Return to Transcripts main page
Republican Party and Trump; Mexico's President Cancels Meeting; Mexican Response to Trump's Actions; Trump's Action on Immigration. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 26, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is in right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And fallout, I think, we're just beginning. I mean it has not even begun to see what the fallout is from this.
Jim Acosta. Great to see you, Jim.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BOLDUAN: Our special coverage will continue in just a moment with John King.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.
Breaking news this hour, that's Philadelphia on your screen to your right there. Air Force One has just landed. President Trump's first ride on Air Force One. A short trip from Washington up to Philadelphia where just moments from now he will address a very important meeting. Republican leadership gathered at a strategy retreat in Philadelphia. A lot to work out there.
Also some breaking news on that flight. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, saying this afternoon, when he's back in Washington, the president of the United States will sign an executive order going forward with what he has promised to have an investigation into voter fraud. Voter fraud that just about everybody else says didn't happen but the president of the United States will sign an executive order later today. We don't know the details of that. Ordering some investigation into what he says is his belief that millions of undocumented workers - undocumented voted in the last election. We'll see how that one plays out.
More breaking news from Air Force One. The president of the United States is meeting with the British prime minister, Theresa May, tomorrow. The first foreign leader to meet with President Trump. They will have a joint news conference at the White House.
And even more breaking news. Just moments ago, you may have heard it in the last hour with John and Kate, the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, due here in Washington next week to meet with President Trump, canceling that trip, saying he will not come to Washington now because of the executive order President Trump signed yesterday trying to speed construction of a border wall along the U.S./Mexico border.
You see right there, the president's plane, Air Force One. Again, his first time on Air Force One as president. We'll stay with these pictures. See what he does when he comes off the plane. Then he heads, again, as I said, to a very, very important meeting.
Let me bring in my panel here just so we can have a conversation as this goes forward. With me to share their reporting and their insights, NPR's Domenico Montanaro, Abby Phillip of "The Washington Post," Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist," Glen Thrush of "The New York Times."
A very important meeting just minutes away for this president. On the surface, Republicans are in this great mood of celebration. We control everything. We have a Republican president. We have the House. We have the Senate. We want to cut taxes. We want to have stronger immigration policies. We want to create jobs. We want to repeal and replace Obamacare. That's what they say on the surface. Listen here to House Speaker Paul Ryan just a short time ago up in Philadelphia saying all is fine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We are on the same page with the White House. And we've been working with the administration on a daily basis to map out and plan a very bold and aggressive agenda, to make good on our campaign promises and to fix these problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But - and there's always a but -
MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": Right.
KING: They have profound disagreements over how to replace Obamacare. Just within the Republicans on Capitol Hill, let alone with the White House where they think this president's kind of boxed them in saying I like some of the most popular and most expensive parts of Obamacare. They don't like his trade policy. They don't like some of his immigration policy. They are furious, although they're being calm publically, that he keeps wandering off into conversations about torture, waterboarding, voter fraud.
HAM: Yes. Each one of these gatherings is going to be a negotiation. Every time these folks come together. And that's what I kind of enjoyed about Paul Ryan's approach to this during the election is that he recognized, this is not exactly coming together in the way that we have traditionally seen a reconciliation of a party to a nominee.
That being said, he's been friendly and they've had plenty of back and forth. I think he - I think it may have earned him a bit of respect from Trump as a negotiating partner, but there are going to be negotiations. It's not a - it's not a, yes, we are doing this and everyone agrees on it. There are very powerful parts of the Republican Party. There's still free trade and other things that (INAUDIBLE). KING: And - and as we watch this picture, and I want to dig much
deeper on the domestic issues the president will be discuss with his Republican allies in moments, but look at the banner right there. Right out of the box, this is day six of the Trump presidency. We know this would be a contentious relationship. But it is also a critical economic relationship, the United States and Mexico to our south. It's not just about the border and immigration. It is - they're a huge trading partner with Canada as well to our north. What does it tell us that you essentially have two men now who are digging in their heels against each other. The Mexican president says, now way, I'm not coming if right out of the box you're saying, we will pay for that wall.
GLEN THRUSH, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, two numbers, I think, are vital to understanding this. One is, 12 percent, which is what President Nieto's approval rating is in Mexico right now. He has tanked. And he's particularly tanked since his meet with the president during the campaign. And the other is President Trump's approval rating, which is between 37 and 41 percent.
The thing that is really striking here is you have two leaders on the border who are both historically unpopular at this point in their - in their tenures. And to some extent, this is a conflict that benefits both of them in terms of galvanizing their bases and appearing to at least be tough.
KING: Benefits both of them politically in that if you're a Trump voter out there and immigration was an important issue to you, you think the fact that he's in this fight with the Mexican president right out of the box is probably great. That means he's going to be tougher. But, when you look more broadly at the economic partnership, what President Trump wanted to do at that meeting was to test the waters of renegotiating NAFTA. As a candidate he said he was going to rip it up. Now he says he wants to renegotiate to modernize it, which makes a lot of sense to a lot of people. It was signed in the 1990s. We didn't have supercomputers in our pockets then. Plants didn't have so much automation. Different - the economies of both countries, and Canada, three countries, have changed considerably. What does it do to the tone of that, a very important economic conversation, when now they are at each other over the immigration fight?
[12:05:29] DOMENICO MONTANARO, NPR: It's also going to test how this Republican Party is reshaped. You know, thinking about how the Republican Party has been so free trade over so many years and you've had Donald Trump come out with this America first policy, as he's rebranded it, to be something about protectionist, kind of populist, nationalist agenda that has to do with trade. You've seen some industry groups, agriculture, for example, beef producers come out and say that they think that this is a big - this is a big problem trying to renegotiate NAFTA, getting out of TPP, that they export a lot of their - a lot of their agricultural products.
So this is going to fundamentally - we're going to get an idea now finally putting some practicality on a lot of those lofty goals and ambitions that Donald Trump had tried to say that he would want to do during the campaign and also happens to be during that time when Republicans are there in Philadelphia, as you noted, who are going to have to put the money on the table for doing a lot of these really ambitious projects that Trump wants to pull off.
ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It seems to me also that the bottom line is that you can't have a deal or a negotiation if nobody is at the table. And Trump is supposed to be a dealmaker. And he's executing on his promise to treat this like he would a business deal. But I think he's going to learn, and maybe this is a good illustration of this, that diplomacy is not the same thing as deal making in the context of a board room and money making. It's just not the same. And nobody's at the table right now. It's hard to have a renegotiation of NAFTA under those terms. It is impossible to work with Mexico on other issues, including border security and also the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband across the border. Those are issues that we work with Mexico on every single day. If they're not talking, it's not going to happen.
KING: And so we're going to spend a lot of time on a lot of important policy issues in the hour ahead. This relationship with Mexico that has gone off the rails in the very first week. The very difficult negotiations the president has, even though Republicans are happy at the moment and celebrating, the devil's in the details and there's a lot of disagreement on the details, never mind President Trump.
These are the same kind of pictures - you see the vice president up on the left there. He's at the meeting in Philadelphia as well as Republicans gather. These are the same debates that cost the former speaker, John Boehner, his job. There are so many disagreements within the Republican conference on taxes and spending. On if we're spending here, shouldn't we offset here. They just said this morning, the border wall will cost somewhere in the area of $15 billion. You can be certain the Tea Party, or fiscal conservatives, are going to be saying, OK, if we're going to spend that money, that's fine, but where's it coming from? And they want to take it somewhere else.
But I want to stop just for one second on the picture - the big picture you see there, because it's not going to affect the price of bread, relationships with Mexico or whether Donald Trump gets his agenda through the Congress, but the trappings of the presidency are still new to him. This is his first flight on Air Force One. During the transition he caused a bit of stir about replacing this plane. This is the 747. Any plane the president's on is designated Air Force One. But this is the big Air Force One, the 747. He gave an interview to your colleague, Glen, Maggie Haberman, yesterday, where he was talking about it. And whether you're a Trump supporter or not, this is actually - you know, he was - how cool it was to have the high-tech phones at the White House.
THRUSH: He said - he said how - these are the most beautiful phones I've ever seen in my entire life.
HAM: So secure.
KING: Right and so secure and about walking -
THRUSH: It just explode - and words just explode in the air. KING: And walking the halls. And he put an Andrew Jackson portrait, a
populist president, in the Oval Office. He brought back the Churchill bust. He talked about how it is to, you know, to walk through and sleep in the area where Abraham Lincoln roamed and slept in the White House. Whatever your political views - I'm sorry and here we - we're awaiting now the president of the United States to step off. Whatever your political views - that's the Air Force attendant, I believe. Yes, there we go. It's pretty cool and it must be an interesting adjustment into the trappings of the presidency.
HAM: Well, and it's actually kind of nice to hear him be a little taken aback by some of those trappings because he's a man who has plenty of trappings of his own. So seeing that and maybe being a tiny bit humbled occasionally is a nice thing to see from a President Trump.
THRUSH: And he put - didn't he put Bill Clinton's drapes back in the Oval Office, which I thought was - I don't know if there's any -
HAM: Always gold, man. Always gold.
THRUSH: Always gold, right.
PHILLIP: There's something about sitting behind that desk in the Oval Office that he seems particularly enamored with. It definitely makes you feel like the president.
THRUSH: And it's getting cluttered, like his Trump Tower desk.
KING: As we wait - as we wait for the president to step off here, and forgive me if I have to interrupt you, but my colleague, Manu Raju, is at the Philadelphia retreat and spoke not long ago with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, one of the important players in these negotiations on all the domestic issues. But, Manu, you asked Mitch McConnell whether he thought it was smart for President Trump to get into a Twitter fight with the Mexican president.
[12:10:04] MANU RAJU, CNN REPORTER: Indeed, I did. And McConnell side stepping that, John, not wanting to give the president of the United States advice. I asked him specifically, should President Trump tone it down and try to salvage this relationship with Mexico? Take a listen to McConnell's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't have any advice to give to the president about that issue. We are moving ahead. As the speaker pointed out to our group yesterday with - what - what is that - yes, of roughly -
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Twelve to 15.
MCCONNELL: Yes, $12 to $15 billion. So we intend to address the wall issue ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: And I asked - I asked him afterwards, well, what do you think about the relationship with Mexico? Are you concerned about the U.S./Mexico relationship. And Paul Ryan, he said, I think we'll be fine, and moved on - moved on from there. They clearly don't want to talk about Donald Trump's tone, his tweeting, but making some news about the cost of that proposal. And interestingly, too, John, not saying whether or not that $12 billion to $15 billion package will be offset by corresponding spending cuts. As you were mentioning, fiscal conservatives raising concerns about deficit spending. Well, this could be deficit spending, especially if Mexico does not, indeed, pay for the wall. And $12 billion to $15 billion is a lot of money, of course, and a lot more than even a lot of federal agencies, major programs through the federal budget. So whether or not they can actually get this money appropriated is a big question. And it could - they can't get it approved, then it could undermine and undercut one of Donald Trump's key agenda items. So an interesting development and one that sort of up ends the Republicans carefully laid plans to move a pretty aggressive agenda. Now they've got to worry about this as well, John.
KING: And here we see - Manu Raju is at the retreat where the president will be momentarily. President Trump coming down the stairs of Air Force One at Philadelphia International Airport. He's got a crisp salute. He's been working on that. It's interesting to watch a new president in his early days in office. Straight into the motorcade and off to that retreat.
As we noted at the top of the program, if you're just joining us, on the flight up from Washington, the White House learned, number one, that the Mexican president has canceled his planned meet with the president of the United States. President Enrique Pena Nieto will not travel to the United States next week because he is angry that Donald Trump, right out of the box, signed an executive action to speed construction of the border wall, take several other steps related to immigration and made clear that ultimately he expects Mexico to pay for that wall. So the president of Mexico canceling that trip, a diplomatic stir, on just day six of the Trump administration.
And the White House press secretary, on the flight up, also announcing, and let's discuss this, that later today the president will sign an executive order. We don't know the details yet. And when you talk at these executive orders, I'll say this now and we'll talk more about it, the president can sign a piece of paper. That doesn't necessarily mean that that stuff happens. We see - the president can sign an executive order and it states his goal. It states what he wants. It doesn't necessarily mean that he can achieve all those things. But we are told that we will get an executive order later today to carry out what the president says he now wants, an investigation into his belief that 3 million to 5 million undocumented here in the United States illegally voted in the presidential election.
We'll keep an eye on the president's motorcade as it prepares to leave here.
Mary Katharine, we don't know the details here, obviously. We have to look at it. Is he asking the Justice Department to do this? Is he calling on states to do this? Our Constitution leaves to the states administration of elections. Then states leave it to their individual counties or however they break down their structures. Yesterday Sean Spicer was saying they believe this happened mostly in New York and California. Well, election officials in both of those states have said preposterous, that we've looked at our elections and there's just nothing - we don't believe there's any significant fraud anyway and absolutely nothing on that scale.
HAM: Right. Our elections system is a product of federalism, something liberals will learn and love during the Trump years probably. But - but, look -
KING: Well played.
HAM: There's a distinction - there's a distinction here, which is, does voter fraud exist? Yes, it exists. Don't tell anybody it does not exist. On the other hand, does large widespread change the face of the election? Voter fraud exist in 2016? No, it did not. So the question I think is what he ends up saying he wants to investigate, because it could go beyond 2016, we heard, which then it might be a broader investigation. I don't think it's necessary, but there is a distinction there.
MONTANARO: You know the country's already paid for a voter fraud investigation from 2002 to 2007. The Bush administration underwent its own voter fraud investigation. By 2007, it wrapped up and they found something like 129 people who may have voted illegally. That is not 3 million to 5 million people. Not even close to the kind of scale or any evidence that there could potentially be some kind of widespread voter conspiracy.
[12:15:23] You know, a mini part of this played out in North Carolina during that recount when the outgoing governor was defeated and they went through this broad recount to see if there were other - if there were other - if there were a potential for people who may have voted illegally. And what the court actually found was that one of the people who was a Republican actually had coordinated some effort to have people vote illegally. And even though they were looking in mostly African-American areas and found little to nothing.
And a lot of this centers around voter assistance. You know this is what - you know Jeff Sessions back in 1986, which derailed part of his - you know, his - his trying to become a federal judge, was that he had brought to court some folks who had helped with voter assistance, which is legal, and they claim that that was some show of voter fraud, which was not. And the court threw that out.
THRUSH: To your point, I think I personally, if this was a bipartisan commission, independent of the president's control that's going to investigate this, I would feel much more comfortable about it. And why have a narrow view of this stuff? There were accusations in North Carolina in particular that the closing of polling sites and restrictions in places like Florida on early voting had a suppression effect. Let's open this - you know let's - why don't we use this inquiry that the president seems to want to make to open up the whole question. I mean there are real questions about the validity of the election that extend beyond his accusations.
PHILLIP: Look, the devil is in the details. I think if at the end of this week Donald Trump has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of executive orders by essentially making them hollow, I think that will probably do more damage to his cause than help it.
We have no idea what this investigation is going to be. We have no idea where it's going to be centered or who is going to pay for it. And we have to have those details first because we can't assume that it's going to even exist. And, you know, it's very possible to write an executive order that calls for someone to look into creating an investigation that does not create an investigation.
KING: It is - it is hard to pursue facts that are not on the table that nobody else believes exists that the president and most people think here the president and very few others are out on their own here. But let's see. We'll see. The devil's in the details. As you said, we'll get that order later today.
We're also going to hear from the president directly. He is in the motorcade. You just saw him leaving Philadelphia Airport. He will be addressing Republican readers gathered in Philadelphia, replacing Obamacare, tax cuts, a growth agenda, foreign policy. A lot for the president to discuss. We'll take you there live when it happens.
INSIDE POLITICS back after a quick break.
[12:22:21] KING: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. Live pictures there. The Lowes Hotel in Philadelphia. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, momentarily, will address a big Republican strategy retreat. Republicans control the house and the Senate. Now they have a Republican president. Lawmakers debating an agenda that includes tax cuts, it includes repealing and replacing Obamacare, many other big issues for the president. Also some big differences between the Republican president and the Republican leadership in Congress.
The president is on his way to that retreat. We will take you there live as soon as he receives.
On the way up, big, breaking news, Mexico's president says he will not come to the United States next week as scheduled because he is angry now at the new American president, Donald Trump. Donald Trump signing executive orders yesterday to speed up the construction of a border wall along the southern border of the United States with Mexico. Also taking some other immigration steps that Mexico is now offended. Donald Trump says medico will pay for that wall. President Enrique Pena Nieto says, no, we will not. Again, he has now canceled that trip.
Let's go live to Mexico City to CNN's Leyla Santiago.
Leyla, a diplomatic dustup in the first week, six days into the Trump administration. Give us the perspective from Mexico City. LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we know that within
just the last half hour, President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico tweeted saying, I will not be attending this meeting in the White House, but I am looking forward to a relationship that is mutually beneficial. It's really been this sort of back and forth between the two presidents. This morning, when we woke up, around 9:57 Eastern Time, President Trump tweeted saying perhaps we shouldn't have a meeting if Mexico is not willing to pay for the wall. And that came, let's rewind a little bit more, after last night's video post from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto saying, look, I don't believe in a wall. I will never pay for a wall. But I do want to be friends was essentially what he said in that video post.
So, OK, then this morning we wake up and I want to show you the headlines, just to show you that this is really on the minds of Mexicans here. This headline from "La Prenta" (ph) says, "Lo Hizo," which means, "he did it." In other words, Donald Trump is following through with his campaign promises. Then this one from "Reforma" (ph) says, "cumple amenazas" (ph), meaning, "he is following through with that threat."
So these are developments that have been coming on, not day-to-day, rather hour-by-hour as both presidents go back and forth. And one sort of trying to prove to each other, prove one's case that they will protect their country's interests. That is what the Mexican president has said is his goal, to make sure that he protects Mexico's interests.
[12:25:01] And it comes at a very interesting time for him because I've got to tell you, his approval ratings not so great right now. The Mexican president's approval ratings stand, according to the latest polls, at about 12 percent. It also comes at a time when the peso is plunging. It also comes at a time when Mexicans have taken to the streets to protest the government's decision to raise those gas prices. So not necessarily the most stable time but clearly a sign he is trying to stand his ground.
KING: And, Leyla, how concerned is the Mexican government, Mexican economic interest, the business community that this fight between the two men, two stubborn men, over the wall and who's going to pay for it and whether that, in fact, will be built, will spill over into broader damage to an economic relationship that is absolutely vital to both countries?
SANTIAGO: Sure. And that's the point that the Mexican president has been trying to make all week, that they are crucial to each other. Vital is a good way to say that, John. But, you know, every single time I've spoken to a Mexican official about this new relationship, the very first thing they tell me is NAFTA is a huge concern. That free trade deal. And it's because of that, because they depend on each other so much. So there is a concern that what is starting to Twitter, this sort of war of words on Twitter, the back and forth, is going to spill over and have a greater impact, not only on the U.S., but also on Mexico, which, again, I want to reiterate, the economy's not so stable right now. So it really could have a greater impact that goes beyond social
media. I man this could also impact the next presidential election here in Mexico next year. This could impact the legacy of Pena Nieto and what has been sort of a history of some conflict but also friendship between the two countries when you look over say the last century of a relationship between the two countries.
KING: Leyla Santiago for us in Mexico City, breaking news today.
I also want to welcome our viewers watching around the world on CNN International, as well as our viewers here in the United States.
And you see on the bottom right of your screen there, President Trump soon to speak to a very important Republican strategy session a couple hours north of Washington in Philadelphia.
You listen to the accounts from Mexico City. You see the president's first actions. He is proving, as he did during the campaign, like it or not, understand it or not, that he is going to be a disruptive force, not just in our domestic politics when it comes to these issues of taxes and spending and repealing and replacing the signature initiative of the previous president, Barack Obama, Obamacare, but also on the world stage. And he seems to like it that way.
HAM: Yes, he does. And here's the thing about it is that often I don't like it, but I am sort of done underestimating it because he seems to get more success out of some of these tactics than I thought he would. Even when I think this is not the right way to do things or the mature or the helpful way to do things, it could be that next week Pena Nieto's like, hey, never mind, I'm coming. Like I - at this point -
KING: I should note on that point, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, was asked about this and he did say, we will look for a date in the near future to reschedule.
KING: So the White House could have said, fine. And that's a diplomatic answer and we'll see if diplomacy comes for -
PHILLIP: This is the time for back-channel talks.
KING: If - yes, we'll see. Well, that - that's another part of the problem, though, is that the president's team isn't all in place yet. His secretary of state has not been confirmed yet. That's the back channel. Who is it that picks up the phone and tries to turn the temperature down here?
THRUSH: Well I think, you know, again, I think the issue here is, you have world leaders - and this is the most extreme example - trying to figure out how to deal with this guy. I thought it was very interesting when the president tweeted some stuff about China a couple of weeks ago, the way that the Chinese reacted to it, which was to say, oh, Donald Trump says stuff. HAM: Yes.
THRUSH: And I think we're going to see a lot more of that. People are trying to figure out various modalities of dealing with this guy. Remember, the Japanese dealt with it in a very direct way. Abe visited -
THRUSH: Visited Trump in Trump Tower. I don't think that necessarily worked. I think a lot of people are going to be dealing with him like he's an uncle who says, you know, crazy stuff at dinner. It's like, oh, uncle -
KING: Don't get caught up so much in what he tweets or says.
THRUSH: Uncle Donald just says this stuff.
KING: Right. Don't follow the tweets or what he says so much as follow, see what happens after. But in the early days, you're making a first impression, and we'll see what happens.
On this issue, we're talking about the international ramifications of the early Trump actions on immigration, there are also significant domestic ramifications. One of the things he said - and, again, this will be tested in the courts without a doubt - but one of the orders he signed yesterday instructs his government, his agencies, to look for ways to cut off funding for so-called sanctuary cities. So if you are Boston, if you are Chicago, if you are San Francisco, if you are New York and you don't enforce federal immigration laws, then the - this president says he's going to cut off your money. The mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, one of many Democratic mayors who have fired back, and Marty Walsh said this yesterday, "to anyone who feels threat today or vulnerable, you are safe in Boston. If necessary, we will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who's targeted unjustly. They can use my office, they can use any office in this building. They'll be able to use this building as a safe space." New York's mayor saying, I'll see you in court, Mr. President.
[12:30:12] Now, these are blue, to our viewers around the world watching.