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Massive Winter Storm Slams Northeast; Extreme Vetting of Refugees in the Spotlight; Trump Attacks Retail Giant Over Daughter's Clothing Line. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired February 9, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:47] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The snow is starting to accumulate. This is this powerful storm slamming the Northeast as we speak. Schools are closed in many major cities and towns. Thousands of flights across the country are cancelled.

So, let's get the latest from CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. He is live in New York Central Park.

How is it looking now, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's looking white. Very much whiter than it was a half hour ago, when we talked last time. The snow coming down sideways at times, 40 million people in this storm right now.

As you said, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, all major storm systems closed there. The public schools are shut down. Already, nearly 3,000 flights cancelled. We will have more as those flights go down the domino effect. You can't get a flight out of L.A. because the flight is stuck here in New York City.

There is more snow on the way, although, this is a quick hitting storm. We'll see eight to 10 inches by the time it stops, which is only 2:00. It didn't start until 3:00 a.m. This is less than a 12- hour storm. This is an inch an hour storm. That's how we get 12 inches.

Look at this. This was plowed just about a half hour ago. There is already a good half inch here on the ground, Chris. So, you can see here, that's two inches. But the first two inches melted, because yesterday, I was standing right here, it was 61.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He's been standing there since. That is the dedication.

MYERS: All day long. All night long.

CAMEROTA: I'm so happy that bike rider didn't take Chad out.

CUOMO: Yes, you got to be careful. Those guys on the bikes, they are dangerous.

All right, my friend. Thank you, my friend, we'll check back in a bit.

We've heard a lot lately about vetting. We have talk about extreme vetting, which despite its perceived popularity is still just a phrase. So, how about some facts?

A former immigration officer will take you through the actual process, next.


[06:37:29] CAMEROTA: Our next guest worked as an immigration officer in the Middle East for four years, conducting in-person interviews with hundreds of refugees. Now, she's here to detail the grueling process of gaining refugee status in the U.S.

Natasha Hall joins us from Turkey, via Skype.

Natasha, thank you so much for joining us.


CAMEROTA: We're so happy to have you, because you can bring us the facts about what these refugees go through in terms of vetting. I know you've described it as torturous for the refugees. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch on the steps they go through?

HALL: Certainly. So, especially from seven particular countries, but for all, most have to register with UNHCR, a U.N. agency for refugees. After that, they get their story. They have biometrics done for the first time.

And then they go through an international organization and that international organization depends on the country that they're in. Here in Turkey, it's International Catholic Migration Commission. In Nairobi, it's Church World Service. And then they continue to do more interviews, more vetting with all of the family members. They collect all of the documentation that the refugee might have from their host country but also from the country that --

CAMEROTA: Natasha, hold on one second. I want to stop you right there about the documentation because this is something that we have heard the Trump team, as well as other Republicans tell us is inadequate. We have we heard them say that, let's say, refugees from Syria, they show up from their bombed-out homes with sometimes just the clothes on their back. They've left behind any documentation or identification.

So, what do you do in that situation?

HALL: Well, interestingly, and I wish the Trump administration would have consulted us before making these claims. But Iraqis and Syrians, in particular, are some of the most well-documented refugees that we do interview and that we do resetting in the United States.

CAMEROTA: Why is that?

HALL: They were both from extremely bureaucratic countries. The Baathist regime, one thing that you can't say about them is that they heavily documented their population. And oftentimes for a refugee, they might not bring anything for them except for their documentation.

Once they're in Turkey, they can also go to the consulate and actually get documents issued from the Syrian government still to this day. Many of them do.

CAMEROTA: OK. That is fascinating to learn. We've also we heard from some Republicans on our program who say the vetting process sometimes takes 60 seconds. They've learned that the interview, the in-person interview is sometimes 60 seconds long.

[06:40:08] Go ahead.

HALL: That's completely untrue, especially for the people from the Middle East. In fact, when I started as a DHS officer, a law enforcement officer, with DHS, doing these interviews, we used to interview about four cases per day. That's still several hours long.

We now interview between two-to-one piece per day in the case of Iraqis and Syrians, in particular. So, these interviews go on for hours for most Iraqis and Syrians, this vetting procedure in total goes on for years. And they go through hours of interviews.

CAMEROTA: In fact, I read you saw countless refugees breaking down crying because of the length and severity of the vetting process. Natasha, did you ever catch anyone, did you ever find somebody who you thought was trying to sneak through?

HALL: I mean, I think what we -- what we can do is, of course, there's people we catch because there's documentation, there is biometric proof that we're catching them. But there's a lot of other ways to determine if someone might be a risk for the United States and most are suspicious travel patterns.

In the case of Iraq, we -- the United States government occupied Iraq for a long period of time. So, we actually have quite a bit of data on the population there as well. So, to say that we have absolutely no information at hand and we don't know what's going on in these countries, we don't have country conditions is quite insulting I think to our national security agencies.

CAMEROTA: So, as I understand it, you did turn some people back. So, given all your experience in the Middle East and talking to hundreds of refugees, what did you think when the travel ban was announced? You know, the Trump administration says it's just a pause. It's 90 days to 120 days. What did you think of that pause to check the vetting process?

HALL: Well, first of all, I would like to point out there is over 65 million refugees worldwide, and these are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. Last year, we resettled about 0.1 percent of those refugees. So, I think for America to do a symbolic gesture and something that both parties for decades have been extremely proud of.

Some of these people are incredibly in vulnerable situations. Some are still in Iraq. Some of them are in incredible danger here in Turkey, where I am as well, because of their activism against groups like ISIS. So, I think to turn those people away, especially people away that have worked with the U.S. military and helped our government is really quite a mistake.

CAMEROTA: Natasha Hall, thank you very much for joining us, to give us all of the facts from the ground there. Thank you.

HALL: Thanks so much for having me.


CUOMO: All right. So, the president tweeted an attack on Nordstrom's for allegedly dropping his daughter's clothing line is some type of political play. This is an apparent conflict of interest. Is it illegal? We're going to discuss just ahead.


[06:47:22] CUOMO: Former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley was arrested after being ejected from Madison Square Garden during a game Wednesday night. The story is, why?

Coy Wire has more on the "Bleacher Report". You want no part of an angry Barclay, by the way?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: No, neither within of them, but especially Oakley.

Now, he's 54-years-old, played for a decades, is one of the most recognizable players from the '90s. He has been charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal trespassing. They say that he was ejected for acting in, quote, "in inappropriate and abusive manner", unquote.

Oakley denies that he was yelling at Knicks owner James Dolan, down there to the left, bottom of your screen, with his back to us, of whom Oakley has been critical in the past. Now, Oakley tells "The New York Daily News," that Dolan didn't want them there and when security asked him to leave, Oakley said, "I'm not leaving."

He was forcibly removed by security guards from the court side seat and NYPD says he punched one and pushed two other MSG employees on his way out. Fans as he was being escorted out were chanting his name. We'll keep our tabs on this for you.

The case of Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey may have a new wrinkle. TMZ Sports says the jersey may be in an 18-wheeler headed back to Boston right now. A law enforcement official told TMZ they were hopeful that it was packed up right after the game was put on the truck headed home. CNN has reached out to the Patriots for comment, but has not yet

gotten a response. Alisyn, that's a half a million dollar jersey, they say the value is. So, I am encouraging my bosses to send me theirs so we get a live report when that thing is revealed from that truck if it comes up.

CAMEROTA: Great point. If a jersey happens to fall off the truck, you could be there to catch it as well.

WIRE: To give it to Berman.

CAMEROTA: All right. Coy, thank you very much.

WIRE: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: President Trump criticizing Nordstrom's for dropping his daughter's clothing line. What happens when the president interferes in business? That's next.


[06:53:31] CUOMO: President Trump renewing concerns about conflicts of interest because he attacked retail giant Nordstrom in a tweet. Also, from his official presidential Twitter site, that is a key fact. Why? Because they pulled his daughter's clothing line. He said, "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom's, she is a great person, always pushing me to do the right thing. Terrible."

So, let's discuss with Timothy O'Brien, the author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald". He's the executive of "Bloomberg View". And Rachel Abrams, a reporter for the "New York Times," reporting on this and many other essential stories.

Good to have you both.

So, we begin at the beginning with can -- that can be legal, that can be ethical. On the legal side, Tim, there is no law prescribing the president from saying basically anything that he wants to do in this regard.

Now, Norm Eisen, the former White House ethics counsel disagrees.

Put up his tweet. He believes that this qualifies under California's unfair competition law as an unfair business act. He's a far better counselor than I will be, but that's a little bit of a stretch.

So, can he say these things?

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Donald Trump can say anything he wants to and he does. And the issue I think is should he? And the clear answer to that is no. He -- you know, one of the big issues we'd had with the entire Trump family thus far is his comingling of business interests and public service, of political goals and business goals and this complete lack of a fine line they recognize that should define the two. [06:55:10] You know, over the last week alone, we had Melania's

lawsuit against "The Daily Mail", in which she stated in court papers that she saw the White House as a multimillion dollar business opportunity. We have Ivanka Trump hosting the CEO of Walmart at her home at the same time when she's part of the administration that's going to consider tax laws, regulatory laws, on down the line.

And now, this week have you the president of the United States doing a drive by at a major American corporation solely to benefit his daughter's business interests.

CAMEROTA: So no firewall, I guess.

O'BRIEN: No firewall. No firewall. And there should be one. This has haunted them.

CUOMO: There is a lot of fire. There is going to be a wall. But there is no fire wall.

O'BRIEN: And they haven't separated themselves yet in anyway we know publicly from their companies.

CAMEROTA: And yet, Rachel, I'm very interested in Nordstrom's motivation here. Because you'd think, OK, Trump name, Trump brand, that will heighten sales. What Nordstrom said was, "Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand, Ivanka's brand has suddenly declined to the point where it did not make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now. Ivanka was personally informed of our decision in early January."

You know there was a grassroots movement #grabyourwallet, it was started by I guess a woman who put all of the names of retailers and brands that do business with the Trump somehow on a website and suggested the people boycott it. Did that play into Nordstrom's decision?

RACHEL ABRAMS, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: I think there is no way to know for sure how much it affected sales, and that's the key thing here. Nordstrom's did not make anything, any decision for political reason. That's what they've said and that sort of make sense because department stores are not doing well enough for them to drop very profitable brands.

Retailers aren't doing well, and department stores are doing even worse. And so, I would tend to take Nordstrom at their word when they say that this line, this brand wasn't selling very well and I think that while we don't know how much of that had to do with the fact that there is this boycott, a boycott of her products certainly didn't help sales, considering how widespread it is and the fact that other companies are trying to get off that grab your wallet list.

CAMEROTA: But we don't know if after the #grabyourwallet grassroots movement, how much sales declined by.

ABRAMS: We don't. Ivanka Trump is a publicly held company. We've gotten some figures in the past. We reported some figures in the past. We don't know how much it's grown. We don't know how much it's hurt over the past year.

Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, is another retailer that pulled back from offering her products online. And again, neither of the retailers would make such a decision unless they felt that being associated with her was more of a headache than it was worth.

CUOMO: How much is just the grumble bus? You can't do anything about it. Conflict is all about the ethics. The executive branch was never really the focus of the legal treatment of that. It was always about the legislative branch. You know, every time --

O'BRIEN: Except why -- why wasn't the executive branch?

CUOMO: Tell us.

O'BRIEN: Well, I think because for very good legal reasons, no one wanted to handcuff the chief collective, because the president touches so many issues. But the reality is we now have a president who has substantial business interests. He's brought those into the White House as has his children.

And they haven't set down any meaningful markers around that. They just still haven't authentically separated themselves from the business interest. It's a problem.

The scent of self dealing is going to haunt every decision this White House makes until they get right on this issue.

CAMEROTA: But in addition to the conflict of interest, very quickly, Tim, I thought Republicans didn't choose winners and losers?

O'BRIEN: Well, I don't think it's about choosing winners in this case.

CAMEROTA: Well, he's saying that Nordstrom is a loser. I mean, he's going after Nordstrom in his tweet saying they are treating my daughter so unfairly. He names Nordstrom's. That's calling them out.

CUOMO: That's why Norm Eisen thinks it may apply under the California state statute of an unfair business practice because he's trying to compromise --

O'BRIEN: Remember, he's done this against Boeing. He's done this against the auto companies. It's not going to stop. He doesn't like institutions.

CUOMO: Their stock actually took a boost, that would weaken the hurt argument, right?


CUOMO: But it did probably hurt, optically, his daughter. Bloomberg, we have Bloomberg reporter on here earlier saying she didn't ask him to do this. I'm sure that's true. This can't help --

O'BRIEN: I'm sure she's horrified. CAMEROTA: Rachel, Tim, thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Thank you both.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to all of our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand things almost better than anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a wrong tack to start attacking judges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Gorsuch condemned these kinds of public attacks.

TRUMP: It will be so great for our justice system if they would do what's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is there to serve the American people. Not to use his office for private gain.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a direct attack on his policies and her name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those who think you could silence Senator Warren couldn't be more wrong.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This isn't really about freedom of speech. It's about decorum.