Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Travel Ban Sparks Outrage; Interview With Indiana Congressman Andre Carson. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 30, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: One of two Muslim congressmen are calling Donald Trump's ban un-American, one of them joining me now.

Indiana Congressman Andre Carson, he is the first Muslim to serve on the House committee on Intelligence.

First, Congressman, just let me know, has anyone come to your office with concerns? Do you have people calling up and worried that they could be ensnared in this, when they don't feel that they should?

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: They have been to our office, both offices, the district office in Indianapolis and in D.C.

Our phone lines have been flooded with concerns from constituents. Our phone lines have also been flooded with praise and support. Just yesterday on my flight back to Washington, D.C., a flight attendant handed me a handwritten note on a napkin thanking me and thanking other members of Congress for standing up and fighting on behalf of immigrants.

This woman was from the Caribbean. And she was very appreciative. She didn't want to jeopardize her job. She didn't even leave her name, but as a flight attendant she thought it was important enough for her to give me a handwritten note, which I posted on my Facebook page.

KEILAR: Do you hear from -- there are a lot of people out there who support this travel ban. And they say -- and there are people who say, look, this makes me feel safer. I am worried. Even if you haven't seen someone come through the refugee program that they could come through. Just because someone hasn't doesn't mean that it doesn't going to be a vulnerable, and I am worried. I look at what happens in Europe, and what if that were to happen here in the U.S.?

Those people who have those concerns, what do you say to them?

CARSON: I share security concerns as well. As a former police officer, as someone who has worked with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and counterterrorism and counterintelligence, given my law enforcement background, given my position on the Intelligence Committee, I share those concerns and I will do whatever I can do in my power to make sure Americans are protected. However, I don't think that the concerns from citizens should be used

as a political ploy to cause a wedge and divide Americans to assist the narrative of the extremists like al Qaeda and ISIS as a recruitment tool to further their agenda.

I think that this concern, as evidenced by concerned Americans who are taking a stand at our airports and at rallies across the country, they are saying enough is enough and we will not stand for it. As complicated as our founding fathers were, they were very visionary and very brilliant in establishing three separate branches of government.

We know that executive orders, they have limited power. Thankfully, the courts and Congress can write laws that will supersede an executive order. But I am deeply concerned about the tone that we are taking.

Look, we are not Europe. We cannot fuel the flames of xenophobia and Islamophobia and the anti-immigrant sentiment that is growing in this country.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about President Obama, because he took the extraordinary step of weighing in. This is a statement from his spokesperson that came out where he said he is heartened by the level of engagement that is taking place in communities. He said that citizens are exercising their rights to assemble, to organize, to have their voices heard.

And then it goes on to say that with regards to comparisons to President Obama's foreign policy decisions -- and we know specifically that's talking about a 2011 policy that had to do with Iraqi refugees -- it said the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

So he's coming out and directly responding to what he is hearing from President Trump and those around him. Do you think that we are going to be hearing more of this? And is this going to end up being this struggle between the current president and the former president?

CARSON: Well, President Obama is one of the greatest presidents that this country has ever produced. He's a friend. He's a mentor. As a constitutional attorney, he knows that the founding fathers outlined very specifically and intentionally our right to show dissent and our right to protest, if you will.

I would hope to hear more from the president. I know he wants to take a tone of not being disruptive to a degree. But he has also stated that when he can no longer sit back and remain silent, he will speak out, as he has done, and that's why he is such a phenomenal leader.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Carson, thank you so much for joining us.

And I do want the reset. We are just past the top of the hour. Moments ago, the White House defended President Trump's controversial travel ban.


The executive order keeps visitors from these seven Muslim majority nations from entering the U.S. for at least the next three months unless they have a green card. Under this order, which was just signed on Friday, some travelers with valid visas were detained.

This triggered nationwide protests over the weekend. You can see there just in those -- those were just six of the locations where we saw this. Multiple lawsuits have been filed condemning this order as unconstitutional. And soon Senate Democrats are going to introduce a bill to rescind the ban.

But the White House in its daily briefing continued to follow the Trump line, perhaps not surprisingly, that extreme vetting is needed to protect the nation.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You don't know when the next threat is coming. You don't know when the next attack is coming. And so the best you can do is to get ahead of it because if you wait you are going to be reacting.

And what I think I want to be clear on is the president is not going to wait. He's going to make sure he does everything in his power when he can to protect the homeland and its people. That's it.

And so getting ahead of threats is the key, not waiting until they happen, not saying, hey, once it happens, how do we react to make sure it doesn't happen again?

I think what I want to be clear about is that since becoming president he has continued to take steps through executive order and otherwise to make sure that this country is as safe as it can be and that we are ahead of every threat.

We are talking about a universe of 109 people. There were 325,000 people that came into this country over a 24-hour period from another country; 109 of them were stopped for additional screening. This is -- we have got to keep this in proportion.


KEILAR: I want to turn to senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

And, Jeff, it seemed as if he was answering that criticism of some people who -- you can pull up a map and look at the seven countries and they will say zero refugees from these countries have killed Americans. It seemed like he is saying that doesn't mean it couldn't happen and you need to get ahead of the threat.


Sean Spicer was offering no apologies at all, again, not surprisingly. He was saying, look, this is something the president indeed talked about in the course of his election, he was elected, and he wants to put security first and foremost here.

Brianna, I was also struck as the briefing went along Sean Spicer gave a message to government employees that if they're not with the program, they feel free to leave. If they are not going to support this message from the president, this order from the president, they should feel free to leave the government here.

So it's not surprising the White House is not apologizing. What they did not do though is acknowledge what many people across Washington from Capitol Hill to the agencies are saying. They simply were not informed about this order. Sean Spicer did not give much ground on that at all. He said the people were advised who needed to know. They did not want a bunch of people flying here over the weekend.

But it still remains clear, Brianna, that Republicans on Capitol Hill and elsewhere believe that they simply were not informed. It's as much of the substance as the controversy of the rollout that many people here believe was quite shaky.

KEILAR: He also responded, Jeff, to the shakeup on the National Security Council. What we're seeing here is that you have the -- for the uninitiated, and it's pretty weedsy, right, but you have the principals committee. And there are just a handful of people who are necessarily a part of that, but then there are also others.

And two of the folks that the Trump White House is taking off are the DNI and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then adding in as a permanent member is Steve Bannon, arguably, and they sort of revealed this, right, a top aide to President Trump, who is very controversial, we can't forget.

ZELENY: Right. He is the chief strategist at the White House. But by elevating him to a permanent seat on that principals committee, like you said, of the National Security Council, really is raising eyebrows from former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who served both Democrats and Republicans alike.

He said it was highly unusual, particularly removing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence from this seat at the permanent council. But this is how Sean Spicer tried to explain it.


SPICER: This is the principals committee in 2017. And this is the 2001 principals committee. It is literally 100 percent the same; 2001 and 2017 are identical.

So this idea that there has been a change or a downgrade is utter nonsense. With respect to the Joint Chiefs in particular, the president holds Chairman Dunford in the highest regard. The suggestion that he would downgrade the important role that the chairman plays in matters of national security reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the tremendous respect that the president holds for both the chairman himself and the Joint Chiefs as a whole.


ZELENY: So, Brianna, what he called a matter of utter nonsense is what other people are sort of shaking their heads at here.

But particularly it is putting Steve Bannon on this committee, really sitting alongside the secretary of state and defense secretary, who are confirmable positions right along there. And, of course, Steve Bannon is not confirmed. He is the president's chief strategist who works at his pleasure.


So, lot of interesting intrigue around Steve Bannon in this White House. Without a doubt, he's one of the most influential voices to the president.

KEILAR: Yes, a lot of national security people say it's nonsense.

I have heard some people say it doesn't bother them that Bannon is on there, but the fact that the DNI and the Joint Chiefs is gone, that bothers them more. But I haven't heard anyone say this isn't really a big deal when it comes to a lot of really loud national security voices.

Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you, sir, so much.

ZELENY: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Federal judges in several cities have already temporarily blocked parts of President Trump's executive order. And there are more lawsuits that are expected to be filed.

We just heard from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR. And that organization announced the filing of a federal lawsuit on behalf of more than 20 individuals.


NIHAD AWAD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CAIR: Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy, our community have been very concerned. And our community is not alone to be concerned about his harmful rhetoric, and now his dangerous policies.

Millions of Americans are very, very concerned about the direction in which he is taking our country. Millions of people who love America, individuals and countries, are concerned and worried what this president is doing.

Unconventional, we understand. Creative? Maybe, but also dangerously making policies and statements that we believe undermine our national security, our values, and our standing in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Joining me now is Josh Shapiro. He is Pennsylvania's attorney general. And he has joined 15 of his colleagues in a statement condemning the travel ban.

So, Attorney General Shapiro, this is a written letter that is very sharply worded. You signed it. It calls this executive order -- quote -- "unconstitutional, un-American, and unlawful."

Tell us about why you signed it and what's next for you and for the other attorneys general.

JOSH SHAPIRO (D), PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, in the wake of the president's executive order, we found crisis and chaos in our communities. We saw a federal overreach.

At the Philadelphia Airport, the Assali family, who was trying to be united with their family from Allentown, Pennsylvania, they had all of their proper paperwork in order, and they were sent away.

I know General Herring in Virginia was at Dulles Airport and witnessed similar things, and General Healey at Logan and Eric Schneiderman in New York. And we got together and recognized that we needed to speak with one voice. So, 17 attorneys general representing over one 131 million Americans spoke out about the un-American executive order that this president put forward.

We now in Pennsylvania are taking the next steps, readying for legal action in order to push back on this action by the president.

KEILAR: So if this had been done in a different way, if there had been -- he calls it extreme vetting. That's what Donald Trump and those around him call it. But if it had been done in a way where people were not in transit as this was rolled out, leaving one country to believe something would happen, only to show up in the U.S. and realize else was happening, would that have been more palatable?

SHAPIRO: We don't discriminate on national origin. We don't discriminate based on faith. And ultimately what this decision by the president has done is, it's made us less safe in the United States.

It's my job as the attorney general, it's the president's job as the president to always balance ensuring the safety and well-being of our citizens, as well as protecting people's rights. I think the president has failed on both tests. I would urge him to withdraw this executive order. If he does not, we in Pennsylvania will be prepared to take legal action against it.

This ultimately undermines the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, whether it is the researcher who plans to travel or maybe wants to leave the commonwealth and come back who works in Pittsburgh at one of our fine institutions. Or maybe it's someone who works in one of the great businesses here in the commonwealth who make us a stronger Pennsylvania.

Their rights are ultimately being undermined. Pennsylvanians are ultimately being held back because of the president's executive order. KEILAR: All right, Josh Shapiro, thank you so much for that. We do

appreciate you being with us, the attorney general of Pennsylvania.

And, Next, as global outrage pours in, Iraq, which is on the front lines of fight ISIS, says it will reciprocate against the travel ban. Fareed Zakaria will join us for that.

Plus, I will speak live with a man whose grandmother was held at LAX for nine hours. We will talk about what happened to her behind the scenes.



KEILAR: CNN has learned dozen of career diplomats are considering sending a dissent memo to State Department leadership to express their disagreement with President Trump's travel ban.

Here's how the White House press secretary responded to that.


SPICER: I think that they should either get with the program or they can go.


SPICER: Hold on. Hold on. This is -- this is about the safety of America. And there is a reason that the majority of Americans agree with the president. It's because they understand that that's his number one priority.


KEILAR: Let me turn now to some people who have a front-row seat to how this travel ban is playing out.

David Miliband, he is the president of the International Rescue Committee, the former British foreign secretary, we should also add. And Linda Hartke runs the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

David, to you first, because what we heard today in that briefing was that the president is not backing off of this travel ban. For the refugees that you work with, what will that mean if this 90- and 120- day ban plays out?

DAVID MILIBAND, FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Well, I think that the immediate implications are for 60,000 refugees around the world who have passed the U.S. vetting system and are waiting to come to the U.S., they are going to be stuck in limbo.


Obviously, for many more, who would hope in subsequent years to come here, the door feels like it's being locked. And I think an absolutely key point that needs to be made is that the U.S. already has extreme vetting for refugees.

It takes 18 to 24 months on average for a refugee to get through the vetting process. It involves 12 to 15 different government agencies. It involves biometric testing. It involves interviews by the CIA. And so this policy has been founded on the myth that there is no vetting for refugees. In fact, there is a lot of vetting.

And the fact others that there have been others caught up in this mess, including students, children who are separated at the moment from their parents only adds to the misery.

KEILAR: And, Linda, many Christian leaders are condemning this action. Others, though, they are supporting it. For instance, Jim Jacobson, the president of Christian Freedom International, told "The New York Times" -- quote -- "The Trump administration has given hope to persecuted Christians that their cases will finally be considered."

This also coming, I should mention, as the administration says this is not preferential to Christians. Certainly, that seems to be a read though coming from him.

What do you say to those people, those people who say, this gives me comfort?

LINDA HARTKE, LUTHERAN IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE SERVICE: Well, religious persecution has always been a ground for a person to be considered a refugee and be granted protection around the world and here in the United States.

So it's an important criteria for offering protection that has been offered to hundreds of thousands of Christians and now to a growing number of Muslims as well. Certainly, the statistics don't bear out the case that the current system has somehow offered additional system to Muslim refugees.

And we certainly are grateful and hopeful that, yes, Christians who are persecuted for their faith will have an opportunity to be safe and can be welcomed to this country. But that should happen without necessarily expecting that they must go to the front of the line ahead of others who have suffered equally or perhaps even more.

KEILAR: Yes, Pew numbers do show, in most of these nations, Christians are greatly over-represented for where they are in the population. It is a good point that you make there.

Linda, David, thank you to both of you for being on the program.

Coming up, how the global community is responding to President Trump's travel ban. Clarissa Ward and Fareed Zakaria are next.

Be back in just a moment.



KEILAR: At airports across the country, confusion and fear took hold as 109 people were detained in the wake of Donald Trump's travel ban. Many of those people were in the air as a stroke the president's pen decided their fate.

And one of those people detained was an Iranian grandmother who was held at LAX for nine hours.

She and her grandson, Siavosh Naji-Talakar, are joining me now to talk about this.

Siavosh, your grandma doesn't speak English very well. But tell me about your grandmother. I understand that she lives in Iran and on Saturday she was coming to visit you, as she often does. Then what happened?


Typically, she flies into LAX from Iran through Istanbul, Turkish Airlines. I go to LAX from Phoenix to pick her up and escort her on her last trip home. However, this time, she didn't come out of tunnel.

And I kind of had an inclination that there might be something going on with the executive order, especially with all the lawyers present. And at that moment, I knew that she was most likely one of the ones that was detained.

KEILAR: So, what did you do then?

NAJI-TALAKAR: Well, I started asking questions. I spoke with the TSA, Homeland Security. I touched base with a lot of ACLU lawyers that were immensely helpful.

But the feedback I got throughout the nine-and-a-half-hours, 10 hours that she was held, that no one knew what was going on. The TSA, Homeland Security told me they have no idea, they are waiting for directives from higher-ups. The best thing I could do is continue to wait. They have no further direction for me.

So, it was a lot of confusion there. And I just had to wait. And as I was waiting, there was a lot of protesters that came to the arrivals area. And I kind of got mixed up in them as well.

KEILAR: OK, so, you also, while you were waiting, were participating in the protests, as so many people were there. At what point were you able to finally see her? And what did she tell you about the experience?

NAJI-TALAKAR: Well, I was able to speak with her through a cell phone call that one of the other detainees had, and they were gracious enough to let her speak with me.

And they had no idea why they were being detained. As she communicated to me, they just let her know they are going to be held for another three or four hours. And that was already four hours into the detention.

And they continued to tell them that they couldn't tell them why they were being held. They were all confused. There was lots of panic in the room, a lot of anxiety.


KEILAR: But panic and anxiety from the people who are also detained? I mean, was she in there with a number of other people, or was there anxiety from people who were telling them they were going to be there longer?

NAJI-TALAKAR: She was in a room with 30 to 35 other Iranians. And they were separated. But Iranians were in her room.

But there was other rooms with other detainees at the LAX airport. And in her room, the panic and tension and anxiety started to raise every time someone would be grabbed and taken back, because they didn't know if they were being taken back to be deported, or if they were being let go.

And each time they would ask questions, they would be given no answers. They would just be told to go back and sit down and wait.

KEILAR: So, when she was talking to you on the phone, was she upset? Was she remaining calm? You know, what -- what was her concern?