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Trump Begins With Historic Low Approval Rating; Putin: Don't Know Trump, No Foundation To Criticize Him; Trump's Remarks Anger Chinese, Germans, NATO Allies; Obama To Travel To Palm Springs After Inauguration; Schumer: Trump's HHS Pick May Have Broken Law On Stock. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2017 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- the government, the country, the world, warms up to the incoming president.

[11:00:03] He has that glow of victory, that sense of expectation, that new car smell. But this morning after a 2-1/2-month whiff of the Donald Trump transition, people are saying they're not sure that they like the scent.

We have live pictures from Washington right now. That's the west front of the capital. This is where the inauguration will happen on Friday, and as the president-elect prepares to head to Washington today, European leaders are anxious that alliances might be abandoned.

China is angered that traditions will not be respected. More than 40 Democrats in Congress are skipping the inauguration, and this morning the American people are saying they are not impressed. Not yet at least.

Donald Trump will take office as the least popular president in recent history. According to a brand-new CNN/ORC poll, more than half the country disapproves of the way he has handled the transition. Now this is not normal. Not even close.

That said, there is some sense in the polling that people are optimistic about the president-elect on some of the issues that matter most. CNN political director, David Chalian, joins us with all the numbers -- David.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: John, I wish we had the scratch and sniff through the television screen to go along with your lead on what this transition smells like. You're right. It's an historic low.

Let's put that 40 percent approval in some recent presidential context, if we can. Take a look at that. Barack Obama at this point on the eve of his inauguration eight years ago, 84 percent approval. More than double where Trump is.

Bill Clinton at 67 percent and take a look at George W. Bush, John, an inauguration you covered all those years ago, 61 percent approval rating after that bitterly divided basically tied presidential election and 36-day recount But again, Bush was off with some sort of a honeymoon. That does not exist for Trump. We asked people, are you confident, more confident, increasing confidence, decreasing confidence in Trump's ability since the election?

Fifty three percent, a majority of Americans, are telling us in this poll, John, that they are -- their level of confidence has decreased since the election in Donald Trump's ability to do the job.

BERMAN: There is a whole heck of a lot of division inside these numbers, David.

CHALIAN: There is. There's no doubt about it. We are a divided country. We have seen that throughout a lot of the Obama presidency, even as he ends his presidency on a high note. One example of that, we asked people if you think, will Donald Trump be a good president or do you think he'll not do a good job?

And the country is evenly divided, 48 percent say he will do a good job, 48 percent say he will do a bad job as president. We saw that throughout the election. But the point is, of course, we usually see a transition period ease some of that division. That hasn't happened here.

But as you noted at the top, that economic optimism is high. Expectations are high, 61 percent of the American people tell us that they think Donald Trump will accomplish his goal of getting good paying jobs, especially in those economically troubled areas.

That is a high bar. But if he meets it you can imagine perhaps that will help him with his overall numbers as well.

BERMAN: He was talking about that on Twitter today. You can imagine perhaps expressively to a counter to the poll numbers that came out. David Chalian in Washington. See you tomorrow in person, my friend.

CHALIAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right, so whatever the polls say, Donald Trump can count on at least one fierce defender in Moscow. Just a short time ago, Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, said some in Washington are wrongfully trying to undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect by spreading what he called obviously false information. Putin got way, way more colorful than that.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, live in Moscow. Matthew, tell us what he said.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He said a whole lot of things. But basically he said there's an internal political fight under way in the United States even though the presidential election there are over and all of these allegations against President-elect Trump are an attempt to undermine him so he can't deliver his promises that he made about building relations with Russia once he becomes the president of the United States. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, rejecting, categorically, the allegations that the Russian secret services, the FSB, the successive organization to the KGB had gathered compromising information on Donald Trump. He said we don't know about -- we didn't know about his political ambitions years ago, Putin said.

He was just a rich businessman. Our security services don't chase every U.S. billionaire, he added. The allegations of the compromising sexual material on Trump, Putin said that Trump was a man who has spent his life with some of the most beautiful women in the world.

Why would he need to socialize with Russian prostitutes or girls of low social responsibility as he put it? Even though he added to some chuckles in the audience that those Russian prostitutes are clearly the best in the world.

[11:05:03]Putin said he didn't know Trump personally. He's never met him. No reason to attack or defend him. But obviously he chose this moment just a few days before the inauguration to speak out in President-elect Trump's defense -- John.

BERMAN: Certainly is defending him in this case. Matthew Chance, thank you so much.

Want to talk right now about global impressions of the incoming president because they are diverse and remarkable in many ways. I'm joined by Nic Robertson, CNN international diplomatic editor, and Richard Quest, editor-at-large of CNN Money and host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." Mr. Quest is in Davos, Switzerland.

Gentlemen, both of you, I want to read you, give you a dramatic reading of the lead of "The New York Times" today. It says the Germans are angry. The Chinese are downright furious. Leaders of NATO are nervous while their counterparts of the European Union are alarmed.

Richard Quest, first to you, you are at the epicenter of globalism right now in Davos at the World Economic Forum where the world leaders are all meeting right now. Are they nervous? Are they angered by what they're seeing with President-elect Trump?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN MONEY EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Terrified is the best way to describe it, Mr. Berman. They won't say so publicly, but they are clearly worried. I'm going to sum it up in one simple sentence. Just one sentence which is unusual for me as you'll probably agree.

Here we had President Xi of China at Davos defending globalization while you have the president of the United States elect before his inauguration offending some of the U.S.' closest allies like Germany. That is a tipsy-topsy world that the people here cannot fathom.

BERMAN: Now Nic Robertson, supporters of Donald Trump will suggest that there is a method to his madness and I mean that literally. They are referring to what is known in American diplomacy as the mad man theory. Something worked up by Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. The idea that you are so unpredictable that your adversaries don't know what you're going to do. It increases your negotiating position and makes people fear you. Is there a sense around the world that maybe that's what Donald Trump is doing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think people are trying to make that judgment at the moment, that's for sure. They might also make the judgment and we heard it from the German foreign minister yesterday, who was responding with concern as Richard was just outlining about what Donald Trump had been saying about Germany, about his warnings to the German automakers about what it said about Angela Merkel, the German chancellor making catastrophic mistakes letting so many refugees into the country.

So we have certainly heard that -- I think sort of the bigger picture take is going to be one that we're hearing from Donald Trump being very clear perhaps getting into this, as you say, theory. But the German foreign minister said, well, this is some of what he said is a variance to what his defense chiefs have said.

Diplomats around the world are scratching their heads and saying if Donald Trump is working to that theory then, is the rest of his cabinet inching with him, on track with it because surely if that theory is to hold, then everybody has to be in agreement and has to be a broader strategy.

And there are some things, for example, that position on NATO, which has alarmed Donald Trump's position on NATO which has alarmed European leaders. General Mattis has outlined in his hearings last week that NATO is key and important to the United States. So I think people are scratching their heads that way.

Also they are looking at it and saying, on the one hand, Donald Trump said that he would give a quick and speedy trade deal to Britain, but on the other hand, he held out that he expects the vote in the United States favor on issues related to Israel.

Is this some kind of sort of grand bargain strategy where I'll do something for you if you do something for me? People are looking at it in that light as well -- John.

BERMAN: And of course, the mad man theory we should add is designed for your adversaries, not generally speaking how you behave toward your friends which NATO and members of the European Union in theory are. Richard Quest, some news from Davos, just moments ago, Anthony Scaramucci, who has been an economic adviser to Donald Trump for months and advises the transition as well, he spoke not far from where you are in Davos.

I'm not sure you got a chance to see it, but he said he was reassuring the world and the Chinese who have a huge delegation where you are right now, Scaramucci says Donald Trump doesn't want a trade war with China. Do people believe it there?

QUEST: Yes. Scaramucci said he doesn't want a trade war with China and the Chinese -- he had to say that the Chinese president here said that protectionism would cost everybody and that there were no winners in a trade war. But the Chinese president here who, frankly, gave a speech. John, I've never heard anything like it.

[11:10:02]The Chinese president quoted Dickens, the Gettysburg address, Chinese proverbs and wrapped his speech up talking about the benefits of globalization in a speech that wouldn't have embarrassed another U.S. president besides Donald Trump.

So the Chinese president has stolen the clothes, if you'd like, on this question, and now we have China warning the United States globalization is good. Don't start a trade war. If you do, we will all lose.

BERMAN: Interesting to hear the Chinese promote globalization, especially considering many of their internal economic policies, but fascinating at every angle. Nic Robertson, Richard Quest, great discussion. Thanks so much for being with us.

All right, the president-elect is promising health insurance for everybody, but there's one problem. Some Republican lawmakers say they're not sure what he means. They have no idea what's in a proposed bill that he's talking about.

Plus, the cabinet nominee who would oversee the Obamacare overhaul facing new ethics questions. Did Tom Price use his congressional influence for profit?

Also packing up and leaving the cold weather behind, at least for a little bit. New details on President Obama's travel plans for right after the inauguration.



BERMAN: The president and first lady have just a few days left in the White House. Where will they wake up on Saturday? How about Palm Springs. Joining me now with the details, CNN's Athena Jones. Athena, what are you learning?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, they are getting out of the cold and heading to some place warm. The president has been talking for the last several weeks, months really about how he's looking forward to taking his wife, Michelle, on a long vacation.

Now we know where they are going. He told "60 Minutes" they've got some catching up to do. He's also talked about how he is looking forward to not setting an alarm. What we've learned is that the president and first lady will be flying to Palm Springs on Friday.

They'll be using the presidential aircraft to travel. Of course, it won't be called Air Force One during that flight because he'll no longer be the president in office. Now this is a place he's traveled to a lot in the past to play golf.

While we don't know exactly where he's staying or how long they'll be there, we can guess golf is likely on the agenda. Then they'll come back to D.C. where they'll be settling in a rental home not far from the White House, up in Northwest Washington so they can live here while their youngest daughter, Sasha -- until she graduates from high school.

And of course, as we've been reporting, that house, that new house that they're going to be moving into is only a couple blocks away from the home that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have selected to live in. So getting some details about their post-White House life -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, that D.C. neighborhood can host one sweet block party, you know, (inaudible) with Secret Service members to be sure. Athena Jones, thanks very much. The Obamas headed to Palm Springs on Friday.

All right, the list keeps on growing, one in five House Democrats say they will not attend the inauguration on Friday. That's where it all happens. You are looking at live pictures of the west front of the capitol.

Ahead, we are going to speak to one congressman who says he can't in good conscience participate.

Plus, Walmart adding 10,000 jobs. GM investing at least a billion dollars in U.S. plants. Is this something that Donald Trump can take credit for? And will it improve his image which is suffering a little bit as he takes office?

And in just moments, the wife of the Pulse Nightclub shooter makes her first appearance in court as the police chief says she could have prevented this attack. What did she know about her husband's plans?



BERMAN: Insurance for everybody. Wait a second. That's not the message we want. New this morning, concern among some Republicans that the president-elect has the wrong pitch on replacing Obamacare. And several top Republican lawmakers tell CNN they are frustrated.

CNN's senior political reporter, Manu Raju, broke this just a short time ago. Manu, what are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Republicans are in the dark, John, over what's Donald Trump is proposing and whether he is actually drafting his own piece of legislation to replace Obamacare. Remember, Republicans on the Hill want to focus on controlling costs and lowering costs, health care costs. Not necessarily expanding coverage.

That's really a Democratic goal, universal coverage. Republicans here are pushing to replace the law on a piece by piece basis, including adding some provisions in the repeal legislation that's going to come up in the next several weeks and then doing things on an administrative basis through the Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price if he's confirmed by the Senate. But Donald Trump talking about expanding health care and saying that he's working on a very good health care plan has left a lot of Republicans scratching their heads because they don't know what Donald Trump is talking about right now. So Mike Pence is coming up to the Hill later today to talk to members.

This is an issue that a lot of Republicans feel like they need to get on the same page with the incoming administration on given how significant it is and the fact that it's going to dominate much of this year -- John.

BERMAN: And the person that's supposed to be the administration's point person on Obamacare is Tom Price, the nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services. The subject of breaking news, Manu, you broke there are new ethics questions about a stock trade that he made and you just broke more news with an interview with the Senate minority leader.

RAJU: Yes, that's right. First that stock trade from Tom Price. Last year, he purchased shares in a medical device company, Zimmer Biomed that he purchased in March of last year. A week after purchasing those shares, he actually introduced legislation that would have helped that company by delaying a federal Medicare rule that would have hurt Zimmer Biomed by taking effect.

Now Price's campaign says that he actually did not purchase that -- those shares. That a broker did that. But there are a lot of questions about why he continued to hold on to those shares while continuing to pursue that legislation.

I just talked to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about this and he believes that Mr. Price may have broken the law. Take a listen.


RAJU: Senator, Tom Price traded shares in a health care company while pursuing health care legislation. What's your reaction to that?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: This is very, very troubling. This is not some broad legislation, cut all Medicare and affect some large company like Johnson & Johnson. This is a very narrow, specific company that dealt with implants, hip and knee, and the legislation specifically affects implants. He puts it in a week after he buys the stock? That cries out for an investigation.

RAJU: By the House Ethics Committee?

SCHUMER: By the House Ethics Committee or, who knows? I mean, if he knew about it, it could very well be a violation of the law.

RAJU: You think he broke the law?


[11:25:07]RAJU: So he -- when I asked him, do you think he broke the law, he said, it's very possible that he did. I said do you think he should step down, John? When I asked him that he said, I don't know if he'll get confirmed. He's digging himself a very deep hole and it's going to be awfully hard to get out of this.

Now that would require Republicans to vote no because as you know, John, Democrats changed the rules in 2013 so it takes just a simple majority of senators to overcome a filibuster. Republicans have 52 seats.

If Chuck Schumer and Democrats want to stop Tom Price, it would require Republicans to vote no. Right now, we don't know if that's the case, but clearly, Chuck Schumer senses that this is a major vulnerability and could get worse in the coming days and weeks -- John.

BERMAN: Is it enough to trip up the nomination? Manu Raju, thanks so much.

So joining me to discuss this is Charlie Spies who is an election law and first amendment attorney who is treasurer for Jeb Bush's super PAC, Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator and former press secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist and CNN political commentator.

Charlie, let me start with you. You are the lawyer here. How much trouble is Tom Price in potentially? He bought a stock. He introduced legislation that helped the company with the stock and then got a donation from the PAC that is associated with that company.

CHARLIE SPIES, ELECTION LAW AND FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY: Dr. Price is in no trouble. We know about this because he publicly disclosed it. It's not illegal and it's no different than what Nancy Pelosi did in 2008 when she and her husband were buying a Visa IPO at the same time credit card regulations were being enacted by the House.

The real point here is that Chuck Schumer has nothing to go against Tom Price on. Dr. Price is an orthopedic surgeon who for 20 years taught residents at a large public hospital and has a common sense reform plan for Obamacare. They can't go after him on substance or experience so they're trying to gin up some sort of fake scandal.

BERMAN: Are you convinced, Symone Sanders, this is just what Nancy Pelosi did says Charlie?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I'm not convinced. And I think the issue here is, look, Tom Price got paid before and after introducing the legislation. His folks said, oh, I didn't know about it, but he made repeated overtures to the previous Health and Human Services Secretary's Office specifically about this bill. So I definitely think there's a disturbing and troubling pattern here that deserves looking into. And the Office of Congressional Ethics, they have to do their job and get in there and find out what's going on.

BERMAN: Alice, let me just ask and you can answer however you want. Is it at least worth looking at here? And the laws in Congress have changed where you're really not supposed to make stock deals based on information you have now. That's a relatively new law. Beyond the law, Alice, again if the goal is to drain the swamp in Washington, is this something that flies in the face of that?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think these are questions that will certainly come up in the confirmation hearing and Tom Price will address them and this will be put behind. Facts are a stubborn thing. The facts in this case are that a broker, not Tom Price, was the one that purchased the stock.

He didn't know about it until after this bipartisan legislation. That's the key. It was bipartisan legislation. He didn't know about the stock purchase until after the legislation was introduced. And he has furthermore said that if he is confirmed as HHS secretary, he will sell his stocks relating to this.

So I think he is on the front end divulging what could raise some issues. He has answered the questions that have come up. As we said, sell the stocks if he's confirmed.

As Charlie said, Schumer is desperate to find anything he can find to stop this nomination because he knows that Tom Price is uniquely qualified to head the department and will follow through with what he's been working on for years, which is to repeal and replace Obamacare. This is one effort the Democrats are using to derail that.

BERMAN: But Charlie, there are questions this morning, Charlie, about just what Tom Price would do with Obamacare and President-elect Trump would do with Obamacare because now he says insurance for everybody, which is a different message than congressional leaders want to be spending on taxes, a big difference message if you read "The Wall Street Journal."

Donald Trump wants a tariff. That's not what congressional leaders want. There appears to be a split there. Charlie, my question is, you know, A, does the president-elect not understand what the Republican policy in Congress is or, B, does he understand and not care?

SPIES: I can't answer for what the president-elect's thoughts are, but I do think that Dr. Price is the perfect person to be secretary of HHS and work with the Trump administration to bridge the gap with Congress and come up with the solution that both sides can live with.

BERMAN: Symone?

SANDERS: Well, I would just say that Congressman Price doesn't even know what the president-elect's team plan is for Obamacare. House Republicans don't know.