Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Speaks at National Association of Sheriffs; Trump speaks about Ninth Circuit Judges; Travel Ban Legal Case. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 8, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the federal government can take to help improve safety in your communities. But I believe that community safety begins with moral leadership. Our police officers, sheriffs and deputies risk their lives every day, and they're entitled to an administration that has their back.


The first step in restoring public safety is affirming our confidence in the men and women charged with upholding our laws. And I'm gonna add justices, judges, in that category.

And I'm very proud to have picked Judge Gorsuch, who I think is going to be an outstanding member of the Supreme Court. Outstanding.


So I'd like to begin my remarks with a declaration issued to all of you and delivered to every member of the law enforcement community, all across the United States.

My message today is that you have a true, true friend in the White House. You have.


I stand with you. I support our police. I support our sheriffs. And we support the men and women of law enforcement.


Right now, many communities in America are facing a public safety crisis. Murders in 2015 experienced their largest single-year increase in nearly half a century. In 2016, murders in large cities continued to climb by double digits. In many of our biggest cities, 2016 brought an increase in the number of homicides, rapes, assaults and shootings.

In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone and the rate so far this year has been even higher. What is going on in Chicago?

We cannot allow this to continue. We've allowed too many young lives to be claimed -- and you see that all -- you see that all over -- claimed by gangs and too many neighborhoods to be crippled by violence and fear. Sixty percent of murder victims under the age of 22 are African-American.

This is a national tragedy and it requires national action. This violence must end and we must all work together to end it.

Whether a child lives in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore or anywhere in our country, he or she has the right to grow up in safety and in peace. No one in America should be punished because of the city where he or she is born. Every child in America should be able to play outside without fear, walk home without danger and attend a school without being worried about drugs or gangs or violence.

So many lives and so many people have been cut short -- their potential, their life has been cut short. So much potential has been sidelined, and so many dreams have been shattered and broken -- totally broken.

It's time to stop the drugs from pouring into our country.

And by the way, we will do that. And I will say this: General, now secretary, Kelly will be the man to do it. And we will give him a wall, and it will be a real wall. And a lot of things will happen very positively for your cities, your states, believe me.


The wall is getting designed right now. A lot of people say, "Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall." I wasn't kidding. I don't kid. I don't kid.


I watch this, and they say I was kidding. Nah, I don't kid. I don't kid about things like that, I can tell you.

No, we will have a wall. It will be a great wall and it will do a lot of -- it'll be a big help.

Just ask Israel about walls. Do walls work? Just ask Israel. They work, if it's properly done.

It's time to dismantle the gangs terrorizing our citizens. And it's time to that ensure every young American can be raised in an environment of decency, dignity, love and support.

TRUMP: You have asked for the resources, tools and support you need to get the job done. We will do whatever we can to help you meet those demands. That includes a zero-tolerance policy for acts of violence against law enforcement.


We all see what happens and what's been happening to you. It's not fair. We must protect those who protect us. The number of officers shot and killed in the line of duty last year increased by 56 percent from the year before. Last year in Dallas, police officers were target for execution -- think of this, whoever heard of this? They were targeted for execution.

Twelve were shot and five were killed. These heroic officers died as they lived, protecting the innocent, rushing into danger, risking their lives for people they did not even know but for people that they were determined to save. Hats off to you people.

These slain officers are an eternal monument to all of the men and women who protect our streets and serve our public. We will not forget them and we will not forget all of the others who made that final sacrifice in the line of duty. God has blessed our nation to put these heroes among us.

Those who serve in law enforcement work long hours. You work long hours. I know so many sheriffs, so many chiefs, so many police work long hours and dangerous hours, often times, in difficult conditions and for not that much pay relative to what you're doing. They do it because they care. We must work with them, not against them. They're working against you. For many years they've been working against you. We must support them, not undermine them.

And, instead of division and disunity, which is so much disunity, we must build the bridges of partnership and of trust. Those who demonize law enforcement or who use the actions of a few to discredit the service of many are hurting the very people they say that they want to help.

When policing is reduced, crime is increased and our poorest citizens suffer the most and I see it all the time. When the number of police goes down, crime goes up. To build needed trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, it is not enough for us to merely talk to each other, we must listen to each other. All of us share the view that those in uniform must be held to highest possible standard of contact. So important.

You are the role models to young Americans all across this country, many of whom want to go into law enforcement, many of whom want to be a sheriff or a police chief, many of whom -- they have great respect for you. Tremendous respect. You don't even realize it, but I will tell you. They have great respect and admiration for the people in this room and the people that you represent. And don't let anyone ever tell you different. Don't let the dishonest media try and convince you that it's different than that because it's not.


That is why our commitment to law and law enforcement also includes insuring that we are giving departments the resources they need to train, recruit and retain talent. As part of our commitment to safe communities, we will also work to address the mental health crisis. Prison should not be a substitute for treatment.

We will fight to increase access to life-saving treatment to battle the addiction to drugs, which is afflicting our nation like never, ever before. Ever. (APPLAUSE)

I've been here two weeks. I've met a lot of law enforcement officials. Yesterday, brought them into the Oval Office. I asked a group what impact do drugs have in terms of a percentage on crime. Said 75 to 80 percent. It's pretty sad.

TRUMP: We're gonna stop the drugs from pouring in. We're gonna stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We're going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice.


And we're gonna take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from the terrible grip of violence. You have the power and knowledge to tell General Kelly, now Secretary Kelly, who the illegal immigrant gang members are. Now, you have that power because you know them, you're there. You're local. You know the illegals. You know them by your first name. You know them by their nicknames. You have the power. The federal government can never be that precise, but you're in the neighborhoods. You know the bad ones. You know the good ones.

I want you to turn in the bad ones. Call Secretary Kelly's representatives and we'll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from and we'll do it fast. You have to call up the federal government, Homeland Security, because so much of the problems -- you look at Chicago and you look at other places. So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.

And we will work with you on the front lines to keep America safe from terrorism, which is what I began this with, terrorism. A tremendous threat, far greater than people in our country understand. Believe me. I've learned a lot in the last two weeks, and terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand, But we're going to take care of it. We're going to win. We're going to take care of it, folks.

Let today be the beginning of a great national partnership, let today serve as a great call to action and let this moment represent a new beginning in relations between law enforcement and our communities. I want you to know the American public totally stands with you. I want you to know the American people support you. I want you to know how proud we are, truly proud to know you.

We applaud your efforts, we thank you for your service. And we promise that you will always find an open door at the White House. An open invitation to our great cops and sheriffs nationwide. They're great people. You are great people. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump addressing the National Association of Sheriffs there at the J.W. Marriott, not far from the White House. A lot to parse through. Let's bring in our political director, David

Chalian, and our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny, and then we'll get into the legal debate over all of this.

Good to have you both with us.


HARLOW: What really stood out to me, David Chalian, to you first, is the fact that he directly attacked the three justices of the Ninth Circuit. He basically said the Boston judge had it right and you have it wrong. Seemed to insinuate that they were leaning one way versus another. And he said this. Let's play it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court in terms of respect for the court, they'd do what they should be doing. I mean it's - it's so sad.


HARLOW: They'd do what they should be doing. Obviously defending his administration's travel ban. David Chalian, how did you read that? Was that a - what that a threat to the justices?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think Donald Trump is trying to walk a line here of vociferously defending what he believes is his administration's position, that he believes it's correct on the merits, that he has this wide berth of authority to put this policy in place for national security reasons, and to not ignore the sort of separate, equal, coequal branches of the government. At times in his remarks he sort of fell on the wrong side of that line. I mean he caught himself. He said, I don't like to call courts biased. I don't like to do that. But what we've seen so much is just a lot of political courts out there.

So he's trying to have it both ways. He's trying to pressure them, weigh in on this - on this court case as it's ongoing, which is not the common route you normally see necessarily from a president, and yet he wants to put out his vigorous defense. Like I said, at times I think he sort of fell on - on the wrong side of the line. On other times he was making a very strong argument.

[09:45:13] HARLOW: And, Jeff Zeleny, as David points out, it's not typical for presidents to necessarily criticize a court in the middle of their, you know, decision-making process on this. But this is not a typical president. And President Obama was very vocal about decisions he didn't agree with, calling them frustrating and other words. How do you believe the White House feels because they did say earlier this week they were incredibly confident that they will - they will prevail in this court fight in the Ninth Circuit? How does the White House feel today after that call with the justices yesterday?

ZELENY: Poppy, I think it's clear the White House is less confident now. And, interestingly, if you wind the clock back 12 hours or so, administration officials at the time said that they intended to hold off until there was a ruling before they commented. Well, then this morning we see the president giving these very strong, really unprecedented remarks here. So I think it is clear that he read the morning newspapers and saw the morning news coverage and there was a lot of skepticism in that hearing last night of his law. So he's clearly trying to litigate this in the court of public opinion. You know, even if he does not win the ruling last night, he clearly wants to take this case to the public. And I think as David said, he does make an argument here that really resonates with, a, a lot of his supporters, but perhaps even others here about the threat.

But, Poppy, I was struck by the language near the very end of this speech. Something that we don't hear presidents say usually. We are seeing a new president here who has been receiving security briefings and, of course, mostly every day, these classified briefings, and he said, "I've learned a lot in the last few weeks. Terrorism is far worse. We will take care of it."

Now, he may just be trying to make the argument for his travel ban here, but that is something we do not hear presidents talk about a lot. Usually they reassure the public. That's a stark comment that he made there that we do not know if he's talking about a new and emerging threat. We don't know if he's talking about, you know, threats that have been sort of the same throughout the Obama administration. But I was struck by that remark.

HARLOW: And that's a really important point, David Chalian, back to you, because in the initial response from the Department of Justice to the temporary restraining order, what they said is that the courts are not privy to information that is classified. Only the president is privy to that information.

CHALIAN: That's right. Clearly the president is privy to information that the courts don't have. And Jeff is right to note that difference in tone of sort of leaning into the fear instead of assuaging concerns. I thought he did that a little earlier in his remarks as well when he - remember when he was talking about how Secretary Kelly at Homeland Security was putting this into place, and that Donald Trump was considering whether or not he could wait a little while longer, but that a week into his term was about all he felt he could wait or otherwise bad people were going to get in. That doesn't quite match up with all the vetting procedures that were already in place. Very difficult within a week's time or two weeks' time to have a terrorist without proper vetting get into this country. But Donald Trump, again, leaning into the fear factor said this had to happen on a very accelerated timeline.

HARLOW: David Chalian, thank you so much. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Let's bring in our panel. Tony Blinken is with us, former deputy secretary of state. Senator Rick Santorum joins us again, CNN political commentator. Laura Coates is with us, our legal analyst. And Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist and a political commentator as well. Let me begin with you, Mr. Blinken, because I think what's very interesting, Ken Cuccinelli, the former A.G. of Virginia, said last night on this network that, you know, it is a brilliant move on the part of the Trump administration to bring up the fact and to argue the fact that it was the Obama administration under your time in the State Department that made this list of these seven countries, these seven Muslim majority countries that they have used in this travel ban. He called that a brilliant move. How do you see it?

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, look, first, Poppy, I think it's important to say that what we just heard was deeply troubling. The president put himself above the law. He suggested that there is no judicial review of what the executive does. When President Nixon did that, it was wrong and dangerous. When President Trump does it, it's wrong and dangerous. He questioned the impartiality of the judges. He called yesterday's hearing disgraceful when in fact it was a tribute to our democracy. And he called it a sad day. Well, I have to say, today was a sad day listening to the president attack its judiciary once again. It's doing its job.

As to the seven countries, look, there's been a lot of misinformation about this. This goes back to San Bernardino. After the San Bernardino attack, Congress - some in Congress tried to shut down the admission of refugees, shut down immigration. The Obama administration had to negotiate with them. And we focused on trying to close a loophole that allowed people who had passports from four of those seven countries initially, but also passports from countries that were allowed to send their citizens to us without a visa, countries like the United Kingdom. We cut - we shut down that loophole to make sure that they had to get a visa if they were also citizens of those seven countries, initially four. That's what was going on. There was no ban. There was no shutdown on refugees, no shutdown on immigration.

[09:50:40] And there's a good reason for that. Right now the president and the administration have to show two things in this case. They have to show that there was no ill intent in this order, that is that it was not designed to discriminate against Muslims. Second, they need to show that there was an actual threat. And everything we know about the refugee program and the immigration program is that that's not the threat that we're facing. There has not been a single American killed by a terrorists coming from one of those seven countries or from the refugee program going back beyond 9/11.

HARLOW: Senator Santorum, your response? I know that you said to us at the start of the program that you're not supportive of some of the word choices the president has used. This just is not the first time or the second time that he has, you know, taken on the judiciary branch, that he has criticized justices. He did it during the campaign. He did it again last week, calling the judge in Washington state, the federal judge, a "so-called judge." And now he is saying - he's praising the judge that sided with his administration in Boston and then lambasting the other justices and calling it a disgrace. Do you agree with the president on that?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let me make one point first, which is, there have been 60 convictions, from what I've read, from - from - of people coming from those countries through those - through the programs. So the comment that there hasn't been anybody that's been, you know, that's been problematic coming from these countries is not true.

Number two, these are all countries where proper vetting is near impossible. We - either there is no government that we can cooperate with or the government is incredibly hostile to us. So the idea that this is some - some ridiculous program, finding these particular seven states, seven nations, is somehow, you know, not - not based on any kind of reality of how difficult it is to vet those things is simply not true.

On your broader question on Trump's behavior, look, I - am I concerned when the president says some of the things he says? Yes, I am concerned. I am -

HARLOW: But I asked you specifically about this, senator.


HARLOW: I mean does it concern you that he seems to be attacking repeatedly -


HARLOW: The judiciary branch, an equal branch of government?

SANTORUM: Yes. Yes, it does concern me.


SANTORUM: But at the same time, what also concerns me, and it - and simply hasn't been made, and one of the reasons that I'm giving him a little bit broader leeway than I - than at times I'm comfortable with, is the fact that the judiciary has been overreaching, has been using its power to overrule and override both Congress and the president on a routine basis and putting themselves above the law. And what President Trump was saying today is the law is pretty clear about broad authority of the president when it comes to these things and -

HARLOW: Yes, although - except, Senator Santorum, there's a part of the law that he left out, intentionally or unintentionally, I don't know, you'd have to ask the president that.

But, Laura Coates, what he didn't talk about is the 1965 change that was made. And what is really in contrast to 1182, which he read. What - you know, the part of the law that came in 1965 reads that no person shall receive any preference or priority to be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person's race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of - or place of residence.

SANTORUM: But that's not mentioned in the order. It's not mentioned in the order.

HARLOW: Let me just have Laura Coates respond to that. These two things, what the president read, and then what changed in 1965 in the U.S. law are in conflict with one another.

SANTORUM: No, they're not.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They are. They are. Well, in fact, Congress did give authority to the president of the United States to try to limit entry to people he found detrimental. But they limited that power. What President Trump seems to be conveying to the world is that he has no idea what the Ninth Circuit's role is in this case. The Ninth Circuit's role is this, the district court already said that the ban has been suspended and it's nationwide. The limited role of the Ninth Circuit now is simply to say, please tell us the reason why the federal government would be harmed if we return to the status quo of the vetting that was in place prior to the travel ban. And the government has no response to that. And why? Because they have not been able to articulate why, although the Obama administration named those seven countries previously, why there is an existing, not hypothetical threat, that would force the Justice Department - the judiciary to reverse the ban once again.

That is the key here. The judges are doing their job. They are not deciding the constitutionality at this point. They're simply saying, listen, there's confusion. I'm not going to keep flipping and flopping for the nation and international benefit here if I don't have a reason to know that there is not a hypothetical but a real live threat. We're not there at the constitutionality. But if you get there, I think you will find that there is in fact the establishment clause violations, and what you've just talked about, Poppy, in terms of not being able to discriminate on national origin.

[09:50:24] HARLOW: Just one - one final thing to button this up, Laura Coates, because the - at the same time the justices did ask the administration and the lawyer representing the administration, Judge Michelle Friedland asked right out of the gate, can the government point to any evidence, quote, "connecting these countries with terrorism." You know, what was your overall read because that's at the crux of the government's argument. What was your overall read on where the three justices fell on that point?

COATES: Well, we know that, Poppy, one is leaning in favorite of Washington state, one is leaning in favor of the federal government, and one is kind of maybe the swing vote, that's Canby. But how you actually read that - you think about what the Ninth Circuit's role is, they're not second-guessing the risk assessment by the president of the United States. They're simply saying, we know the president has the prerogative to deny entry. But you also have to be limited to the fact that we are trying to know if we should reverse and reinstate the ban. In order to do that, you have to articulate whether or not there is an actual, present risk, and the government could not make that case as of yet. Now, there is the confidentiality and the classified nature of documents and that may be the case. But the DOJ lawyer did not raise that point, leaving us all to wonder, is this a pretext for religious discrimination or was it in fact an issue of national security.

HARLOW: All right, guys, stay with me.

Maria Cardona, I know I didn't get to you. I've got to get a break in. You'll be with me on the other side.

Tony Blinken, Senator Santorum, Laura Coates, Maria Cardona, thank you very much.

We're going to take a quick break. The next hour of NEWSROOM is right after that.


[10:00:04] HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the day off. So glad you're with us.

President Trump lashing out at the legal appeals process that has put his travel ban on hold for now. He just