Return to Transcripts main page


Building the Wall; Trump Stands By False Voting Claim; Deadly Hotel Attack. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: President Trump set to take executive action to start building a wall along the border with Mexico. And he's set to do the same day a delegation from Mexico visits Washington.

Whatever the president does today will involve an effort to pivot after his spokesman says Trump stands by his baseless claim about a million who voted illegally.

And a deadly attack on a compound in Somalia. We are live with the very latest, including a claim of responsibility.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, January 25th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

It was the centerpiece of his campaign and today, President Trump will start trying to make the border wall a reality. Coming up, a challenging few days in which the president and his administration were accused of making false claims. The White House is now turning the focus on immigration.

The president previewed the executive actions he's expected to take in a tweet overnight, "Big day planned tomorrow. Among other things, we will build the wall." This on the same day a Mexican trade delegation is due to meet with the administration officials in Washington.

Today's executive action signing is the first in a multiday rollout of immigration initiatives which is also expected to include moves related to refugees and visas.

Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny has a preview.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, President Trump trying to change the subject as he travels to the Department of Homeland Security across Washington to sign a series of executive actions focusing on immigration.

First and foremost, the border wall with Mexico -- something he talked so much about during the campaign. We're told he will be signing an executive action on that and other immigration proposals today. And in the days ahead; focusing on immigration and security as well as visas and refugees in the days going forward; talking about terror- prone countries, Syria and elsewhere, of course, that he talked about so much in the campaign as well.

First, he made a claim to ban all Muslims, then he scaled that back somewhat. We are told that this will be a scaled-back version of that, focusing on refugees. Now that is expected to come later in the week. But today, the focus is on border security, building that wall with Mexico.

Now, the question is, who will pay for it? The campaign rally anthem was always Mexico will pay for it. Of course, Mexico said they will not pay for it. The U.S. government actually will foot the bill at the beginning here and then we'll ask for a reimbursement really as it gets through the week here, trying to get through all of these top priorities, signing those executive actions to get the first 100 days quickly under way -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Fulfilling his campaign promises.

In addition to the border wall and immigration positions that Jeff just told you about, sources familiar with today's executive order say they will include ending so-called catch and release. That's the policy of allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. without deporting them. The orders will triple the resources for ICE enforcement and removal, and they will end sanctuary cities, localities that bar their police departments from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, and they will add 5,000 Customs and Border Patrol officers.

In a separate order being prepared for Trump's signature later this week includes suspending acceptance of all refugees' performance to gauge which countries migrants pose the lowest risk for national security. A program for admitting Syrian refugees would be ended indefinitely, we expect to get more details on all of this in the coming days.

President Trump also took on gun violence in Chicago overnight with a tweet. "If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible carnage going on, 228 shootings in 2017, with 42 killings, up 24 percent from 2016, I will send in the feds."

Chicago police tell CNN there have actually been 38 homicides and 182 shootings, so far this year. The tweet came a short after a guest on FOX's "O'Reilly Factor" discussed violence in Chicago using that word "carnage", and the same statistic there that were in a tweet. Mr. Trump last addressed Chicago violence in early January, tweeting as president-elect that if mayor can't do it, he must ask for federal help.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not directly addressed Trump's tweet from Tuesday, but he did say in an interview last night that over the years, his city has had to step up its resources directed at gun violence as the federal government has stepped back. All of this comes as the White House stands by President Trump's

widely debunked claim that 3 million to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the election, a claim made without, so far, any proof backing it up.

At the White House daily brief, Jeff Zeleny, our Jeff Zeleny asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer if he himself believes the claim. Spicer brought the answer right back to his boss.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He believes what he believes based on the information he's provided. Yes, ma'am? Thanks, Jeff.

ZELENY: What's that mean for democracy, though?

[04:05:00] If he does believe that, what does that mean for democracy?

SPICER: It means that I've answered your question.

ZELENY: Have you?


ROMANS: Now, Spicer did cite a Pew Research study. The author of that study has said that while researchers found millions of registrations that were out of date due to people moving or dying, there was no evidence of actual voter fraud. The president's decision to revive the issue is not sitting well with many Republicans including Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He needs to disclose why he believes that. I don't believe that. It is most inappropriate thing for the president to say, without proof. People are going to start doubting you as a person if you keep making accusations against our electoral system without justification. This is going to erode his ability to govern this country if he does not stop it.


ROMANS: The president reignited the conversation Monday night with congressional leaders as a way to explain how he lost the popular vote. The new debate over alleged voter fraud overshadowed President Trump's other notable follow-through at a campaign promise. He signed an executive action to revive construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline, both of which have been stopped by the Obama administration.

The president also signed orders requiring the pipelines to be constructed with U.S. materials and in streamlining regulatory environmental reviews. Environmental groups, along with Native American tribes that organize a huge protest to stop the Dakota pipeline, vow to mobilize anew against President Trump's move. President Trump puts the EPA on notice, ordering a freeze on some of

the agency's grants and state contracts. And the department is bracing for sweeping changes. The new administration's EPA wish list removes carbon emissions regulations, calls for $193 million in cuts to climate change programs. President Trump's nominee to lead the EPA, Scott Pruitt, sued that agency several times as Oklahoma attorney general now awaits a Senate confirmation vote.

Confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill are on hold for the moment. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are headed to a party retreat. The Senate Democrats gathering in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and House and Senate Republicans headed for Philadelphia, where they'll be joined by President Trump.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations, and Georgia Congressman Tom Price back on the hot seat. Democrats grilling the nominee for Health and Human Services director over his plan to replace Obamacare and he didn't have many specifics.


SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Will you commit that no one will be worse off?

REP. TOM PRICE (R), HHS SECRETARY NOMINEE: What I commit to, Senator, is working with you and every single member of Congress to make certain we have the highest quality health care. And that every single American has access to affordable coverage.

WYDEN: You ducked the question. Will you guarantee that no one will lose coverage understand the executive order?

PRICE: I guarantee you that the individuals that lost coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we will commit to making certain that they don't lose coverage to whatever replacement plan that comes forward.


ROMANS: President Trump has asked FBI Director James Comey to stay on the job, that according to a law enforcement source. Comey was not expected to depart since his term runs through 2023. But he did have a rough election season. Comey rubbed Republicans, including Mr. Trump the wrong way for not indicting Hillary Clinton over what he called extremely careless handling of e-mails. He also angered Democrats by extending the FBI's email investigation just days before the big vote.

All right. President Trump has a serious issue on the nation's unemployment rate. Here are some of the criticisms he offered during the campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Five-point-three percent unemployment, that is the biggest joke there is. Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent

unemployment. The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I've even heard recently, 42 percent.

The unemployment number as you know is totally fiction.


ROMANS: All right. The unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. There are a lot of measures of employment. There's an underemployment rate. There's also, you know, just shy of 10 percent.

None of these numbers, though, none of the factually based numbers the analysis of the labor market are 20 percent or 30 percent or 40 percent. The next jobs report is due one week from Friday. It will cover January. The president will have only in office for 11 days of that month.

So, how will his administration react to the data? Will this administration believe its own labor department career economists who very carefully put these numbers together? One economist says it's all about perception.


HARRY HOLZER, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Well, he wants to make the argument that things are terrible before he comes into office. And therefore, any improvements he can claim credit for. Now, the fact is that the numbers are not terrible. No matter of which these numbers you use.

Again, we do have different definitions.

[04:10:00] That's not unusual in the statistical world. All of them point to an economy fairly close to full employment.


ROMANS: The unemployment rate has fallen from about 10 percent at the worst of the recession, to 4.7 percent right now. The unemployment rate is the most widely watched economic number in the world. It measures the people who have a job, who want a job and are looking or who are unemployed. It is the most accurate gauge of the job market.

All right. Ten minutes past the hour.

One day after collapsing at the state of the state address, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has revealed he is battling prostate cancer. Dayton says the disease was discovered just last week, and doctors tell him it appears the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. The governor sounding cautiously optimistic about his upcoming treatment.


GOV. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: I'll be going down next week to Mayo to determine the best course of treatment, regarding surgery or radiation. I don't expect it in a very short period of time to impede my performance or my responsibilities.


ROMANS: It is not clear if Governor Dayton's prostate cancer caused him to collapse Monday night. He says he does not have a strong memory of that incident.

Deadly series of bombings leave several dead and more trapped at a hotel compound in Mogadishu. We go there live, next.


[04:15:25] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of Mogadishu. A deadly truck bomb exploded overnight outside the Dayah Hotel in the Somali capital. The jihadist group al Shabaab is claiming responsibilities.

I want to bring in CNN's Farai Sevenzo tracking the latest developments for us live from Nairobi.

What are you learning?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're learning right now, John, is that early this morning, a truck packed with explosives went to the Dayah Hotel and exploded. Five gunmen had stormed the hotel. Fifteen minutes later, we heard another explosion in Mogadishu, where another truck went off. We now know for certain about all five attackers have been killed by Somali security forces. We also know tens of millions are also dead. Thirty people are injured.

And this has become a kind of modus operandi for this terror group, which is affiliated with al Qaeda and ISIS. They want to turn the whole of Africa into a kind of Islamic State. And we also know these MPs ironically had gone to these hotel because there's 45 places in Mogadishu that is supposed to provide security. But it is exactly because of this that al Shabaab keeps aiming at them.

They attacked in June last year, another hotel, killing 15 people. The Ambassador Hotel, 15 more people were killed in June. And two MPs died.

At the moment, the African Union forces are doing their level best to try and fight al Shabaab, but it has probably begun to be the very top of the security agenda when any new president comes into office. And that is the case this morning, the first deadly attack of 2017, and once again, it's al Shabaab at the center of it.

BERMAN: It's the first and most likely will not be the last, an area of continuing concern around the world.

All right. Thanks so much for that.

ROMANS: All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Israel announces the biggest expansion of settlements in the West Bank in years. So, how is the Trump White House responding?


[04:21:39] BERMAN: "We are building and will continue to build," those were the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Israeli officials approved the construction of thousands of new housing units in West Bank settlements. The move represents the largest settlement expansion by Israel in more than three years. It comes just days after the prime minister spoke by phone with President Trump.

I want to go live to Jerusalem and bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann.

Oren, this is being seen here as Israelis capitalizing as what they see as a new environment provided by the inauguration of Donald Trump?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so. President Netanyahu expected President Donald Trump to be much more understanding, much more accepting of the announcement of new settlement construction, especially the largest announcement in years. And it seems that is very much the case.

When White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked just in his second briefing what the White House's response is to the announcement of so many settlement units, his response was basically, Israel is a huge ally the United States. And Netanyahu and Trump will talk about this when they meet sometime in early February. That was it, no condemnation, no criticism.

And that was condemnation and criticism that we routinely heard from President Barack Obama anytime there was an announcement of new construction. And certainly, an announcement of this size would have triggered such a response from President Barack Obama. Things are very different here in the early days of the Trump administration.

This comes just days after the U.S. seems to have backed off its promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Spicer now saying that those decisions are being considered and they're just in the earliest stages of discussion here. It seems that even Israeli politicians have stopped calling on that move to happen immediately.

So, very different responses here for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under Trump, that was expected. Palestinians calling this the Israelis taking advantage of the Trump administration and calling on the international community to step in here -- John.

BERMAN: It will be interesting to hear and listen to the United Nations and what other folks weighing in today on this move.

Oren Liebermann for us in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

Lead levels in Flint, Michigan water, in the water in Flint, Michigan, have finally dipped below federal limits. State environmental officials say a just completed study shows lead in the Flint water is down to levels comparable to other cities of similar size. Flint residents have been grappling with the water crisis for more than two years since the state, in a bid to save money, switch the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Thirteen current or former government employees have been charged in an ongoing criminal investigation.

ROMANS: All right. You might say "La La Land" is the one to beat for best picture at the Academy Awards. Tap dancing Ryan Gosling, what can I say?

The original musical tying the record for most Oscar nominations by a single film, 14. That is nominations for its two stars, Emma Stone as lead actress and Ryan Gosling as lead actor, and one for its 32-year- old director Damien Chazelle who could become the youngest ever best director winner. The film also landed nominations for two original songs.

And after two years of earning the #oscarsowhite, diversity ruled with Academy voters. Seven people of color are among the 20 acting nominees, with three films about the black experience in America, "Fences", "Hidden Figures" and "Moonlight" in the best picture race.

[04:25:03] BERMAN: I finally did see "La La Land."


BERMAN: It's very good.

ROMANS: Is it?

BERMAN: It's very good.

ROMANS: I have not seen it yet.

BERMAN: It's very good and it's different -- you know, and the opening number is interesting.

ROMANS: Tap dancing?

BERMAN: It's not about the tap dancing, but the singing and dancing are terrific.

ROMANS: What are three things you had to do?

BERMAN: Tap dance, speaker, how to throw a knuckleball.

ROMANS: All of them are within your reach.

BERMAN: None of them.

All right. President Trump ready to take the first steps to follow through on one of his biggest campaign pledges -- signing an order today that will facilitate he says the building of the wall.


ROMANS: Breaking overnight -- President Trump ready sign executive action to direct money to build the border wall. He'll do that the same day a delegation from Mexico visits the capital.