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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump on Mexico Meeting: We Didn't Discuss Who Pays for the Wall; Mexican President: I Told Trump Mexico Won't Pay for the Wall; Donald Trump Will Speak in Phoenix; Clinton Campaign on Mexico Meeting: Trump Choked. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 31, 2016 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:09] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. John Berman here, in for Anderson.
We are waiting for Donald Trump. He speaks shortly tonight on immigration in Phoenix. You are looking at live pictures right now. He will take that stage in just a short while, fresh from the surprise visit to Mexico. And, boy, have we got breaking news on that.
Moments after meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Donald Trump announced loud and clear, with millions of people watching, that when it comes to who pays for a wall between the two countries -- this is the central tenet of his campaign -- the two men did not discuss it. Now, that was a surprise.
Moments ago, from surprise to shock. President Pena says that it's simply not true. Already, the Clinton campaign which had problems of his own today with some new polling is pouncing on this and the big story is only getting bigger.
So, let's start with the breaking news, CNN's Jim Acosta is in Mexico City.
And, Jim, we have a case of he said/he said over whether they discussed who is paying for the wall.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right, John.
Either this is a lost in translation moment or Donald Trump simply was not telling the truth in terms of what was going on behind closed doors between himself and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. It is, as you said, this is a signature campaign pledge for Donald Trump. He is going to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and Mexico is going to pay for it.
Donald Trump during a news conference with reporters earlier this afternoon with the Mexican president said that they did discuss his proposal for building that wall along the U.S. southern border, but he says they did not talk about who is going to pay for it, and here is a bit of that sound to show you what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We didn't discuss that. We didn't discuss who pays for the wall? We didn't discuss.
We did discuss the wall. We didn't discuss payment of the wall. That will be for a later date. This was a very preliminary meeting. I think it was an excellent meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, of course, Pena Nieto tweeted as you mentioned just a few moments ago, John, this was hours after his exchange with Donald Trump here at the presidential palace in Mexico City that, in fact, they did talk about this behind closed doors and that he maintains he told Donald Trump that under no circumstances will Mexico pay for that wall. We can put that tweet up on screen, it says -- and we are just showing you the translated English here.
"At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall."
John, it doesn't get any more clearer than that when it comes to what Pena Nieto was saying. But, of course, one thing that I think was striking day and it was a stunning day being here in Mexico City and seeing Donald Trump coming to the heart of the capital of the country he has insulted time and again is that during that moment when Donald Trump said "we did not talk about who would pay for the wall," Pena Nieto did not correct him during the news conference. This came after the fact, John.
BERMAN: And, in fact, the Trump campaign has a new statement sort of clarifying this maybe a little tonight?
ACOSTA: Sort of. It's a little bit cloudy in terms of what the campaign is saying about this. Spokesman Jason Miller sent out the statement within the last hour, it says, quote, "It was not a negotiation and that would have been inappropriate. It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue and we look forward to continuing the conversation." So, not really getting into the he said/he said/who said what, but saying they're going to continue to have this conversation.
But, John, Donald Trump, his brand is telling it like it is. At this point, we just don't know what it was that they talked about behind closed doors.
BERMAN: Different views on the issue doesn't explain why they have different explanations about what exactly was discussed.
Jim Acosta in Mexico City -- thanks so much.
Now to the speech tonight and it is a big speech. It comes after several weeks of mixed signals and pretty strenuous denials from the Trump campaign that anything is actually changing. However, last night on this program, Donald Trump Jr. did tell Anderson that it's a question of priorities when it comes to deporting the estimated 11 million people who are in this country illegally. They all still have to go, he said, but in his words, baby step first -- though we should note that baby steps would be a big step away from past rhetoric.
So, what will we hear tonight?
CNN's Sara Murray joins us now from Phoenix.
Sara, what can we expect to hear from Donald Trump? I suppose can we expect to hear further explanation about what was said or not said in Mexico?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, not certainly be the wild card, John, if he addresses that here tonight, but as you were talking about priorities, I think we're going to hear Donald Trump come out tonight and talk about how border security is one of the first priorities here because he needs to stop inflows of illegal immigration, that I think we're going to hear him talk about when you talk about the undocumented immigrants in the U.S., the first you need to get rid of are the ones who have been convicted of crimes here.
I'm told by advisers, he will address the 11 million undocumented immigrants broadly.
[20:05:00] But, of course, the question is, how specific does he get in terms of his policies for how to deal with them? Does he just talk about enforcing current law or do we hear him gloss over this issue altogether?
But, obviously, we are expecting him to hammer the border security issue very hard and, of course, John, it includes building the wall.
BERMAN: All right. Any notion if we will emerge from tonight with specifics, Sara?
MURRAY: We are expecting specifics. I was actually talking to advisers earlier today and ironically, one of the issues that we are expecting specifics on is the wall. Exactly how long it's going to be could potentially be included in this speech and also how to pay for it, and we're not talking about contributions by Donald Trump is expecting from Mexico, but we are also talking about potentially defunding the sanctuary cities and stripping the benefits that the Trump campaign feels undocumented immigrants get. All of that they believe could be used in a pool of money to go towards paying for this wall on the border with Mexico.
And, John, those are contributions that would come from the U.S. budget, not contributions that would come from Mexico. When I talked to a policy adviser broadly about sort of what Donald Trump wants to accomplish, this person said he wants to get into specifics into things that are rooted in research and, in fact, it won't be as theoretical or as dogmatic as what we heard from Trump in the primaries.
BERMAN: All right. Sara Murray for us on the ground in Phoenix, where you can hear the crowd getting ready for this big speech.
We should note: Donald Trump's plane is on the ground in Phoenix. In this case, it's not his signature 757, though we have yet to see Donald Trump emerge from that plane just yet. Again, we will bring you that speech live as it happens.
Now, the other side, as for Hillary Clinton, she had few kind words for Donald Trump, as she put it, dropping in on Mexico. She also had some bubbling issues of her own here at home, namely some new softening in the polls.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is on the campaign trail in Cincinnati joins us right now.
Jeff, Secretary Clinton held her first public event of the week today. You were there. What did she have to say about Donald Trump's trip to Mexico?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Hillary Clinton talked a lot about leadership. She was addressing a conference of legions. So, a lot of military veterans in that crowd. She talked about being commander in chief and leadership overall.
And she did mock and, to some degree, deride this trip to Mexico. She said it takes far more than simply flying in to make up for a year's worth of insults and insinuations.
But then her campaign chairman John Podesta had even stronger words to say. A short time ago, he released a statement saying in part this, he said, "At the first opportunity to make good on his offensive campaign promises, Trump choked. What we saw today from a man who claims to be the ultimate deal maker is that he doesn't have the courage to advocate for his campaign promises when he's not in front of a friendly crowd."
Of course, John Podesta right there talking about paying for the wall. But once it became clear that that may, in fact, have come up in the meetings, that Donald Trump may not have been telling the truth about that, according to the Mexican president, John Podesta updated his statement, saying, "He not only choked. It seems he got beaten in the room and then he lied about it" -- John.
BERMAN: Fun with campaign statements, Jeff Zeleny.
Also, today, there were some not so favorable numbers for Secretary Clinton specifically when it comes to her favorability. What can you tell us about that?
ZELENY: Those favorability numbers, John, really for all of the time she's been in public life, a quarter century worth, "The Washington Post"/ABC News poll found that 59 percent of Americans have a six in ten Americans have an unfavorable impression of her. That includes many Democrats and people who are likely to vote for her as well. It's clear that the drip, drip, drip of the campaign controversies from e-mails to the Clinton Foundation taking a toll on her.
John, also a new poll out tonight from FOX is showing this race seems closer than it has before. She is just two points above Donald Trump, Gary Johnson now nearly 10 percent. When she's taken out she's six points ahead of Trump. But, John, this race is tightening. I can tell you, campaign
officials in Clinton world believe it is tightening, not that tight they believe. They know it is a tough race ahead, when Labor Day begins, the final stretch near forward. That's why they're campaigning much more aggressively starting then.
BERMAN: Some of that convention bounce has certainly faded.
Jeff Zeleny for us -- thank you so much.
A lot more ahead as we get ready to hear from Donald Trump. He is in Phoenix. He has landed there. We are expecting to hear from his running mate Mike Pence, as well.
When we come back the political impact the trip could have on his core voters and those still on the fence or in this case, the wall, whoever is paying for it.
[20:13:27] BERMAN: We are waiting to hear from Donald Trump tonight in Phoenix. The plane he took from Mexico City is now on the ground there. In this case, this is an unmarked 737, and not the big 757 with the big "T" on the tail that he normally flies.
The candidate will take the stage fresh from a now disputed visit with Mexico's president, Pena Nieto. And just moments ago, a Twitter smackdown from the Mexican leader. He says that contrary to Donald Trump's press conference claim, the subject of who pays for the wall did come up and President Pena told him up front that it will not be Mexico.
So, let's talk about this with CNN senior political commentator and former Obama political guru David Axelrod. Also, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers.
Gloria, boy, has the nature of the whole changed over the last 60 minutes ago or so, because, initially, people were talking about Donald Trump's tone side by side with the Mexican president, perhaps more subdued than you might expect. Was this the type of trip he needed to make it seem like he could handle a foreign trip? Now, the discussion is, who's lying?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And it's not exactly the narrative that the Trump campaign wanted.
Earlier in the day when they went over there, they were very happy with the way this went. They went there to prove, in a way, that Donald Trump could be a commander in chief, that he could be a diplomat. That he could be a statesman and I think when he left the stage, they felt mission accomplished.
And by the time they arrived back here in this country, the -- you know, a new crisis ensued for them.
[20:15:06] I'm not sure it's a crisis, but -- but this controversy ensued in which suddenly we're saying who lied? Who is telling the truth? What actually happened behind closed doors?
And, you know, Trump's penchant normally as we see during the campaign is to punch back, punch back when attacked. The president of Mexico attacked him. The president of Mexico attacked him. The president of Mexico said, he said we didn't discuss this and we did, although he didn't interrupt Trump at the press conference when he said, we didn't.
And Trump's campaign released kind of an obtuse statement, saying, well, you know, this wasn't a negotiating session, et cetera, et cetera, and, you know, they have to pull back because under normal circumstances, Donald Trump would say that's not what happened, I know what happened. But he can't, can he?
BERMAN: No, it's a tough position to be in right now, and, of course, we don't know if he will bring this up when he takes the stage in Phoenix.
BORGER: We don't, exactly.
BERMAN: So, David, you know, the question is did he bring it up or didn't he bring it up?
And if it didn't come up, that's interesting in and of itself, too, isn't it, David, because listen to what Donald Trump has said in the past about Mexico paying for the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall? Who?
TRUMP: A hundred percent. A hundred percent.
So, I get a call from one of the reporters yesterday and they said, the president of Mexico said they will not under any circumstances pay for the wall. They said to me, what is your comment? I said, the wall just got ten feet higher. It's true. It's true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The ten feet higher claim had to do with a former president, David, but you get the point there. I mean, Donald Trump said Mexico will pay for the wall every chance he gets. Today, his claim was, it didn't come up. He can't really back off that issue now, can he?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think so. That's been his go-to position, even through this week in which he's been sort of experimenting with a softening of his immigration position. His go-to call and response for the crowds was, we're going to build a wall and who's going to pay for it.
So, it would be almost unthinkable at this point for him to back off of that. But, you know, what happened, John, you had two politicians who are in some trouble taking risks today. Donald Trump went down there and gambled that he could pull this off without the president of Mexico smacking him down in public.
The president of Mexico thought that if he stood up to Donald Trump, that he could score points on there because his approval rating is in the 20s in his own country. They had the press conference as Gloria pointed out. President Pena never challenged Donald Trump on whether or not this had come up and he was getting killed in the Mexican press.
There was a huge backlash to Trump's visit and his handling of that press conference, and now, he's come forward with this -- with this tweet, and I presume and I am told that he had witnesses in the room for just this sort of occurrence. So, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the next hours. Because until that point I thought Donald Trump had done very well today. He did create what looked like a presidential setting.
And for him, the greatest test now is no particular issue but persuading a bunch of very, very skeptical voters that he is equipped to be the commander-in-chief and president. But this could unravel a lot of the good that he had done for himself.
BERMAN: Kirsten, what about that? Earlier today I heard you talking and you said you thought Donald Trump did a decent job of standing up there at the podium side by side with another world leader. But now that we have, you know, we did talk about it gate, as it were, does that change the entire perception of this?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yes, it does, and the reason I thought that he did so well is because considering all the things that he has said about Mexicans, to be able to stand with there with the president of Mexico who is now treating you respectfully and essentially saying that he could work with him, it undercuts an argument about Donald Trump that Democrats are making, of course, that he's not going to be able to work with world leaders because he's, you know, too unpredictable and too unhinged and says these horrible things.
Well, what we saw was he actually was able to seemingly work with the president of Mexico. I actually don't think, and I said this earlier, that he had to bring up anything about them paying for the wall in the first meeting. That's not usually how you start negotiations is going for the jugular with your -- the thing that you know you're going to disagree about.
However, if it was discussed, you need to disclose that. And for him to say that it wasn't discussed when it was discussed is extremely problematic.
BORGER: But, you know, if I were -- excuse me, an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, I would say why didn't you bring up who pays for the wall?
[20:20:06] If I were one of those Republicans who had voted for him in the primaries, I would say, why didn't you tell the president of Mexico that they're going to pay for the wall? Don't you think that those voters could be alienated by him not doing that? BERMAN: Well, but the thing is and this gets to tonight, too, David
Axelrod, you know, Donald Trump getting ready to big speech in Phoenix, we're looking at his plane live right now. This is a very highly anticipated speech.
Gloria brings up Donald Trump supporters. I have seen no evidence that he is at any risk of losing any of them no matter what he does at this point, no matter what statements he makes about immigration or almost anything else.
So, who is this immigration speech he's giving tonight, who is it for? Is it for those core voters or is it for those undecided, maybe perhaps reachable voters out there, if there are any?
AXELROD: Well, a few things, John. First of all, he did court some potential defections last week when he started talking about a path to legalization and he got smacked down by Ann Coulter, by Rush Limbaugh. And there were some sense that he had floated this trial balloon, and it went badly.
So, he quickly beat a retreat on that and went back to the lab and started working on this with his team again. And tonight, we'll see what they came up with.
But Donald Trump is walking a tightrope and there is a moat full off alligators below, and it's a very, very tough issue for him to navigate because on the one hand, yes, his base is very rabid on this issue and I do think some would leave if he felt he had betrayed them on this issue.
But his base, even if they stay is not large enough to win the presidency. He needs to expand his base. And even if he can't get Hispanic voters to respond to him on this issue. He has to persuade these college-educated white voters, these suburban women in particular who have walked away from him on the issue of both intolerance and fear that he would be incapable of handling in a responsible way the duties of the presidency. He has to get the voters back.
And so, what he's going to try and do tonight is recast his immigration plans in tones that seem more tolerant and reasonable, but don't go so far -- but he won't go so far as to lose these base supporters. It's a very tricky path for him.
BERMAN: It is very tricky threading a political needle now. On top of all of that, how does he explain or does he explain what was said or not said as he met with the Mexican leader today.
We have so much more to discuss, guys. Do not go anywhere. We are waiting for Donald Trump to step off this plane that you're looking at right now and then head to the stage that you're looking at right now.
We'll be back right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:26:47] BERMAN: The Donald Trump and Mike Pence planes both now on the tarmac in Phoenix. We are waiting for them to step into their motorcade right now. Donald Trump's immigration speech tonight and his meeting with Mexico's president today caps off more than a year of discussions, some say rhetoric about immigration. And the message from him and his surrogates has been less than clear from everyone who has to go to a supposed softening to a deportation force.
We'll do a quick fact check before tonight's speech. Tom Foreman joins me with that.
Tom, Donald Trump is promising to get very tough on people who are here illegally, how exactly would that work?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not clear when this deportation force would go to work, but he has said, immediately, he will go after what he calls the bad ones. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are going to get rid of the criminals and it's going to happen within one hour after I take office we start, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So, what's wrong with that?
Well, it's already started. Last year, the feds kicked off this program called the Priority Enforcement Program which focuses on going after people who are here illegally, who have committed felonies and serious misdemeanors. That's estimated at about 690,000 people out of about 11 million people in the country illegally.
So, by the way, Trump people often say, if you go after the criminals, it would significantly cut down on the number of people here illegally. Those numbers say otherwise.
But if you focus on this number, just getting these people has already proven to be difficult. Trump has not explained what will be so different about his approach in tracking these people down, catching them, getting rid of them. Absent those details, we can say it's true, it could be true that he will take immediate action, but it's misleading to suggest that that would somehow magically produce results we could all see in short order -- John.
BERMAN: Tom, Donald Trump has also criticized Hillary Clinton's plans for how she would deal with immigration. What can you tell us about that?
FOREMAN: Well, let's start by listening to what he said about her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton's legislative plan, remember this, is to give illegal immigrants access to Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare and U.S. welfare. Her plan will functionally end enforcement of visa overstay rules. She will also close down detention centers for border crossings, meaning she will have an open southern border that will bring nothing, but crime and destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: That's a big laundry list. Let's break it down one at a time.
First claim here: Clinton supports access to Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare and U.S. welfare for people who are here in the country illegally. She has said that she thinks people who are here illegally, these families, should be able to buy their way into Obamacare. She has also suggested these other things could come along, too, as part of a broader package toward people moving into a legal status here, or becoming permanent residents of the United States or citizens.
So, to suggest that is all of the same thing, that's not true. The first part, that is true. The second part, we're going to call false.
Now, the second part of that statement here, let's consider what he said. Clinton's plan will functionally end enforcement of visa overstay rules. Well, yes, she does like the idea of a plan towards citizenship or permanent residency for people who have come here illegally. So, you could argue that does end some enforcement of visa overstay rules.
[20:30:12] And what about the last part here. Does she really want to close down detention centers for border crossings?
Well, on the southern border, detention centers are largely, if not wholly run by private companies and yes, Clinton has said she doesn't want private companies running these anymore. But Homeland Security is already looking at how to they replace them once again with government-operated facilities.
So it is true to say she wants to shut them down, but it is misleading to suggest that nothing would go in their place. John?
BERMAN: All right Tom Foreman with reality check. Thank you so much.
Joining us now, former South Carolina State House member Bakari Sellers for Hillary Clinton, Gloria Borger is back. Also with us former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Republican strategist Ana Navarro and Donald Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord.
Corey, I'm glad you're here because there seems to be a dispute right now. Donald Trump earlier today said when he met with the Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto they did not discuss who would pay for the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that Donald Trump says he will build.
Since Donald Trump said that the Mexican president said oh, yeah, I said Mexico's not going to pay for it. So I'm asking you because we know though you left the Trump campaign you are still in contact with them and the candidate himself. Any explanation about this discrepancy?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Look, I think what we're going to see here in about 45 minutes is Donald Trump is going to get out, he's talk very specifically about his plans for illegal immigration, I agree with that. That's going to include how to pay for that wall, that's going to include, what that means for the people of Mexico. So without getting out in front of what Donald Trump is going to say we'll let him speak.
BERMAN: I'm not talking about what he is going to say. I'm asking about what he said. Donald Trump said he didn't discuss it with the Mexican president and the Mexican president said he did. So what happened?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I wasn't in Mexico, obviously, I was here with you, so I don't know what took place during that private conversation. I don't think many people were there, to be fair. So -- but what I do think is very, very clear is that Donald Trump was steadfast in his resolve that he has said that countries have the ability to build a wall, a real wall and it was very clear about that today on stage today.
BERMAN: But if he didn't bring up who would pay for it or if he didn't dispute the Mexican leader's claim that Mexican won't pay for it. What steadfast about that.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well look, I think with you also have to remember is Donald Trump left Mexico two and a half hours ago, he flew on an airplane for two and a half hours, he's still on the tarmac in the plane. We haven't heard from him or the campaign yet. So let's give the campaign the opportunity to respond, I think is the fair thing to do before we make -- before we question what Donald Trump has said and what -- we've heard one -- we've seen one tweet from the Mexican president that said there wasn't a discussion, Donald Trump has been in the air for 2 1/2 hours, let's give him the chance to respond.
BERMAN: You think the campaign did put out a statement which did not dispute exactly what the Mexican president said. What the statement said is it is understandable how they would have differing opinions on the issue. Let me read that, if we can put that up on the screen, so I can read this for you exactly what the statement said here. It say, "It was not a negotiation and that would have been inappropriate. It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue, when we look forward to continuing the conversation."
Two different views on this issue is sort of a non-denial denial. It's not that they hold two different views on what was discussed, it's just they hold two different views on who would pay for the wall.
LEWANDOWSKI: OK, I think Donald Trump has been very clear from when his launch this campaign, that Mexico is going to pay for the wall, whether that means through the reduction of foreign aid from United States to Mexico or it means through other means which the government currently has available to them. If he is elected president of the United States and wants to reduce among the foreign aid to Mexico in order to cove the cost of the wall, that's a prerogative that Congress has and the president has to do that.
BERMAN: Again, that is very much the issue and not the issue I'm talking about which is they did discuss it or not. Ana, does any of that matter?
ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. It really doesn't and frank -- look, you know, darn well that it is not easy for me to give a point to Donald Trump, but I give it to him tonight because frankly the only thing he has to say is hey, I was standing on a podium five feet away from the guy. I said that we had not discussed this. He was standing there. He's not hearing impaired. He speaks good English and yet he did not rebut me when he had the chance.
I think what happened frankly is in the last three hours since we saw that press conference Pena Nieto has been pilloried. He has been taken to task, he has been hit upon like a pinata, by two former presidents of Mexico, by Jorge Ramos who is a leading journalist, not only here but also in Mexico, very respected voice who all said, how could he not have asked for an apology? How could he not have said that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, and I think Pena Nieto was trying to save face. But the truth is look I have a chance.
BERMAN: But is he lying? Is he lying when he said he told him?
NAVARRO: Neither you nor I nor anybody on this panel will know if he's lying or not. What we do know is whether I saw. What there I see, we saw a head of state standing next to a candidate. The candidate said one thing and the head of state standing five feet from him did not rebut him, did not refute him, did not get into a fight with him, did not say one word, stood there silently nodding his head and smiling.
[20:35:20] You know, what you had your chance. You didn't use it. You're done.
BORGER: Well, look, I think they were both in an awkward situation as David Axelrod said earlier, these are -- you know, Donald Trump wants to become president and the president of Mexico wants to stay there, right? And he's in some political trouble. So could he interrupt Donald Trump if he thought he was lying?
NAVARRO: Yes, it's his podium. It's his press conference.
BORGER: Yes. Was he ...
NAVARRO: He's got 23 percent approval rating.
NAVARRO: I mean it's really? I think he got himself into such a pickle. I actually think he issued this invitation not expecting ...
NAVARRO: ... that Donald Trump would accept. Donald Trump outplayed him, outsmarted him.
BORGER: Right, but he was trying to be president.
BORGER: So I think he didn't expect Donald Trump to come. He got himself in a pickle. It was a bad situation, and he didn't know what to do. Whether he heard him or not and what occurred behind closed doors, we don't know. But we have to hear Donald Trump on it tonight. I'm presuming, Corey, he's going to say something about it.
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I think his speech tonight, I think is going to be very clear, it's going to be very detailed and he'll outline some of the issues he talked about in Mexico today, but he's also going to be much more detailed, he's going to talk about the payment for this wall ...
BORGER: For the wall. Right.
LEWANDOWSKI: ... and that's very important.
NAVARRO: But let me tell you this, I have a lot of Mexican friends, I have a lot of Latino friends. I can tell you that none of us are changing our minds on Donald Trump because of what today.
BERMAN: All right.
NAVARRO: But today, there are more people who feel scorned towards Pena Nieto among the Latino community, than they do for Donald Trump and that is a very high bar.
BERMAN: And he is not on the ballot here (inaudible). Jeffrey hang out one second, because we're talk a lot about what Donald Trump is going to say tonight what he needs to say tonight, also what was said or not said today, this as we await this immigration speech, you're looking at Donald Trump's plane right now. Is that him? Some very small-looking figures from my monitor walking down, I think I see Donald Trump there, shaking hands, he has emerged from the plane and the screen goes to black. We presume he is getting in the motorcade right now and headed toward the speech. We'll be back in just a moment.
[20:41:13] BERMAN: Right, Donald Trump is now off the plane in Phoenix. You're looking at live pictures of his motorcade. He will be speaking shortly. The subject is immigration. This is a highly anticipated speech and it comes just after a big trip to Mexico and that's now the subject of some international dispute over what was and wasn't discussed. Mexico's president suggested Donald Trump was not telling the truth about a key facet of it whether or not they discussed who would pay for the wall that Donald Trump promises to build along the Mexican border. Back now with our panel. Jeffrey Lord, you've been sitting here waiting patiently I want to ask you about the speech that we're waiting for Donald Trump to give tonight as he heads there in this, you know, slow-motion motorcade. What do you think Donald Trump needs to do tonight and how much further clarification does he need over what he said over the last two weeks?
JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: He needs to just keep on being himself. You know, the role that he played today. I mean, this is the role of an American president. I mean I watched this and I know -- I can hear Ana just crunching her teeth here, but he looked to me Reaganesque and specifically ...
NAVARRO: I have no more tooth enamel.
BERMAN: Let Jeffrey fish.
LORD: When you -- remember all the heat that Ronald Reagan took for his dealings for the Soviet Union and finally in the fall of 1985 they met in Geneva, and he came down these steps and greeted Gorbachev and things were on very much the same kind of similar situation where there was a lot of tension, and I think to some degree in fairness to both Donald Trump and the president of Mexico, you've got to cut him some slack here. This is a serious issue in this country. A serious political issue.
Donald Trump is going to stick by his -- his objectives here. This is what got him here. He's not going to abandon it, he's also dealing with somebody who has to do the same version of the same thing.
BERMAN: Quickly, Reaganesque. He stood next to a human being in this case, the president of Mexico for 25 minutes.
BERMAN: That's Reaganesque?
LORD: Well, it was somebody that, you know, I mean we've spent chapter and verse on this program and all year about his criticisms of Mexico. I mean, Ronald Reagan career wise was death on the Soviet Union, I mean he was a very severe critic.
BERMAN: So you all he had to do was show up?
LORD: So showing -- yeah, I mean that's ...
BAKARI SELLER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIOR: A big deal.
SELLERS: So up next Jeffrey and everyone else are going to tell me that this is, you know, Nixon goes to China. No, it's not.
LORD: I said that this morning.
SELLERS: There you go. What is -- and what it is it's the soft bigotry of low expectation. I mean ...
LORD: George W. Bush.
SELLERS: Look at that. There we go. I mean that's exactly what this is. I mean he didn't fall when he walked up the steps. He read off the script. He stood there, he wasn't disheveled and he gave a speech, but I mean one of the things that we don't talk about is the way that he all of a sudden when he was talking about ripping up NAFTA, and ripping up trade deals, how in this speech he said he was going to build upon NAFTA.
We don't talk about the fact that his major policy point, when you go to his website, which I did today, actually, second on his website is build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it, in his first time addressing the Mexican president and the people of Mexico he cannot even find the courage to say who's going to pay for it.
So, yes, we are having the soft bigotry of low expectation. This was not a presidential moment, this was a moment of, I guess, maturation for Donald Trump, but let's not get this confused. Donald Trump, if we look in the entire context from Judge Curiel from his announcement and bastardizing Mexicans as rapists, I mean the list goes on and on, Hispanic outrage of eating a taco bowl. This was not Hispanic- Americans, this was not for Mexico, this was for college-educated white women, this was for college educated white women in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, everybody sees how transparent this is.
[20:45:00] NAVARRO: Well let me just say -- let me just say ...
BERMAN: What about Hillary Clinton?
NAVARO: So I -- and again I say lightning might strike me that today. But, look, this is more than him not falling over when he showed up. Let's give the guy credit for one thing. He showed up to what is a very hostile environment. People sell pinatas with Donald Trump's face all over Mexico. He is detested in Mexico, probably the only politician that could stand next to Pena Nieto and have lower approval numbers in Mexico than Pena Nieto is Donald Trump.
BORGER: Maybe that's why he invited him.
NAVARRO: So he, you know, he showed up to the lion's lair.
BERMAN: OK, hang on.
NAVARRO: And he also answered press questions which is more than Hillary Clinton has done in months.
BERMAN: Let's wait right there. It gives us something to talk about and we have a lot more time tonight as we wait for Donald Trump to speak in Phoenix. Coming up I'll speak to one of his surrogates who has an Hispanic-American has not always embraced the way the candidate has expressed his views on immigration.
So does he expect to hear a different tone tonight?
BERMAN: All right, we are waiting on Donald Trump to take that stage shortly. This is happening in Phoenix, Arizona. Donald Trump headed there right now in his motorcade, we saw it get off the plane there in Phoenix, there you're looking at live pictures right now, Donald Trump heading to a very big event where he is going to explain in much greater detail his immigration plan and maybe fix up some what have been discrepancies in that plan over the last two weeks.
[20:50:14] An unexpected elephant in the room. Now, competing claims about whether Trump and Mexico's president talked about who will pay for the wall between the U.S. and Mexico that Donald Trump has promised to build. The Clinton campaign making a lot of hey of it all today, their take, Trump choked.
Joining me now, is Donald Trump's surrogate, Steven Cortes. Steve, thanks so much for being with us. Always great to have you here us and talk to you.
Let me ask you ...
STEVEN CORTES, TRUMP SURROGATE: Thanks for having me.
BERMAN: ... about this back and forth between Donald Trump and now Mexican's President Enrique Pena Nieto. Donald Trump said, they did not discussed who would pay for the wall, then afterwards, Pena tweeted that he did tell Trump that Mexico would not pay for the wall. Is it a mistake for Donald Trump not to go and say Mexico pay for it?
CORTES: Look, you know, perhaps like that Bill Murray movie, it got lost in translation. No, in all seriousness, I don't know. This is so unimportant though. I think what was important is the fact that Donald Trump went down there and acted incredibly presidential and statesman like and he reached out to somebody who compared him to Mussolini and Hitler and yet he looked past that and we have much bigger issues here, the United States and Mexico as neighbors and friends and allies.
And we can improve on this relationship. He reached out to him and it seems like he negotiated as two men with very serious responsibilities. So I think -- by the way, a lot of people have doubted Donald Trump as an outsider, as a legitimate doubt. Can he rise at the world stage? Can he be diplomatic? I think he showed us today in this first test that he absolutely can.
BERMAN: And I've heard from other supporter's similar language. But just to be clear, because you make the case for him eloquently. What he do other than go that was presidential. What did he negotiate? What did he get?
CORTES: Right. Well listen, nobody says, you know, they just sat down and ordered the appetizer, right we're not ready for the check yet. Nobody says you have to go and walk away after a -- whatever it was 45-minute meeting with concrete takeaways. What they did was establish common ground and for instance, here would be a concrete takeaway. That both of us have a border problem.
Mexico, we don't talk very much about this, on their southern border. They have a very significant border problem. And so they agreed that every country has the right to have serious barriers and to have control of their borders. So there's common ground there that we can work together that the flow of people and weapons and possibly terrorists is significant to both of these countries. And that we are friends and neighbors and being a good neighbor often means having a good fence.
And so I think it was substantive. It wasn't just about the optics but the optics are also important. As I said, the fact that he can clearly be a calm statesman and the fact that I would say, they had a press conference afterward. Hillary Clinton has not had a press conference since 2015. So the contrast to me is stark and revealing.
BERMAN: She has not given a press conference. But critics, to what you have say there just to be clear, they'll say just because he didn't blow up or lose his temper or say something embarrassing, that's not a bar, right, that's not a bar, that's not the qualification to be presidential.
BERMAN: That's not what you're saying is it?
CORTES: Of course it isn't. But it's also -- no of course no, of course not. You know, I'm not screwing up is not a reason to be our commander in chief. But I will say this John, you know, the main stream media is so insanely harsh on Donald Trump. I think if he were to walk on water, the headlines would read, Donald Trump is afraid to swim. So I think the fact that he went down there and did very well annoys and sort of scares the main stream media.
BERMAN: But that's different than wading in ankle deep water and having people say you're Michael Phelps, right, I mean that's the flip side here when we're talking about little expectations.
Let me talk about tonight the speech he's going to give. Because you told me that you personally favor some kind of path to legalization for some of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. If Donald Trump does not embrace some path to legalization, some legal status for at least some of the 11 million here, will you be disappointed?
CORTES: I would be disappointed personally and I'm not -- now speaking on behalf of the campaign, I'm speaking as Steve Cortes. I don't want citizenship and I believe citizenship is off the table. We cannot reward criminality with citizenship. They can never get right to vote, and by the way that's a stark contrast from Hillary who I think will give all, if many if not all of these illegals the right to vote, because she thinks that she'll earn a voting block of 10 million plus Democratic voters. So we cannot give citizenship. We must secure the border. Those are the non-negotiable aspects of Trump's immigration policy, and he's never wavered on them. I don't know what he's going to come up with. But we're going to find out very shortly. But I would hope that for people who have been here for many, many years, who have been working, who have clean records, who have families. I would hope that there was a process, and not an easy process by the way. It has to involve fines, you broke the law. It has involved fines, back ground checks, vetting.
For those people, I hope there is a way to achieve status that for some they can stay, yes I don't -- and again I'm speaking on my behalf. That's what I advised to Donald Trump. We'll see where he comes out tonight ...
[20:55:09] CORTES: ... but I agree with him, by the way even as an Hispanic I agree with him, a lot of people need to go, we've got a lot of very dangerous illegals, they have no business being here.
BERMAN: Steven Cortes, always great to speaking. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
CORTES: Thank you.
BERMAN: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, more on what we could hear tonight very shortly from Donald Trump, his immigration plans, where will he come down on legal status? Stay with us.
BERMAN: Good evening again. Coming up now at the top of the hour. I'm John Berman in for Anderson tonight.
We are just moments away from Donald Trump's highly anticipated speech on immigration in Phoenix which now really has a bigger headline hanging over it. Namely, Mexico's president with a much different view of what he talked about and did not talk about in his meeting in Mexico with Donald Trump today.
The get together was supposed to showcase Donald Trump, the statesman. Now it has blown up into something far, far different. So will Donald Trump talk about it tonight? Who will pay for the wall? Did they talk about it?
Let's check in first with CNN's Sara Murray at the Phoenix Convention Center. Sarah, what specifics about policy can we expect to hear from Donald Trump tonight?
MURRAY: Well, John, I think there's been a lot of confusion about whether Donald Trump is actually wavering on this core issue that his campaign has been based on. And I think we can hear him talk a little about how he views these things in terms of his priorities and how important border security is to him. [21:00:10] Of course does that mean building the wall.