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President Trump Makes False Claims on Murder Rate; Travel Ban Court Battle. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 7, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Please join us tonight.

All right, we go, top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Moments ago, the White House commented on this high-stakes battle set to happen about three hours from now here, as a federal appeals court gets ready to hold a hearing on President Trump's travel ban. Here are these three judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will be hearing these arguments.

Interestingly, this is all happening over the phone on whether a ruling that halted the ban should actually stay in effect. You know the story. This is the travel ban. It targets refugees and immigrants from these seven Muslim majority nations.

Moments ago in that White House daily briefing, we heard from the spokesperson, Sean Spicer, saying the president is confident the ban will be upheld.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no question the president respects the judicial branch and its ruling.

But I think that there's no way. I just read off the U.S. code on that. I don't think there's any other way that you can interpret that, that the president has the discretion to do what's necessary to keep this country safe.

And I think that is his concern, frankly, right now, is that when the law is such as it is, that anyone could interpret that any other way, I think he feels confident, just like in the ruling in Boston, that we're going to prevail on this on the merits of the case.


BALDWIN: Before Sean Spicer's response there, President Trump said he hoped this case would not need to ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you remember, ISIS said we are going to infiltrate the United States and other countries through the migration. And then we're not allowed to be tough on the people coming in?

Explain that one. We will see what happens. We have a big court case. We're well represented and we just will see what happens.

QUESTION: Could it go to the Supreme Court, you think?

TRUMP: We will see. Hopefully, it doesn't have to. It's common sense. Some things are law, and I'm all in favor of that. Some things are common sense. This is common sense.


BALDWIN: Let's start here on this ban and whether or not it could go to the Supreme Court.

I have David Chalian with me, our CNN political director, and CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller.

Gentlemen, great to have you on.

David, just to that question. And we even heard the question to Sean Spicer about could this go to SCOTUS and he really didn't say one thing or another. Do you think tonight we will know whether or not this ban will be upheld?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't know. Well, I don't know that we will know if the ban will ultimately be upheld, the executive order.

I think what we could learn tonight or in the hours after this hearing once a ruling gets issued is whether or not this stay, the halting of the ban remains in place, as this goes through the judicial process. I think that is what you heard from Sean Spicer at the podium today, Brooke, was trying to sort of not get too far ahead of where the judicial process actually is.

BALDWIN: Also just quickly to follow up on a conversation I know you all were having earlier about this culture of fear, David, where he's talking about the Earth is a dangerous place, this was Sean earlier, the president is around to keep the country safe, even erroneously earlier today stating that the murder rate is on the rise. Wrong.

What are they trying to achieve here?

CHALIAN: Yes, and also saying that these terror attacks that we apparently haven't covered, according to the administration, that we didn't cover adequately, haven't gotten the -- quote -- "spectacular attention" they deserve.

I don't know many administrations that talk about spectacular attention related to terrorist attacks. But clearly what you heard is Sean Spicer is trying to move the language that President Trump issued yesterday when he was at MacDill Air Force Base when he said we ignore some terrorist attacks and suggested there's something going on there as to why, to now saying, well, it doesn't adequate coverage.

He's trying to temper Trump's remarks a bit. But I think you're right. I think having terror in the conversation right now as this travel ban is being adjudicated on the courts is no messaging accident on the part of the White House.

BALDWIN: It reminds me a little bit of candidate Trump and the words he's using and his spokesperson here as President Trump.

Aaron David Miller, to you. There is a lot said also on how President Trump's surrogates often play cleanup. We talk about Mike Pence, right? What Trump really meant to say was or try to explain his remarks.

But you have news today that the Pentagon is blaming the Russians for the escalating violence in Ukraine. It's noteworthy because the president has actually been downplaying Russia's role and defending Vladimir Putin.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, that's been a trope throughout the administration and Trump as president-elect and as a candidate.


And the reality is, maybe in a galaxy far, far away, the Russians have no control over Ukrainian separatists and don't have their fingerprints all over the effort to create havoc in the eastern part of Ukraine.

But, meanwhile, back here on planet Earth, there is another reality. And the reality is that the Russians are involved up to their eyeballs in Ukraine, both in terms of who is being sent in, those proxies that they are supporting with military equipment and intelligence as well.

And that applies to other matters as well, including the notion that somehow the media isn't covering terror attacks or underreporting or not reporting them.

Look, Brooke, the issue comes down to trying to find the right balance between hyping the threat that we face from the jihadi terror and trivializing it. And I think the administration ran on the notion that they wanted to keep America safe and create jobs.

And I think they are invested in a narrative which tends to hype and I would argue exaggerate the threat. And this executive order, frankly -- and this I think is the key point -- the administration is arguing in essence that it's a threat to national security and that the courts need to give the president discretion to determine what are in the best interests of our national security.

But the reality is, again, meanwhile, back on plant Earth, the data simply does not support the notion that these sorts of generalized exclusions and restrictions, that is not the threat that we face. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Right. We don't live in the galaxy far, far away. And the Pentagon, I think, recognizes that as well.

David Chalian, just quickly to you. Listen, there's just so much. It's like head-spinning, all the bits of news that these correspondents needed to ask of Sean Spicer. But did you find him a bit more subdued in the wake of the Melissa McCarthy impression? Are you surprised that he didn't joke about it or address it at all or no?

CHALIAN: I'm not too terribly surprised that reporters in the room chose to stick to more substantive matters than an "SNL" impersonation.

But, as you know, these things really matter. And we know that that kind of image making matters a lot to Sean Spicer's boss, the president of the United States. So I do think there was certainly a more subdued, dialed back, toned down a bit Sean Spicer at that podium today.

BALDWIN: It did feel like that.

CHALIAN: It did feel that way.

Whether or not he did that consciously or not, I don't know the answer to that. But certainly coming on the heels, this being his first briefing after that Melissa McCarthy impersonation, it's hard not to read something into it.

BALDWIN: David, thank you. Aaron David Miller, thank you both as well.

While the White House just moments ago said President Trump is confident that his travel ban will prevail, there are still all kinds of questions at the center of the legal battle being waged in federal court. Is the president's ban unconstitutional? Did that federal judge in Washington State overreach when he halted the ban?

Tonight's oral arguments will focus are whether the suspension should remain in place for now.

I have David Rivkin Jr., an appellate and constitutional lawyer who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

So, welcome to you.


BALDWIN: Thank you.

I also have Karen Tumlin. She's the legal director for the National Immigration Law Center, where she litigates cases challenging state and federal anti-immigration policy. Welcome to you as well.

Let's just get straight to it.

David, beginning with you. Just even on how this is happening this evening, so from I understand, each side presents its case with these three judges. And do we know how these three judges even were selected for this?

RIVKIN: Well, it's random selection. That's how it's supposed to work.

BALDWIN: And why is it all over the phone?

RIVKIN: Well, because the Justice Department has asked for expedition, given the urgency of restoring the entry suspension.

And I guess they could -- the Ninth Circuit is a circuit covering many states. They could not get all three of them in the same location. It's not unusual.


BALDWIN: Sure. OK. It's a livestream, so we will all be able to listen in.

Let's get to the substance.

Karen, you take issue with this ban because you say there's no question this executive order singles out Muslims. The administration over and over again says this is not a Muslim ban. What is the burden in court to prove that it is?


My organization, the National Immigration Law Center, and I personally take issue with this executive order. We think it violates the law in several ways.

In terms of how it infringes on our bedrock principle that the government cannot discriminate against certain religious groups or favor other religious groups, I would point to a couple of examples.


First of all, what we have is that the president has, by executive fiat, decided to override duly considered laws by Congress that allow for folks to have visas to come here, and in so doing has targeted seven nations.

Even though the word Muslim is not used in the executive order, given everything we saw on the campaign trail and what the president has continued to say, we know the underlying purpose and its motivation was to effectuate a ban on the entry of Muslims to this country.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: The White House would say, this is the president. He oversees immigration policy.

TUMLIN: He oversees immigration policy, that's right.

But the president must abide set by the immigration policy as set not only by Congress, but also he cannot not run afoul of the Constitution. Ours is a country that is founded on the principle that the government should not favor or discriminate against religious groups. And when you run into that principle, you have to step aside.

BALDWIN: David, how do you see it?

RIVKIN: None of it is true.

First of all, this executive order doesn't mention anything about a Muslim ban. It is a ban on entry of refugees and visitors from seven countries where the total number of Muslim majority countries is over 50.

Point number one. Point number two, the notion that the president is writing the law is ridiculous. Immigration Naturalization Act specifically gives the president broad discretionary authority to ban the entry of aliens and categories of aliens and post conditions of such entry if he finds that to be of national interest.

In this instance, the president, in addition to his own formidable constitutional authority, is acting in full accordance with the delegation from Congress. So both political branches have spoken on this issue. In that situation, under the Supreme Court case law, particularly the famous case of Youngstown, points out that the president is at the apex of his constitutional authority.

And to me, not only this case has no merit, but even more fundamentally, the parties that brought it, the two states, have absolutely no standing to bring those claims under the existing Supreme Court jurisprudence. Therefore, the most likely result is that this case will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

It's a very important constitutional restriction on the power of the judiciary. The judiciary is not supposed to adjudicate cases that are brought by parties without standing. And I frankly think that result can be reached after this hearing, in which case not only the TRO would be dissolved, but the whole case would be thrown out, because the standing requirement is no different at this stage than the consideration of the merits would be reached.


BALDWIN: Right. I'm hearing stark differences in both your responses.

I was reading one piece of this.

And, Karen, I will just -- that legal experts are agreeing that statements, rhetoric made, actually not even just by President Trump or candidate Trump, and his surrogates could be brought into these proceedings in part to show intent.

RIVKIN: No, it cannot.

BALDWIN: That's what lawyers I have read have said. Why do you say no?

RIVKIN: There is not a single -- the Article III, the courts owe exceptional deference to the political branches in the foreign affairs field.

There's some instances in a domestic sphere where you have an order or regulation that is facially neutral, neutral on its face, but because of discrimination that is manifested through some other means, the courts can scrutinize it in a different way.

There's not a single case in foreign affairs where that has ever happened. For the court to say that because of some statement by the president, we're going to abandon his deference, would inextricably get them involved into analyzing the foreign policy decision-making, which is not in an area suitable for judicial discernment under the political question doctrine that applies in many of those cases.


BALDWIN: OK. I will take your word for it. This is something that I read on a CNN wire, according to a G.W. law professor. But this is your lane and I respect you, sir, for that.

Karen, I do want to hear from you, just quick final word, looking head to 6:00 tonight.

TUMLIN: Right.

I think looking ahead to 6:00 tonight, what is important to do is take the big picture on what has happened in now about 11 days since the executive order was signed.

First of all, we have seen that lawyers like me have taken to the courts. And very much across the country, there have been serious questions raised about the constitutionality and legality of this order.

Secondly, you have seen people take to their feet. Literally, folks took to the streets in airports across the country standing up and saying this executive order doesn't represent me and it doesn't represent the values that I think our country holds.

And last we have seen the really grave human impact of this travel ban, a Muslim ban, immediately, separating families, slowing down business.


And I would point us to, in the short 24 or so hours that there was briefing before the Ninth Circuit, the tremendous diversity of stakeholders who came out, over 100 tech businesses with huge names, now 16 attorney generals, plus three other states, saying, no, we have questions about this executive order. It's not who we are as a country.

And I that's what I think we will be hearing tonight.

BALDWIN: OK. Karen and David, thank you so much.

TUMLIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: As we've all been discussing, this very well could end up in the highest court in the land with the U.S. Supreme Court. I appreciate both of you very much.

And again we will be taking the hearings live this evening at 6:00. Thank you.

Coming up next here, during a meeting with sheriffs today, President Trump offers to -- quote -- "destroy the career" of a state senator. Why would he say that and who is this state senator? We will have that for you.

Also ahead, as Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders get ready to debate Obamacare tonight on CNN, aides at the White House trying to manage the president's expectations. We will explain.

And as the president faces showdowns left and right, his predecessor facing waves and some sunshine. New video President Barack Obama getting a little me time coming up.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The president caught up on a war on facts after again claiming inaccurately that the nation's murder rate is the highest it's been in 47 years.


TRUMP: And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years. Right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years.

I used to use that. I would say that in a speech and everybody was surprised, because the press doesn't tell it like it is. It wasn't to their advantage to say that. But the murder rate is at the highest it's been in I guess from 45 to 47 years.


BALDWIN: Let's begin with Brian Stelter, our CNN media correspondent.

Brian, I remember him saying this on the trail as candidate Trump. It's wrong. Where is he getting these numbers?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It was fact-checked and debunked during the campaign.

Now he's saying it again to the law enforcement officials invited to the White House today, and he's saying that the press isn't telling it like it is, while in fact Trump is not telling it like it is.

The truth is, the murder rate in 2015 was 4.9 per 100,000 people in the U.S. That is up a bit from 2014. In fact, it was the single greatest year-over-year increase in a number of decades between 2014 and 2015. Trump would be right to say that there's been a record year-over-year increase in the murder rate.

However, the main point here, I think the more important point is that the murder rate remains relatively low when you look at decades of data, much lower than the '70s and '80s and '90s. We have been blessed in the United States to have a relatively low murder rate for a number of years.

So Trump is wrong when he says it's at a 45- or 47-year high.

BALDWIN: Just we needed to correct that. Thank you, sir. Stay with me.

Let me bring in two other voices, but just tell everyone we also just heard Sean Spicer in the White House briefing getting grilled on the president's other claim that the media is not reporting some terror attacks.

Just a reminder, this is what President Trump initially said.


TRUMP: We have seen what happened in Paris and Nice, all over Europe. It's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported, and in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.


BALDWIN: So, after that, the White House then released this long list of 78 or so attacks it claims were under-reported.

The truth, that CNN was on the ground covering so many of those attacks. We all were there, as were many of the news organizations inside that press briefing room. So, again, he brought this up, and here was Sean Spicer's response today.


SPICER: We want to be very clear that there are a lot of examples between 2014 and 2016 that have occurred.

And many of them haven't gotten the attention that they have deserved. It's becoming too often that we're seeing these attacks not get the spectacular attention that they deserve. And I think it undermines the understanding of the threat that we face around this country.


BALDWIN: I have got Dean Obeidallah, Daily Beast contributor and host of "The Dean Obeidallah Show" on SiriusXM Radio. Matt Lewis is with us, CNN political commentator and senior columnist at The Daily Beast, and Mr. Stelter.

Matt, to you just first. Just listening to Sean's explanation, what did you think of that?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It doesn't make sense to me.

Look, clearly, whenever there's a terror attack, the media is all over it. I think you could even argue that the media overcovers some of these things. And you could say that that maybe helps stoke fear.

I think if Donald Trump has a point, it should be this, that the media covers terror attacks when they happen, and then a week or two later sort of recedes from covering the war on terror and against radical Islamism.

I think Donald Trump would say, look, this is how we prevent the next attack is by doing the extreme vetting, by having a pause on these seven countries. But to say that the media doesn't cover these some of attacks is patently false.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes. Yes. So that's your point.

Dean, you wrote about this in The Daily Beast. You called out the hypocrisy in the president's criticism for the very same reason, but you say it's inaccurate. You talk about the Christian-on-Muslim attacks that you say don't receive adequate coverage.

Let me just quote you: "Trump and Conway's lies are especially despicable, in that they create an even more toxic anti-Muslim climate by making my fellow Americans believe there were more terrorist attacks by Muslims than truly exist."




First of all, Donald Trump is right on one level, oddly enough. There is not enough coverage of certain terror attacks in this country or terror plots, but not the ones that are carried out by Muslims. It's ones carried out by white supremacists or people who have a twisted view of Christianity.

I don't call them radical Christians. They're not. They don't understand what Christianity is about. But on the very day Donald Trump talked about this issue, a trial began in Tennessee in federal court. A man named Robert Doggart is on trial. For what? For plotting to kill Muslims in Upstate New York with explosions, with a machete to cut them to shreds, and with different weapons, firearms. It gets almost no coverage. A week ago, we had a terror attack in Quebec. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, kind of called it a terror attack. We didn't have U.S. media go up there.

Why? I'm going to be cynical. Because it was Muslims being killed. That's part oft problem.

We have six Muslims killed by a man who hated immigrants, who liked Donald Trump online, walked into a mosque, opened fired, killed six Muslims.

If a Muslim had killed six Christians in a church there, you would have Donald Trump talking about it. You have more media coverage.

This goes on and on, white supremacists plotting to kill Muslims in this country. And I really wish the media would cover it, because our lives matter and it's important for to this country that we feel that as well. We're in a dark time for our community right now.

BALDWIN: Stelter, were you nodding?

STELTER: Well, there was some coverage of what happened in Quebec.

But, Dean, I think you're on to something when you say if the roles had been reversed in some tragic way, in some sick way, it would be different, it would get more attention. Quebec was not on the president's list that was released yesterday of those 78 attacks.

There were some really embarrassing misspellings on that list, just another example of the sloppiness coming out of the White House. But the broader point about what is of concern to Americans I think is crucial.

Yes, there are extremists from many different directions, white extremists and Muslim extremists and others. If you were to look at data, the numbers are very small when it comes to Americans killed by terrorists of any kind. But there is a greater threat from Muslim extremists than there is from Christian extremists or whatever term you would say, Dean.

So I do take -- quibble with that part.

BALDWIN: I just wonder why the White House is putting out this list. What are they trying to do? Are they trying to put something out there so that we talk about it and really bring it into the bloodstream, as we are now, Matt? What do you think?

LEWIS: Well, yes.

I think that obviously the topic right now is this so-called Muslim ban. And so this is the administration trying to buttress the case, trying to talk about the threats that radical Islamism does pose America.

And, look, I think on one hand, statistically speaking, you're probably more likely to die because of a swimming pool at your house than because of terrorism, whether that's coming from Christians or Muslims.

On the other hand, I would say that part of the job of being a president, being the commander in chief, is to anticipate future attacks. And I think that the real danger isn't the lone wolf guy with a machete, as horrible and horrific as that is. It's the threat of a 9/11-type thing happening again, some sort of dirty bomb let loose in a major city in America.

That's the serious threat. And I think we may look back. This is what Donald Trump says. You could look back a couple years from now and say, why didn't we listen to Donald Trump when he wanted to do that?

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Dean. You want to jump in? Last word.

OBEIDALLAH: Well, Matt, I agree with you. And the concern is a bomb, right?

Well, Glendon Scott Crawford, a name probably no one knows here, sentenced 30 years to life in December for what? For trying to build a radioactive bomb to kill Muslims. He was a white supremacist.

The media is not covering this. So, my fellow Americans don't understand what is going on. And, sadly, Brooke, I fear we're going to have a Quebec attack in the United States. A white supremacist like Dylann Roof, who killed Christians, will come in and kill the people of my community.

And it's incumbent -- and I plead for the media to cover these with the same zeal and gusto, to make it clear the only threat against our country is not just from Muslims. There's a threat of ISIS. White supremacists are out there plotting to kill me and my family and my community. And I would like the media to be on our side as well to fight against this.

BALDWIN: You make a totally -- you make a valid point, and I hope you are 100 percent wrong on any future attacks.


BALDWIN: Matt and Dean and Brian, thank you all. Thank you.

Coming up next, President Trump says he's pretty sure former President Obama likes him. The interesting logic behind that comment coming up.