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WH: Discussions Begin On Moving U.S. Embassy In Israel; Trump Speaks With Israeli Prime Minister On the Phone; Trump Hints He's Close To Naming High Court Nominee; Schumer: Dems Prepared To Oppose SCOTUS Pick; Trump Team Rails Against Media, Inaugural Coverage; Conway: White House Offering "Alternative Facts"; Spicer Rails on Press In Weekend Briefing; Trump Supporters Share Hopes For His Presidency; Over 40 Million Under Severe Weather Threat Today; Trump And Putin Expected to Talk, Trump Honors First Responders 3-4pET
Aired January 22, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're talking about moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That was one of President Trump's pledges during the campaign. We also know that there was a phone call between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny joining me live. So, Jeff, last hour we watched the senior staff being sworn in. The president, vice president there, no mention about this phone call. But what more do you know about this phone call?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka we do know that President Trump talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu just more than an hour or so ago, about an hour and a half ago, actually for a call that lasted less than 30 minutes. And we do not yet have exact details of that call. We know topics of course included Syria, included the Iran nuclear deal and perhaps even talk of moving the embassy, but when Donald Trump and President was in the East Room of the White House, reporters asked him, shouted a question how that call went with Mr. Netanyahu. He said it was very nice. And that's all he said.
So, we still do not have any details specifically about the call, either out here or from the Netanyahu side. But Fredricka, it definitely is the signal of the beginning of a different relationship here with the U.S. and with Israel.
WHITFIELD: And Jeff, the president underscoring that he has a busy couple of weeks ahead, meeting with the prime minister of the U.K., also meeting with the leader of Mexico. What more do we know about the expectations of the visit/upcoming conversations?
ZELENY: Well, Fredricka, one thing I was struck by first and foremost was just the change in tone with the president. President Trump yesterday as we know was defiant when he talked at the CIA. He was talking about crowd sizes and talking about how he was being unfairly covered in the media. There was no mention of that today. This is his first real formal address from the White House. And it's certainly he was striking a different tone, a presidential tone, if you will. And he said that, look, he and his staff would not be led by a party would not be led by ideology. And he also went on to say we will prove ourselves worthy of this moment in history. So that is something that clearly is weighing on all the people there who were sworn into office, but Fredricka, perhaps more importantly than anything, these are people who we don't often see. They're behind the scenes people. Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, the front row there, the top advisers to President Trump, so seeing them out in the open, and now I can tall you they're back to work in this west wing of the White House. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. Let me welcome our panel now, discuss further on the plate here. CNN correspondent Phil Mattingly, CNN political commentator Alice Stewart, Brian Morgenstern, a Republican strategist, political analyst, Alice Henican, all right, good to see all of you.
All right, to Brian you first, your thoughts or reaction to discussions about moving the U.S. embassy or at least some of the first steps being taken to moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This is a big commitment, a big deal given it was a promise on the campaign trail.
BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yep, well, it's a shift in tone of U.S. policy and it's symbolic for that reason because that I think that's been viewed by the Obama Administration as sort of a provocative act that, you know, maybe would cause people to have more angst and not lead to more peace.
The Trump Administration's approach is he says it all the time, the Ronald Reagan line, the peace through strength. We are going to stand with Israel strongly. We're going to have them, you now, have their capital wherever they want it. And, you know, anybody else's opinion be darned, we are going to stand strongly with them. And this is the first step in that regard in sending that message, a shot across the bow at anyone who would threaten Israel. You know, don't mess with us.
WHITFIELD: And so Ellis do you see this as a step in domestic policy or a step toward foreign policy for this president?
ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well both, it is wonderful if you don't care about peace in the Middle East. I mean if all you want to do is say, Israel, you can do whatever you want, we will support it no matter what, which I guess is the direction we're going in. I mean this is certainly a potent, symbolic step, it is -- as Brian says, a bit provocative.
But if you cling to the notion that the United States could be some kind of honest broker here trying to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis together, it certainly doesn't help that.
WHITFIELD: So Phil, how is this potentially perhaps mending fences considering it was a very tenuous relationship between President Obama and Netanyahu and there have been a lot of promises that President Trump has made in terms of reassuring the relationship between the U.S. and Israel?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's an important step at least on its face, right? And I think it's worth noting here as Brian kind of hit that. There's caution in what they're doing now. They made a lot of bold promises including the potential of moving the embassy on day one. They're not doing that right now. And that's because there's a recognition when you talk to their foreign policy advisers behind closed doors, this isn't easy. There's a lot of dominoes that fall when you try to move an embassy, particularly this embassy.
[15:05:04] WHITFIELD: And there's a lot of promises of day one activity.
MATTINGLY: Exactly. Exactly.
WHITFIELD: But we're not saying that --
MATTINGLY: None of this is true. He's saying all come true. This is a bipartisan issue in the sense that a lot of people make a lot of promises on the campaign trail and they get in the White House and they sit in the Oval Office and they realize this is a little bit harder to do when you're actually trying to put them into place. I think that's what we've seen right here. But in terms of the relationship with the Israeli government and the U.S. government there's no question it couldn't have gotten any worse than it was at the end of the Obama Administration.
So everything that President Trump has done and the lead up to this moment has kind of moved towards making that relationship better. Low bar, certainly clearing it at this point will be interesting to see as -- kind of the rubber meets the road here and it goes beyond promises how this relationship actually evolves and if it maintains the current level that it's at.
WHITFIELD: Alice there was a long list that President Trump said, you know, my first day in office I will do this. And, you know, everything from repealing Obamacare to getting that wall built. We are seeing incremental steps in the first 48 hours.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And I think the priorities that he has and the way he's laying them out, meeting with the CIA, expressing 100 percent support for the CIA and taking the first steps to re-establishing a good relationship with our greatest ally that we have in Israel. And already outlining what is on tap for the next few days, executive orders dealing with immigration and trade deals. These are things he promised along the way. And I think it's important as he does, as Mike Pence says, the vice president has said, last week, they're going to be promise keepers. And these are promises they were elected on and they're taking the first steps to do so
WHITFIELD: OK. STEWART: No one has seen the readout of the call with Netanyahu, but I'm sure nuclear arms deals will be a big part of what they're working on.
WHITFIELD: So among the promise, if elected I will release my taxes. And now Kellyanne Conway saying on "Meet the Press" this morning that President Trump will not be releasing his taxes after the completion of the audit. This is her this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The White House response is that he's not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn't care. They voted for him. And let me make this very clear. Most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office not what his look like. And, you know, full well that President Trump and his family are complying with all the ethical rules, everything they need to do to step away from his businesses and be a full-time president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Ellis, problematic?
HENICAN: You know, yeah, we said all that stuff, but no, we're not going to do all that stuff. I mean, you can frankly apply that kind of logic to a hundred issues right now. You just went through half a dozen that will happen on the first day, and now they're maybe off on some murky future. But I mean, listen, in this administration, saying you're going to do something is a long distance from doing something.
WHITFIELD: And Brian, trust is a big deal.
WHITFIELD: I mean, especially your first few days in office as the president. You want those who voted for you, those who didn't vote for you to trust you and you have to earn that trust. It doesn't help if at the very beginning, does it, that there is a reneging of promises.
MORGENSTERN: Well this particular promise --
WHITFIELD: That's not a renege, right?
MORGENSTERN: That's a bit of a 180 there. Yeah, I mean, saying from going to do it to we're not going to do it, is about as clear a 180 as we're going to get. I will say this particular issue, I think as a little bit inside baseball during the course of the campaign the purpose of releasing the tax returns is to have this sort of, you know, vetting of --
WHITFIELD: Transparency. MORGENSTERN: -- conflicts, right, transparency and things. I think
it'd be hard pressed to find a voter who is going to make up their minds to vote for or not for Trump based on the tax return issue. I think it's a little bit sort of, you know, outside the dispositive factor universe.
WHITFIELD: We saw that was inconsequently.
MATTINGLY: To this point this is the crux when you talk to Trump advisers behind closed doors and on the last ten months this is their rationale, if we're not going to see any impact on this in our support, because we're not releasing them, why should we release them? And the rationale is this, there's no question about his tax returns would only give us as reporters a lot of ground to start digging into a lot of things, a lot of concrete issues that would be problematic for them to face. They were never punished on the campaign by voters or supporters for not releasing his returns. The idea that they were withholding them until an audit was finished was always a farce. If you talk to them, they were candid. They would acknowledge that --
WHITFIELD: But translation -- make it appears though. There's even more to hide now.
MATTINGLY: But that's always been the case. And I think that's all -- as we've been reporting on it and trying to get information on, that's always been kind of our perspective as reporters on this. The reason they're not releasing is, is because this is not good for them. There's a lot of stuff in here that could be problematic or at least on its face be perceived as problematic drive a lot of negative stories there.
MATTINGLY: They were never hurt by it, they're not going to change their tone now.
STEWART: And having work on the Cruz campaign, fighting for them ordering them or begging with them to release it, raise your hand anyone in America if actually really believe he was going to release them. Nobody really believed that.
[15:10:11] And the reality is it didn't affect them. As Kellyanne said the voters didn't -- weren't concerned with that. He has been elected now. I don't expect to see any more documents that he has planned to release. But he has released a lot of information. At the end of the day, people are concerned about their jobs, their taxes what they're paying more they are about the president. I think this is going to be in the rearview mirror very soon --
STEWART: -- and I think we need stop worrying about it because we're not going to see anymore.
WHITFIELD: Yeah, still datable though about releasing more than people really need or want. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would love to see it.
WHITFIELD: That's right.
WHITFIELD: All right. Phil Mattingly, Brian Morgenstern, Ellis Henican, Alice Stewart, thank you so much to all of you. Appreciate it.
All right, much more straight ahead. President Trump hinting that the nearly year-long Supreme Court vacancy could soon be filled. The front-runners to sit on the highest court in the land, next.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in the nation's capital. An update on the 41st president. Doctors say President George H.B. Bush could be moved out of the ICU in the next day or two. And they say his vital signs are normal and his health is improving. The former president was admitted to a Houston hospital on January 14th because of complications from pneumonia.
His wife Barbara was admitted days later for bronchitis. Doctors offered to let her go home today but she chose to stay the night to continue recovering and stay close to her husband. We wish them both well.
All right. The nearly year-long fight to fill the ninth seat on the U.S. Supreme Court could come to an end soon or possibly enter a whole new contentious phase. President Trump hinting this week that he has a pretty good sense of who he plans to nominate to fill the seat left vacant after Justice Antonin Scalia's death last February. And Trump wants to do that soon, but on "State of the Union" Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear Democrats are prepared to fight nominees they don't agree with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:15:17] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: If the nominee is not bipartisan and mainstream, we absolutely would keep the seat open. I'm hopeful that maybe President Trump would nominate someone who was mainstream and could get bipartisan support. We shall see. But if they don't, yes, we'll fight it tooth and nail as long as we have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, for more now, I'm joined by CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue. So Ariane, President Trump saying he wants to do this soon like within the next two to three weeks?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well that's what he said. And as you saw, Schumer, the question for Schumer is there anybody on this list that he would consider mainstream? And Trump said last week that he was close to making a decision, and it's been a bit of a journey for him, right? He started out early in the campaign and conservatives, judicial conservatives were worried, they through is he going to put someone on the bench that's a real conservative? And he stepped forward and did something that no other president has done. Put out this list of 20 judges that all have strong conservative credentials.
At the top of the list, Bill Pryor, he's from Alabama, and Diane Sykes, those two were mentioned that Trump mentioned on the campaign. So they really got a lot of attention. But there is a handful of others including a judge out of Colorado, Neil Gorsuch, a real conservative on religious liberty issues and he's young. And that's a big criteria for presidents who are putting people on the list.
WHITFIELD: So Schumer is promising it will be a fight if Democrats do not agree with. Clearly, they would not agree with a conservative. They would want somebody more moderate. But the chances of a President Trump nominating a more moderate or more in the middle, I mean, surely no one on Capitol Hill thinks that would happen.
DE VOGUE: Well, certainly if you look at Trump's list, these are solid conservatives. And a lot of people were looking at the sessions hearings, remember, and saying this would be a dry run for the Supreme Court hearings. But in fact, there will be a couple of things that will be difficult when these hearings come up. A, unless he surprises us, Trump will not put a senator up. So there won't be that Senate collegiality. The senators won't be giving sort of soft questions. But the big thing in this hearing will be Merrick Garland. He was the appointee from Obama. The Democrats are seething mad that he is not up this time. They think that the seat is stolen. And they'll going to make these hearings really difficult. It's going to be a big fight.
WHITFIELD: Right. There wouldn't be the chance or at least the conventional wisdom is that there wouldn't be a chance that President Trump would consider Merrick Garland by any stretch of the imagination.
DE VOGUE: No. It's sure that doesn't seem that way. And Trump has said repeatedly I'm going to stay on this list. He wants to look for another Scalia-like candidate, absolutely.
WHITFIELD: He's said that.
DE VOGUE: And he said that and he's -- the conservative groups helped him make this list and they expect him to stay within the list when he makes his pick.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ariane, keep us posted on all of that. Thank you so much.
DE VOGUE: We'll do. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Appreciate it. Good to see you.
All right. And of course we'll be right back with much more of the Newsroom from the very rainy, soggy, nation's capital. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[15:21:15] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Donald Trump spending his first two days in office the same way he's spent much of his campaign, at war with the press. Earlier this morning one of his top aides railed against the media and coverage of the inaugural ceremonies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC'S"MEET THE PRESS" HOST: Why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood. Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House Press Office on day one.
CONWAY: No, it doesn't. Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's falsehood and they're giving Sean Spicer our press secretary gave alternative facts to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. CNN's Brian Stelter is following the story. Alternative facts. What does that mean?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Alternative facts are lies. There's only one set of facts. When it comes something like crowd size on the national mall, alternative facts are distractions if we want to be really generous about this. And, you know, that phrase "alternative facts" now being mocked and being made fun of on Facebook and Twitter.
But there's something real here that we're seeing. We're seeing the Trump administration trying to present an alternate reality to its voters. All administrations mislead. You know that, I know that. There's lots of attempts to spin, politicians are great at it. But we're seeing something different here with regards to how clearly false some of the statements are from Sean Spicer and some other Trump aides are.
Can I show you what Sean Spicer said a few weeks ago?
STELTER: He was about to take the new job as press secretary. He was talking to CNN's own David Axelrod at the University of Chicago. And here's what he said about how important it is to have credibility as press secretary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The one thing that, whether you're Republican, Democrat, independent, you have your integrity. I might tell a reporter I can't comment on something or, you know, I'm not able to discuss that but I've never lied. And I don't think and I don't intend. I would argue that anybody who is an aspiring communicator adhere to that because if you lose the respects and trusts of the press corps, you got nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIO)
STELTER: Talking about the trust of the press corps there. And that's really what's on the line now. A lot of White House correspondents are going to pour into that press briefing room tomorrow for his first on-camera briefing. Will they be able to trust the new press secretary is the question?
WHITFIELD: Right. And, you know, trust is a big thing because you hear President Trump who is already saying whether it be on the campaign trail and now even from the CIA that you can't trust the media. And now with this message coming from Sean Spicer --
WHITFIELD: -- and Kellyanne Conway saying alternative facts, a message is being sent to Americans. They're not sure whether to trust even what's going to come out of this administration. I mean it's going to get confusing, I think, for people. Is it the media that they're not trusting, is it the message coming from the White House, the challenge coming from the White House press corps.
STELTER: And is the aim here just to make people throw up their hands and say they can't believe anything. You know, we see that sometimes in countries that have not nearly as free a press as we do in the U.S. And more authoritarian climates, we see this attempt to -- so much confusion, call so much confusion, that people don't know what to believe.
WHITFIELD: So is that the goal potentially?
STELTER: I don't know if that's the goal of Trump aides. I don't want to read their brains. I think a lot of outside observers and political scientists keep saying that's what it feels like right now.
STELTER: You know, Spicer and his aides and Trump himself, they seem genuinely angry at the coverage they received the past couple of days. There have been a couple of mistakes. And we should be honest about that. There are couple of small mistakes. I think Sean Spicer is taking out of proportion.
WHITFIELD: Like what? What were those --
STELTER: There was a report on Friday night that maybe the bust of Martin Luther King J.r. had been moved out of the Oval Office. This reporter from TIME Magazine tried to look for it, he couldn't see it. So he said it wasn't there. Half an hour later he apologized and corrected it.
[15:25:04] I would say that's a pretty small mistake, it's a mistake though and he had to apologize. Spicer made it into a big deal and sue did Trump himself.
STELTER: We did not see Obama Administration --
STELTER: -- make small journalism mistakes into big deals.
STELTER: I think this is a reminder journalists have to be even more careful right now not to give any reasons to doubt our reporting.
WHITFIELD: Yeah. But the largest grievance I guess that we're hearing from the White House was on the whole crowd issue.
STELTER: Right. Right.
WHITFIELD: You know, disputing whether what was conveyed, whether pictorially or even by words, by various mediums whether that is -- whether that was true. So that was --
STELTER: Bottom line, there were bigger crowds here for Obama. That's OK. There's also a beautiful crowd here on Friday. A lot of Trump voters who loved the ceremony on Friday. Trump could talk more about that.
WHITFIELD: All right. Brian thank you so much. Appreciate it. All right. And of course you can watch Brian's show "Reliable Sources" Sundays, 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
All right, this Friday as Donald Trump took office I joined a lot of folks out in the crowds there who were right there on the mall behind me on the west end of the capital and I talked to them about their expectations of the first 100 days, what their interpretation was of many things they heard from President Trump during his inaugural speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Would you believe President Trump means when he said this moment belongs to you.
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment, it belongs to you.
ALBERT CASTILLO, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: It means that we are one and we are with him and he's with us.
WHITFIELD: And what do you see transpiring in perhaps the first 100 days?
CASTILLO: The first 100 days, we're going to get some adults in the White House. I think our secretary of state is fantastic. I think he'll repeal Obamacare. I think he's going to probably appoint a Supreme Court nominee and i believe that he's going to have a few little surprises as far as the economy for us.
WHITFIELD: So when he says, you know, from this day forward a new vision will be given to this land, from this day it will be America first, what does that mean to you?
TRUMP: From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first. America first.
CASTILLO: The first means we take care of us first. We're under no obligation to feed the world other than morally. We just don't have the money. Where is that going to come from? You know, I'm all for equal rights, but not extra rights.
CHARLES HINDERS, SAN ANTONIO TEXAS: I think it's just like a common sense CEO would run a business like put yourself first before you start giving out the charity like a family budget. You don't want to give all your money to charity and not be able to pay the bills, then you get electricity turned off, get your water turned off and then you're like, well, at least we gave to the poor, no, we want America first, we want America to be strong so that she can be a global force for good.
WHITFIELD: And how soon do you see or do you expect to feel a difference in a new administration? What are your hopes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can already start feeling the difference. The aura around D.C. And the D.C. Metro area, I can already feel the tension being lifted away from everything that's been going on in our country. I see a prosperous future for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Great talking to a variety of people who showed up this weekend during inauguration festivities and of course the swearing in there on the west side of the U.S. capitol. All right, still to come, Donald Trump begins his new relationship with Israel speaking with Benjamin Netanyahu just a short time ago. Detail on that next.
[15:32:00] WHITFIELD: All right. After eight years of, at times, a frosty relationship with -- between Israel and the president of the United States, President Donald Trump now is embarking on what could be a new era between the United States and Israel. Trump spoke with his Israeli counterpart just a short time ago in which the president described to reporters as a, "Very nice call".
CNN's Oren Liebermann is live for us now in Jerusalem following this story. So, Oren, what do we know about what expectations on the Israeli and would come from a phone call like this?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as of right now, what you just mentioned, the "very nice call" from President Donald Trump is all we have on this phone call. The Israeli side has not yet put out details and, in fact, has gone very quiet now that this phone call has happened. Now we know this phone call is over, we don't know much more about what was talked about.
What we do know is what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to talk about. He wanted to talk about the Israeli/Palestinian issue, what's going on in Syria with Russia and Syrian President Bashar al- Assad just across the frontier there, across the Golan. And he wanted to talk not only about settlements but also about the Iran deal.
In fact, he said that was his primary goal at this morning, his cabinet meeting. Here is a quote from that cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "The supreme goal of the state of Israel continues to be stopping the Iranian threat and stopping threat from the bad nuclear deal signed with Iran".
Netanyahu was the most outspoken critic of the deal, internationally, although he did though quiet in his criticism of the deal in the final months of the Obama administration. It seems he now sees a new opportunity with President Trump to do something about the deal, whether change it or repeal it, that remains to be seen. That will certainly be high of his agenda as meetings happen between these two leaders at some point perhaps even in the near future.
But what we know now, the phone call has ended and what we know of the details of it is simply what President Trump said, saying, it was a "very nice call". So very few details there, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. We all look forward to more details. You can see the calendar, very busy month for President Trump also planning to meet with leaders of the U.K. and Mexico later on. Thanks so much.
All right. Coming up, President Trump jabs at Washington insiders during his inaugural address. He'll need them, won't he, as he works to implement some of his proposed policies? So how will the old guard and the new administration coexist? More later.
[15:37:32] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in the nation's capital. So, one of Donald Trump's first official actions as president signing an executive order to start the repealing process of Obamacare. But President Trump and the Republicans have not presented a definitive plan to replace it, something Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pointed out on CNN's "State of the Union" this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: They promised everybody they were going to repeal. But now they've seen all the good things in ACA, the 20 million people covered, pre-existing conditions covered, kids 21 to 26 get their parents' health insurance, women treated equally as men. And they know that to repeal these things without finding a way to do them, to undo them, would be catastrophic substantively and politically. So they're in total pickle. And this regulation does really nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Joining me to talk more about this, CNN Political Commentator and former RNC Communications Director Doug Hyde, Presidential Historian and Distinguished Professor at American University Allan Lichtman and CNN Political Commentator Ana Navarro. All right, good to see all of you.
So, Doug, let me begin with you, President Trump saying last weekend he was close to his replacement plan, a conglomeration of a number of things. How close is the president really?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the President and Congress aren't anywhere near close. And it's going to be a long process. In 2014, I spent six months of my life trying to put together, working with colleagues, I should say, trying to put together an Obamacare replacement bill with four chairs of jurisdiction, Paul Ryan being one of them. And we were never able to get there. Why? Republicans still haven't come to a place on agreement on what the next step will be after we repeal Obamacare. This is going to be a long process and one that's led not by the President but by Capitol Hill.
WHITFIELD: And it's interesting, Ana, because it wasn't that long ago when Donald Trump sent a tweet, a message to members of Congress on Capitol Hill. And he said, "Be careful". In other words, have a replacement plan before you start the process or talk about repealing Obamacare. So has this changed now?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, it's interesting because one of the first things he did as president was sign an executive order, instructing the agencies to basically lessen the burden of Obamacare.
Now, what does that mean in practice? I don't know, but it is symbolic.
[15:40:01] He has been making all of these promises about repealing Obamacare, so it was one of the first things he did. But I think he also realizes that he needs to buy Congress some time and he needs to work with Congress
Congress is now pregnant with this baby. The Republican Congress is now pregnant with this baby. I think all eyes, all hopes are on Paul Ryan who is a -- you know, he's a compassionate. He's a conservative. He's also pragmatic and he's very policy focus, policy knowledgeable and oriented.
So, hopefully, he's going to be able to craft something that's politically feasible, economically feasible and will not cause, you know, cause people problems and lives and health care and access.
WHITFIELD: And Professor Lichtman, how do you read this? President Trump saying while he was on the campaign trail, he had a host of executive orders that he wanted to sign into action right away. There have been a handful thus far. Really, the first couple of ones, one hour, you know, into being sworn into office or one hour into being into the White House, how unusual is this? How precedent setting potentially is it?
ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, here's what's usual and here's - as always Trump isn't ...
WHITFIELD: There's a lot of unusual lately.
LICHTMAN: It is usual for presidents to very quickly sign executive orders, quickly on politically sensitive matters like abortion or the environment. It is absolutely not usual to shoot a cannonball with an executive order right through a major piece of legislation without, as Doug points out, having any kind of alternative.
Here's where the Republicans are today. There where the Democrats were in the first two years of the Clinton administration. Remember Hillary Clinton's healthcare task force, they're going to reform healthcare. Well, everybody agreed in the Democratic Caucus that you need to reform healthcare, but they had three or four different ideas and they never could get it together. And that led to the disaster for the Democrats of the crash in the midterm elections of 1994 where for the first time in decades the Republicans took over both Houses of Congress. Welcome to their world, Republicans.
WHITFIELD: So, Doug, there's a lot of political capital on the table here because we're talking about repeal efforts, you know, 60 times - more than 60 times that were unsuccessful and now, as you put it, you know, the shooting, the cannon, you know --
WHITFIELD: -- for President Trump even though he had already said, there's going to be a plan in place and clearly there is no plan in place. So really what is at stake if not just for the GOP but for the president as well?
HEYE: Well, it's not just Obamacare. We're obviously focused on that because that's been the issue for the last six years. But it is every legislative issue that the president will be facing. The primacy of Congress is massively more so today than it was for the Democrats under Barack Obama in his first two years when he had Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid running his agenda through, and they were very effective.
Congress is more important today, not just because of Obamacare but on every issue. In part because, as we all know, Donald Trump hasn't laid out a very detailed agenda. That means that every Congressional committee chair is more important than their Democratic counterparts six years ago.
WHITFIELD: So, Ana, there were a lot of criticisms coming from candidate Trump that President Obama was overusing his executive orders. Is President Trump running the risk of doing the same thing, especially without this, you know, backup plan, a plan particularly as it pertains to the Affordable Care Act?
NAVARRO: You know, that was something that brought rare unity to most Republicans. I think a lot of us felt that President Obama had gone way overboard with executive orders, had tried to use them instead of legislation, instead of working with Congress. Some would say, Democrats will tell you, "Well, he couldn't work with Congress, Congress was obstructing him".
Republicans will tell you, "He overreached past his powers. He did not respect the other branch of government." So, you know, he's got -- if Donald Trump wants to undo the Obama executive orders, I think he can spend weeks and weeks just undoing executive orders instead of doing any of his own. And it, you know, brings up a big question, for example, on immigration and the DREAM Act kids and DACA, what's he going to do with that?
There are so many executive orders on the environment, on regulation, on immigration where he can, you know, he's got a lot of cloth to cut from.
LICHTIMAN: Quick points.
LICHTMAN: Everyone kind of assuming here that Donald Trump cares, that he has to have a replacement plan in place before he totally torpedoes Obamacare. Not so. Donald Trump had shown he doesn't care about things like that.
WHITFIELD: He did insinuate that it was necessary to have something in place. Be careful was his warning to members of Congress.
LICHTMAN: And so far his actions haven't shown any ability to carry that out. You got to take what Donald Trump says not with a grain of salt but with a mountain of salt. Come on, we know that.
[15:45:03] WHITFIELD: Professor, you are the king of predictions. You were on our show before election, before November 8th, and your prediction was Donald Trump would win the presidency when so many others were saying otherwise. And now you're making a new prediction, and this is based on a very different theory, then it was based on a formula. But now, you are closely evaluating the demeanor, the words used by Donald Trump, and you are now making a new prediction. What is that?
LICHTMAN: Right. And it's the subject of my next book, by the way. And by the way, Donald trump sent me a very nice note after I predicted his win. I don't think he'll send me a nice note.
WHITFIELD: I don't you're going get -- you're not going to get a note this time.
LICHTMAN: Why am I predicting Donald Trump's impeachment? Several reasons. First of all, conflicts of interest. He has done nothing substantial to get rid of conflicts of interest. He still is going to profit from all his businesses. His kids are mostly managing it now anyway. And this creates enormous potential.
For example, in the Philippines with this thug Duterte is essentially running the government, killing people and he has appointed as a special envoy to the United States, Trump's business partner in the property in the Philippines. And one of the things America is reconsidering now is whether our aid to the Philippines is being diverted to this mass killing. Anything Trump does in the Philippines could affect his profits and he knows that.
Secondly, he has a history of flouting the law. He ran an illegal charity for decades in New York. He used the charity for self-serving purposes, for political contribution. He broke the Cuban embargo. That's a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison in 1998. Will that tendency to flout the law to carry over.
WHITFIELD: You're seeing an accumulation --
LICHTMAN: An accumulation.
WHITFIELD: And then when we talk just down the street on Pennsylvania Avenue which, you know, President Trump is praised and touted that, you know, even if he didn't end up in the white house he still has a property on Pennsylvania Avenue. The leasing of the U.S. Postal Office, a federal building and the potential conflicts that comes with continuing with business interests because he has not divorced himself completely.
LICHTMAN: Not at all, not even remotely.
WHITFIELD: Not at all.
LICHTMAN: He still profits. And let's not forget the cascade of Trump lies which are continuing. Not only have they lied. They have waged war on the truth. We are now in the era of so-called alternative facts. That brings us to 1984 double-think where peace -- where war is really peace, right, where famine is really plenty. That's what's happening here.
WHITFIELD: But based on all of these things, you are seeing the road being paved toward impeachment.
LICHTMAN: And Republicans would prefer the predictable down the pipe Mike Pence than the unpredictable Donald Trump any he how.
WHITFIELD: Doug, any thought of that?
HEYE: If you talk to Congressional chairs in the House and the Senate, they are so excited about what they'll be able to do, forget the Trump agenda. What they'll able to do to enact on their own that I think those concerns will outweigh the concerns of conflict of interest and other questions that have come about Trump. Republicans are excited even if they didn't love Trump. They're excited about what they'll be able to do on issues.
WHITFIELD: OK. Ana, a quick response on all that you're hearing?
NAVARRO: Well, listen, I don't think there's going to be an impeachment, at least not in the next two years. I agree with Doug. I think they're excited about what they want to do. And frankly, I think if he does have this conflict of interests and if he continues acting this way, it's going to put Republicans in a difficult position because they were so adamant on these points when it came to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.
WHITFIELD: All right. We will leave it there. Thank you so much, everyone. Doug Heye, Allan Lichtman, Ana Navarro, appreciate it.
All right. Being here throughout the weekend, well including Friday's inauguration right here in our nation's capital has meant being able to talk to a number of people who witnessed the swearing and who were also in the stands watching the parade. And I talked to them about their expectations in these first 100 days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM YONO, DETROIT: I was one of the ones booing. This was not the right time for Schumer. He had his days. He had his time to prove to America that he's a predictive leader in the Senate and he hasn't done it. And now, for him to come on a day like this, for all the fans and supporters of the new administration, to be speaking negatively, that was not called for.
Schika (ph) is the very common in his thoughts as minds are. He's very enthused by the positive message on a global level especially by fighting terrorism and fighting the terrorists worldwide. And he is very enthused and he's been a very strong supportive of the president's early in the game and looking forward to lead the world, not only America, because today we coming from a Middle East background, we feel that there is a gap to where things are going sideways.
[15:50:02] And we think that Trump is going to bring things in line and everybody should prospered and bring peace and tranquillity worldwide.
WHITFIELD: Does President Trump also send a message to Muslim Americans that make a number of Muslim Americans feel unwelcome or uncomfortable?
YONO: Numerous times candidate Trump has felt about Muslim Americans, that he had no quarrel with Muslims Americans or Muslims period. His quarrel is with Islamic ideology that supports terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredericka Whitfield in the nation's capital.
Some more 40 million people are at risk for severe weather today. A deadly storm is sweeping across the southeast, with a possibility for strong of tornadoes, hail and damaging winds. Just a few hours ago, the Georgia governor declared a state of emergency for seven counties near the Florida border. The same storm system battered that area overnight, levelling homes and killing 12 people now. Next hour, we'll go live to South Georgia for a look at the damage and how they are preparing for more storms later today.
All right. In the meantime, President Donald Trump is expected to have his first official phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days. A spokesman for the Kremlin calling the conversation a "diplomatic necessity".
CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Moscow and has more on the significance of this conversation and what exactly they might be talking about, Clarissa.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, there is a lot of anticipation as to when this phone call between President Putin and President Trump will take place and what exactly the two leaders will in fact talk about.
We've heard from the Kremlin that it's expected to happen in the coming days, that President Putin is expected to reach out and congratulate President Donald Trump, and we know that one area that President Trump actually talked about a possible cooperation with Russia on, is the issue of fighting ISIS and fighting radical Islamic terrorism.
[15:55:08] So that might be one issue that comes up that they discuss. But there are also a lot of sticking points, a lot of really thorny issues, that made have this a difficult relationship. I'm thinking specifically of Russian aggression in Syria, of Russian aggression in Ukraine. And for the Russian part, of course, there is deep seated anger about the U.S. sanctions against Russia which have had a tremendous affect on this economy.
Today, we actually heard from Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. And he said he doesn't believe that those sanctions will necessarily be repealed any time soon. He said that Russia should not be relying on the arrival of a new world leader to fulfill that promise.
So there are a lot of questions still as to what this relationship will look like going forward. We're definitely hearing from the Kremlin a sort of cautiously optimistic and positive voice, but the emphasis really, Fred, also with caution.
We heard the Kremlin spokesperson say, "Yes, it's likely that the two leaders will meet, but it will take place in the coming months, not the coming weeks. So definitely, from here in Moscow and from the Kremlin, still very a wait and see attitude with regards to President Trump. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much in Moscow.
The next hour of the CNN Newsroom starts right after this.
WHITFIELD: Hello again and thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield in Washington this inauguration weekend. All right, just in to CNN, Donald Trump had just made remarks and honored first responders as he hosted the inaugural national law enforcement officers and first responder's reception that's taking place at the White House. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to have a great eight years together, we say. And, again, the inauguration was such a success and such a safety success and we want to thank you all because it was really a very, very special experience.
And in general, congratulations, I just have --