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Protests And Marches in Major Cities Against Travel Ban; Presidential Advisor Steve Bannon Will Now Sit In Top Secret National Secret Meetings; U.S. Service Member Killed In Raid On Al-Qaeda In Yemen; Trump and Saudi King Agreed Safe Zone in Syria; Trump New Statement On Extreme Vetting; Trump Blast McCain And Graham On Immigration In New Tweet. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired January 29, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:14] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin with breaking news on the growing opposition to President Donald Trump's immigration ban. We are monitoring protests and marches in major cities this hour across the country. Live pictures right now from Boston and Dulles international airport in Washington D.C. Demonstrators calling the executive order unconstitutional and un-American. And many are demanding the president release the people who are still detained at airports nationwide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is evil. This is un-American. This is against our core, most sacred -- values.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are being detained. We came with proper representation, documents, and we are not allowed to see them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing there is, is to come out in mass, to like show the sea of bodies. How the public feels about some of these policies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: (INAUDIBLE), the president's own party saying this has gone too far.
Republican senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham releasing this statement saying quote "it is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the departments of state, defense, justice and homeland security. Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism," end quote.
Demonstrators are gathering at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson airport, where 11 travelers were detained today. CNN's Polo Sandoval is there.
So Polo, what are you seeing? All right, Polo, if you can hear me, tell us what you're seeing at Atlanta airport.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred, I got you now. Good afternoon.
Clearly, the crowds have come here to the doorstep of the Atlanta Hartsfield national airport, one of the busiest in the world. And this is what greets some of the passengers as they arrive here at ATO (ph). You can see a large crowd that has gathered here. These are people that have been here for about an hour or so now, with signs in hand, the chants we have heard are very similar to what we have heard around the country, and that is they consider this latest executive action by President Donald Trump not just constitutional, but also un- American. So they are calling, of course, the commander in-chief to reconsider what is now in place.
This is about where, as you mentioned about, 11 individuals were temporarily detained yesterday. That even prompted a visit from Representative John Lewis, a known critic, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump to come here and wait until with some of these individuals until they were released.
So there is, of course, a lot of questions right now Fred from some of these refugee organizations in Atlanta that are tasked with welcoming some of these refugees into the country. One group that I spoke to yesterday was expecting about six of them to arrive tomorrow. Some of them from Somalia, which is one of those countries that's identified. So right now, they are simply hoping for the best as they continue in route, continue in transit. Eventually expected to land in the U.S. tomorrow, Fred.
WHITFIELD: And then, Polo, what do you know about the 11, some 11 passengers who were detained there in Atlanta?
SANDOVAL: We do understand that all of them were eventually released, but it obviously made for some very tense moments for them as many of them were coming from some of these countries and expected to be allowed into the country, since some of them did in fact hold green cards. And of course, that was the big question from some of the guidance that was released by the White House, was whether or not some of these individuals would be allowed in. So as a result, they were detained temporarily yesterday to get a last check. We do understand that they have been released, but that has not calmed some of the concerns though as you can thoroughly see behind me, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, very vocal crowd there gathering in Atlanta airport. Appreciate that.
So, for the second day in a row, people are gathering outside of the Los Angeles international airport, LAX, to protest the travel ban.
CNN's Dan Simon is there with demonstrators. Dan, what's the message there? DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Fred. This is yet another
example that we are truly living in distort and turbulent times. The crowd here outside of LAX is cheering overwhelming. We are talking about thousands of people. It has exceeded all expectations.
Now, Los Angeles has a very large Iranian, American community, so it's not surprise that you can see a lot of these protesters at LAX. But we are also seeing people of all different ethnicities, people who come from all different walks of life. You can see them holding signs and chanting (INAUDIBLE). It is also expect to make an appearance here and voice his opposition to the executive order.
In turn are the member of people who detained at LAX. They have not gotten a (INAUDIBLE). That is in confusion. At one point, we were told from attorneys who were assisting family members and friends, it is in the dozens, but there have not been able to confirm that from the federal authorities. So there is a bit of confusion about the members.
I did speak to one gentleman a short time ago. He has a friend who has been detained. He says he was in (INAUDIBLE) last night. He said that she told him she was crying and she was complaining that the authorities are going through her cell phone. Also, going through her personal luggage. And this woman he says is actually a Christian went Iran for religious persecution reasons and she's actually living in Los Angeles for the past year.
These are some of the personal stories that we are hearing from LAX, Fred. I would imagine that as the hours and days unfold, we will hear a lot more of similar kinds of stories -- Fred.
[16:05:59] WHITFIELD: All right. Dan Simon, there at LAX. Thank you so much. We will check back with you.
All right. Meantime, let's go to lower Manhattan, Battery Park there in New York, where travel ban protest is also going on there. A moving one.
Jessica Schneider is in the midst of f it all -- Jessica.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the hundreds, if not thousands of people mobilizing here on the streets of Manhattan. We are in lower Manhattan. And for the past ten minutes, we have been standing here as these people move through the streets.
They started off in Battery Park. Battery Park, of course on the banks of New York harbor. Overlooking the statue of liberty in Ellis Island. Ellis Island, a place where 13 million immigrants came through entering this country. Seeing New York City for the first time. Of course, that largely symbolic. Well, now, these people are making their march from Battery Park up to 26 federal plaza. It is about a mile north of here. That is where the offices of department of homeland security as well as immigration and customs enforcement is. So they are making their message, taking it out on the streets.
Of course, yesterday, we saw all of this at JFK airport. Now, they are bringing their message direct to the heart of Manhattan, direct in to New York City. I have talked to a lot of people out here, Fredricka. The enormity of this is quite sobering, but the stories also quite sobering.
I spoke with two men from Iran, both of them are green card holders. One tells me he has been here in the United States in New York City working as an artist for the past seven years. He had a reunion planned with his family this coming summer. He said just yesterday, he had to cancel those plans because despite the fact that he is a green card holder, he just doesn't know what the future holds for him. Of course, he is worried if he were to leave his country and meet his family somewhere in the middle in Europe, that he might be stopped and not let back in the country.
A lot of uncertainly. One of the speakers at the rally back there at Battery Park, she spoke about the fact that her parents were from South Sudan. She was actually born at a refugee camp. So she is a refugee now living in New York City. Very grateful for everything she has gotten from this country.
The messages out here today from protesters, also, politicians as well. We heard from the New York City mayor, Bill De Blasio, he called this a horrible message, this executive order. We heard from Senator Chuck Schumer, who at one point today got very emotional about this issue, saying this is bad for humanity.
So everyone is speaking out. We have seen these rallies in success throughout the one week that Donald Trump had been president. Now, we are seeing it here in New York City. Day two of this. Who knows it will continue, but their message is strong, now marching to get their message from Battery Park out to the federal offices at 26 federal plaza -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Jessica Schneider in lower Manhattan. Thank you so much.
So, this morning, senate minority leader Chuck Schumer gave a very emotional response to the president's travel ban. More on what Jessica was talking about right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: We are here today to deliver a vociferous no to the president and the misguided executive orders that are shocking to a majority of Americans and are inflicting wounds on this country.
This executive order -- was mean spirited and un-American. It was implemented in a way that created chaos and confusion across the country. And it will only serve to embolden and aspire those around the globe who will do us harm. It must be reversed immediately, Senate Democrats are going to introduce legislation to overturn this and move it as quickly as we can. And I, as your senator from New York, will claw, scratch and fight with every fiber of my being until these orders overturned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[16:10:10] WHITFIELD: At the same time, during that press conference, we also heard emotional pleas from immigrants, now living in the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a good citizen. I have my own business. I have my own house. But I don't have my children with me. It's very hard to see people being killed right and left and I can't save my own children. So and I have another daughter in Lebanon stuck there with four children. She cannot get here. And I appreciate Senator Schumer for his efforts and he is going to fight this nonsense because America is built on refugees and people like us building America. And we are going to build it better than what Mr. Trump wanted it. And I promise you that. And this future of America, I've been bringing my kids here to be good citizen. I'm teaching, educators. She teach them. We all teach them to be good and do good for America, for everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. We also heard very stern message coming from New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: As New Yorkers, we are especially aware of issues of diversity. We are aware of issues of intolerance because we are 18 million people from countries all across the globe. We are probably the most diverse state on the globe. And it is the essence of who we are and we have no tolerance for any tolerance. Period. And that's what we are going to stand up and say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, now to the nation's capital where massive protests took place outside of the White House. It is actually still underway.
CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones joining us now live.
So, Athena, you mentioned it can be heard if not seen a little bit from the lawn of the White House, even though that protest taking place across the street in Lafayette Park, but has there been a direct response coming from the White House?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. No direct response from the White House. As I mentioned earlier, it appears to be dissipating somewhat. Some of the protesters had moved around the corner to the Trump hotel, which is just down the street from the White House. But it was a pretty large gathering out here for a couple of hours earlier.
One of the biggest protests I have seen taking place outside the White House, not quite as big as, of course, last week's woman's march, but still, several hundred, certainly a couple of thousand people I have been told. And they were carrying signs that said things like make America kind again. Muslims, welcome. Signs quoting Emma Lazarus, that poem on the statue of Liberty saying give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
So a lot of emotional reaction, not just from people who are directly affected by this new policy, but by people like these protesters, who are concerned that the policy is unconstitutional and un-American.
The White House though standing its ground saying that this is necessary to protect the national security of the U.S. saying that the vetting procedure for immigrants from these countries and for refugees is woefully inadequate to protect the national interest.
President Trump tweeting about this this morning saying our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting now. Look what is happening all over Europe and indeed, the world, a horrible mess. Also tweeting Christians in the Middle East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue.
So, I can't stress enough for you, Fred, the fact that the White House feels that they were elected -- this is the kind of move the president ran on doing. And so, as far as they are concerned, this is a promise kept and when it comes to the chaos and confusion that has been selling in airports around the world and here in America, they say look, there is no chaos. This is working as we expected it to and so they are pleased -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones at the White House. Thank you so much. Appreciate that.
All right next, another big change in the White House promoted by this new presidency. Why presidential advisor Steve Bannon will now sit in top secret national secret meetings, next.
[16:17:47] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Protest across the country namely at airports. This one at Dallas Ft. Worth airport. People turning out there to show their disappointment and their disdain for this new President Trump's executive order banning nationals from seven countries from entering the U.S. More on the protests sweeping the nation.
Meantime, another unprecedented decision by President Donald Trump. He has signed a memo adding his top advisor Steve Bannon to the national Security Council while simultaneously removing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from their regular duties.
Susan Rice, President Obama's national security advisor shocked at Trump's decision, tweeting this. Quote, "this is stone cold crazy. After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intel to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan or DPRK, Korea."
All right. Let's go live now to Ryan Nobles, CNN Washington correspondent. So Ryan, there are other reactions now coming from Capitol Hill on
this executive order.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Fredricka.
And essentially what we are talking about here is the principles committee, which is a permanent group of members of this national Security Council that brief the president on important matters related to national security and intelligence. It's this group that usually only meets when the president is present.
But according to this new memo, the make-up of that group is going to change a little. As you mentioned, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will no longer be prominent members of the group, but they will be called upon from time to time and they can join the meeting if they so choose.
The big difference though, as you mentioned, in the addition of Steve Bannon, who is the president's chief strategist and senior counselor. Now he is not a military expert, although he did serve in the Navy, he thought as being more of a political strategist and that has some here in Washington very concerned. And it's not just Democrats. It's Republicans as well. Listen to what Senator John McCain had to say about move this morning on CBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think the national security team around President Trump is very impressive and I couldn't think you couldn't ask for a better one where there be General Kelly, General Flynn is great, General Mattis. And the ones they are putting on board on their team.
I am worried about the National Security Council, who are the members of it and who are the permanent members. They appoint Mr. Bannon as something which is a radical departure from any national security council in history. Remember Carl Rove when he sat in on one and Axelrod, when he was supposed. Look, that is and the role of the chairman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been diminished. I understand with this reorganization. One person was indispensable would be the chairman of the joint chiefs of staffs in my view, so it's of concern, this quote, "reorganization."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[16:20:48] NOBLES: Now, in addition to Steve Bannon sitting on this principal's committee as a permanent member, this memo also state that the president himself could actually not be in these meetings and from time to time, vice president Mike Pence could serve in his place. And that was another thing that President Obama's former national security adviser, Susan Rice, criticized. She said in that series of tweets that you showed earlier, Fredricka, that President Obama never was not in these meetings -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you so much. With me right now, Raymond Tanter, a former member of the national
Security Council's staff in the Reagan administration.
All right. So, Raymond, what are your thoughts on these changes?
RAYMOND TANTER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL UNDER REAGAN: Well, your set up piece reminds me of an analogy, remember President Truman said that the, when he was asking an economist will unemployment go up or will go down, and he kind of said look, it could go up or it could go down. And he said, please send me a one handed economist.
Well, likewise. With respect to the issue of having Steve Bannon in versus the joint chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in. What you have is a situation where on one hand, President Trump feels more comfortable with Steve Bannon no matter whether he has the necessary qualifications as Ryan sort of alluded to or not. And he may not feel comfortable with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the director of national intelligence and nor would General Flynn feel comfortable and them. And Flynn had problems with each one of those in the past, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: So, yes. Lots left of the discretion of the president, but how unusual or different would these kinds of changes be? We did hear that the chief of staff said earlier today on "Meet the Press," that these people, the chairman of the joint chiefs and director of national intelligence, would quote "be invited as attendees to the national council at any time even if this change means they wouldn't necessarily permanently be president."
TANTER: Right. But Fredricka, when I served on the Reagan-Bush national Security Council staff, the decisions weren't made by the counsel. There was a meet after the counsel would meet and President Reagan would meet with vice president Bush. And a couple of other people at least sometimes who was a political counselor at the time and with James Baker later. So, each president has a right to set up his or her own national security council the way that person wants it to run, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And does it matter to you or how do you digest that occasionally, president Trump would not be there, but instead in his place, the vice president?
TANTER: Well, I think that President Trump has a right to decide whom he wants to be in the meeting, also with respect to himself. President Obama always attended as Ryan mentioned, but President Obama need not have attended. National contribute counsels are a function of what the president wants, not what the pundits would like to see, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: But you are in agreement that that kind of meeting or discussion certainly assists a president to either justify a decision made or perhaps persuades them otherwise about deferring certain decisions.
TANTER: Yes. I think my personal view is that the president ought to be there. But my view was also that vice president, not vice president, but president-elect Trump should have attended all of the meetings to hear the national intelligence that he was getting, but I'm not president and he is.
WHITFIELD: And each president does what it is comfortable to them.
TANTER: You got it.
WHITFIELD: All right, got it. Raymond Tanter, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.
All right. More on the protests sweeping the nation after this.
[16:28:59] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitefield.
A U.S. service member has died from wounds suffer in a raid against Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Three other service members were also wounded. President Trump authorized this operation and he released a statement say in part quote "Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in the fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with the family of these fallen service member. I also pray for a quick and complete recovery for the brave service members who sustained injuries."
I want to bring in CNN's pentagon reporter Ryan Browne.
So, Ryan, what more do we know about this service member?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: That's right. This elite service member was fatally wounded during a gun battle as part of that followed a raid, a special operations forces raid on an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula headquarters. This was a pretty intense firefight. About 14 Al-Qaeda fighters were killed in it. And it was part of a mission what's called, you know, it was attempting to gather intelligence that will that would allow for additional raids and drone strikes in the future.
[16:30:00] Now this raid also involved the crash of the U.S. aircraft, the B-22 Osprey that was forced to conduct what's called a hard landing and the U.S. Military had the to destroy it to prevent that technology from falling into enemy hands. This follows the first day of Trump's presidency we're they targeted al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen with drone strikes. We are seeing a lot of ramped up activity against in al-Qaeda in Yemen and something to watch in the future days. This is what's considered al-Qaeda's most capable affiliate, so we're definitely seeing a renewed focus on this terror group under the Trump presidency.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Browne Thank you so much.
BROWNE: You bet.
WHITFIELD: All right. Trump's immigration ban is not only generating strong reactions in the here in the U.S. People around the world are also responding. What they're saying next.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back, this just in, adding to a course of at least two Republican congressional leaders. Now, Republican congressman of Texas, Will Herd, just released a statement in response to President Trump's travel ban saying it poses a danger to Americans. Herd saying this, quote, a one size fits all solution is not the way to solve one of the most complex National Security challenges we face, Islamic terrorism. Herd goes on to say quote, we cannot fight the scourge of Islamic extremism alone. This visa ban is the ultimate display of mistrust and will erode our ally's willingness to fight with us. The ban also provides terrorists are another tool to gain sympathy and recruit new fighters end quote.
Now we are also hearing new details of President Trump's phone call that took place today with the king of Saudi Arabia. White House Correspondent Athena Jones is live for us at the White House with more on this, Athena.
[16:35:00] ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred, that is right. We have readout from that call with King Salman (inaudible) Al Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia a. It's a pretty fulsome readout. He is the first of the three world leaders of the president was expected to talk to today. It says that the two leaders reaffirmed the long standing friendship and strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia. They talked about strengthening joint efforts to fight the spread of Radical Islamic terrorism and working jointly to address the challenges to regional peace and security including in Syria and Yemen.
But here's one of the most interesting things about this statement. It says that the president requested and the king agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts. Now you will remember this idea of safe zones is something that candidate Trump ran on in order to help deal with the refugee crisis. But this idea of safe zones is something that Obama administration did not think could it will. Another interesting part of this statement is that the two leaders agreed on the importance of rigorously enforcing the joint comprehensive plan of action with Iran. What is that? That is the Iran nuclear deal. The very same deal that President Trump said he did not like. Said he would consider pulling out of. So, the interesting to hear a reaffirmation of a commitment to the Iran Nuclear deals. One more thing in this statement, it says the two leaders agreed to additional steps to strengthen bilateral, economic and energy cooperation. So, pretty substantive statement from what sounds like a substantive phone call with the Saudi king, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much at the White House. Appreciate it.
As we continue to monitor protests and marches across the U.S., a lot of confusion and anxiety inside American airports. At least 109 people were detained at U.S. customs after Trump signed this executive order. But after federal judges in several cities granted an emergency stay for citizens subject to the travel ban, some were released, many still await their fate. Let's talk more about all of this with CNN Global Affairs Analyst, David Rohde and CNN International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson. So, David, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham say this is a self-inflicted wound, in the fight against terror. Do you agree?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. I mean in the long- term, I think it is. This is a sort of struggle for the future of Islam between the sort of radical vision of ISIS and the vast majority of Muslims who are moderate. So we need allies on the ground, Muslims who will fight alongside U.S. troops, Muslims who really lead the fight. I mean that is what's happening in Iraq. It's Iraqis that are retaking Mosul. There's a small number of Americans there, so this will alienate Muslims. I know the administration says this is not a ban on Muslim, but it's being interpreted that way. Reuters with where I work, Global News Service, we hear nothing but confusion from around the globe from foreign officials and particularly from the Middle East. What this means and just in your last report, this mention of safe areas again in Syria, more confusion. Does that mean American troops are going to go into Syria and create these safe havens? It's all very confusing to people in the region.
WHITFIELD: Ok, then gentlemen, just bear with me now, because we just received a new statement coming from the office of the press secretary at the White House, this on the issue of vetting. We know there have been a lot of observations made. People who were stopped have already either have their green cards or perhaps they were refugees and they already endured two years of a very rigorous vetting process so this statement now. I'm going to read the whole thing for you. So bear with me. It says America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.
The seven countries named in the executive order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban. As the media is falsely reporting, this is not about religion. This is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim and they are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.
[[16:40:04] I have tremendous feelings for the people involved in the horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country. But as president, I will find ways to help all those who are suffering. This a reflection of the sentiment of the president of the United States, is coming from the office of the Press Secretary at the White House, so, Nic, will any of that statement appease some of the anxiety that is being expressed, whether it be by protests that we're seeing across the country, in the airports or perhaps even by allies across the world.
NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, let's talk about allies, and let's talk about the most recent and strongest allies. Theresa May came to visit President Trump just a couple of days ago, finds herself now in a variance with him, has to distance herself from that policy, that is costing her politically back home. The leader of the opposition party there tweeted that President Trump shouldn't be allowed to come to Britain, asked people to sign a protest. He is supposed to be coming on a state visit later this year and asked people to sign a protest against that. In his tweet, he described the ban as a Muslim ban, so when you have, leading politicians from countries in Europe seeing it that way articulating it that way, we have a joint statement from the French and Dutch foreign ministers this evening, both countries that are very concerned about Trump type politics, because that is fuelling significant opposition parties nationalist populist parties in their countries and issued a statement they think is confusing. That they think it doesn't get to the core values and they think it kind of counterproductive to tackle terrorism.
These are countries, France in particular, very much on the front line of trying to deal with a very significant and major terrorist threat within its own border, the message at the moment is being perceived outside as a Muslim ban and if you look in Iraq, some of the forces that are working alongside the U.S. to fight ISIS and Mosul in the north of the country, some are Shia Militias. Some of those Shia Militias that are back by the government, supporting Iraqi army are calling for U.S. forces to be removed from the country. So, you know, that is not something this Iraqi government supports, but you get this sort of feedback from the rest of the world that does interpret it as a Muslim ban, that is their own interpretation.
WHITFIELD: Nic and David, I want to bring in Athena Jones, she is at the White House. She is with us now as this statement was just released. So, Athena, you know, the headline here on the statement says you know, this is a statement on the extreme vetting, but it also sounds like it's more of a justification of for any actions that this White House feels is fit to best secure this nation. Is it being -- is it going to be received that way?
JONES: We'll see. I do think this is what's very clear about this statement is that we know that President Trump is a huge consumer of the news media, cable new, network news, newspapers and we know that he has been watching a lot of his statements and actions over the last several days have certainly appeared to be direct responses to things he is seen on TV, and so that is why you have in a statement, which is pretty unusual at least in terms of the last eight years or so to see a statement that direct references the media a couple of times. He talks about how America has been always been the land of the free and home of the brave, we'll keep it free, keep it safe. As the media knows, but refuses to say.
He goes on to talk about how President Obama did something similar suspending, banning visas for refugees from Iraq for six months in 2011. He also says the seven countries named in the executive order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. Now, if you talk to folks in the Obama administration, they'd say, saying that a country might need extra scrutiny is not the same thing as imposing a travel ban. You've heard from a lot of officials saying that when it comes to refugees, for instance, those are the folks that get some of the highest scrutiny, the most extreme vetting already taking a couple of years in order to jump through all the hurdles to be allowed in to the country. So I read this as a statement to justify his actions and to defend his actions. Very clear as I said, that he is responding directly to media reports that he sees as unfair, Fred.
WHITFIELD: So David, this is a justification, but it does not respond to all of the criticism that has been hurled, you know since Friday and even including three Republicans on Capitol Hill. Who say that it is going to potentially provoke a bigger problem?
ROHDE: Well, I mean, when Trump is running for president, he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, he is walked back from the position, he also complained that Muslims weren't reporting terror threats enough. Again, colleagues looked at this exhaustively. Law enforcement officials told us Muslims were reporting terror plots.
[16:45:13] They are a key ally inside the United States and around the world. The problem of the justification of the seven countries is that, none of the attacks that have occurred inside of the United States since 9/11 came from refugees or immigrants from these seven countries. Most of the attacks were carried out by people from Saudi Arabia, they were attacks and attempted attacks from people who had maybe family links or immigrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan and those countries were exempted and so, it's this past rhetoric that is coming back now to leave these actions to be seen as targeting Muslims.
WHITFIELD: So, in this statement, the president is saying these seven countries were selected, because it's an extension of policy and a list starting to be piled by the Obama administration. And yet at the same time we heard particularly Donald Trump on the campaign trail touting there would be a great separation between the administration by Donald Trump and that of the Obama administration, which he heavily criticized, so, Nic that being said, the seven countries were cited by the Obama administration has places where there were terrorists at camps. Will that allay the concerns of allies who have already expressed that they don't like the way in which this has been rolled out?
ROBERTSON: Look, they're going to understand, there are some of these country are a threat to them in the United States. And take Yemen for an example, those U.S. Special Forces went in overnight toward an al- Qaeda compound there, costing one service member his life. We know that perhaps, al-Qaeda's most sophisticated bomb maker lives in Yemen and build his bombs in Yemen and indeed he made the underpants bomb that was worn by the Nigerian attacker Abdulmutallab, who flew into the airport in Detroit in December 2009 at Christmas, tried to detonate his explosives. It didn't work, but the original bomb came from Yemen. So, yes, there is going to be a certain amount of understanding there, but you know, international diplomacy runs on a different track. It runs on working together. Counterterrorism officials in one county and intelligence officials in one country working with another, it works on some sort of a commonality, joined up thinking, joined up cooperation's doesn't always work, but that is the strongest that it can be. United States allies, they recognize that maybe these countries are the sources of issues, we've had terror cells in Syria that have been directing attacks in Europe, in France and in Belgium, there's a belief that potentially terror cells in Libya have been doing the same thing, planning attacks in Europe, that you know, there's that recognition, but it's the methodology.
This is out of the bounds of normality and when you push the Muslim community to a perception that the United States is against them. Then you push them away as allies in all sorts of shapes and form, whether it's the moderate Imam in the Mosque giving, giving a more, if you will warmer message about the United States. To the man on the street who may turn to a police officer in New York and say look, I'm worried about this guy in my community. You know, so many levels, this is disrupting the order and that is why it's so worrying, because no one's convinced this current route is going to work.
WHITFIELD: Ok. I'm sorry, one more time, my producer there. I have a new tweet coming from Donald Trump here and it is a direct response to, or a call there was a statement coming from Senator Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who both were very critical of this executive order and that tweet now coming from Donald Trump saying the joint statement of former presidential candidates John McCain and Lindsey Graham is wrong. They are sadly weak on immigration. There you go. There is that and clearly, there is a continuation coming. We'll have to wait for the part two of this statement coming from President Trump on matters, so now, Athena, we are not only seeing a new statement coming from the president, but now, a very public spat unfolding between the executive branch and the legislative branch of government here. Athena, are you still with me?
JONES: Sorry, I didn't know that was me, it just more proof that the president is watching and is very eager to defend his point of view. I've been stressing this over and over again the last several hour that is the White House feels they are on firm ground. They have argued that it is -- that the current vetting process is woefully inadequate. They argued that these steps are necessary to protect the national interest.
[16:50:06] If you forgive me, I was looking down earlier to find my notes from yesterday, a briefing with senior administration officials. This is interesting, because yesterday, when they brought up those seven countries, just now in this release, they talk about the seven countries having been previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. Well yesterday, they weren't citing the Obama administration, they said those seven countries were identified by congress as being particularly high risk. This was based on congressional statute that those seven countries were identified so, the justification kind of background they're offering is shifting a bit, which I think is another sign that they're trying to show or to prove that this is a just move. In the face of all of this scrutiny and criticism by people who said it is not only un- American, but also, illegal and unconstitutional. They're pushing back. WHITFIELD: Ok. I believe now Athena we have that part. Part two now
of President Trump's tweet. Again, let me preface it with the joint statement of former presidential candidates John McCain and Lindsey Graham is wrong. They are sadly weak on immigration. The two senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III. So, David, now this public spat. You've got the president, who is now justifying the actions of the executive order and now, also, hurling you know, and a response of Republicans who have been critical within the last 48 hours. So, what would be the, the sentiment or rebuke coming from other world leaders who are now seeing this unfold?
ROHDE: Well, I think there are these narratives that Donald Trump has created. He won the presidency, but that tweet sort of reflects, he mentioned ISIS and he is painting this picture of this world that is out of control. The total number of Americans who have died in terrorist attacks in the United States since the large attacks in 2001 is roughly 125. That is 125 people over 15 years. There was an increase in attacks. There are terrible attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando, but those numbers have dropped. And again, 125 people over 15 years. He is painted this portrait of thing as being out of control, he had to take his drastically measured to stop this terrorism, but actually not at that high a revel. We have to be serious with terrorism and deal with it, but that is the argument here that this is sort of taking a sledgehammer that you know, is alienating people inside and outside of United States to a problem that is not as bad as he portrays it and then on the legal immigrations same thing. If you look over the last several decades, illegal immigration coming in from Mexico is actually flat in terms of people crossing the border, so it's the same pattern of a narrative he has created of a crisis that many facts just don't support.
WHITFIELD: All right, David thank you so much, Athena as well and Nic, appreciate it. Nic I want to get your sentiment on that. We are going to take a short break for now. We will pick up where we left off, right after this.
[16:56:51] WHITFIELD: Welcome back, moments ago President Trump releasing a statement defending his executive order on extreme vetting. With us now is Maria Cardona is CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist, also with us, Jeffrey Lord, a CNN Political Commentator and a contributing Editor to the Americans Spectator. Good to see both of you. Ok, so, Jeffrey you first.
MARIA CARDONA, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Good to see you Fred.
JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hello Fred.
WHITFIELD: Two statements coming from the new president of the United States. You've got a formal White House statement, and then you got kind of this sticks and stones version, you know in a tweet. I mean, what are we witnessing here?
LORD: The method of communication of the Trump White House. I do think no matter the subject, he'll be tweeting. So, I think that is what you're witnessing here. But look, I'm sure he is going to defend what he did. You know, no one seemed to complain when President Obama put a ban on Iraqi refugees coming in this country for six months.
WHITFIELD: Ok. Right now, you're looking at a wave of protests across the country. You're hearing from members from Republicans who are saying this is a problem. It may undermine efforts in the war on terrorism. So, you know, no now let's keep it in step with that.
LORD: That is the point. The point is they're doing this because it's Donald Trump. That is why. This is a 90-day ban. Relax. This is a country 100 percent build with immigrants. But we cannot have people coming into this country and committing mass murder. This has happened. This is happening in America, it has happen in France, it has happened in other countries. It's not going to happen here again. If we didn't do something about it and it did happen --
CARDONA: Jeffrey, so, then -- you know I love you to death, Jeffrey. How many people from these seven countries have committed mass murder here in the United States, zero, absolutely zero.
WHITFIELD: Talk to us about the --
LORD: How many non --
CARDONA: This order is completely misguided, based on untruths. And it is -- I will give him this. This order is narrowly politically expedient, because what we have seen, his supporters like Jeffrey Lord and many others absolutely love what he is doing because they see that he is keeping one of his campaign promises, which is to implement this horrendous un-American Muslim ban. But in reality, what is being done is it's doing harm to other ability to actually fight terrorism abroad. It is alienating our allies and what it actually does. It is President Trump playing right into the hand of ISIS. You have ISIS folks, ISIS leadership, tweeting gleefully about news, about Muslim ban.
WHITFIELD: All right. Real quick, Jeffrey, in less than 20 seconds, how will measurements of benefits be taken here?
LORD: By not finding out that we've awakened one day and found another murder in the United States. Mass murder committed by Islamic radicals. Every single country involved harbors Islamic radicals. Murders in this country, the mass murder, whether it is 9/11 or San Bernardino, et cetera, where Islamic Radicals.
WHITFIELD: We will leave it right there, we are up against the next hour, Jeffrey Lord, Maria Cardona, thanks to both of you.