more because it would have to just go through the London parliament. It would have to go through national capitals as well. That seems unlikely. But I think Theresa May's government is certainly planning for them not to have the right to trigger Article 50. But the power will lie with parliament. The opposition leader is behind Britain living up to its promise during that referendum, so we'll probably get it through. SESAY: There's a thing about this decision by the Supreme Court, is prolongs the process of healing, healing from have been a very divisive campaign. That's makes the road ahead trickier for Theresa May in the court of public opinion.

FOSTER: Absolutely. And there is an irony here that Theresa May is trying to impose this decision on the nation when the whole referendum was about bringing powers back from Brussels and bringing it back to the British parliament, so a lot of criticism about the idea she would want to do that. It goes against the philosophy of the referendum, that it should all be decided in parliament. Although, it does get complicated as soon as it gets there.


SESAY: Yes, rather.

Max, Love to talk to you. Thank you.

VAUSE: Complicated things everywhere.

SESAY: Complicated.

[02:44:02] VAUSE: Complicated, indeed.

With that, we'll take a break. New crackdown on Internet users in China. Coming up next, we'll have the latest targets of the government's online censorship.




SESAY: The great fire wall of China is getting reinforcement. It will now be even harder for the world's largest population of Internet users to bypass censorship online.

VAUSE: The Chinese government now says companies offering a virtual private network will need official approval.

Internet security analyst, Hemu Nigam, joins us now. He's also the founder of the online safety firm, SSB Blue. Also, CNN's David McKenzie standing by live, also in Beijing.

David, first to you.

Explain why Beijing has done this and how this crackdown will be enforced.

[02:49:36] DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it is all about control here in China. There is the Internet as we know it around the world and there is the Chinese Internet, which is behind the so-called great firewall. Authorities of the Communist Party have for years tried to control what people can see and access on the Internet. Well known sites like Facebook, Gmail, Google, Twitter, as well as many of the ways we interact with the Internet are not accessible unless people use a VPN, or virtual private network, to drill underneath that wall and access the rest of the web. Normally, people spend a few dollars a month to access that. Ordinary Chinese particularly like the service so they can access the world.

And now the authorities are saying in the next 18 months or, they plan on clamping down on those services themselves, saying that you have to have a license or negotiate a license before you operate in China. And it might be illegal if you are caught using the VPN service. Vague, I think on purpose, to allow the authorities to calm down where they see fit. And some people say that this is more about ordinary Chinese trying to access forbidden things that necessary take on corporate entities which use VPN regularly here in China John?

VAUSE: The timing seems especially relevant from a domestic point of view in China.

MCKENZIE: That's right. You've got the big party five-year conference coming up soon, though somewhat ironic given that Xi Jinping just last week, in Davos, said that, quote, "They need to redouble their efforts to develop global connectivity." Well clearly, not when it comes to Chinese Internet -- John, Isha?

VAUSE: OK, David. Thank you, David. David McKenzie, live in Beijing.

SESAY: Thanks, David.

Hemu, I want to bring you in now.

David, just used the expression or used the imagery that VPN helps people burrow under the firewall of China. Break it down for us further, how they actually work.

HEMU NIGAM, INTERNET SECURITY ANALYST & FOUNDER, SSP BLUE: Yeah, in its simplest form, Isha, all it really is doing is it is encrypting communication to a server that is specifically set up to not really collect IP addresses and not really identify where you are visiting so it has this access to really the rest of the world. And what China is saying is, look, if you are within my boundaries -- the Internet for the rest of us recognizes no jurisdictional boundaries, no physical boundaries. In China, it is inside the physical boundaries. It is part of their physical world and they are saying, hey, if I do not -- if I do allow you -- now this is the secret thing that nobody's really talking --


NIGAM: If I do allow you, I can actually watch what you are doing, and that is the cover part of this. It is a definite shift in policy which, as you know, I go off to this world, this VPN, somewhere else, pay for it, do what you want, I am not going to pay attention. And I think what China realized on the government side is they went dark. Their own citizens were allowed to do something that resulted in them being dark. So, their flipping it and saying, guess what, come on in, but secretly now, we can watch you. VAUSE: So this is how this new law will essentially work. It will be the VPN companies have to get a license and then report back to the government? It will be self-enforcing?

NIGAM: Well, they have to get a license from the government, which means there will be certain rules that no one has talked about yet. Many times, Chinese companies that are forced into getting regulations, or getting complying with regulations with the Chinese government have to do things like blocks are access, monitor person communications, take away certain words from being -- even reaching their citizens. I think what you see is the VPN is going to become part of the Chinese great firewall, but in a different way, where the appearance is, hey, they are actually allowing access, but the reality is they are watching what the axis is.

SESAY: So can smart people out there find a work around?

NIGAM: Well, I think where I see the world going here is that the satellite communications that Facebook has often talked about, that we talked about here, the more they institute satellite communications, the harder it will be for the Chinese government to deal with that issue. And I think this is going to be that cat-and-mouse game that goes on constantly. For some reason, they were just kind of keeping their eye over here, knowing their citizens are doing this, but there is a definite shift, including what they said in Davos. That was very interesting. Globalization is key, but not for their citizens.

VAUSE: Exactly. Also, we were talking about the impact this will have on citizens, but a lot of companies in China use a VPN. They are multi-national companies. They use secure lines to send sensitive information, maybe from Beijing to their headquarters in New York. How will this then impact on them?

NIGAM: Supposedly, it will not impact on them because they already have been doing it legitimately. The fact that they're allowing companies for citizen access means that their focus is on actually controlling citizens from learning too much, exploring too much, getting to be more powerful in organizing and creating dissident activity, which is very different from the corporate side. There is a requirement in the corporate side to follow Chinese regulation. So, when you set up an entity -- and I have been inside a company where we had to create what we call local entities in order for globalization to occur from the US, outside.

SESAY: Can you drop those servers?


SESAY: Yeah, from like the multi-nationals as a way to get around this, I mean.

NIGAM: Well, they can, but now they are dealing with a very big issue because, on one hand, they want to have business. Like Apple, for example, or Google, they can easily just get banned and now they have a very revenue impact that is direct and serious.

[02:55:13] VAUSE: If you want access, you have to play with the rules.

NIGAM: Exactly.

SESAY: Indeed.

VAUSE: Thanks, Hemu.

SESAY: Thank you, Hemu.

NIGAM: Thanks.

We'll, we're just hours away from the 2017 Oscar nominations and there's talks that critical darling "La La Land" could pick up 14 nominations. That would make the film tied with "All About Eve" and "titanic" for the most ever.

VAUSE: "La La Land" won a record seven Golden Globe awards earlier this month. Set the date. The Academy Awards will be held here in Los Angeles, Sunday, February 26.

SESAY: Have you see it yet?

VAUSE: No. No interest. Looks awful.

SESAY: OK. Don't you like Ryan Gosling?


SESAY: OK, moving on.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay, the nice one.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause, the mean one.


The news continues with Rosemary Church. She's also nice. Please stay with us.


[03:00:04] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Keeping a promise.