Return to Transcripts main page


Evacuations Over Dam Threat; Undocumented Immigrants Arrested; SNL Spoofs Trump Administration; Trump on North Korean Missile Launch. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 13, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:54] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. Great to see you this morning.

This morning, a huge evacuation underway in California. We're talking nearly 200,000 people ordered to move to safer ground.


BERMAN: There are fears this morning about the integrity of the tallest dam in the country.

HARLOW: The water right now is racing down the dam's spillway at twice the normal rate. This is all happening in Oroville, California, just 75 miles north of Sacramento.

Our Paul Vercammen is there.

What does this mean realistically for all of the folks, as John mentioned, 200,000 people potentially impacted by this? Where are they trying to get the water level to so everyone is safe?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy and John, as this water level rose and then began to spill over both the first spillway and then a backup spillway, they're trying to get it down about 50 feet. The issue, of course, heavy rains here and snowmelt putting pressure on the dam. They needed those spillways, but there is a breach in the earthen spillway, the backup spillway.

And you can see behind me, heavy lifting with heavy equipment. They are breaking up rocks, putting them in bags and those rocks are going to go into the breach. The big fear, of course, that somehow, some way, we would have a major breach here and we would have catastrophic flooding along the Feather River, and that's why these cities, Oroville, Yuba City, Maryville, all evacuated. Eerie in the pre-dawn blackness as you went through these cities. There were no souls out there. Gas stations had a tremendous run on gasoline. Some of them running out. And some officers on the ground describing this as chaotic and frantic as these people underwent mandatory evacuations. Now engineers believe they'll get a better sense of things when the

sun comes up here and they can look at the progress being made, or not made, on this backup spillway. They say they're cautiously optimistic right now, but they know that possibly their hopes could be dashed.

Poppy. John.

BERMAN: You know, Paul, we're talking about nearly 200,000 people. Are they all getting out? Do they all have somewhere to go? That's a lot of folks.

VERCAMMEN: Oh, and that's why they described it as chaos and frantic. Yes, that we could see, they were gone. These cities were evacuated. There was some confusion. There were stragglers who weren't sure that it was mandatory for them. But, yes, they went - most of them, I believe, either towards Sacramento or up towards Chico, California.

BERMAN: All right, Paul Vercammen for us near that dam in California. We will watch that carefully as the sun comes up, will they get a better look at exactly how much damage there is.

All right, blizzard-like conditions hitting the East Coast this morning. Tough driving in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You know what, probably a good idea not to try to drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


BERMAN: About 12.5 million people are under winter storm warnings. This is the second time it's been the case in less than a week up there. Schools closed today again in Boston. You just don't go to school anymore in Boston. They could get ten inches of new snow there. In Maine, they're thinking about a foot of fresh powder, which should be nice I suppose at Sugarloaf.


BERMAN: Still to come, hundreds arrested, dozens deported. Undocumented immigrants reportedly targeted in raids across the country.


[09:39:18] HARLOW: Hundreds are arrested in raids targeting undocumented immigrants. This morning we are expecting new numbers from I.C.E. on just how many people were arrested over the weekend in these raids. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stepping up action nationwide, conducting these raids in at least 12 states.

BERMAN: The secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, says they were not rounding people up. He said they were focusing on criminals. Still, some Democrats and activists are raising concerns.

Want to talk about this with the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, Alfonso Aguilar. He's also a former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship.

And, Alfonso, we should note, you've had a roller coaster relationship with President Trump.


BERMAN: You were supportive of him and then you pulled your support after his big immigration speech. You got back on board during the transition, saying you were more or less supportive. That's sort of the context. We can talk more about that in a bit.

[09:40:03] But I want to talk about these raids right now. I think there's broad agreement on both sides of the aisle that targeting violent criminals who are in the country illegally, that's good. President Obama did that. Republicans and Democrats support that.

AGUILAR: Of course.

BERMAN: But if these raids are going after people who aren't violent criminals, who perhaps have no criminal record other than being in the United States illegally, are you OK with that?

AGUILAR: No, but I think these raids are the same type of raids that were being conducted under the Obama administration. The evidence that we have so far is that the mass majority of the people detained were people with serious criminal records. In southern California, for example, of about 161 people that were detained, only ten had no criminal record. And it happens because when you do these type of trades, sometimes you end up detaining a few people who have no criminal record and pose no threat to the security of the community.

But this was - these were not indiscriminate raids. They were very well planned, focusing, targeting people with criminal records. So I'm a little baffled by the left now trying to make this - trying to say that, you know, this is the beginning of some sort of massive deportation. This is exactly what happened under the Obama administration. And I understand that people have fear. It's understandable. When these surges happen, they happen from time to time. But I think the fear's being exacerbated by the left and Democrats who are using this issue for political gain, you know, basically spreading false rumor that there are checkpoints, that they're going house to house. That's all a lie. Enough with using immigration for political purposes.

HARLOW: Look - and if you look at just the numbers, I mean under President Obama, far more people were departed from this country than under his predecessor.

AGUILAR: Of course.

HARLOW: La Raza, a Latino advocacy group, named him, you know, deporter in chief. Some people, activists included, are pointing to a woman named Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos -


HARLOW: Who came to the U.S. as a teenager, was arrested in 2008, convicted of a felony of criminal impersonation -


HARLOW: For using a fake Social Security Number, but had these check- ins every year since 2008, was told to self-deport, did not.


HARLOW: As a mother of kids born in this country. As one of the people who was - who was targeted in this raid, for - are you saying some of those things are going to happen and it's acceptable to a certain extent?

AGUILAR: Sadly, because we have a dysfunctional immigration system, this is going to happen. This situation with Guadalupe Garcia, it is sad and, you know, it shouldn't happen. But, again, there were instances like that during the Obama administration.

I would be concerned if this were to happen every day, but it's not happening every day. However, I'm concerned that some in the media are really taking it out of context and trying to give the impression that this is happening every day. Again, there's a political narrative behind this, and the sad thing is that the victims are folks in the immigrant community, the Hispanic community, who are really fearful because of what they're hearing from Democrats and hearing from some in Spanish language media and in some media outlets.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, we're trying to report the facts here. We're not saying it's happening every day. There's only been 23, 24, 25 days of the administration. So there aren't that many days for it to have taken place. We're just trying to understand what is going on here.

You do agree that the executive order that the president signed early on did indicate that he may broaden the scope of people intentionally who would be affected in these types of operations?

AGUILAR: Well, yes, but very specifically to those who have committed fraud or impersonated, using a false identity. Look, the majority - yes, there are many -

HARLOW: Well - well - well, then, sir, just to be clear, then Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos would fall under that category because she did use a fake Social Security Card.

AGUILAR: Yes. Yes. But to clarify - but sadly she had been convicted about it. I mean I don't think we can say that that committing fraud, using a fake Social Security Number is something that we want to encourage. However, the - yes, many undocumented immigrants use false documents, fraudulent documents, but they haven't been convicted for it. In her case, sadly, she had been convicted and that's what happens because we have a dysfunctional system. But - but, you know, we don't want to encourage people using other people's Social Security Numbers or just using fake documents. I mean that's illegal. But the majority of people that are using those documents haven't been convicted.

BERMAN: Can we get you on one last subject before we let you go.


BERMAN: Reuters is reporting that DHS is estimating the cost of the border wall with Mexico that the president wants to build is - is $21 billion. Do you think it's worth it?

AGUILAR: Well, I mean, it - yes, if it's in strategic areas, and that's what Mr. Trump has said. It really dissuades people from entering illegally. And in that sense, it saves lives. I mean people make that journey, which is very dangerous. And, look, every time - where - where we have -

[09:45:10] HARLOW: So what about all the tunnels? What about all the tunnels, Mr. Aguilar, that our own Ed Lavandera reported and took us in that are being built underneath it? Worries you?

AGUILAR: Yes. That happens. We've - I've toured the border several times. We started fencing during the Clinton administration. We did fences in San Diego. That's disrupted criminal activity and drug trafficking. They moved to Arizona. We built fencing there in the sector of Huma (ph). That disrupted the criminal activity. Now it's in Texas where we don't have fencing. If we seal the border with fencing in those areas, we will - apprehensions will go down and we would severely disrupt drug trafficking.

HARLOW: All right, Alfonso Aguilera, it's nice to have you on. Thank you. We'll have you back.

Just to note, there are, if you look at the numbers, more Mexican immigrants leaving the U.S. now net-net than there are coming in.

Still to come for us here, "Saturday Night Live" hits a ratings high, but some say it went too low this weekend.


[09:50:30] BERMAN: So what do you do when you pull off perhaps the most talked about press secretary impersonation of all time? You do it again! Melissa McCarthy was back as Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": You know what, I'm looking at the real numbers here and they directly contradict everything that you just -

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS, "SNL": You know what that was? That was me blowing away their dishonesty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "SNL": Yes, just mentally, though, are you OK?

MCCARTHY: Are you kidding me? Are you -

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: You know what my husband said at that point? He said kudos to the engineer who made that (INAUDIBLE) move around the room. The highest ratings in a very long time. Alec Baldwin hosting rating higher than when Donald Trump hosted before he was president, of course. But did it go too far this time around?

With us now, CNN entertainment and media reporter Frank Pallotta.

What do you say, my friend?

FRANK PALLOTTA, CNN ENTERTAINMENT & MEDIA REPORTER: I thought it's getting a little ragged around the edges a little bit. It was a great show and they've had a great season. And the thing about "SNL" this week and throughout this whole season is that Alec and President Trump have kind of made "SNL" great again. People are tuning in in droves.

BERMAN: The thing I liked was Leslie Jones doing her thing where they was trying to be the next Donald Trump. And so many female cast members playing -



BERMAN: You know, men from the administration. I think we have some clips of that. Can we play that?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": Donald? Donald, is this you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": Melania? I mean, yes, darling, it's me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing out there in the cold? Get in.


BERMAN: I mean this seemed to be a response because allegedly Sean Spicer didn't like the fact that he was played by a woman. So what do you do? You have - you have women play everybody.

PALLOTTA: Yes, but not -

HARLOW: Including Jeff Sessions.

PALLOTTA: Yes. Yes. Vanessa Baer (ph) was coming in. And Kate McKinnon is pretty much playing everyone in Washington, D.C. She's playing Sessions. She played Kellyanne Conway, which is better than her Hillary Clinton, in my opinion. And then she came on and did Elizabeth Warren. So she's hitting all of these different spectrums.

HARLOW: When you look at overall what's going to happen, they get a break now, right, like two weeks.

PALLOTTA: About two weeks. HARLOW: You say they're getting tired of, it seems, these political


PALLOTTA: Right. Yes.

HARLOW: I fast forward through everything that's not the politics. How do you think - I mean and look at the ratings. How do you make that argument?

PALLOTTA: Well, the - the point is, is that a lot of people are tuning in for it because it is a political show now. It is - it is must-watch television. And 7.2 was the overnight rating on Saturday. That is the biggest in six years. And it's also bigger than Donald Trump, when he hosted, which got a 6.6 just 15 months ago.

HARLOW: What does that mean for the American - how many people does that mean?

PALLOTTA: That means that about 7 - well, look at this way, Donald Trump -

BERMAN: No one told me there'd be math.


BERMAN: There's math here.

PALLOTTA: There's math. Yes, I feel like Chevy Chase.

Look at this way, when Donald Trump brought in a 6.6, that was about 10 million viewers.


PALLOTTA: So it's a good amount of people for a Saturday night.

HARLOW: More than 10.

BERMAN: So the question is, you know, is it too much? Is it too much Donald Trump? Too much Trump administration all the time? And, you know, is there equal opportunity impersonation? When will they go after Democrats as much or as hard?

PALLOTTA: Well, they did on Saturday night. They went after Elizabeth Warren with Kate McKinnon. She was kind of this like killjoy a little bit. And it was one of her best impressions I've ever seen. And they're really kind of hitting up everybody a little bit. But, eventually, they have to kind of mix it up a little bit. And two weeks is a good amount of time for them to reset and kind of take a breath and see where they can go from here, although it's been a great season.

BERMAN: Also they may get some new material. You never know. Either way, that may provide some new material. You never know.

PALLOTTA: Yes. Oh, yes, (INAUDIBLE) the next two weeks, yes. HARLOW: So if you were a writer on the show, don't leave us and go there, but if you were a writer on the show, I mean, what - what are they missing here? What are you just jonesing to see?

PALLOTTA: It's not so much that they're missing anything, it's that when you get to a point where you can't take away the reality from what's going on on "SNL," it seems as if every week they are just bombarded at the last second with this huge news (ph).

HARLOW: Wasn't it that YouTuber (ph) that got it wrong, by the way -

PALLOTTA: Yes, they're -

HARLOW: They called Alec Baldwin the president.

PALLOTTA: They did. And actually they had a photo of Alec Baldwin as President Trump and then they had to apologize. So reality and fantasy and "SNL" are starting to merge in a various hilarious way.

HARLOW: Indeed.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE). Frank Pallotta, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

PALLOTTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: The next hour of NEWSROOM begins after a quick break.


[09:58:54] HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

National security and job security, as in, does the national security adviser have job security?


BERMAN: A senior administration official says the knives are out for Michael Flynn. The national security advisor is accused of betraying the trust of the administration all the way up to the vice president. White House officials apparently no longer believe Flynn's claims that he did not discuss sanctions with Russia. This before the president was sworn in. And a top aide this weekend very publicly refused to say that Flynn's job is safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House did not give you anything to say other than that on - on General Flynn?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did not give me anything to say. True (ph). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot - so you cannot say whether or not -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Asked - asked and answered, Chuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president still has confidence in his national security advisor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not for me to tell you what's in the president's mind. That's a question for the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well let - let me -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a question for our chief of staff. Asked and answered, Chuck.



HARLOW: This as the Trump administration faces its first foreign policy test from North Korea, which officially launched a missile over the weekend. But the president uncharacteristically quiet in his response. Why the change of course?

[10:00:05] Let's begin this morning with our Joe Johns at the White House.

Good morning.