Return to Transcripts main page


Hundreds Arrested in Immigration Raids Across U.S.; GOP Faces Anger Over Obamacare at Town Halls; Trump Hosts Japanese Prime Minister;; Report: Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russia; White House Walking Back Claims About Flynn And Pence; Emotional Reunions After Executive Order Stalled. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 11, 2017 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:37] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. New this morning, immigration officials arrest hundreds of undocumented immigrants after a series of raids across the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE agents targeting homes and businesses in half a dozen states this week alone taking approximately 160 people into custody. Officials say 75 percent of those arrested had felony convictions. The others had misdemeanors or were in the country illegally. More than three dozen of them already deported to Mexico.

The raids sparking protests in Los Angeles and prompting Spanish language media to run PSAs promoting know your rights seminars in the city. Homeland Security officials call these raids, quote, "routine enforcement actions" and are no different than their operations on a daily basis.


JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, first of all, they're not rounding anyone up. The people that ICE apprehend are people who are illegal and then some. ICE is executing the law and I would tell you I've been around a lot of pretty darn good men and women in the Armed Forces and what I saw today, the professionalism that I personally observed in a very potentially dangerous environment gave me great -- gave me great pride.


WHITFIELD: Officials in several cities are voicing their support for the immigrant community.


GREG CASAR, AUSTIN, TEXAS CITY COUNCILMAN: We have heard of several confirmed ICE actions in Austin. We are here to denounce those actions and to let the community know that we have their backs.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urging immigration officials to be more up front and humane in their operation saying, quote, "Angelinos should not have to fear raids that are disruptive to their peace of mind and bring unnecessary anxiety to our homes, schools and workplaces. The administration should take a just humane and sensible approach that does not cause pain for people who only want to live their lives and raise their families in the communities they call home," end quote.

Let's talk more about all of this with CNN international correspondent, Shasta Darlington, who is live for us from Mexico City, criminal defense attorney and constitutional law attorney Page Pate, and CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord.

All right. So good to see all of you. So, Jeffrey, you first. You know, we've seen pictures of people being moved from their homes, many immigrant communities are terrified. What can President Trump say to Americans, particularly people who are afraid that their families will be torn apart?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what he has said is to -- I think he's basically going to concentrate at least as I understand it first on gangs or people that have problems. This mother who was moved from Arizona was in, fact, a convicted felon. I mean, not only was she here illegal --

WHITFIELD: But that's a separate issue because she was not caught up in the raid. But as it pertains to the raids overnight.

LORD: Yes. Well, I mean, look, he's going to get tough on this. You can't just walk into a country, any country, and settle there, and think that you're not going to have a problem. If the shoe were on the other foot, if this were reversed as it was in fact by accident with Sergeant Tahmooressi, a United States Marine who took a wrong turn when he was trying to go to California, and wound up in Mexico, they threw him in jail for six months. They're tough in Mexico. So the United States is only asking for equal treatment here. Fairness.

WHITFIELD: So, Page, there are mixed messages because we heard on the campaign trail, even as president, he said, you know, it's a matter of targeting those who have committed crimes, but when there are people swept up, ICE officials, at least one agent saying 75 percent may have felony convictions, but when there are other people swept up, the concern that we're hearing from the immigrant community is, what about those who don't have records who are swept up?

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. I think it's going to be a growing problem. ICE raids are not unusual or not unprecedented. This happened during the Obama administration. It's happened during administrations going back many, many years.

[11:05:03] What is different is how the government is treating undocumented people who do not have criminal convictions. As we heard from the president, heard from the administration, they're going to focus on those folks who are danger to the community, violent felons. They're going to deport them first. So when you have a raid and you encounter those folks, sure, it's going to be policy and it's totally lawful to start deporting them. But if an undocumented person does not have a criminal conviction, those folks have been treated differently in the past and I think that's the tension we're going to start seeing now.

WHITFIELD: Can you have it both ways?

PATE: Well, you can if that's your policy. The agents on the ground are just doing what they're told to do. So if the policy of ICE is going to be we're going to first start with people with criminal convictions, we're going to deport them. The other folks that may be caught up in this raid, we're going to allow them to report. We're going to let their case go through the process, go in front of an immigration judge, take time, make sure that there are not balancing factors that we need to consider, families, dependents, things of that nature before we put them on a bus and send them to Mexico.

WHITFIELD: So, Shasta, from Mexico City, how is this being received there?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think that's exactly right. It is entirely common in previous administrations to deport undocumented migrants. We get about three plane loads flying into Mexico City every week. The difference of course is this fear and this anger here in Mexico City that somehow the immigration standards are being shifted.

We have this case, so you can see this is a newspaper from this week. It says, "Trump deports Guadalupe and Breaks Up Family," and that is of course referring to the Arizona woman, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos whose crime was having a fake Social Security number. She hadn't committed any other crime and in the past she had been allowed to visit her immigration officer once a week -- on a regular basis and she was actually taken in and deported when she was visiting her immigration officer.

So that anger is really growing here. We've seen the Mexican government go on the offensive. They have issued a warning to Mexicans living in the United States telling them to keep in contact with their consulates. They are calling the Trump administration, they're saying their imposing severe controls on immigration unusual. They're even worried that the constitutional rights of Mexicans living in the United States could be violated, so they say they're beefing up their staff and some cities are even offering to pay the legal counsel.

We saw the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, go to the airport this week to wait for one of those planes coming in. 135 Mexican migrants just deported to tell them you're not alone, we're going to help you if they won't there. Of course that's little consolation to the -- to so many Mexicans who are being ripped away from their families and coming back to a country they haven't seen for years, often decades.

WHITFIELD: And so, Jeffrey, what does this do to the relationship between President Trump and the Mexican president when Donald Trump says there's going to be this level of cooperation, Mexico is going to pay for the wall? How might this impact that negotiation upcoming?

LORD: I think, Fred, that what you're seeing here is the beginning stages of a much larger negotiation here. I mean, all of this, the wall, the deportations, et cetera. But resetting United States-Mexico policy, and working with Mexico to do so. And Donald Trump being Donald Trump, I think that this is only the opening round in a negotiation.

WHITFIELD: And so, Page, is part of the problem that ICE agents have some discretion here on who to round up? While the intent may have been one thing to go after those with criminal records, if people who do not have criminal records are swept up, does this underscore, you know, the problem with discretion?

PATE: Well, the discretion is at the agency level. I mean, the people who are actually out there conducting the raids, they're just doing what they're told. So I'm certain that the policy now is if you find somebody who's undocumented, go ahead and deport them. And that is very different than what we've seen in prior administrations and I find it not just coincidental that this raid happened -- it may have been planned before but it was initiated just as soon as Jeff Sessions took office as attorney general. So what I think we're seeing is an entirely new policy from the top.

WHITFIELD: And Shasta, are you hearing from people what is the experience of those who have been swept up are describing?

DARLINGTON: Again there's a lot of -- a lot of fear. Some people don't even want to go home to the cities or the towns they're originally from because they haven't been there for years so they're staying close to the border in the hopes that they continue -- can continue to have contact with their families on the other side. It literally is -- you know it's so hard to meet a Mexican who doesn't have a family member living on the other side. So this is -- they're stepping up pressure on the government here to do something about this. Make sure that people are being taken care of. Make sure that their constitutional rights aren't being violated.

[11:10:05] But there's just a lot of uncertainty. This is -- the people here are very angry. In fact we're going to see a large demonstration -- massive demonstrations across the country. They are expecting tens of thousands of people to take to the streets against the Trump administration. So again, anger and fear everywhere we look -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shasta --

LORD: And Fred?

WHITFIELD: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey.

LORD: Just one thing. None of this would be happening if people in Mexico or anywhere else simply applied legally to come into the country and follow the rules. This wouldn't be happening.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeffrey Lord, Page Pate, Shasta Darlington, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

All right, still ahead tempers flaring at some town halls across the country this morning. Voters speaking out over what will happen to Obamacare. We're live from a town hall in Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quoting Paul Ryan will not help you in this crowd. It will not help you. And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to listen to your constituents. You need to listen, please. Because I know so many people are suffering.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Anger and frustration this morning erupting at Republican town halls. People speaking out over what's going to happen to Obamacare. Right now you're looking at live pictures at a town hall in Florida where emotions are running high.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four students, four people with disabilities, please keep the ACA so that way we have a safety net.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we only have this room until 12:00. We only this room until 12:00.

[11:15:03] All of these interruptions will please keep people from being able to speak. So please keep your comments to yourself and allow the speaker to speak.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you have stressed at all your town halls is that you want to listen to what we have to say. And more importantly than listening to what we have to say, I want you to act upon what it is that we have to say.



WHITFIELD: All right. In Newport Richie, Florida, Boris Sanchez is live for us there.

So, Boris, this has been very heated across the country, at other town halls. What else is happening there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. Yes, I just wanted to point out on the video that you're seeing, that's only one section of the area where we have this very sizable crowd of people looking to speak their mind and speak to Representative Gus Bilirakis. He's the representative for the 12th District here in Florida. There's another hundred or 150 people just in an outflow area outside that are chanting and cheering along as well.

And it's a mixed crowd. There are I would say about a dozen or so outspoken Trump supporters that are here that are in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act. For the most part, though, there are quite a few people that are very passionate about keeping the Affordable Care Act in place. We heard from several people that talked about relatives or they themselves that benefited from the expansion of health care.

There were some testing moments. I would say that for the most part this crowd has remained respectful of Representative Bilirakis in a less disrespectful way, I guess you could say, that we saw in some of the other town halls where people essentially chanted, for example, Senator Jason Chaffetz off the stage. In this place they've been mostly respectful toward him, thanking him for coming out here and listening to them and essentially agreeing to disagree.

The most tested moment, though, came when the secretary of the Republican Party for Pasco County, a gentleman by the name of Bill Akins, came up to speak. He's one of the first speakers. I want you to watch this exchange.


BILL AKINS, PASCO COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: Here's the problems I have with the affordable health care act. Number one there is a provision in there that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel.


AKINS: Yes, they do. Yes, they do. It's in there, folks. You're wrong.


AKINS: OK, children. All right, children. It is a death panel. Now the second one -- I want to make sure -- well, if you'll be quiet, I would like -- I would like to address this question to the congressman. Could you please make sure --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For every time -- for every interruption --


AKINS: Who here has read the Affordable Health Care plan? I seriously doubt that. The provision is in there. Is it not, Congressman? Yes, it is. I am not lying. OK. I want to make sure that anyone 74 or older is not going to be discriminated against and have to go in front of a death panel with the replacement health care plan. That's one. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: So that was some of what Mr. Akins had to say. As you heard, he was met with chants of liar as several people who have come up to speak have heard from the crowd. For his part, Representative Bilirakis has said that he's fulfilling a promise to listen to his constituents. It's important to keep in mind, though, that he has voted to defund the Affordable Care Act several times already and in the last election he was reelected comfortably, almost a 60 percent majority voted him into office in an area that pretty heavily leaned toward the President Donald Trump. So despite the fact that he's hearing from these constituents now, his belief is that by truly representing the people that voted for him his mission is to repeal the ACA -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: So then does that mean there's a feeling that these town halls, particularly in that area, is not going to be influential at all?

SANCHEZ: Well, I would say that among the people that are here, they certainly -- those that are protesting, they certainly believe it's their mission to make their voices heard. I should make sure that I pass along this note, though. Many of them are here with a group called Indivisible that is -- was essentially formed by a group of former Democratic aides on Capitol Hill shortly after the election of President Trump, and they started organizing these sort of grassroots efforts to disrupt town halls like this one by openly taking a page out of the Tea Party.

[11:20:08] In a lot of way this reflects the reaction that we saw from some conservatives back in 2009 when President Obama was elected. So there certainly is a sentiment that this is going to continue into the future as we saw last week. And it will likely continue into the coming weeks. But there's no real clear indication that at least in this situation the Representative Bilirakis that is going to change his position.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, keep us posted. Thank you so much.

And of course, you can head to to find information on a town hall near you.

All right. As early as Monday President Donald Trump might issue a new executive order on immigration. Details on the new security measures the president has in the works right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Look, some new images here, the first time we have seen the First Lady Melania Trump in an official capacity right here at a Japanese garden giving a tour to the prime minister's wife Akie Abe. There you see these images here at a Japanese garden there in Delray Beach, Florida. It's called the Morikami Museum and Garden there. Both of them strolling there. We don't know anything about the

content of the conversation. Can't wait to hear what it is that they've been talking about, but you see finally for the first time in the first lady capacity for Melania Trump there on an official tour with the prime minister's wife.

[11:25:17] All right. Meantime, President Trump trying out some golf course diplomacy and a strategy shift on his travel ban. The president hosting the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this hour hitting the links at his golf resort there in Florida. Security and trade are on the agenda. The president also more determined than ever after a federal appeals court upheld its block on his travel ban.

Trump now says he might sign, quote, "a brand new order as early as Monday." The president also not ruling out a Supreme Court challenge and promising new security measures this week to keep American's safe from terrorists.

CNN's Athena Jones is outside the president's resort in Florida. You were among those asking the questions there when they were on Air Force One. There Melania and Donald Trump.

So, Athena, more now on how the president is weighing options and promising to keep us in suspense.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Hi, Fred. You're right, the president and first lady came back to the press cabin on Air Force One just a few minutes into the flight. The president was showing the first lady around because it was her first trip on Air Force One. Of course we reporters took the opportunity to pepper him with questions. I asked about the immigration ban and about those new security measures. He stressed that he believed the government -- his administration would be ultimately successful in any court case but that it could take a while. Here's more of what he said about that.


TRUMP: The unfortunate part is that it takes time statutorily. So it takes some time. But we'll win that battle. But we also have a lot of other options including just filing a brand new order on Monday.


TRUMP: It could very well be, but I'd like to keep you --you know, I'd like surprise you. We need speed for reasons of security. So it could very well be that we do that.


JONES: Now you heard from the president there, I don't know if you could hear that follow-up question, a reporter saying, is that the plan to file something on Monday or Tuesday. He said well, you know, it could be Monday or Tuesday but I like to keep you surprised. So he didn't really commit to the idea. He was asked what would you change about the executive order and any new executive order about a travel ban and he said very little, which was a very interesting response. And Fred, I asked as I said about those new security measures he

promised could be coming as soon as next week. And he didn't expand beyond what he said at the press conference. Only saying there will be extreme vetting. We will make sure that people coming into our country are doing so for good reasons -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. And then I also understand the president is tweeting about the border wall. What more has been said?

JONES: Yes, that's right. A couple of tweets today about the border wall. The president saying, "I am reading that the great border wall will cost more than the government originally thought. But I have not gotten involved in the design or negotiations yet. When I do, just like with the F-35 fighter jet or the Air Force One program, price will come way down."

Now I should note for our viewers, Fred, that on Wednesday the president told a group of police chiefs the wall is getting designed right now. So it's a little unclear. It seems -- what does seem clear is the plans are still in the works. As for the estimate, there are several floating around from as low as $10 billion from one organization to as high as $25 billion. It's of course going to depend on what the actual barrier looks like. And there's a lot of discussion about that as well. So a lot of questions still to answer when it comes to that wall -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. And of course reportedly the Department of Homeland Security just this past week saying it could cost $21.6 billion and take three and a half years to construct.

All right. Athena Jones, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

All right. Let's talk more about now the -- about the Japanese prime minister's visit. Thomas Schieffer joins me right now. He is the former U.S. ambassador to Japan and Australia.

Good to see you. So at the press conference yesterday Prime Minister Abe alluded to a new framework for trade deals. Trade has been the main source of tension between the new Trump administration and Japan. Is this an opening to smoothing things out?

THOMAS SCHIEFFER, FORMER U. AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN: I hope so. And I think it's been a good summit so far. The prime minister and the people in Japan generally were very anxious about the rhetoric of the campaign and so I think that this was an effort on the Japanese part to try to smooth out the road and get back to a more conventional U.S. alliance relationship. And I think we've gone a long way today to -- in the last couple days to see that happen.

WHITFIELD: And what might this mean for the TPP trade deal? Because we know Donald Trump not a huge fan, but Prime Minister Abe himself has said that deal really has no meaning without U.S. participation?

[11:30:03] SCHIEFFER: I think that the TPP represented a great political investment by the prime minister in the process. He put -- used a lot of political capital to get Japan to agree to it. So I think what he is trying to do is try to salvage what he can out of the agreement.

And President Trump has talked about perhaps a bilateral relationship or a bilateral free trade agreement, so I think there is movement there closer together than there was prior to this. So I think they made a lot of progress yesterday, but there's a long way to go.

WHITFIELD: OK, and on military, Japan is a strategic ally. That relationship is a very pivotal and important. Just this past week four senior U.S. senators wrote an op-ed saying that this is the right time for the U.S. to, quote, "Affirm America's broad bipartisan commitment to defend our allies when they are threatened," end quote.

So in this case this specifically allies in Asia, is this a legitimate concern that America is backing away from the current partnership?

SCHIEFFER: It absolutely is a concern and the -- because of the campaign rhetoric, but yesterday I think the predominant theme in the summit was security and the communicate reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Japan, which is absolutely essential to peace not only in japan but all of Asia.

I think new administration sometimes come into power not fully aware of just how close, how deep these security relationship is with Japan. But as they serve, I think they become more aware of it. I think you saw a lot of that yesterday.

And the communicate reaffirmed particularly the U.S. commitment to defend the islands that are in dispute between China and Japan. So I think that's a very good thing for the administration to do and I think it will get us back to perhaps a more conventional U.S.-Japan relationship like we've had in the past.

WHITFIELD: Quickly, you know, the handshake is one thing showing that these two, you know, may have a new bond, but this whole notion of golfing diplomacy, how do you see it as being potentially really impactful on -- I love that picture -- on determining how well Japan and the U.S. may be working together?

SCHIEFFER: There's a little history here. The prime minister's grandfather played golf with President Eisenhower and he was the prime minister in Japan and developed a very good relationship with President Eisenhower. The prime minister's grandfather actually signed the security agreement with the United States in his term of office.

It was a very courageous thing for him to do. So I think that the prime minister thinks about this in terms of developing a personal relationship with President Trump.

And Japanese likes that. Nakasoni (ph) and Reagan had a very personal relationship, Korozumi (ph) and Bush had a very personal relationship, so I think that's what the prime minister is thinking about and I think the president is trying to do something there as well.

Because when the United States and Japan are together, everything is possible in Northeast Asia. If there's a separation of them, it puts everything in jeopardy.

WHITFIELD: All right, very good. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. And we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Emotions flaring and really running high at town halls mostly generated by the GOP leadership across the country. You're looking at live pictures right now at a New Port Richey, Florida.

Let's listen in a little bit and give you a sense as to the kind of flavor as most are talking about the repeal and replace efforts of Obamacare, Affordable Care Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to get this under control. I paid for it before. Obamacare was not bad. I had to say it. It was not as bad as it is today. We need to do something to make it affordable. This is not. I look at my situation --

WHITFIELD: All right, you get a sense there. People have their own personal testimonies as to whether they like or don't like the Affordable Care Act. You heard from that gentleman there who sounds like he has been a proponent of it. But again, lots of emotions. We're seeing quite the mix of opinions at these town halls. We'll dip in as merits.

All right, meantime, a U.S. official has confirmed to CNN that national security adviser, Michael Flynn, did speak with Russia's U.S. ambassador before the inauguration of the president and that the issue of U.S. sanctions against Russia did come up. Exactly what Flynn might have said is still unclear.

But FBI and intelligence agencies say there's nothing indicating that Flynn made any promises or acted improperly during the call. The president declining to respond to the report saying, quote, "He was unaware." The kremlin called the reports incorrect.

To talk more about all of this, we have David Rohde, a CNN global affairs analyst and a national security investigations editor for Reuters, and General Mark Hertling, he is a CNN military analyst and a former U.S. Army commanding general in Europe. Good to see both of you.

All right, so David, you first. Vice President Pence says he was unaware whether Flynn talked sanctions with the Russian ambassador, but said it is a problem and he's trying to, quote, "get to the bottom of it now." So does that go far enough in your view?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, there's a report that General Flynn and Vice President Pence had a conversation after this news broke. The serious issue here is did Flynn mislead the vice president of the United States about the extent of his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

My contacts with the administration said that Flynn was already not doing very well in his position. Steve Bannon was seen as having much more influence in the White House than General Flynn. So this is a difficult situation for Flynn.

It also brings up all these questions about contacts between the Trump campaign or Trump associates, and Russia along with the Russian hacking during the election. We've got to wait and see. We need to be fair to Flynn, but this is a difficult situation for him.

WHITFIELD: OK, I want you all to listen to what former national security advisor, Tony Blinken, said on the fact that the vice president appeared to rely only on what Flynn told him.


TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: You've got different people saying different things not knowing who they can trust within their own team. That heads to a very difficult place too.


[11:40:05]WHITFIELD: So General Hertling, he says this heads to a very difficult place. Are these problems occurring just because this is a new team and they're learning to work together anew?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Part of it is that, Fredricka, I'm very concerned that in terms of the integrity of the whole thing. When you're talking about a national security advisor who is having communications with others prior to the assumption of office by the new president, that to me is not only unprofessional, but it shows a lack of respect for the office of the president, no matter who the president is.

But then you have the integrity issue. If you're not taking notes, if you're not recording calls, which is something the NSA has to do, key components of any conversations in any foreign governments have to be written down. You have to maintain the ability to record these things.

WHITFIELD: But even the case before swearing in?

HERTLING: Yes. Before swearing in. This is the problem. Mike Flynn came up in an organization in the Army that has a command that when you're about to take command of an organization, you don't take command until you take command. The same thing exists in political offices.

You don't assume the office of the president until you assume the office the president and until Mike Pence and others on the staff raised their hand and take the oath. So he was interfering with just talking with the Russian ambassador during this period.

But then the integrity crisis comes when he tells people what happened and then can't remember what happened, but then I'd go one step further, Fredricka. This has to be about who controls the information that is about to go to the president and the vice president.

And the rigor and discipline that is involved in that controlling of information. Mike Flynn is the guy as the NSA who's whispering in their ear and then --

WHITFIELD: We just lost General Hertling's connection there. We'll try to get that back. David, at least you're with me. Quickly, let's talk about Ed Snowden and reportedly whether Russia would want him to return to the U.S. and how this Trump administration might handle that if that were to be the case. What do you know?

ROHDE: There are reports -- it's clearly important for President Putin to have better relations for the U.S. A colleague and I at Reuters, you know, broke a story this week about how in their first phone call between President Trump and President Putin, Putin was interested in negotiating the main U.S. nuclear weapons agreement with Russia and Trump said no he didn't want to do that.

So this offering of Snowden could be an effort to get better treatment from the Trump administration. The problem for Trump and this relates to General Flynn is these questions and Democrats, you know, for political reasons are going to keep questioning was there secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Again, the U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia intervened in the election. Released these e-mails to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. So releasing Snowden and handing him over to the U.S. might help, but does Donald Trump want to reduce these sanctions, which will lead to all these questions about why is he potentially favoring Russia.

WHITFIELD: All right, all very complicated. That's just the tip of the iceberg too. All right, David Rohde, thank you so much. General Hertling, sorry we lost the connection, but thanks to him as well. We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Now to a CNN exclusive, new information about the ongoing investigation into allegations raised in a collection of memos created by a former British intelligence agent for political opponents of then Candidate Donald Trump. Here is CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Fred, for the first time U.S. investigators tell CNN that they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent. CNN was the first to report last month that then President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the memos prior to the inauguration.

Until now, U.S. officials have said that none of the content or allegations have been verified. But now multiple current and former U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials tells CNN that intelligence intercepts of foreign nationals confirmed that some of those conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals, the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.

That corroboration based on intercepted communications has given U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, quote, "greater confidence" in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continued to actively investigate its contents these sources say.

We should be clear that CNN has not confirmed the content of the calls or whether any of the content relates to then Candidate Trump and we should be clear none of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations of the dossier.

When reached for comment this afternoon, White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said, quote, "We continue to be disgusted by CNN's fake news reporting," end quote.

The spokesman for the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reached by CNN had no comment. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals.

One thing the U.S. has is a collection of foreign call intercepts. They use that information to seek to verify some of the alleged conversations described in the dossier.

U.S. intelligence officials emphasize that the conversations they now verified were solely between foreign nationals including those in or tied to the Russian government.

But some of the individuals involved in the intercepted communications were known to U.S. intelligence community as, quote, "heavily involved in collecting information damaging to Hillary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. Emotional reunions happening across the country right now. Now that President Trump's travel ban is stalled. Straight ahead, a father meets his child for the first.


[11:50:01]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daughter can't even recognize me. First time I'm seeing her.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Live pictures right now, town halls happening across the country. This one in Newport Richie, Florida. This gentleman actually talking about wanting to see more involvement of U.S. Congress to help underscore the importance of the separation of powers.

We're continuing to monitor all of these town halls taking place all across the country and we'll have a live report at the top of the hour, but first, now that federal judge has suspended President Trump's travel ban, some refugees entering the country are experiencing emotional reunions with loved ones.

CNN's Kyung Lah has a heartfelt homecoming of a father meeting his 2-year-old daughter for the first time.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This walk is three years in the making. Teslene (ph) is about to meet her father for the very first time. Her mother finally reuniting after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals again blocked the travel ban. Refugees like her father are now landing in America.

It's a reunion that almost didn't happen. (Inaudible) learned her husband's refugee entry was canceled. Trump's executive order slammed the door shut, halting all refugee entries for 120 days. The last time she saw her husband was in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, both had fled the bloody war in Somalia.

[11:55:10](on camera): You were pregnant at the time?


LAH (voice-over): The U.S. refugee resettlement program brought her to Salt Lake City, where she gave birth to Teslene (ph). Just this year, her husband was finally cleared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the order came out, all those cases were canceled.

LAH: Aidan Batar (ph), once a refugee himself, is with Catholic Community Services resettling refugees. Sixty nine refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, and African nations had entries canceled into Utah but then, a 180, just days later, a federal judge suspended the ban.

Written in erasable ink on this write board, the name of her husband. Today, she has only a few more steps left. This family now complete the 2-year-old, her father is a stranger. She'll learn her father has been living in an Ethiopian refugee camp for more than 20 years.

He's only known life as a refugee. A three-year separation from his family, awful, but this new dad says he'll get to know the daughter he's holding for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time I'm seeing her. I want to send a message to the American government and President Trump, he needs to look in a humanitarian way and also in lovely way because refugees have fled their country and don't have anywhere to go back to.

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Salt Lake City, Utah.


WHITFIELD: And we'll have much more on the fight over the travel ban and possibility of a new order from the Trump administration. Straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.