Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Speaks at Central Command; Trump Addresses Troops for First Time; Travel Ban in Court; Senate Dems Hold Floor over DeVos Vote; Trump Slams Judge; Trump Underestimated Adding Bannon to NSC. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired February 6, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, general (ph). Thank you very much.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Just want to sit on these pictures for just a second here. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Watching the president there, listening to him addressing the troops with a speech there. This is MacDill Air Force Base down in Tampa, Florida. This is home of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the war on terror.
Before the president took to the podium, we also know he had just received a briefing.
So I have with me Ryan Browne, CNN Pentagon reporter. And also with me, CNN military analyst, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and retired Colonel Cedric Leighton.
Gentlemen, thank you both so much for being with me.
And, colonel, let me just begin with you because I understand you were based down at MacDill a couple of - several moons ago. So we'll give you home field advantage here on this. I mean just listening to the president, initial thoughts?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Well, I think, Brooke, that he has, you know, outlined a very basic idea of his thankfulness for the people at CENTCOM and at SOCOM. We always used to joke at MacDill that CENTCOM was sad com, sad command, and SOCOM was happy command or happy com. But the basic missions that these commands have had are now really intertwined with each other, much more so than they were in the '90s. And everything that's happened since September 11, 2001, has really brought these two commands in many ways a lot closer together because a lot of the missions that they're going to be asking and that they have asked the troops of both commands to do are really very special operations intense, they're intelligence intense, and they really require a very agile force. And President Trump was, I think, speaking really about that and trying to make that his central theme. Of course, it was all very broad, but I think that that was what he was trying to indicate, that there was a fight against ISIS that he was going to pursue in a very aggressive way.
BALDWIN: It's significant because this is the first time he's formally addressed our men and women in uniform.
General, I know you know some of the key players here down in Tampa and you talked to them over the weekend. Tell me about that and tell me - I think it's also just important to address just who was in the audience (INAUDIBLE).
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I was just looking at the screen, Brooke, as he was walking into the conference room. I saw a good friend, General Joe Votel, who is the commander of CENTCOM. He's there. Didn't know if he'd be there or in theater somewhere because sometimes you can't get members of CENTCOM and SOCOM in their headquarters at Tampa at any given time. They're usually traveling all through the Middle East.
BALDWIN: Sure. Of course.
HERTLING: So you've got primarily the staff there, the deputy commanders. Usually some high-ranking guys and gals who are there. But these are the ones that support the actions throughout the Middle East. So you've got every single country in the CENTCOM area of operation that they really interact with.
These guys and gals are unbelievably savvy. This is a force that's been at war, leading the war, for the last 16 years against both Afghanistan and in Iraq, as well as some other places. The fight in Syria, Libya, the SOCOM commander is certainly doing some things in Libya and Yemen. Other central command parts of the globe - countries. So this has been a busy, busy organization for the last couple of decades.
And I'm sure what Mr. Trump is going to do is get a pretty intense briefing on what they actually have been doing. So all the things we saw in the campaign where he said, hey, we're going to speed it up and the generals are going to learn more from me because I've got a secret plan. He's probably going to see, once he gets some briefings down there, that they're doing some very interesting and intense fighting, as well as some engagement and some cyber warfare and all the other things that we want to talk about.
BALDWIN: I just imagine - I just have members in the military in my family, are dear friend, and I'm thinking, my goodness, if I'm them, I'm thinking I want to really hang on to the president's every word -
BALDWIN: As this is the first time. You know, how much confidence will I have in this president to send me out whatever I may be deployed to fight whatever war, you know, that could happen in the next four years.
Colonel, to you. He did make note again of NATO and NATO allies. This is something we heard as candidate Trump and now as President Trump, that not, you know, every one of those countries are paying their fair share. What's your interpretation of that?
LEIGHTON: Well, he's looking at that 2 percent that the countries are supposed to give of their expenditures to NATO. And that's something that he is going to insist on. It's very clear from his remarks today, I think, Brooke. And it also shows that there is some limits to what President Trump can actually do because a lot of these countries are going the resist that. And some of the countries that are really afraid of what Trump is going to do next are countries that have actually met that 2 percent threshold. And I'm thinking particularly of Poland in this case. So countries are - right on the border of Russia or close to the border of Russia or Ukraine are going to be looking at this very, very carefully. Some of them do pay their fair share and they're hoping that that very fact gives them an opportunity to leverage NATO on their behalf.
[14:05:20] HERTLING: Yes, if I - if I can on this.
BALDWIN: Yes, please.
HERTLING: This is very important because when you think of NATO -
HERTLING: You think of Europe. That falls under European Command. I think Mr. Trump is going to be very surprised as he walk into some of these briefings and as he travels around in Tampa, he is going to see what he sees - what's called ISAF (ph) village. You have almost 80 percent of the foreign forces headquarters as part of that ISAF (ph) village, part of CENTCOM. They have been fighting in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in other places, providing forces for the fight against Syria, providing reinforcement of the Kurds. The Germans and the Dutch are now training Kurdish forces in some of the training sites in Erbil. So what he's going to see down there as he thinks about NATO being in Europe, he's going to say, holy smokes, what are all these different colored berets doing down here in our fight against ISIS here at CENTCOM, because that's not where I expected to see them and that's the importance of the alliance.
BALDWIN: I hear the colonel laughing. Yes, no, I - you talk to as many people as you possibly can and get their stories and understand what it's all about.
BALDWIN: Since he is actually there.
Colonel, just quickly to you. You know, out of the gate, I heard him - you know, obviously, he was - he was on - or he was reading, I should say, he was looking down and reading. Out of the gate, you know, he was thanking, of course, member of the military who voted for him and he was talking about numbers there in a bit of an ad lib. But, overall, what did you think of the president's tone?
LEIGHTON: Well, I think he was trying to be differential to the military. I think he's very respectful to the military. Yo know, it's very clear when you look at some of the pictures that we have there, it is a very important part, a very important component of his base. At least that's what he believes. So he's looking at active duty military, as well as veterans, to help him achieve some political goals. They may not necessarily always agree with him and his statements, but he sees them as a key supporting factor for his governing ability, really.
BALDWIN: Colonel Leighton, thank you. General Hertling, what a treat to see you in person. Thank you so much.
Now to something we, you know, didn't hear anything about most recently in that address because at the top of the list on the headlines here, the travel ban, right, that was meant to keep out immigrants and refugees from those seven predominantly Muslim nations for a number of months. The big news as of Friday evening, that this court order has stopped it. But now legal experts say this big fight will most likely land before the Supreme Court.
For now, the ban's fate is in the hands of what many consider to be one of the more liberal courts in the land, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. These three judges will rule on whatever is filed by 6:00 p.m. Eastern today. That is the deadline. The Justice Department has responded to the order that halted the ban on Friday.
Now, this halt came from this man. This is the federal judge, James Robart (ph), appointed by President George W. Bush. Judge Robart's ruling trigged President Trump to send a flurry of tweets, including this one. Quoting the president, "just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad," he says.
Joining me now, CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.
And, Ariane, first, explain this to us. By this deadline at 6:00 tonight set forth by the DOJ, what happens?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, it's important to remember, right, that no court has ruled squarely yet on the legal merits. No court has said this is constitutional or it's not constitutional. So far all you've got is that one district court judge whose halted the executive order for now nationwide. That ruling is what's before the Ninth Circuit. The opponents have already gone to say that the executive order should remain halted. It's unconstitutional. It favors one religion over another. It discriminates based on national origin.
And now, by 6:00 p.m. tonight, the Department of Justice is going to respond. And it's going to say why the order should be reinstated. It will say, look, these states don't have the standing to bring this and that the president has broad authority when it comes to immigration.
BALDWIN: What about - add to this now these 97 tech companies, right, who are also piling in, in this court motion, including mega companies like Apple, Google, FaceBook. What sort of impact may they have?
DE VOGUE: Yes. So that was in the middle of the night, right? And this happened in -
BALDWIN: You wake up and it's like, bing, more and more news. DE VOGUE: Right. Exactly. And it usually happens when a legal case is
further along. But last night we got a whole series of these briefings and one of them came from these groups, Apple, FaceBook, Google. They said, look, the executive order makes it difficult to recruit, hire, retain. It disrupts business. It threatens their ability to attract talent. So they're weighing in, in support of the states.
[14:10:18] BALDWIN: OK. Got it. Ariane de Vogue, thank you so much.
DE VOGUE: Thank you.
BALDWIN: We have much more, including, we'll be talking next hour to a dear, dear friend of that judge out in Washington state.
Thank you so much.
Quickly, I'm just getting word here, let's go to Capitol Hill. We've got live pictures of Senator Elizabeth Warren here. So what's happening now is Senate Democrats, they'll be holding the floor for 24 hours because they don't want Betsy DeVos to be the next secretary of education. Shall we listen?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Educational outcomes for children. Massachusetts charter schools are among the very best in the country. And they understand the difference.
Before her nomination hearing, I received an extraordinary letter from the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. The letter outlines their opposition to charter public - to Betsy DeVos's nomination citing her destructive record of promoting for-profit charter schools without strong oversight for how those schools serve students and families. People who work hard to build good charter schools with high accountability are offended by the DeVos nomination.
This abysmal record is troubling because the secretary of education is responsible for safeguarding the investments that the federal government makes in public schools and for holding states accountable for delivering a good education for all their students, especially those who need the help the most. The secretary is also responsible for enforcing critical civil rights laws, like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But Betsy DeVos's confirmation hearing demonstrated to the entire world she is embarrassingly unprepared to enforce these laws. Her apparent unfamiliarity with these critical civil rights laws have terrified families who have children with special needs, terrified families in Massachusetts and all across the country. These parents are afraid that we could have an education secretary who doesn't even have a basic understanding of the federal laws that guarantee their kids a chance to receive a public school education.
We still have a long way to go to make sure that all kids in this country have a shot at a decent education, particularly children living in poverty, children of color, children with disabilities and children who are immigrants or refugees. And that's why the federal government got involved in education in the first place, to make certain that all of our children, not just some of them, but that all of our children get a chance at a first-rate education. Public education dollars should come with some basic accountability for how that money is spent. And some basic expectations about what we get in return for these investments. Not just doled out to some for-profit school that doesn't even meet basic standards in educating our children.
You know, this is also true -
BALDWIN: All right, so we just wanted to dip in and we'll be dipping in and out periodically. But just, again, this is, you know, Senator, Democrat, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren here. She's speaking about Betsy DeVos. This is who President Trump wants to be the next education secretary. She's supposed to be up for a full confirmation vote in the Senate this week, but not if these Senate Democrats have anything to do about it. We've already reported that you have these two Republican women, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who plan to say no. So at that point, if you have the full vote, it would be Mike Pence who would be the tiebreaker. One of the questions out of all of this now will be, will what the Democrats are doing here on the Senate floor be enough to push another Republican over, which could stop that confirmation? Stay tuned for that.
Also, we'll talk more about this travel ban, the possibility, the very real possibility, if that fight goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the potential outcomes there.
Also new today, sources inside the White House say Trump flat out did not know how unprecedented one of his executive actions was.
Stay here. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
[14:18:37] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer initially called Judge Robart's order, quote, "outrageous," before quickly sending out another statement that dropped that word. But as you've heard, President Trump is not softening his criticism. Amidst a flurry of tweets, here's another one, quote, from the president. "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially talks law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned."
And the president's condemnation has triggered a backlash as well. Here is Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican, who has been critical of President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: I don't understand language like that. We don't have so-called judges. We don't have so-called senators. We don't have so-called presidents. We have people from three different branches of government who take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. And it's important that we - we do better civics education for our kids. So we don't have any so-called judges. We have real judges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Wow. Michael Moore is with me. He once served as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Thanks. Glad to be with you.
BALDWIN: So, you know, first, when he was candidate Trump, it was attacks on Judge Curiel. Now it's Judge Robart as President Trump. What do you make of his language? We showed that one tweet, you know, for example, his language of calling him a so-called judge.
MOORE: You know, I don't think there's anything you can say except that the guy is erratic. And the problem is, if you disagree with this president or you rule against the administration if you're a judge, you're subject to being caught up in this presidential tweet storm that's out there. And that's what he's famous for.
[14:20:12] And I think that's a shame. I do think it's beneath the office of the president. I think in this case he's taken on a judge before. We saw how that case ultimately came out. And he's - he's not doing himself any favors, I would suggest, with the court.
BALDWIN: I mean, judiciary does not care - whatever you want to call the president and, you know, his tweets, judiciary doesn't care about public opinion. I mean you've had president in the past, right, who have been critical of rulings -
BALDWIN: But this seems personal.
MOORE: You know, I think that's sort of becoming the new normal. And I think we have to -
BALDWIN: What is?
MOORE: His reaction, the president's reaction, when somebody disagrees. I think that's becoming the new normal today, whether it be the court or otherwise. I mean we saw that with the Department of Justice, with the acting attorney general. You see it now with the - this judge. You saw it with a judge during the campaign.
The question is, are people going to allow that to become the new normal, that type of behavior and that type of language? You know, and to your credit, a couple months ago you had somebody use language that was improper on your show and you didn't let it become normal. And I think that's the question now is, are we going to allow this to become the discourse that we have in politics, especially as we talk about the three branches of government.
I think it's unique and, in fact, it may be a good thing that the Supreme Court nominee is such a constitutionalist. It may be the things that saves the day because I do think the judges who read the text and go by the text, they have a complete respect - as do the other justices, but they have a respect for the different branches of government and the authority they have. And may - that may be the side that ends up stepping in to stop the overreach of the executive.
BALDWIN: You know, Michael, you brought up a - just the word Supreme Court jogged my mind to, you know, just wondering, there is a very real possibility that this travel ban and this fight goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. At the moment we have eight justices. Depending on when this thing goes, I mean, if you have four and four split, it's a tie, what then?
MOORE: You know, ultimately, at that point then the decision of the appellate court controls. There's not a decision. There's not enough justices in the court to swing it one way or the other.
I don't think there's really any doubt that the case will end up at the Supreme Court. I think, you know, we're in a temporary status now that the Ninth Circuit will take it up. They'll make a decision whether or not they want to hear argument or whether or not they just want to rule on the papers, on the briefs that both sides are submitting. And I think ultimately then once the case moves on, somebody will appeal it and it will go straight up to the Supreme Court. And so I don't think there's a quick end to what we're talking about. You know, I think that goes on probably for some time.
The makeup of the court now and the fact that we do have eight justices instead of nine, that poses a unique problem I suppose as we talk about tie breaks and that type of thing. But nonetheless, it may ultimately be the Supreme Court who has to step in and decide whether or not this order's constitutional and whether or not this president overreached his executive authority.
BALDWIN: That's right.
MOORE: And I think those are the questions that are still out there.
BALDWIN: It is on the table. Michael Moore, thank you, sir.
MOORE: It was a great treat. Thanks.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Coming up, behind closed doors in the White House. From watching a lot of cable news and bathrooms to rearranging the chairs in the Oval Office, this new report goes behind the scenes of the Trump presidency, including a rivalry among his closest advisors. We'll talk about that.
Also, strong words from longtime Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, responding to this Trump travel ban by using the "i" word, "I" as in impeachment. But is she going a tad too far? Let's ask her. Congresswoman Waters joins me live in a couple of minutes.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:28:11] BALDWIN: Behind closed doors at the Oval Office. "The New York Times" report today detailing President Trump's life in his new home, from aides being unable to find the light switches for cabinet rooms, or the president retiring at the White House residence after 6:00 in the evening to flip on cable news, and a frazzled staff executing Trump's most prized campaign promises in a rollout one former staff member likened the administration's first two weeks to D- day. All of this coming out as CNN is learning a bit more about Steve Bannon, the chief strategist and one of his top advisors.
So let's begin there. I have award-winning journalist Tim O'Brien with me. he's the executive editor at "Bloomberg View" and the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being The Donald." Also with me, Maeve Reston, CNN political reporter.
So awesome to have both of you on.
And, Maeve, let me just begin with you, just on the Steve Bannon point because I want to make sure, you know, our reporting is precise on exactly what President Trump knew and didn't know when he appointed Steve Bannon to be on the National Security Council as a principle.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, this really is about the influence of Bannon inside the White House. And what the reporting has been in "The New York Times" and other places is that Trump felt that he was - was not fully briefed on the executive order that would put Bannon in this very unusual role on the National Security Council. And today our Jeff Zeleny is reporting that Trump did in fact know and understand that Bannon would be serving in that role, but he was not briefed on what the possible reaction to that would be and the controversy surrounding it to, you know, have someone at that high level listening in and taking part in these kinds of decisions.
And one thing that's interesting -
BALDWIN: As a political operative.
RESTON: As a political operative.
[14:29:57] One thing that's interesting is, you know, David Axelrod did an op-ed for us at CNN saying that he had sat in on some of those meetings but did not have a seat at the table, you know, obviously, didn't have that kind of background experience. So Trump was not prepared for the reaction to this.