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tv   Wolf  CNN  January 23, 2017 10:00am-11:01am PST

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hello. i'm wolf blitzer here in washington. it's 1:00 p.m. in washington. from wherever you're watching around the world, thank you for joining us. we start with president trump kicking off his first full week in the white house. part of that will be the first official white house briefing with press secretary sean spicer. he'll take questions from the press, we're told. we'll bring that to you live once it gets under way later this hour. as for the president, he met with business leaders this morning and then signed a series of executive actions. the first, withdrawing from negotiations over the transpacific partnership or tpp trade deal. another put in place a federal government hiring freeze and a third bans federal funding for
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overseas group that promote abortion. later today we expect to see votes on two of president trump's cabinet picks. mike pompeo for cia director and former exxon ceo, rex tillerson for secretary of state. jeff zeleny is standing by. what do we expect to hear from the new white house press secretary, sean spicer, at his first full scale news briefing? he made a statement on saturday. didn't take reporters' questions. we understand he will take reporters' questions today. >> reporter: that is our understanding, wolf. we expect sean spicer to try and get back to the business of what this president wants to do in his first 100 days talking about his agenda and three executive orders he signed this morning. but, wolf, there's no question that so many questions still linger about sean spicer's last appearance in a briefing room on saturday evening when the president asked them to talk
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about crowd size in the festivities on friday and then at the march on saturday. so sean spicer certainly has some questions to keep answering about that. there is no doubt, wolf, this white house wants to pivot forward and talk about the agenda, talk about what the president intends to do here, but it's a bit of all eyes are on sean spicer, a longtime republican hand here in washington, but he's a fairly new member of the trump family, if you will, the professional family here. this is certainly a big opportunity for him to change the conversation and answer some questions, which they have not been so forthcoming in doing. >> what's the significance, jeff, of the tpp action, the transpacific partnership action taken by the president today? >> reporter: it's not surprising at all. this is something the president campaigned on throughout his campaign and throughout the rustbelt states of ohio and michigan and beyond. it is a significant decision and it's one that splits this
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republican party. senator john mccain, the arizona republican, he said it was a bad idea. a bad move to withdraw from the transpacific partnership agreement with 12 countries here. it really resets the trade discussion here in the u.s. and it creates a division inside this republican party here so it's likely one of the topics that will come up when the leaders of congress of both sides come here to the white house this evening for their first one-on-one meeting inside the white house of president trump. >> jeff zeleny reporting. we'll have live coverage of sean spicer, the white house press secretary's first real briefing, q and a with reporters. that's scheduled to start later this hour. you're looking at live pictures coming in from the briefing room right now. that's coming up. we'll have live coverage. new reporting coming in from cnn's jim sciutto and evan perez regarding the investigation into
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russian efforts to try to influence the u.s. government and scrutiny of calls between top trump official and the russian ambassador here in washington. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto and justice correspondent evan perez are both joining us right now. jim, bring us up to speed on what you have learned. >> wolf, this is what we know. u.s. investigators are scrutinizing late december phone calls between mike flynn, president donald trump's national security adviser and russia's ambassador to the u.s. this is part of a broader counterintelligence investigation of russian activities here in the u.s. law enforcement and intelligence officials are telling cnn. the calls were captured by routine u.s. eavesdropping targeting the russian diplomats according to the intelligence and law enforcement officials but officials say that some of the content of the conversation drew enough potential concerns that investigators are still looking into the discussions. this amid a broader concern about russian intelligence
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gathering activities here in the united states. the officials all stressed that so far there has been no determination of wrongdoing and, wolf, we should note that it was "the wall street journal" that was first to report that these calls were being investigated. >> jim, standby for a second. evan, why was the u.s. monitoring these phone calls to begin with? >> wolf, the calls were heard in the course of monitoring communications of russian diplomats according to the u.s. officials we've talked to. the u.s. intelligence agency routinely captured conversations of foreign officials including those based in the united states. we know the fbi and the intelligence agencies briefed members of the obama white house team before president obama left office about the flynn phone calls with the russian ambassador according to sources we've talked to. in a statement sunday night, a spokesman for president trump said the white house "has absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation."
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wolf? >> jim, do we know anything about the actual calls and why they're now getting this attention? >> among the communications that are now being scrutinized, were calls between russian's ambassador to the u.s. and flynn on december 29th. calls coming on the very same day the u.s. announced further sanctions against russia and also the expulsion of a group of 35 russian diplomats that the u.s. at the time accused of spying for russia. >> evan, does the donald trump white house, the team there, have anything to say about these reports as you noted first through "the wall street journal" and now this new report from cnn? >> wolf, these calls first came to light several weeks ago in a "washington post" column by dav david ignasius. the call focused on the logistics of connecting trump and russian president vladimir
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putin after the inauguration for a phone conversation. we also know that according to trump officials, the two have communicated before that including in the wake of the shooting of the russian ambassador in turkey in which flynn expressed condolences. the men also exchanged holiday pleasantriies via text message. this is according to trump officials themselves trying to explain the reason for these communications. >> thanks for that reporting. meanwhile, president trump has come under some fire for an event over the weekend. it was a visit and speech over at cia headquarters across the potomac river. the president said he thought it went very well tweeting "had a great meeting at cia headquarters yesterday. packed house. paid great respect to wall. long standing ovations. amazing people. win." here with us is robert wright, contributing writer for "the new
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yorker." thank you for joining us. you wrote a piece about the visit that he had in "the new yorker" magazine in which the president said he paid great respect but your piece was critical of how this all unfolded. tell us why? >> the president made passing mention of the memorial wall where they have stars engraved in a white marble wall that shows where all of the american intelligence agents have died but he never went into specifics. he spent far more time talking about the size of the inaugural crowd and how many "time" magazine covers he had and how smart he was and how the genius of his uncle who taught at m.i.t. and the intelligence community was frankly astonished and angry that there was no reverence to the work that american intelligence has provided in preventing plots carried out by al qaeda or isis. that the personal sacrifices so many of the people there have made and so there was a sense that this was really a blown opportunity to repair a
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relationship that had disintegrated terribly during the campaign when the president had charged the intelligence community with leaking information about russian met e meddling in the u.s. election and suggesting behavior, improper behavior by the president. >> robin, this is very personal for you because you were in beirut in 1983 when the u.s. embassy was blown up and there were several cia officials who were killed in the process. officials that you knew including american diplomats as well. >> the 1983 bombing was largest loss of u.s. intelligence life in its history still to this day. the bombing was the first suicide bombing against an american target and this changed the nature of warfare. this is the first suicide bombing ever witnessed.
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it was devastating blow and the president not to have mentioned any of the cases, it's a little bit like going to the tomb of unknown soldier and not mentioning those who died during world war ii. >> it was a very, very sad moment indeed. there is 117 stars on that memorial wall when you walk in to the cia. so many of them since 9/11, earlier there were relatively few. >> one-third since 9/11. they've been so critical in preventing some of the attacks. there's a book on a ledge underneath the stars that has the years people died, but many of these agents are not known. they're still unanimous. you find a new ledger but many have not received acknowledgement. he didn't acknowledge the overwhelming commitment and hard work and those that died. >> he was applauded when he was there. he got a standing ovation. you have spoken to cia officials since the event. what's been the reaction you've been getting?
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>> well, senior former officials have called it devastating, horrible, a missed opportunity to repair relations to establish, you know, to move forward and understanding that the president is going to rely heavily on the 16 u.s. intelligence agencies to be the eyes and ears of the united states government around the world to try to prevent the attacks and find out what's going on the ground and what are threats and how are they evolving? many of the people who attended were self-selected volunteers who were asked at the last minute a lot of applause was generated by a contingent he brought with him. there was a general discontent among those who knew some of the agents who have died and who have worked at the highest levels of the intelligence community and went on record in saying very critical things about this tragedy the former cia director, john brennan, who just retired on friday called it despicable. >> robin wright, thank you for joining us.
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thank you for your great reporting over all of these years as well. up next, members of the u.s. senate take up two of donald trump's cabinet nominees today. we'll talk to one democrat who is voting against rex tillerson, donald trump's nominee to become the next secretary of state and later this hour, the first full white house press briefing looking at live pictures coming in from the west wing of the white house. the press secretary sean spicer will make a statement presumably and then answer reporters questions. we'll bring it to you live as soon as it starts. stay with us. rers, the search for relief often leads here. today there's drug-free aleve direct therapy. a high intensity tens device that uses technology once only in doctors' offices. for deep penetrating relief at the source. aleve direct therapy.
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take a look at this. live pictures coming in from the white house press briefing room
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in the west wing. sean spicer will take reporters' questions for the first time. open with a statement or two and then start answering reporters' questions. we'll have live coverage. that starts later this hour. meanwhile, the senate foreign relations committee votes on the secretary of state nominee and it's unlikely democrats will have the votes to block rex tillerson's nomination. democratic senator jeff berkeley of oregon is joining us. he's a member of the foreign relations committee. how are you going to vote? >> i'm going to vote against him. >> why? >> because he came in and testified as an oil executive. he made no apologies for exxon circumventing u.s. sanctions on iran and russia. and that was very, very disturbing. he proceeded to show no moral compass in returning oil reve e revenues to the people of that country.
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and even things like killings in the philippines. he said i had no knowledge or no concerns or don't have an opinion and really to come into the leadership of the foreign policy of the united states of america, you need to have a moral compass. >> there was concern expressed by senators lindsey graham and john mccain, but both of them yesterday came out in favor of the confirmation. listen to this. >> i will be voting in favor of his nomination. this wasn't an easy call. i also believe that when there's doubt, the president, the incoming president gets the benefit of the doubt. >> this is why i'm voting for him. he said that we have to have a foreign policy that engages the world. we need to lead from the front. >> senator marco rubio is also concerned. he posted a statement on facebook giving the uncertainty that exists both at home and abroad about the direction of our foreign policy, it would be against our national interest to
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have this confirmation unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy. therefore, despite my reservations, i'll support mr. tillerson's nomination. he's going to be confirmed, right? >> the fact that all three individuals had substantial concerns tells you a lot. lindsey graham and john mccain have been very tough on russia. they've been very tough on iran and involved in sanctions on both ends and the fact that tillerson comes from a direction where they were involved on the opposite side of that argument as a company and really didn't make an explanation of that in committee, that's why these individuals are so concerned. they much prefer to have someone else but in the end they're not going to tell the president to withdraw his nomination. >> they have 52 republicans in the senate. 48 democrats. they have the votes. maybe some democrats will vote with the republicans on this one as well. we'll see. so he's going to be confirmed. let's talk a little bit about the president's decision, the executive order today, to
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withdraw from negotiations from the transpacific partnership. what's your reaction on that? >> it's way past time to drive a stake through the heart of the tpp. i applaud him on that. everything else he's doing is not for working people. i think that the fact that his first executive action was to put a $500 per year fee on average americans to buy a home at wall street's request because they didn't want competition with the organization and so then you have -- >> so you like his decision to get away with transpacific partnership. what about his decision today to renegotiate nafta, the north america free trade agreement with mexico and canada. are you with him on that? >> he should push very hard to eliminate these trade deficits with china and mexico. when we give full access of our markets to companies that have the ability to pay far lower wages, then those companies have a huge advantage over american
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companies. >> so you're with the president? >> on that. look at these other things he's doing. nominating andy puzder for labor secretary. it's crazy. nominating an individual to be health secretary who wants to dismantle health care for middle income americans and seniors. >> are you going to vote for mike pompeo to be senior director? >> i'm not. >> you voted for general mattis to be secretary of defense? >> i did. >> you voted for general kelly? >> i did not. >> you voted against him. you were one of 11 that voted against him. what do you have against general kelly? >> in committee when he was asked by our new senator from california whether he would stand by the promise made in writing to our dhaka children and that information not be used to send them home, he said he couldn't say that he would support the promise previously
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made to them. so that was of great concern to a group of us who felt that america makes a promise to people, you keep it. >> senator, thanks for coming in. appreciate it. up next, another lawsuit filed against president trump. we'll dig into the details and remember we're only minutes away from the first full scale white house press briefing. looking at live questions. sean spicer will take questions from reporters. as soon as that starts, you'll see it live right here on cnn. don't pay hundreds more for taxes and fees. introducing t-mobile one. now with taxes and fees included. 4 lines. 40 buck each. all unlimited. all in. switch your family today and get 600 bucks.
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welcome back. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. you're looking at live pictures from the white house briefing room in the west wing of the house. the new press secretary sean spicer will get ready momentarily we're told fairly soon. he'll go in there, make a statement, and then answer reporters' questions. we're going to have live coverage of that. stay with us for that. in the meantime, president trump just a little while ago reacting to news of an ethics lawsuit filed against him earlier this morning. >> mr. president, reaction for the lawsuit today? >> without merit. totally without merit.
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>> he said it's totally without merit. an ethics watchdog group is claiming that president trump is viola violating the law. i want to talk about this with laura jared. what does the ethics group want the president to do and what are they hoping to achieve? >> first and foremost, wolf, they want the president to divest his business holdings into a truly blind trust but his lawyers said several weeks ago that isn't going to happen. the ethics group sued in federal court today. remember, wolf, the backdrop for this entire fight is over provision in the constitution that doesn't come up that often called the foreign emoluments cause and prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign officials without congressional approval. whenever a foreign diplomat
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stays at the trump hotel or bank of china makes a lease payment for a spot in trump tower, that violates the constitution. if the group can overcome an important threshold issue, we heard about standing today, meaning they can convince a judge to agree they've been harmed and they can sue, one of the interesting things to watch will be whether they can get their hands on his tax returns. as you can imagine, this group is going to say they need the tax returns to evaluate the extent of trump's income or loans from foreign governments. >> could the president face any penalties? >> this particular group isn't seeking any monetary penalties. all they want is for the judge to agree that trump's conduct violates the law and order him to stop receiving these foreign payments. but one thing to keep your eye on for the future is what happens with other businesses such as competing hotels who come forward saying they've been harmed financially by trump taking their business away.
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>> all right, laura. thanks very much. with us now, one of the attorneys for the plaintiff citizens for responsibility and ethics in washington joining us right now. constitutional attorney. thanks so much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. >> you heard the president say this lawsuit is totally without any merit. why do you disagree? >> i'm sure the president had lots of time to read it this morning. it was filed at 9:30 this morning. trump has been an aggressive litigant in the past but i think it's telling that he felt the need to hire a private law firm even before taking office and to put out a legal argument and their legal argument is that as long as they're getting fair value for these payments from foreign governments that that doesn't violate the emoluments clause but framers understood that it would be a serious problem if high elected officials in the american government were entangled with foreign governments and were receiving either a present,
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which the clause says something where i don't get value back or emolument which means a payment that could be for a service rendered but there's still this problem, which is it means that the president is going to have divided loyalties. the framers wanted a president who was looking out only for the interest of the american people. >> you heard the attorney, the private attorney for the president when they announced how he was removing himself from his business deals, she's an attorney with a major law firm, morgan lewis. she said that any funds that come in, money that comes in from foreign governments to a hotel or a country club or whatever, the profits will go to the u.s. citizens, u.s. government, that will go into the u.s. treasury. isn't that good enough? >> that isn't good enough. they only said that about the hotels and not about the many other foreign business interests that donald trump has. the problem is, you know, imagine, wolf, that you wanted -- you needed to negotiate with the government of
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china, okay. you were going to hire someone to do that. would you want to hire someone who has a lease agreement in a building where the government of china is one of his largest tenants. someone who has a real estate deal in new york where he owes money in financing, quite a lot of money to the government of china. you would not hire that person to represent your person interests in that scenario. and similarly, the framers did not want the american people to have to hire someone who had divided loyalties to be their president or another high elected official. >> you heard laura, our reporter, say that one of the big problems you might have is standing. that you don't -- which is a legal term. the courts could throw it out because you have no "standing." i'm sure you're concerned about that. >> we've thought a lot about that. no question that the standing issue is going to have to be litigated. citizens for responsibility and ethics in washington is a group. this is what they do. they do good government work and all of their resources have been diverted to handling the unprecedented conflict of
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interest that trump presents. and so it's similar to if you imagine you had a business and you were putting a product out and the government did something that caused you to have less revenue, less of your product, you would have injury. you would be able to sue. it's very similar to here. their product is the good government watchdog work that they do. >> you might have standing if a competing hotel or country club were involved in your lawsuit but none are involved, right? >> no. the only plaintiff right now is the crew organization. >> you're not seeking any financial reward? >> that's right. we're not seeking any damages. >> just trying to make a point. >> we're not just trying to make a point. this isn't a legal technicality. this is very, very real. there are trump buildings in the center of major cities around the world, places like istanbul, places that can be dangerous, if a terrorist organization targets one of these buildings, is the american armed forces in a position where they have to
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defend the private business interest of the united states president? we want a president that is only working for the american people. we want a president that isn't entangled in business deals around the world and what's even worse, we don't even know the extent of those deals because the president hasn't released his tax returns. >> he says he's no longer involved in his business. his two adult sons are in charge. eric trump said this about the lawsuit. it's purely harassment for political gain and sad. what do you say to those who say you're simply trying to harass for political gain the president of the united states? >> this is not just a political lawsuit. the organization crew first of all and legal team in this case includes the chief ethics official of the george w. bush white house and the chief ethics official of the obama white house. this is a bipartisan group of lawyers including constitutional scholars and we would be filing exactly the same lawsuit, raising exactly the same concerns, if you had a democratic who was elected with
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these kinds of unprecedented financial interests around the globe. >> thanks very much for coming in. >> thanks. just ahead, president trump called the israeli president benjamin netanyahu, what they said about meeting face to face about the controversial decision to move the u.s. embassy from tel aviv to jerusalem. remember, we're only moments away from the start of the first full scale white house press briefing. the press secretary, sean spicer, will be taking questions we're told from reporters. as soon as that starts and he walks through that door up to it the microphone, we'll have live coverage. nice tells you what you want to hear. but kind is honest. this bar is made with cranberries and almonds. so, guess what? we call it cranberry almond. give kind a try. oh, how waso good!en house? did you apply? oh, i'll do it later today. your credit score must be amazing. my credit score? credit karma. it's free. that's great! um hm. just whip bam boom, it's done.
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you're looking at live pictures inside the white house briefing room. any minute now sean spicer will have his first formal briefing as white house press secretary. we'll have extensive live coverage of that coming up. i want to go to jim acosta standing in that briefing room right now for us. set the stage for us, jim.
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>> reporter: one thing we should point out this briefing room is as packed as i've seen it in some time. i've been away from this briefing room for a little while covering the campaign. this is pretty typical for what you see at the beginning of an administration. just about every news organization that has a white house team is represented here today. that's worth noting. we don't know exactly when sean spicer is going to come into the room. we expect that to happen momentarily. we haven't been given an official two-minute warning. we asked the press office if they will give us that warning as they typically do. they were unsure with that. they are still working out the kinks in this administration when it comes to dealing with us. obviously there will be questions for sean spicer at this briefing. on saturday, we had that impromptu briefing at 5:00 in the afternoon that was not really a briefing. it was a statement. unusual statement for many reasons. one of which is that usually,
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wolf, as you know the white house press secretary when he comes into this briefing room he answers questions. what happened on saturday was sean spicer came into this briefing room, lashed out at the news media over reporting on crowd sizes for the inauguration and then left without taking any questions. so we had lots of other questions to ask on saturday. there's the executive order that was signed by the president on friday dealing with obamacare. there are lots of questions about that of course. there are the questions about these communications between the national security adviser michael flynn and the russian ambassador reported on in "the wall street journal" and now confirmed by cnn. the other things, wolf, that we'll be looking at, obviously, the issue of donald trump resigning from his businesses. the director of strategic communications here at the white house confirmed to me or told me earlier this morning that, yes, donald trump did resign from his businesses and that process was completed on or before inauguration day. we have not received any
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documentation backing that up yet. we'll be asking for and hoping to see that documentation so lots and lots of questions. of course, the president spoke with prime minister of israel over the weekend. there are questions as to how soon or whether or not the u.s. embassy in israel will move from tel aviv to jerusalem. the list goes on and on. we're waiting to find out when sean spicer will come out here. will he take those questions and will we get answers we're looking for? >> a couple technical questions. will they give us what they call the two-minute warning to get ready for this briefing? >> reporter: that is something that we asked. we asked are we going to get a two-minute warning today? we were basically told they weren't sure about that yet. so one of the things that we're going to be working on as we move forward here is some of the formalities that come with covering the white house and the white house press corps. for example, this door that is over here on my right behind
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sort of the podium and as you enter what we call lower press where the deputy press secretary sit. that door is typically open during business hours here at the white house. reporters can go back there. they can talk to deputy press secretaries. try to get answers to their questions. there's even a hallway that goes from that office up to the white house press secretary's office so during the obama administration, wolf, as you know reporters could go in there and talk to deputy press secretaries but go past secret service that has a desk in that hallway and go up and talk to josh earnest, the white house press secretary for president obama. will that be the same in this new administration? will we have that same sort of ground rule in effect for us? we don't know the answer to that question, wolf, because it's monday. donald trump was just inaugurated on friday. we're still sort of working through some of the kinks and obviously there are these tensions that were created over the weekend when sean spicer came out. first, when the president of the united states went to the cia and accused us of misrepresenting things and then
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sean spicer as well. looks like we're getting started here. kellyanne conway just walked in the room. sarah huckabee sanders, the daughter of mike huckabee is in the room and so it looks like we're gathering and will get started shortly. >> another quick question as we await sean spicer's arrival, i take it the usual seats for various news organizations, that has remained the same as it did during the obama administration? is that right? >> reporter: that's right. the seating chart that's normally in place from one white house to the next which is managed by the white house correspondents association that has not changed. right now i'm in the cnn seat. the little bronze plaque that is below that seat says cnn. i don't believe those have been removed and we're sitting in our seats according to that organizational chart. you ask that question because that's a question floating around in journalistic circles. could this new administration potentially because they are upset with coverage and so forth
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rearrange the seating chart and move us out of the briefing room and so forth. i have not gotten any kind of word that any of that is in the works. i think a lot of that is just talk and for the moment, wolf, we're hoping that after a weekend of some pretty tense moments between the press and the white house press office that perhaps we'll iron over some of those things and just get down to business. >> he's going to walk in, we're told, any moment now and open up with a statement and then answer reporters' questions. this could go on for a while i suppose. it's interesting that some of the top aides including kellyanne conway among others are already seated there alongside that wall. they're getting ready for this important news conference as well. i'm sure a lot of people will be watching including the president of the united states. i'm sure he'll be watching as well. just guessing right now. there is enormous pressure on sean spicer right now following what happened on saturday,
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right? >> reporter: that's right. as we talked about all weekend long, sean spicer came out. he went after the news media for its coverage of those inauguration numbers. he did accurately point out that there was some misreported that happened friday night when it was reported by a white house pool reporter that mlk bust had been moved out of the oval office. that was a mistake made by the reporter who was in the room at that time. that was corrected and sean spicer accepted that apology when that reporter apologized on twitter. that much was accurate. some of the other things that sean spicer said about how the inauguration numbers -- >> here he comes. >> reporter: that was not accurate. we'll deal with that? just a few moments. >> here's sean spicer. >> good afternoon, everyone. thanks for coming out to our first official briefing here in the brady room. i was going to start with a recap of the inauguration, but i think we've covered that pretty well. by the way, just as i get started, i know that josh earnest was voted the most popular press secretary by the
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press corps so after checking my twitter feed, i shot josh an e-mail last night letting him know he can rest easy that his title is secure for at least the next few days. let me begin by saying that the president has been closely monitoring the severe weather in the southeast. he spoke by phone with governor of georgia yesterday and offered his condolences and support. today president trump is focused on fulfilling his pledge to pursue trade policies that put america first. the president began his day with a breakfast with key u.s. leaders where the focus was on job creation and growing our manufacturing base. business leaders that attended included founder and ceo of dell and ceo of whirlpool and the ceo of ford and johnson & johnson and ceo of lockheed martin and the ceo of dow and the ceo of
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u.s. steel, kevin plank of under armour. international paper. ceo of corning. chief of staff reince priebus and senior adviser steven miller. the breakfast was an opportunity for the president to hear directly from america's top business leaders about the challenges they're facing and takes some suggestions about what policy and action can be taken to help them create jobs and grow our manufacturing base. the meeting included a really great exchange of ideas and the president has decided to reconvene the group in a month and then have them meet on a quarterly basis. as you know, the president's vision is to negotiate free trade deals that create jobs, increase american wages, and reduce america's trade deficit. he appointed a tough and smart number of trade experts who will fight on behalf of american workers. with that vision in mind, the president has already taken
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several steps today. first, he issued a presidential memorandum withdrawing the united states from the transpacific partnership. tpp is a multilateral agreement that includes the united states and 11 other countries. as the president has said many times, this type of multinational agreement is not in our best interest. he's moving quickly to advance trade policies that increase competitiveness of the american worker and manufacturer. this executive action ushers in a new era of u.s. trade policy in which the trump administration will pursue bilateral trade opportunities with allies around the globe. this is a strong signal that the trump administration wants free and fair trade throughout the world. additionally, the president issued a memorandum reestablishing the mexico city policy stating that the united states will end the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas along with coercive abortion and sterilization practices. finally, the president issued a memorandum outlining executive branch hiring.
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this memorandum counters through dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years. in particular it prevents filling vacant positions and creating new positions except when necessary to meet national or public security responsibilities. it does not apply to military personnel. it ensures that the american taxpayers get effective and efficient government. earlier in the day the president spoke with egyptian president and discussed ways to deepen the bilateral relationship and support egypt's fight against terrorists and boost their economic reform program. president trump underscored the united states remains committed to the bilateral relationship which helped both chountries overcome challenges in the region for decades. they'll work with egypt to ensure that assistance effectively supports the egyptian military's fight against terrorism and commended the president for courageous steps to address egypt's
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economic challenges and offered ways that the united states could support the economic reform program. the two leaders discussed a visit to the united states in the future. the president then had lunch with the vice president where they recapped this morning's meetings and discussed next steps. they also discussed plans to advance the president's legislative agenda to make america safer and more designate shups for acting heads of departments and agencies to maintain continuity in those critical position. at 3:00, union leaders and front line workers will meet with the president to discuss his proworker agenda. attendees include tom of the united brotherhood of carpenters. shawn mcgarvy. terry o'sullivan of the national laborers union of north america. mark mcmanis, donald mullence, steam pitters association local
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602. frank spencer, doug mccarron, general president united brotherhood of carpenters. mike coles, iron workers local 5. joseph sellser senior. thelma m. maatta the heat and frost insulators allied workers local 24. mark youikowski, united association number 5. steven dodd, the sheet metal workers union slash smart union. and gario done. the president has been honored to receive support from union men and working on election day. and he made it a priority to meet with these union workers on working day one in the white house. the offshoring of american jobs and the lack of economic growth in recent years has hit america hard and the president's priority is to maintain american jobs. which he has already seen
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happened at companies like carrier, sprint and so much more. he will have a meeting at the white house that will include the vice president, the senate majority leader, senator minority whip, the senate minority leader, minority whip. the white house chief of staff. chief of staff, chief strategist, chief of staff of the president. and the purpose of the meeting is to get the agenda moving through congress. the people are frustrated with the lack of progress here in washington and the president is taking every opportunity to forge strong bonds with congressional leaders on both sides of the i will. one of the subjects that's sure to come up is the status of his nominees during this meeting. it's important to note in 2009, president obama had seven of his nominees confirmed in day one, and five more in the first week. as it stands today, we have two.
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democrats held up the nomination of mike plompo needlessly leaving one of our most important national security agencies without its leader on day one. it's top for the congress to stop delay tactics and allow the nominees to get to work on behalf of the american people. rounding out today's schedule after the reception that i mentioned, he will have dinner with -- he will have a meeting with the house speaker, paul ryan, they will discuss the republican lengths lative agenda and strategy going forward. earlier in the day the president nominated heather wilson as the next secretary of the air force. she grew up in keen, new hampshire and made history as part of the third u.s. air force academy class that included women. she earned her master's degree and doctoral degrees as a rhodes scholar in europe and was an officer in the cold war and in the national security office
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under president george h.w. bush. we are all about large viewerships and big audiences. i want to tell but an undertaking we are taking to offer up more access to more journalists. we are going to have four skype seats live in the briefing room. this will open up the briefings to journalists who live beyond 50 miles of the washington, d.c. area and to organizations that don't currently have a hard pass. as always, every organization is welcome to apply for a day pass. but we are opening up a diverse group of journalists from around the country. i think this can benefit us all by giving a platform to voices not necessarily based here in the beltway. looking ahead, the president will have a breakfast tomorrow with the auto industry including heads of gm, chrysler and ford, he looks forward the hearing their ideas and how we can work together to bring more jobs back to this industry in particular. on wednesday, the president will
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host a swearing in air smoen from new secretary of homeland security, general james kelly -- john kelly and then on friday he will do the same for secretary mattis at the department of defense. on thursday, he will travel to philadelphia to attend the republican house and senate retreat. and on friday he will welcome his first foreign head of state, british prime minister may. with that, i look forward to taking your questions. >> daniel hall per, new york post. >> sean, thank you. when will you commence the building of the border wall? >> >> when will we what? >> when will you start building the border wall. >> the president noted this was a serious priority of his throughout the campaign. he started to work with congress on appropriations avenue of that. he is doing everything he can to direct agencies and congress to kmeps with that work as soon as possible. >> what about obamacare? are you enforce thing mandate.
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>> enforcing the mandate. >> the obamacare mandate. >> the president made it clear he is going to work with congress and part of the discussion he is going to have tonight with some of these leaders and again with paul ryan is how we can work to implement both the repeal and replace as secretaries of this. jennifer wishin. >> of all the policy or actions that the president could have taken today, he chose to reinstate the mexico city policy. what message is he sending here? does he see the elimination, reduction of abortions as an american value? and also here at home, can pro life americans expect him to put his signature on legislation that will defund planned parenthood? >> i think the president, it's no secret has made it very clear he is a pro-life president. he wants to stand up for all americans, including the unborn. i think the reinstatement of this policy is not just something that echos that value but respects taxpayer funding as well and ensures we are standing up not just for life, for life of the unborn, but for also tax
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i pa you are funds that are being spent overseas to perform an action that is contrary to the values this president. and continue to further illustrate not just to the folks here in this country but around the world what a value we place on life. jennifer rodriguez, jenna, i'm sorry. >> thank you, what did mr. curtis mean when he said that he would work through congress to get a special something we don't know what it is for daca recipients? and when can we expect this to happen. also, when can we expect the white house spanish site to be back up? >> two questions. let me start with the latter first. as you know, we -- we hit the ground running on day one. there was a lot to do, and we had done a lot of work on the website to make sure that we were prepared to get as much information up as fast as possible. we are continuing to build out the website both in the issue area and that area. but we have got the it folks
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working overtime to continue to get all that up to speed. trust me. it's going to take more time but we are working piece by piece to get that done. on the daca piece i think the president has been clear he is going the prioritize the areas of dealing with the immigration system, both building the wall and making sure that we address people who are in this country illegally. first and foremost the president has been very, very clear that we need to direct agencies who address those who are in this country illegally and have a criminal record or pose a threat to the american people. that's where the priority is going to be. then we will continue to work lieu the entire number of folks that are here illegally. but right now the clear focus is on that. >> sean. >> blake berman, fox business. >> saerngs i want to ask you two questions, money related. the president campaigned on the corporate tax cut rate of 15%. today when he met with bit business leaders he mentioned that the tax rate would drop to somewhere between 15 to 20%.
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is he moving the goal post in any way? my second question is on government spending there have been reports that he might be looking at $10 trillion over the course of ten years. is that accurate and what you be willing to wrap up entitlements to get there. >> i'll take the other one first, on spending. i think you saw with the hiring freeze. there has been frankly to some degree a lack of respect for taxpayer dollars in this town. i think what the president is showing through the hiring freeze first and foremost today is we have to respect the american taxpayer. they are sending a ton of money. they are working hard. some working two or three jobs to get by. to see money wasted in washington on a job that is duplicative is insulting on the hard work they do to pay their taxes. i think that comes in your question on overall spending. we have got to look at how we are spending the american people's tax money. what the landing teams have been doing is going into these agencies and departments and talking about ways that we can
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create greater efficiencies, eliminate due policity and find max -- maximize the tax dollar. so it's more a question instead of just cutting. it's maw do we spend and respect the american tax dollar going forward. >> and that 15 to 20%? >> sorry. >> i'm sorry. look, the president is a very successful business man and netter. he is going to sit down and work with congress to get the best deal possible for americaniss about so they can hire more people and we can grow the economy. so he is going to work with congress on that rate. but he understands better than anybody how to negotiate a great deal. and right now, he's going to negotiate the best deal on behalf of the american worker and on behalf of the american businesses that are hiring them. that was a lot of focus that weapon on today. talking to these companies. and it was interesting, the meeting was only supposed to last an hour. it overflowed another hour into the oval office. he kept asking them, what ideas do you have to grow this
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economy? what is preventing you from hiring people? what regulations are stopping you from conducting more business? what are the ways that we can give you more market access into, you know, other countries around the globe? and i think that's what his focus is going to continue to be is how do we create a tax and regulatory environment that grows the economy and benefits the american worker. so it's not just about creating more jobs but it's also about lifting up those jobs through higher wages. april ryan. >> sean, i have a couple of questions if you will allow me to take them one at a time. elijah coupling, democratic married congressman confirmed that president trump talked to him at the luncheon about the high price of prescription drugs. when is this meeting going to be set, or is it coming up soon? and will the president be meeting with the full body of the kong black caucus as well as the hispanic caucus on issues related to those communities. >> okay let's take one at