Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Mumps Outbreak; Do Trump's Executive Orders Have Meaning?; Mexican President Playing Hardball With Trump; How Much Change Can Exec order Bring?; Bannon: Media Should "Keep Its Mouth Shut". Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired January 26, 2017 - 4:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: They are divided, even without a wall.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Breaking news: Now we know how President Trump plans to make Mexico pay for his border wall, as Mexico's president plays hardball.
Actions or words? President Trump issuing a pile of executive orders as fast as he can sign them, including one addressing his bogus voter fraud claims. But do these executive orders have teeth or are they essentially glorified press releases?
Plus, outbreak of a disease that was once nearly eradicated here in the U.S. What is causing so many Americans to come down with mumps and how alarmed should we be?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Any moment, we're expecting President Trump to sign into action more executive orders, including a follow-up to that baseless claim that millions of votes were illegally cast in the 2016 election.
But we're going to begin with our lead story, the president's executive actions this week causing a breach with a key trading partner south of the border. Today, Mexico's president canceled a planned meeting with President Trump, a protest over President Trump's insistence that Mexico pay for a border wall between the two countries.
As the president forges ahead on the wall and other policy priorities today, he addressed the group that will decide which of these goals will become law first and how much funding it will get. That's Republicans in Congress, of course.
CNN reporters across the hemisphere are covering President Trump's initiatives and this diplomatic uproar between the U.S. and its southern neighbor.
We are going to begin with CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta in the great city of Philadelphia, where the president spoke today to Republican members of Congress who are at a retreat. And, Jim, the White House just announced how the president wants to
get Mexico to pay for the wall. Tell us about it.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that President Trump does indeed have a plan to make Mexico reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the cost of that wall on the border, and that is by imposing a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports. That is sure to continue to raise tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, another reminder that walls come with consequences.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Just as President Trump stepped off of his maiden voyage as commander in chief on Air Force One, he landed in his first diplomatic controversy and, for a change, all eyes weren't on his Twitter feed, but on the tweets coming from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who announced in blunt Trump fashion that he has informed the White House he will not be attending a meeting scheduled next week with the new American president, a protest of President Trump's plan for a massive new wall on the border.
ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Mexico does not believe in walls. I have said time and again Mexico will not pay for any wall.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump all but invited Pena Nieto to scrap the trip, tweeting: "If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting."
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sit down, everybody. Let's enjoy ourselves.
ACOSTA: At a GOP leaders retreat in Philadelphia, the president said the decision to cancel was mutual.
TRUMP: The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week. Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless.
ACOSTA: And he touted another part of his immigration plan, the swift removal of undocumented criminals.
TRUMP: They're going to be gone, fast.
ACOSTA: Top Republicans in Congress are now examining ways to pay for the wall, which comes with an estimated price tag of at least $12 billion.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We intend to address the wall issue ourselves, and the president can deal with his relations with other countries on that issue and other issues.
ACOSTA: House Speaker Paul Ryan's advice to Republicans, buckle up. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is going to be an
unconventional presidency. I think you know this by now. And I think we're going to see unconventional activities like tweets and things like that, and I think that's just something that we're all going to have to get used to.
ACOSTA: While Republican leaders are following the president's path on Mexico, they are flat out rejecting his latest defense of the use of torture on terror suspects.
MCCONNELL: I believe all of my members are comfortable with the state of the law on that issue now.
QUESTION: And torture is illegal?
RYAN: And torture is not legal. And we agree with it not being legal.
ACOSTA: But the president warned his party he is not backing down from an agenda he sees as essentially to keeping Americans safe, both overseas and on the streets of U.S. cities.
TRUMP: You look at Chicago. What's going on in Chicago? I said the other day, what the hell is going on? That is why we will continue to stand with the incredible men and women of law enforcement.
ACOSTA: And while President Trump won't be welcoming Enrique Pena Nieto to the White House next week, he will be sitting down with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House tomorrow.
They are scheduled to hold a news conference. That will be the first for President Trump with a foreign leader, a major foreign leader at the White House, Jake.
And despite the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K., I think it's pretty safe to say most of those questions tomorrow will be about that wall -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you so much.
Now to our world lead. The Mexican peso has lost 13 percent of its value since President Trump won the election. It fell further today after the Mexican president canceled his meeting with his U.S. counterpart.
CNN's Leyla Santiago joins me now from Mexico City.
Leyla, what is President Pena Nieto thinking here? Why not even have a meeting with the new American president?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's because a lot of his people, the senators, even past presidents have called on him to stand his ground, to, as many have said here, have some dignity and restore respect in this new relationship with the new administration.
You know, I am actually right now at the Angel of Independence. Think of it as the Washington Monument, sort of the center of the city, and as I have talked to people here, that's been what I'm hearing, people saying, good, good for him for standing his ground, because, remember, in August, when he invited President Trump, then presidential candidate Trump, it didn't go over so well with a lot of people here in Mexico, given some of the controversial remarks that Trump said and his insistence on building that wall.
And right now, President Pena Nieto, his approval rating is not too high. So, I think this could be a way of standing his ground, as Mexico City has called for, as Mexico has called for, and it may be a way of sort of restoring his legacy, of maybe boosting his own approval ratings with this new relationship with the U.S.
TAPPER: But, of course, the peso, the value of the peso continues to fall. And this breach between the two countries, it could have a really gigantic economic effect on both sides of the border.
SANTIAGO: Every single time I talk to some sort of government official, that is a big talking point, one of the first things they mention.
And it's because they're really worried about NAFTA and the economy and now a possible 20 percent tax. Just picture this real quick; $1.5 billion in goods go across that border every single day. And now if you take away NAFTA, if you add a 20 percent border tax, what could that do to the goods coming in? Eighty percent of Mexican exports end up in the U.S., a good chunk of those automobiles.
This could be something the consumer may have to deal with later.
TAPPER: All right, Leyla Santiago in Mexico City, thank you so much.
The White House has still not provided any evidence backing up the president's uncorroborated insistence that three to five million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. Secretaries of state who regulate elections all over the country have weighed in on the bizarre claim, almost every single one of them saying they have found no evidence of widespread fraud.
The Tennessee secretary of state did say there were instances of voter fraud in the Volunteer State in 2016, 42 cases, to be precise. That's out of 4.3 million primary and general election votes. That's a fraud rate of just .0009 percent.
In just moments from now, the president will sign an executive order that the feds may not be able to ignore, no matter how untethered to reality the president's assertion.
CNN Supreme Court and justice correspondent Pamela Brown joins me now.
Pamela, how is the Justice Department reacting to this call for investigation, even though there is no evidence of any wrongdoing? PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So, officially, Jake, no
comment from the Justice Department. But I have spoken to officials within the department and simply they're perplexed here.
They're looking for more clarity, because there is no precedent for this. Typically, voter fraud investigations are triggered when the FBI, Department of Justice discover credible evidence to suggest fraud, not because of an order from the president.
DOJ after all is an independent agency that is supposed to be apolitical. And the question remains how Trump's nominee for attorney general will respond to this. But today President Trump is expected to sign this executive order at 4:30 to launch this voter fraud investigation and he declared to Republican congressional leadership today it's necessary to protect the ballot box to back up his claim.
He also points to the Pew Research study once again from 2012 that concluded millions of voters' registrations across the U.S. are inaccurate and no longer valid, but shows no evidence of widespread fraud.
Here's what he told ABC's David Muir about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: You say you're going to launch an investigation.
TRUMP: Sure, done.
MUIR: What you have presented so far has been debunked. It's been called false.
TRUMP: Take a look at the Pew reports.
MUIR: I called the author of the Pew report last night. And he told me that they found no evidence...
TRUMP: Really? Then why did he write the report?
MUIR: He said no evidence of voter fraud.
TRUMP: Excuse me. Then why did he write the report? According to Pew report -- then he's groveling again. I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they want to write something that you want to hear, but not necessarily millions of people want to hear or have to hear.
MUIR: So, you have launched an investigation?
TRUMP: We're going to launch an investigation to find out. And then the next time -- and I will say this. Of those votes cast, none of them come to me. None of them come to me. They would all be for the other side. None of them come to me.
But when you look at the people that are registered, dead, illegal, and two states, and some cases maybe three states, we have a lot to look into.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, the Pew Research author has repeatedly been on our air. And he says the report, the purpose of it was not to show evidence of widespread voter fraud. He said there was a big leap between an out- of-date record or administrative inefficiency, which was in this report from Pew from 2012, and an act of voter fraud.
So, simply, Jake, he's just saying, look, there is a big difference here. We're not saying there is fraud just because you have dead people still on the registry.
TAPPER: The register was of outdated rolls, not of voter fraud.
TAPPER: Some examples of that, Steve Bannon, his top aide, Steven Mnuchin, his treasury secretary, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, soon to be senior adviser, all registered in more than one state, not an example of fraud, an example of...
BROWN: Right, one state not communicating with the other state.
TAPPER: And Mr. Trump just said something about his Supreme Court pick?
BROWN: That's right.
In fact, he told Sean Hannity at FOX News more about what his thinking is behind his Supreme Court nominee that he's going to announce on Thursday. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": Will it be from the list that you gave out during the campaign?
TRUMP: The answer is yes.
HANNITY: Will it be an originalist?
TRUMP: I don't want to say that. You will see on Thursday.
HANNITY: Have you made your decision?
TRUMP: I have made my decision pretty much in my mind, yes. It's subject to change at the last moment, but I think this will be a great choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And we have learned from our sources that there are four people in the running currently, Jake, Judges Sykes, Pryor, Hardiman, Gorsuch.
We're told that Judge Gorsuch is leading the pack right now. But, of course, we don't what is going to happen. We will wait for that announcement on Thursday. And we are told that he has finished all of his interviews with the possible Supreme Court picks.
TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
BROWN: Thank you.
TAPPER: President Obama's first executive order was to close Guantanamo Bay. He wasn't able to get it done. So, how viable are President Trump's executive orders? We will look into that next. Stay with us.
[16:16:05] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Staying with our politics lead, when President Barack Obama took office eight years ago, one of his very first moves was to sign an executive order ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Eight years later, of course, Gitmo is still open. New, President Trump is signing executive orders assigning his own legislative priorities. How many of those will result in actual policy changes?
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins me now from the White House for more.
Sunlen, the big question is, do these executive orders have teeth or are they essentially symbolic of where the president wants to take the nation?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that is certainly the big question, and based on our review, it seems to be a little bit of both. There is some substance here, but there also is some symbolism as well. So, let's breakdown a few of these executive actions.
On the president's Obamacare order, this is a place where there still is a lot of confusion about how it affects the law. The order gives a broad mandate for heads of agencies to, quote, "minimize the economic burden of Obamacare," but importantly, it does not specify any single action that would be taken.
Now, on the building the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, this does invoke several federal statutes, which is important when we're talking about this here. But legal experts say the reason the president can't just say "I'm going to go build the wall" is that the Constitution says that only Congress can decide to appropriate the money.
Now, drawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership, this was largely a symbolic move. The measure was never ratified. It never received a vote in Congress and so, this required absolutely no action on the part of the president to withdraw. There is also the big question here about the legality of all of these executive actions and legal experts specify in this that we spoke to today said it really comes down to this issue.
First and foremost, these executive actions, they have to have some root in some sort of statute or in the constitution. And these legal experts that we spoke to reviewing these executive actions, they say that it looks likely that the ones he had signed so far are largely within his rights. But, Jake, that does not mean they won't be challenged later on.
All right. And, Sunlen, President Trump's chief White House strategist Steve Bannon just gave an interview with "The New York Times", calling "The New York Times" and all the rest of us irrelevant?
SERFATY: Yes, this was a very interesting interview certainly by one of President Trump's closest aides, one who is known to be very combative in his approach to the media. This interview with "The New York Times" is no exception. He says, quote, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile."
He later goes on to say, "The media here is the opposition party. They don't under this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."
And just underscoring, there one thing the media the opposition party struck me and certainly, there is a little bit of irony here that Steve Bannon is going before "The New York Times", one of the big traditional outlets of old media, so to speak. He's using this newspaper to make this point to label the media as the opposition party -- Jake.
TAPPER: Yes, ironic is one word for it.
Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Joining me now is former independent conservative presidential candidate, Evan McMullin.
Thanks for being here. Really good to see you again.
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be with you.
TAPPER: Do you want to respond to what Mr. Bannon had to say to "The New York Times" about the media?
MCMULLIN: Well, I think Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump's attacks on the media are highly dangerous. The media, the press plays a significant role in our democracy and in any democracy. They are absolutely critical. And you can have disputes and disagreements over bias and even over
points of fact, but to continually attack and try to erode the credibility of the media when it's doing its job and doing its job well, I would say, in the past week especially challenging Trump, I think is dangerous. And that's why I and my running mate from the campaign Mindy Finn, we have established and launched a new organization called Stand Up Republic to help protect our democratic institutions and this is part of it.
[16:20:11] TAPPER: Small D Democratic, just for the --
MCMULLIN: Yes, that's right. We're conservative.
But you know what, Jake? This isn't a Republican/Democrat, conservative/liberal/progressive sort of issue. The protection, our freedom of the press and importance of the press in our system, the importance of the Constitution, the importance of truth, for heaven sakes in democracy and in our republic, are issues that should be bipartisan or nonpartisan.
These are things that we should all be able to rally around and protect as Americans. And there is -- the time has come I think in this country when we do that. And, so, that's what Stand Up Republic is intended to do. We're going to be working very hard to establish and grow a grassroots movement across the country that will be able to protect our fundamental ideals and our institutions.
TAPPER: You know what's interesting, I have a lot of Facebook friends who are conservatives as well as liberals, and the conservatives I've been reading a lot of their posts, and they seem very, very confused about what to believe anymore. So, I think that this idea that the president and his top aides are waging war on the media is a strategy to make it clear that in their view, you can only believe one person and that's Donald Trump, and you can't believe any of these other sources of information.
MCMULLIN: Well, that's exactly right. And this is what authoritarians or leaders with authoritarian tendencies do. It's from the playbook that they use. Donald Trump through the past year has said he admires dictators and authoritarians from around the world.
They attack the press because they want to undermine any other sources of information so that people start to believe that only the authoritarian can be the source of information because if authoritarians are able to do that, if leaders are able to undermine every other source of information, source of facts and truth, no one can hold them accountable and their power as a result grows. We as the population start to become more divided because these leaders will tend to want to divide us and then feed us lies about each other and we saw Donald Trump do that through the campaign. And he continues to do it until today.
TAPPER: I want -- you're former CIA officer, I want to get your view on some things that the president said last night in his interview with ABC about the intelligence agency. The first is his description of his speech and his first day in office at CIA headquarters. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at FOX, OK -- I'll mention -- read -- see what FOX said. They said it was one of the great speeches. You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. I hate to say this to you and you probably won't put it on, but turn on FOX and see how it was covered. You and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech and it was very, very unfortunate that you did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You served ten years covering the CIA, the 117 stars on the memorial wall behind President Trump when he spoke there, they might not be anonymous names to you. I don't know.
What are your friends who are still in the agency, what is their reaction to that speech and also just in general, President Trump's attitude towards intelligence?
MCMULLIN: Well, they are first and foremost concerned about the national security of the country. They see a new president that wants to align our country or he's going to align his administration with the very foreign adversary that is attacking our democracy.
MCMULLIN: Yes, Russia. This is unimaginable that we would have a president that would do this. And it's highly concerning, should be for all Americans, but it certainly is for them. This is really the crux of their tension with him. It's not about personalities or anything like that. They're concerned about his -- what he means for the national security of our country as president.
TAPPER: So, they don't care about his speech, they're more focused on his attitude?
MCMULLIN: Well, they're focused on his policies and his posture vis- a-vis Putin. But the speech, I have to say, that he symbolism of the speech was just too great to ignore. Here he is standing before a wall of stars marking the ultimate sacrifices of Americans around the world, defending our interests, in the worst possible conditions. And he spent most of that time talking about himself, propagating falsehoods in the process.
That's who Donald Trump is. He has -- he will not -- he's not somebody who has sacrificed for this country. He's somebody who attacks people who sacrifice for this country.
TAPPER: And what about his view that torture works? He said he was told by many intelligence leaders torture works. He also said he would defer to General Mattis and CIA Director Pompeo on the matter.
[16:25:02] But what's your experience? MCMULLIN: Well, look, I'll say -- I was never involved in the water
boarding or anything like that at the agency. That wasn't my job. I was in the field operating carrying out operations against terrorists in the field mostly.
But I will tell you that this debate about whether torture works or not, that is a debate that people have. But it misses the point. Torture is wrong. It's against the law. It's not what we should be doing whether it works or not. And to have an American president advocating for returning to tactics that are against the law, that are classified as torture I think is truly disappointing and alarming among solve other thing Donald Trump does.
But this is something that we as Americans need to stand up to. And I believe it's time in this country for a new era of civic engagement where we mobilize, we're better informed, we're more vigilant in defense of our democracy and defense of our fundamental ideals. This is part of that.
TAPPER: Give us the name of your group again so people at home --
MCMULLIN: Stand Up Republic. They can go to the website standuprepublic.com and follow us on Twitter.
TAPPER: Evan McMullin, always good to see you. Say hi to Mindy for us. We appreciate it.
MCMULLIN: Thank you. Will do. Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: British Prime Minister Theresa May just finished talking to members of Congress. Tomorrow, she will become the first world leader to meet with President Trump face to face. What will they see on eye to eye and will the special relationship continue?
And then, mumps on the rise in multiple states and it is not because children are not getting the vaccine necessarily. That story ahead.