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Trump's National Security Advisor Under Fire; Powerful Winter Storm slams New England. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 13, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Flynn's comments just add to our concern about the relationship with Russia.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those conversations had nothing whatsoever with those sanctions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think you'd want a guy who would forget that.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Defending against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat. That's considered very high priority.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: North Korea is testing President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are massive numbers of non-citizens in this country who are registered to vote.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Nobody believes that. It's a lie. It's a delusion.

TRUMP: We are going to keep our country safe.

SCHUMER: This executive order is so bad, he ought to just throw it in the trash can.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, February 13, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Up first, the president, Donald Trump's embattled national security advisor. Is he on thin ice? White House officials dodging repeated chances to defend Michael Flynn after reports that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before President Trump took office.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The president is also facing his first foreign policy test. North Korea test-launched a ballistic missile. What will President Trump do to respond to Kim Jong-un? He also has a growing list of challenges. We're on day 25 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House.

Good morning, Joe.


Unsure footing here at the White House this morning as this new administration tries to slog its way through multiple controversies in areas that the president viewed as strong points during the election.


JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, under fire. The White House sidestepping questions about Flynn's future.

CHUCK TODD, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": Does the president still has confidence in his natural security advisor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a question that I think you should ask the president.

JOHNS: A U.S. official confirming that General Flynn did discuss U.S. sanctions with a Russian ambassador before Trump was sworn in. Contradicting denials made by Flynn himself and Vice President Mike Pence.

PENCE: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States decision to expel diplomats or impose a sanction against Russia.

JOHNS: General Flynn on thin ice, despite Trump's refusal to address the firestorm.

TRUMP: I don't know about it. I haven't seen it. What report is that?

JOHNS: A senior administration official telling CNN Flynn has no plans to resign, nor does he expect to be fired.

President Trump facing another big test over the weekend: North Korea firing a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, as the president met with Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, both leaders addressing the launch late Saturday night.

TRUMP: The United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.

JOHNS: Meantime, the Trump administration is weighing their options on his suspended travel ban, which could include writing a new executive order.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: We can appeal the emergency stay to the Supreme Court. We can take our case on bond to the next circuit. We can continue our appeal with the panel or we can return to the district court and have a trial on the merits. All options are on the table.

JOHNS: As fears grow in immigrant communities after hundreds of people in 11 states were arrested last week. This as a White House advisor reignites a conspiracy theory about voter fraud that has been repeatedly debunked without providing any evidence.

MILLER: There are massive numbers of non-citizens in this country who are registered to vote. That's the story we should be talking about, and I am prepared to go on any show, anywhere, any time and repeat it and say the president of the United States is correct 100 percent.


JOHNS: Today the president meets here at the White House with the Canadian prime minister. Among the topics of discussion, NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement, which the president has vowed to renegotiate -- Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: Joe, appreciate. Let's discuss. We have a big panel. We have CNN commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News, Errol Louis; CNN political analyst David Gregory; and CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times," Alex Burns.

Errol Louis, for all the intrigue surrounding Michael Flynn, there is a simple question that will get you to the root of it. Where is the transcript? We know that the communications between Flynn and the Russians were being monitored. It's multiply sourced. There are lots of different communications. They say they have them. There is an answer to whether or not he was discussing sanctions with Russia and how? Do you think we'll see that proof?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think we'll find out whether or not the president thinks we're going to see it. You know, the question here is not just what's in those transcripts, and I assume the president has already seen it. I assume that he and his top advisors were making a decision about what that transcript.

CUOMO: He said he didn't know what report people were asking him about when the Flynn issue came up. What report? I haven't seen it.

LOUIS: Yes, well, you know, the president has the best information network in the entire world. So I assume at some point he's going to find out. If he doesn't know right now, he'll find out a minute from now and then he'll have to make a decision. And I think that's what's going to really sort of tell the story.

And also, I think it can get folded into -- and we've seen him do this with other important issues like his taxes. It does get folded somewhat into this larger question of what went on with the Russians with regard to the election. What kind of connections do they have to Trump, financial and otherwise and political? And how does all of this fit into it?

So this is a sort of an important piece of a much larger puzzle. And if they want to sort of make sure that we don't ever see any of this until the full puzzle is known, it may be awhile before they see those transcripts.

CAMEROTA: David, I think it's interesting to try to determine what is President Trump's breaking point with some of his staff for whom -- to whom he is loyal. The Logan Act that this might have violated is an obscure law rarely used. Why would this be the breaking point for Michael Flynn?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, for a couple of reasons. Look, Stephen Miller, this young aide who was out on the Sunday programs yesterday couldn't have been more emphatic by what he didn't say when he was called on to defend Kellyanne Conway. Boy, he was ready to go.

CAMEROTA: Yes, good point, David. Let me stop you right there, because just so that people know how he deflected, let me play this and then you can make your point.


TODD: Does the president still have confidence in his national security advisor?

MILLER: That's a question that I think you should ask the president. The question you should ask Reince, the chief of staff. I'm here today as a policy advisor, and my focus is on answering the policy questions that you have.

TODD: The White House did not give you anything to say other than that?

MILLER: They did not give me anything to say. It's not for me to tell you what's in the president's mind. That's a question for the president.


GREGORY: By the way, what's so interesting is this is a crowd that doesn't like to do Washington as usual. That was complete Washington textbook, which is let him twist in the wind. By him I mean General Flynn. So they're not defending him. They're obviously talking about what they want to do with him, where, you know, they've defended Kellyanne Conway.

So I think, look, he embarrassed the vice president by setting him out there to say something that wasn't true, and I'm sure the president is loyal to Flynn. You've got other aspects, too. You've got this sort of shadow NSC that's lead by Bannon and Miller that's at work. And you have, I think, a sense that they're really not very organized within the NSC. They don't know what they're doing, especially with a president who tweets all of these -- this incendiary language about foreign affairs.

CUOMO: To inform that position, David Gregory, we've got the "New York Times" here. Let's put up what they wrote about this. "Three weeks into the Trump administration, council staff members get up in the morning and read Trump's tweets and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls. Some staff have turned to encrypted communications to talk to their colleagues after hearing that Mr. Trump's top advisors are considering an 'insider threat' program that could result in monitoring cell phones and e-mails for leaks."

What do you make of that, Alex, in terms of what the daily reality is there versus past administration?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we've seen things like this in past administration. Not quite the National Security Council like this, but you know, that you do get to a point where an administration is politically beleaguered in a bunker mentality, deeply paranoid about leaks. It just usually doesn't happen three weeks after the inauguration. Right?

So what you see here happening at the NSC and other quarters of the Trump administration, is that the president trusts very, very few people. He is surrounded by people who trust very, very few people. They are detached and alienated from the sort of professional bureaucracy, the civil service.

And that's why somebody like Flynn ends up being such a key man in a situation like this. He is the president's conduit to a much larger national security bureaucracy that Donald Trump doesn't particularly have any deep familiarity with. And so, he may be a difficult person for Trump to get of, even in spite of all the pressure he's facing, both within his administration and without.

CAMEROTA: And Earl, ominous things are happening on the world stage, obviously. President Trump was at a dinner with Prime Minister Abe of Japan when he got word that North Korea had launched a test missile. Now what?

LOUIS: Well, now what? Now we see, as we saw that night, that he can sort of make a quick statement and sort of say we stand behind Japan 100 percent.

But this is where a lot of his statements over the course of the campaign now come together, and this gumball that he sort of created where he sort of suggested on the campaign trail, "Well, maybe South Korea should have nuclear weapons. Maybe Japan should have nuclear weapons. I'm going to be so tough on North Korea" and so forth.

Now you have a bad man in North Korea who sort of calls his buff. And there's no sort of comprehensive defense doctrine there. There's no foreign policy team in place. We're not sure how all of this interacts with a very complicated relationship with China that candidate Trump also talked about. We'll pressure China, because they've got influence over North Korea.

These are all questions that were asked throughout the campaign. We never have any comprehensive answers. So it was almost as if there was a pop quiz. And we have a student who really wasn't ready for it. CUOMO: David, you have the U.N. Security Council. You've got its

members there, including the U.S. asking for an emergency meeting. Isn't that the right call?

GREGORY: I think so. I mean, I think this is actually a case of deliberate restraint on the part of the Trump administration. And some good moves all around. You had a president who was restrained, who was standing behind the Japanese leader. I thought being -- creating a joint response. He just did have -- President Trump had a conversation with President Xi in China. There's no question that North Korea must have come up so that you can have a more coordinated response.

And let's be honest. We've had successive administrations who have been bedeviled by North Korea. It's not an easy question. I think there is a feeling that, if this was a medium term missile, this was not quite as provocative. But here was a case where the president kept his powder dry. I think that's important.

[06:10:06] And it underscores the importance of a national security advisor. Because this is the person who coordinates all the information and how it gets to the president and who the president is listening to. And I think that becomes an important question in the administration, given Steve Bannon and Steve Miller and General Flynn, all of whom have some purview over foreign affairs.

CAMEROTA: All right, panel. Stick around if you would. The White House once again renewing false claims of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. Why do the president and his senior advisors keep talking about this but not presenting any evidence? Our panel takes that up next.


CAMEROTA: So the Trump administration over the weekend once again repeating the false claims of widespread voter fraud. The president's senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller claims that thousands of voters were bussed in from Massachusetts to New Hampshire.


[06:15:07] MILLER: I've actually, having worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire, I can tell you this issue of busing voters in to New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who's worked in New Hampshire politics. It's very real. It's very serious. This morning on this show is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence, but I can tell you this. Voter fraud is a serious problem in this country.

CAMEROTA: All right. Let's discuss this and much more with our political panel. We want to bring back Errol Louis, David Gregory and Alex Burns.

Alex, I have heard that urban myth. I mean, I used to cover New Hampshire. I was a reporter in Boston. And there were all these stories about voters being bussed across state lines, liberal voters from Massachusetts coming into New Hampshire. But there's never been any evidence, except for what the former attorney general of New Hampshire, a Republican, just tweeted out recently, in which he said, "Let me be as unequivocal as possible. Allegations of voter fraud in New Hampshire are baseless without any merit. It is shameful to spread these fantasies."

So the people in charge who would be monitoring things like that have never seen the evidence. Why is the White House continuing to beat this drum?

BURNS: Right, Alisyn, I saw that a former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman was offering a $1,000 reward for proof that even one person crossing the border to vote illegally in a New Hampshire election.

Look, I think there's a couple of things going on here. That first, you have just the imperative on behalf of the White House staff to basically cater to the boss. Stephen Miller knows that Donald Trump is watching him on the shows and doesn't want to see him backing away at all from any statement that the president has made. This is what Trump has done over and over as he goes out there on a limb, and then he never comes back.

The second part of this, which is somewhat more concerning to Democrats and moderate Republicans is the prospect that the White House is laying the ground work for a larger reassessment of the way the elections are run in the country. And you have seen this in New Hampshire.

I was talking to the state Senate majority leader last week, who was saying, look, they're planning to do -- to pass some new restrictions on who can vote in elections and what kind of procedures you have to go through in order to vote.

And so when you have these kinds of -- it is a conspiracy theory. It is an urban myth out there. It creates an environment where that kind of crack down is maybe a little bit more possible.

CUOMO: So look, we invited Stephen Miller. He said, "I'll go on any show, any time." We invited him on. He didn't want to come on and test this proposition. We invited Reince Priebus. He didn't want to come on and test this proposition. Errol Louis, isn't the simple answer to why they're doing this. It's because it works. You do have a mess of an election system, with this patchwork of states. The federal government doesn't run the elections. States and localities. You get false counts. You've got wrong registrations. You have every problem that is mentioned. It's just about the degree of the outcome. And nobody can show that there's fraud, but there is a lot of sloppiness. There are lots of problems, and this works for them. That's why they keep it going.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. And I think what Alex suggested is exactly where we're going to end up, which is a lot of this discussion; and these sort of false accusations float around in the air and then that gives different sort of county commissioners and secretaries of state, state legislatures all they need. To say, look, everybody knows there's voter fraud. Everybody knows there's voter fraud, so let's, you know, do around with early voting.

Let's restrict access to the ballot. Let's make it almost impossible to get registered and to stay on the ballot and so forth. You know, the reality is when you've got it done, really, at the county level, you know, and it's obviously, you've got thousands of sort of voter systems that are out there. It actually provides a layer of security. It's not possible to sort of, you know, in a sweeping manner, hack all of the elections everywhere, because there are thousands of different places and volunteers and mixed systems. So it actually provides a level of security that we should not be so quick to dismiss or throw away.

CAMEROTA: David, let's talk about something else that happened last week that got a lot of attention over the weekend, and that is the sweep of undocumented people here. There's a feeling from Democrats that he's stepping it up. There's these widespread raids. This is what his campaign promise was.

And then there's a feeling from the White House of saying no, actually, this -- the raids are not stepped up. However, President Trump does tweet, "The crack-down on illegal criminals is nearly the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers and others are being removed."

Now, we have coming up in the program, the husband of a woman who is none of those things. She's a mother of two. She was brought here as a child, through no choice of her own. She was deported from Arizona to Mexico. So what's going on?

GREGORY: Well, you have an order that's increasingly going to become controversial based on who is kicked out of the country. If there are removal orders that are being enforced that have not been enforced before, it's going to depend on who they are.

[06:20:05] You know, I mean, I don't think Americans are going to object if you have criminals in the country who have been deported and who are still allowed to be here. Felons, violent people, I mean, I think there will be consensus around that. I think when you start getting into the business of children of illegal immigrants and other stories that are more sympathetic, then I think that that's going to hit people differently. And I think we're in the early stages of that.

So the kind of information we get about who's being deported and, you know, the profiles of those people, I think are really going to really kind of move the politics of this, because there's no question that they want to make a tough stand on immigration and something that they follow up on.

CUOMO: There's -- the early reporting on it that this is actually pro forma, that these are the rates they have been doing and, actually, some of the previous rates called more than this latest sweep in effect. This is absolutely the obverse of what we're used to seeing. Usually, the White House makes up these facts, because I guess they're not facts -- they make them up -- and then they say, "We wanted this." This time it's actually happening. They're just owning the status quo.

BURNS: I think the key term that David used was orders being enforced that weren't enforced before and that that would be a big political story, a big policy story.

CUOMO: We don't know...

BURNS: It's not clear that's what we're dealing with here, right? I was actually talking to a fairly prominent Democratic immigration advocate a few weeks ago who was saying look there are going to be a lot of things that happen under the Trump administration that were already happening that really scan in a different way and that disturb people in a different way, because it's the Trump administration. It doesn't mean it's new; it doesn't mean it's different. It may be it may become different, and Trump has promised that he's going to crack down much more aggressively. It's not clear that that's where we are right now.

CUOMO: I thought it was interesting that case they got out of Texas of the woman who was their case study for illegal voting, right, this weekend? So this story comes out that they've got this woman, and she's doing eight years in jail and then getting deported. So you look at who she is, she's not an undocumented person. She was a legal resident here. She's not a citizen, though. So she couldn't vote.

She argued in court she didn't know, but she eventually -- but she eventually checked the box saying she was a citizen. That was the crime. But she was registered GOP and voted for Romney, she says. So it really kind of blew out of the water there, David Gregory. Oh, this is the test case. This is the illegal voter we've been telling you about.

GREGORY: I think we should connect this to what was talking about before. I mean, Stephen Miller was on the rampage yesterday with unverified claims of voter fraud; and one of his big jabs was you have all of these undocumented immigrants who are coming in and voting on our election.

Let's just put the bigger picture here that the White House is painting. You know, he talked about illegal immigrants. He talked about voter fraud. And here's what was interesting. He talked about in defense of the executive order. This is a fight between people that want secure borders of our country and those who want no borders at all. That is a false -- it's a straw man argument. But that's what they're doing in the White House is saying all of these people don't want any borders at all.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, one last note: the Kansas secretary of state has also made this his cause celebre. He talked about it a lot. He has charged nine people. So that is the widespread voter fraud in his state. He charged nine people, and I believe that the majority of them -- well, all of them, I think, are U.S. citizens. And the majority are Republicans. So if you want to dive into this, this is going to be an interesting thing.

CUOMO: That's the guy that Stephen Miller brought up. I told George, "You should have him come on the show" and make his case. We invited him on. We're still trying.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right. So nearly 200,000 people in Northern California were told to evacuate and for good reason. There was this hole -- I mean, that's putting it lightly -- discovered in the nation's largest dam. The threat for the towns downstream, next. Look at that hole. The concern is a 30-foot wall of water that could develop. We'll give you the details.


[06:28:16] CUOMO: Powerful winter storm, slamming New England. Some parts could see blizzard conditions for a second time in less than a week. Schools are closed once again in Boston. CNN meteorologist Jennifer Grey live in Beantown with the latest. How is it, and what's coming?

JENNIFER GREY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Chris, we are expecting those winds to increase. Could see winds of 35, 40 with guests of 55 miles per hour later this afternoon. That's going to be the trouble. Because all yesterday afternoon overnight this big, wet, heavy snow fell, and so it is weighing down on those branches and the power lines. And so when those winds pick up, that's when we're going to possibly see power outages.

Now, as far as snowfall, it's basically wrapping up for portions of Massachusetts. We are expected to see maybe another inch or two here in Boston. But when you factor in those winds this afternoon, it is going to get nasty.

Also, just to our north around Portland, that's where the worst of it is going to be. They could see a foot of snowfall today, with wind gusts of 55, 60 miles per hour. So blizzard-like conditions for hours. And we're also going to see flights disrupted all across New England. Travel. Alisyn, it's going to be treacherous for today.

CAMEROTA: Oh, boy. Good to know. Thank you for the warning, Jennifer. Stay warm.

All right. In California, nearly 200,000 people are under evacuation orders near the Orville Dam. That is the nation's tallest dam. And this is because of damage to an emergency spillway that you'll see in a minute.

This morning, the Butte County sheriff says the damage may not be as bad as officials originally thought. The spillway does have a hole in it. But it is not eroding as fast as they believed it would. Officials say the plan is to use helicopters to drop boulders to plug the hole.

CUOMO: North Korea's aggression presenting the Trump administration with its first foreign policy crisis. What is the president going to do? What is he going to say? Two of our best international correspondents weigh in next.