Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump's Travel Ban and its Implications. Aired 7:30- 8p ET

Aired January 31, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, NEW DAY: All right. There's lots of criticism over President Trump's immigrant travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, but White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says there's also plenty of support.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is about the safety of America. And there's a reason that the majority of Americans agree with the president. It's because they understand that that's his number one priority and it's his number one duty, as it should be with any leader to keep our people and our institutions safe from attack and that these steps are, frankly, common sense steps that the president is taking to make sure that we're never looking in the rear- view mirror saying we should have done something like this.


CUOMO: Majority of support for the ban. Where do they get that? Let's discuss with CNN contributor Salena Zito. She's also a reporter for the "Washington Examiner" and reporter and a columnist for the "New York Post" and CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times," Mr. Alex Burns. Salena Zito, you are the self-appointed Trump people whisperer. Do you believe this notion -

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST, NEW DAY: We appointed her that.

CUOMO: - that Sean Spicer says that a majority of the country agrees with the president about the immigrant ban?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would agree that the majority of his supporters agree with the ban, and I did go out and drove around Pennsylvania and Ohio over the weekend, talked to a lot of people on the Amtrak train yesterday from Pittsburgh to Washington, and there were a lot of people that did not vote for him who liked the idea of the sort of stoppage, the pause. They like the idea of a more rigorous vetting. They're not particularly thrilled with the way that he did it. Nonetheless, you know, they like the idea - they believe that we need to do a better job of vetting. And they didn't see it as a religious ban. I think the problem Trump got into with people calling it that and feeling it that way is because of the rhetoric that he used during the campaign.

CAMEROTA: And, Salena, one more question for you before we get to Alex. When you point out to those people there's never been a refugee who's been involved in a terror attack here, what do they say to the facts?

ZITO: Good question. They don't look at it as it's targeting any one person. They look - they understand that a refugee has never done that or a current refugee - I think the guy from Ohio State was actually a refugee from Somalia. I'm not positive, but I think that he was. But they don't look at it that way. They look at it as a stop gap way to check every one, whether they're refugee or Christian or Muslim, whatever their motivation is.

CUOMO: Jeffrey Lord joins us now. Is he in there? There we are. Tried to duck us, Jeffrey Lord. Not today, not today. So, Jeffrey, look, it is impossible to say through any series of interviews that you know where all the Trump supporters are on anything. We take that. We stipulate to that as a notion. But there was always a disconnect with people who are voting for Trump, between people who were sick of the system, sick of the status quo and wanted somebody to go in there and try and change things, and agreement about how he spoke and how he felt about people, especially when it came to Muslims. How do you think that's going to play out with this ban, which by the president's own words was a Muslim ban in its inception?

JEFFREY LORD CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, its not a Muslim ban. He is going after terrorists is basically what he's doing. And I have to tell you, Chris, I mean people here, in this part of Pennsylvania at least, and Pennsylvania voted for him, get it. They understand it. They are concerned. They're concerned for safety. And it's as basic as that. There was a great piece on CNN last night where Randy Kay went into a Pennsylvania diner and talked to folks. These are the kind of folks that I talk to all the time and it's a pretty basic thing with them. They're not anti-immigrant. The whole country is filled with 100% descendent of immigrants, including all of these folks. So they're not anti-immigrant, but they for sure want something done. And that's what he's about and they understand that at a very basic level he's trying to protect them.

Alex, what are you hearing?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think when you talk to folks in Washington on both sides of the isle and, frankly, folks out in the states who aren't just representing the sort of core Trump constituencies in the Rust Belt that Jeffrey and Salena are talking about, there is this enormous degree of uncertainty about how the public is going to react, not just to the substance of the order, but just the spectacle that's unfolded over the last few days. It's one thing - we've always known that there are people, a very significant share of the electorate, that supports restrictions on immigration, people who are very concerned about terrorism and are not supportive of our refugee admissions broadly. Taking those views on an abstract level is very, very different from seeing things implemented exactly the way they have been implemented. And in a lot of ways, this focus on Trump's base misses the larger point that he cannot govern the country solely with his base, even just as a matter of legislation. Majority of the Senate is not made up of Trump supporters. [07:35:00] CUOMO: Also, I have one thing that I question, Salena, which is this idea that you and Jeffrey are putting out there that they get what the reality is, but they like that he's protecting them. I don't know how those two go together because we just had Congressman Chris Collins. You can't defend the ban on the basis of fact, Jeffrey. You can't do it. Because the threat doesn't exist from the groups that are being banned right now. You know this. You've heard the stats again and again. So, I get that people are afraid because you're making them afraid, but I don't get where the threat is articulated in fact to encourage this ban.

LORD: My friend, please, look, I mean these are people living their everyday lives and they look at the collective here. They look at 9/11. They look at what happened in San Bernardino.

CUOMO: This would not have stopped 9/11.

CAMEROTA: Or San Bernardino.

CUOMO: Or San Bernardino.

LORD: Chris, they're looking at threat. They're looking at threat. This is what they see as reality.

CUOMO: You're selling them a solution that wouldn't have saved them from those threats.

LORD: Chris, Chris, Chris, they are looking at the fact that - and it is a fact that he wants to protect them. That's what they're looking at. And they're looking at this and they're seeing that it could be them, it could be anybody any day.

CUOMO: I know, but -

LORD: Chris, you're dancing around this.

CUOMO: I think, I think - honestly, I think I'm stopping the music, to be honest with you, because I'm saying show me the facts that justify the threat from refugees, show me the fact that justifies the threat from refugees in this country right now or from any of the people in those countries that you're stopping right now.

LORD: Chris, Chris, my friend, I'm not sure you hear how you sound. The way what you just said sounds, it's like people are hearing, 'OK, let's wait until we get a whole bunch of dead people and then we will do it.'

CUOMO: I get that that works for you. I get it. And I applaud your efforts. Do that. That's what politics is about. But here's what I'm saying, if you're going to ban people, if you're going to keep me safe, keep me safe from the people who want to hurt me. Put Saudi Arabia on the list because that's where all the 9/11 people came from. You didn't do that. Why? Make me safe from the real threat, Jeffrey. If someone is trying to break into the house, don't take my house cat and throw it out the window. Stop the guy at the window. LORD: How many times has he said that the real threat is radical Islam. Radical Islam. So, it doesn't make any difference - you want to divide people geographically. I'm saying what he's targeting is radical Islam, something he has talked about endlessly.

CAMEROTA: How do refugees fit into your - that argument, Jeffrey?

LORD: Because we're not being attacked by a bunch of Episcopalians, Aly.

CUOMO: And there it is. There it is. Thank you, Jeffrey.

LORD: Not just Muslims, radical Islam.

CUOMO: Well, you just said not Episcopalians.

LORD: There is a difference.

CUOMO: Salena, give us the last word and we got to go.

ZITO: I interviewed several people that are current - you know, people that have immigrated within the past 20 years from the Middle East. And they also - and they were all of Muslim faith. And they also are very concerned about ISIS and about the impact that the bad guys have on them. They don't mind the ban. They really don't. But they don't like the way he did it. They would've rather have seen a Muslim cleric standing there with him and talking about it, you know. Optics are everything and that -

CUOMO: Optics should not be everything. Alex, last point.

BURNS: I'm sorry, but just this notion that there's this huge community of Muslim immigrants out there who would be totally fine with this policy if there had been a clerk standing next to Donald Trump. I mean, I believe that Salena spoke to some people who may have said that, but in my experience, dealing with people in that community and other similar communities, that's nowhere near a representative view.

ZITO: Well, I didn't say huge. I just said I talked to a handful of people.

CAMEROTA: We will continue this conversation and debate. Thank you very much, all of our panelists. And we do it for you. So, what do you think? Tweet us at @newday, post your comment on and we'll keep the conversation going.

CAMEROTA: She refused to defend President Trump's travel ban and was shown the door at the Justice Department last night. So, what is next to the now ex-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. A friend and fellow attorney joins us with what she's thinking today.


CAMEROTA: Dana Boente, the newly installed Acting Attorney General vows to defend the president's immigration executive order. He was sworn in last night just hours after the president fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who defiantly refused to enforce Mr. Trump's travel ban. Page Pate is a criminal defense and constitutional attorney and a friend of Sally Yates. He joins us now. Mr. Pate, thank you for being here.


CAMEROTA: So, tell us about Sally Yates, who now is this symbol of sort of standing on her conviction and who lost her job as a result of that. What do you know about her?

PATE: Well, Alisyn, I think what Sally Yates did yesterday is entirely consistent with the type of lawyer and the type of person she's been for many years. My relationship with her was primarily a working relationship. She was an Assistant United States Attorney here in Atlanta for many years. She became the number two in that office, was the First Assistant United States Attorney and then became, of course, our United States Attorney when she was confirmed by the Senate after President Obama was elected. So, we're all very proud of her here in Atlanta. She's always been a person of principle, a very strong moral compass and it doesn't surprise me at all that she refused to follow through and defend an executive order that she personally believed was unconstitutional. That is the commitment she made to the Senate when she was first confirmed for Deputy Attorney General.

[07:45:00] CAMEROTA: Well, she's being painted by the White House as something of a renegade now, as well as a political appointment. Here's what they say about her: "The Acting Attorney General Sally Yates has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. Ms. Yates is an Obama ministration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration." What's your response?

PATE: Yes. Alisyn, I don't know what that means. I mean, when she was a prosecutor here in Atlanta, she certainly prosecuted immigration cases, unlawful entry cases, illegal harboring cases. She was firm in prosecuting those case, always has been. She is not a politician. I think a lot of people - certainly here in Georgia - wish that she would become a politician and perhaps run for office after this, but that's not who she is. She's been a career prosecutor. She served both Republicans and Democrats and done so faithfully. And more importantly, she served the American people.

CAMEROTA: Have you talked to her in the past 12 hours?

PATE: I have not. No.

CAMEROTA: So you don't know what's next for her or if she is reeling from this crucible that's just happened.

PATE: I don't. But, you know, Alisyn, she certainly anticipated, I would believe, that she's not going to be serving a President Trump once Sen. Sessions is confirmed, if he is confirmed. She's a native Atlantan. She went to the University of Georgia Law School, the same law school that I went to. She has very strong family ties in this community here. She used to work for one of our largest law firms. She will have many opportunities and she'll have her future open to her whatever she decides to do.

CAMEROTA: Your brought up Sen. Jeff Sessions and there's a very interesting exchange between Sally Yates and Sen. Sessions. This is from 2015 where he asks her what she would do if she ever found herself in a situation like this under President Obama. Listen to this.


SEN JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALAB.: But if the view as a president wants to execute are unlawful, should the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General say no?

SALLY YATES, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator, I believe that the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General has an obligation to follow the law and the constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president.


CAMEROTA: How do you see that exchange now?

PATE: Well, that's exactly what she did. I think she gave her honest commitment to Sen. Sessions in the Senate when she went for confirmation and then she decided that was the principle she was going to stand on. So, no one who knows Sally Yates or anything about her professional working history should be surprised by the decision that she made. She looked at this executive order after the fact unfortunately. I really think someone in the White House should have vetted this thing with her and the other senior folks of the Justice Department before the president decided to sign it. But when she saw it, realized the way that it was rolled out, not well thought through, legal problems, constitutional problems, she did what she promised she would do. And she decided she could not defend it.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Page Pate, thank you very much for joining us with your particular perspective on her. Thanks very much.

PATE: Thank you, Alisyn. Chris?

CUOMO: All right. So, President Trump says the point of the travel ban is to keep Americans safe, but that assumes that this ban directly addresses the real threat in our own backyard. That threat is called homegrown terror. We give you the facts ahead.


[7:50:00] CUOMO: President Trump says that the travel ban barring immigrants from coming into the country will keep you safe and put America first. Others believe that the real threat to our lives here at home is from homegrown terror, not from that which is imported from abroad. Let's talk about it. Let's talk about the facts with CNN terrorism analyst, Phil Mudd, and CNN global affairs analyst, Aaron David Miller. Gentlemen, thank you. Let's keep it light and tight and get through as much as we can. Let me start with you, Philip Mudd, what do you see in this order that you do and do not like?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Chris, this is a Disney World order. This is goofy. If you're going to do this from a national security perspective, let me give you a couple of angles. Number one, if you want to stop people coming in, this order has two problems with it. We've talked about seven countries. What about Saudi Arabia? What about Turkey? What about countries that have been the origin for foreign fighters going into Iraq and Syria, countries like Tunisia and Morocco? What about European countries that have been the victims of ISIS operations and that have extensive ISISI presence?

CUOMO: Well, let's put some meat on the bones. Let's put some meat on the bones of what you're saying. Put up the list of countries and the number of fatalities that have come about from people from these countries coming here and killing us. These are the countries. Those are the seven. Now, put up the fatal attacks on Americans in the US. Zero. Now, let's talk about Phil's point, which is other countries and who has been the nation of origin of people being killed here. Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia. To your point, Phil, none are on the list. Why?

MUDD: Well, I think one of the reasons, obviously, is some of these are close US allies. The other problem we've got, Chris, is a problem of numbers. I would question what's going to happen on the backend of a review of this process. So if you put 20, 30, 40 countries on this list, do you really expect for there to be full vetting of these individuals coming in? The president has used this broad phrase about tough vetting. What does that mean? Somebody comes at the border and you say, are you member of ISIS? No. Have you ever talked to somebody from ISIS? No. The question we're trying to get at is a question of what somebody thinks, whether they're a radical Islamist. And I don't think there's a radical vetting program you can get to that will stop people from getting in.

CUOMO: And Aaron David Miller, that's why the president says the answer therefore is a ban because you can't vet them, because you can't know and we want to keep people safe here and the way to do that is to keep the threat out. Your take.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, look, you know, we live in the age of jihadi terror, so bucking up security procedures and vetting is warranted. The problem is that this - I think Phil laid it out well. None of the elements of this executive order do that. I mean, look at the three categories. No Syrian refugees have committed terror attacks here. Since 1980, I think you may have had one refugee, an Iranian, involved in a terror attack, I think, in North Carolina. And the seven countries, again, a handful of people involved on that list - and as Phil pointed out, Afghanistan is not on the list. Pakistan is not on the list. Look, I think the Trump administration wanted to use the same list as the Obama administration identified in 2011. And Phil's right. The reality is, on the back end of this review, I'm not persuaded that these restrictions are going to be lifted because these seven countries may not be able and/or willing to provide the degree of vetting that the administration requires. So, look, if you're going to deal with the problem, deal with it functionally and don't make the problem worse. One more point, on homegrown jihad, I mean, let's be clear. Peter Bergen laid it out. Of the hundreds of attacks or attempted attacks or - not attacks, but involvement in these activities that the FBI has identified, four out of every five were implicated, they're American citizens or permanent legal residents. And this executive order doesn't deal with that. In fact, it risks, Chris, alienating the first and second line of defense against these attacks, which is the prospects of alienating America's 3 million Muslims. You definitely do not want to do that.

CUOMO: Important point there that's not getting enough attention. So, thanks for teeing it up, ADM, Phil. We just had a reporter on who said, 'you know, I spoke to a few Muslims and they were OK with the ban.' There's been a lot of pushback from those who work within Muslim communities or from Muslim communities and our lawmakers here that deal with terror policy saying this ban is going to hurt our efforts at home. Is that true?

[07:50:00] MUDD: I think that's correct. Think about bookending this with the kind of situation we had after 9/11 versus the kind of situation we had today. Communities couldn't help us after 9/11. We were looking at a core Al Qaeda problem when I was at the CIA out of Afghanistan and Pakistan that was pushing people into this country to conduct attacks. Flip that on its head in 2017, ISIS is telling people, 'hey, we'll be recruiting you via Twitter, stay home, you never have to touch an ISIS person, you never have to visit Syria.' How do you find those people? You've got to have somebody not in the federal government, but in the committee saying, 'hey, my kid is going south. You've got to talk to him.' So, I think there's a practitioners problem here, which is, how do you recruit communities to say, 'I'm going to pick up the phone and call you,' because we're not going to find those centrally-directed Al Qaeda kids anymore.

CUOMO: And you said many times, both of you, now Aaron David Miller with a great piece that you can read online at that the greatest risk to our security operations is stopping homegrown terror that's trying to hurt us here. I want each of your take on something else that's not getting a lot of attention. Steve Bannon put on the NSC. The DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, removed in place of him, a self-described Leninist. Aaron David Miller?

MILLER: I mean, look, the reality is - I've worked for half a dozen secretaries of state and a few presidents, Rs and Ds. And knowing what you don't know and being in a hurry to find out is clearly important for a president and the people around him. So what you want at the table, it seems to me, are not ideologues or politicians only, you want people who know what they're talking about. And the DNI and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have to be there and not on episodic basis. So, I think this again undermines, and not enhances, American foreign policy and security interest.

CUOMO: And, Phil, is there a red herring, and that's a pun intended that Bannon puts out there that he likes Lenin, obviously, of Russian communist fame, author of the red terror where they killed people who were against his regime? Do you think he's just throwing it out there to bait us or do you think that's a real detail about this man that deserves review?

MUDD: No, I think he's throwing that out there to divert the conversation. But let's understand, the American people don't know how profound this decision is. Let me explain in a moment why. The president has asked the Pentagon for example for options on a rock. In a typical system, if you're sitting in a leadership position, you want those oppositions vetted by experts and then you want people from the political side to say, which of those options do we think is palatable, which do we think we want to pursue. In this case, before decision ever gets to the president, it's going to be filtered through political eyes, I think that's profoundly dangerous for the American population to consider. You want the president to have unfettered ideas from his experts and then the political guys, like Mr. Bannon, can determine how to proceed. You don't want to cut off ideas before they get to the president.

CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you our job is to give information and perspective to our audience and I can't think of two gentlemen who can do it better on this issue than you two. Thanks for helping us this morning.

MILLER: Thank you, Chris.

MUDD: Thank you.

CUOMO: So, lot of news, let's get to it.

Good morning. Welcome to your New Day. It is Tuesday, January 31, 8 o'clock in the east and we welcome you to the new abnormal. President Trump has dug himself in on controversial positions, created tension with his party, Democrats, and several key departments, all in just 12 hours. The Acting Attorney General was fired for saying that she would not defend Mr. Trump's controversial travel and refugee ban. Her replacement was sworn in just hours later, vowing to defend the president's lawful orders. The Trump administration also demoting and replacing the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement - we call it ICE - and there's confusion about how to implement this ban, lingering at US airports.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Trump plans to announce his Supreme Court pick in prime time tonight and Democrats say, as a result of all this, they're ready to challenge the president's nominee. This is day 12 of the Trump administration. We have every angle covered for you, starting with CNN's Jeff Zeleny CNN senior White House correspondent is live at the White House. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. I just talked to a senior administration official and they say that the president's announcement for this evening for the Supreme Court, they believe -