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Trump Adviser Repeats Debunked Voter Fraud Claims; Is President Trump Eyeing a Senior Staff Shakeup?; Trump Faces Test Over North Korea Missile Launch; Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 13, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Writer at PolitiFact that has looked at this as well.

Professor Herron, let me start with you. Can you just give us the headline? You did a research -- you did the research through Dartmouth of whether or not the president and his team's claims of vast voter fraud is true. What did you find?

MICHAEL C. HERRON, VISITING SCHOLAR, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, DARTMOUTH UNIVERSITY: My -- the study that I did with my Dartmouth colleagues was done before the New Hampshire allegations. The quick summary is that we looked all over the country for evidence of widespread voter fraud and we didn't find any evidence of it.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What does that mean, though? Because, you know, this is the conversation we're having right now. What you just said is perfectly plain. But within the context of this, it still needs further clarification. The president said three million to five million people voted illegally. They all voted for Hillary Clinton and that's why I lost.

CAMEROTA: In California alone.

CUOMO: In California. And now there's a subset of theories about how non-legal citizens there are able to get drivers' licenses. Maybe as many as 800,000 of them. And if you have a license you can register to vote. And they can all register to vote even though they're not legal. Did you find any substance to any of that?

HERRON: Well, we didn't look explicitly at drivers' licenses but what we did is we looked at measures of how -- measures of the extent to which we cannot explain Trump's vote share. Think of this as sort of a measure of how many votes Trump got compared to how many we think we should have got and we -- the difference between those two amounts is a measure of how much we don't know. We looked to see whether these unexplained Trump differences vary are large in places where there are lots of noncitizens, for example.


HERRON: And we didn't find that. You would expect if noncitizens were heavily voting, say, against Trump that we would find that he did really badly all things equal in places where lots of noncitizens live and we didn't find that. CAMEROTA: You know, John, I think that part of the confusion or at

least I think what the Trump team has fastened on, is that there are studies that show that the voter registration rolls are sloppy or out of date. Some people move, they don't alert their previous local voting authorities that they have moved. Is there any connection between voter registration problems and voter fraud?

JON GREENBERG, POLITIFACT STAFF WRITER: No, there isn't. What you do find is yes, people move as you said, including people in Trump's inner circle, including in his family. They move. They don't cancel their registration in one state and they register in another. That is such a far cry from actual voter fraud. It is an issue, though. and people like the Pew Research Center have put a lot of money and effort into studying this and suggesting ways to improve it but that does not add up to voter fraud.

Interestingly, whenever people in the Trump administration happens they do as you say point to why they think voter fraud happens, they do, as you say, point to the studies that show that our registries are sloppy. They're not the same thing.


CUOMO: Well, you have the Kansas attorney general who's done his own research and brought some cases. The problem with any propaganda is that --


CUOMO: Yes. There's a little -- there's problems every election we have. Everybody knows this who's been around politics. You have people and allegations of fraud and of wrongful voting and illegal voting. But it's about the scale here, another number that came up that's coming up a lot, Jon, is 14 percent of all noncitizens in this country are registered to vote. We heard it from Stephen Miller yesterday. We heard it from one of Trump's kids. You've looked at that claim. What's the truth?

GREENBERG: The truth is, is that that number comes from a study that has been widely discredited. It was based on certain statistical assumptions that have been I would say shredded by other political scientists and in fact those reputations have shown up in the peer reviewed journal that the original article appeared in. So we do not have a solid number there, and I would only draw people's attention to the fact that we can't only rely just on studies and such as we're talking about right now.

The reality is, is that there are a lot of eyes on this issue as voting takes place in the months afterwards. There's a whole set of processes in place so that if massive fraud were to have occurred, you would have spotted it through many means.

CAMEROTA: Jon Greenberg, Professor Herron, thank you very much for giving us the facts about this.

[07:35:05] We can't repeat it enough. We appreciate your being here with us.

CUOMO: Some of President Trump's senior staff have had a rocky start. Who's on the rise, who may be on the outs. We're going to explore with Michael Smerconish.


CUOMO: President Trump is facing increasing pressure to do something about his National Security adviser Michael Flynn, the three-star general, after revelations that he talked to Russia about sanctions before he took office. And the White House press secretary continues to be lampooned on "SNL" over his combative style. That's less of a concern on an existential level.

Is the president eyeing a shakeup with senior staff? Let's discuss with Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."

Mike, great to have you. The issue with Flynn isn't going to necessarily be a legal one. The Logan Act, we can talk about all day, it's not a practical approach to this issue. But telling the truth is. And if this transcript that we know exists is made public and reveals that Flynn wasn't telling the truth about what he did to the vice president, to the staff or just to the media, how big an issue?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": Big issue. It's a voracity issue. It's a loyalty issue. It's also a commonsense issue, right? Because wouldn't you think that someone with his experience and understanding of national security would have known that there would be transcripts, and so that if he were to convey to the vice president or to say publicly or to tell the president that this wasn't a subject matter in his conversation with the Russian ambassador, that that would be belied at some point by a leak of just this kind.

[07:40:10] That "Washington Post" story had nine different sources or so it said.

CAMEROTA: Here's a list, Michael -- we'll put it up for our viewers -- of some of the top power players in Mr. Trump's Cabinet and around him, his advisers, the people who have his ear. And some of them are beleaguered at the moment. You know, people are wondering if Sean Spicer can find his footing. Obviously what's going on with Michael Flynn. Kellyanne Conway has had some missteps. And, you know, all of these palace intrigue, I don't think that, you know, Mr. Trump's big supporters and voters in the heartland necessarily care who is up, who is down, but it is very important and interesting to look at who has his ear, who he is trusting most right now.

SMERCONISH: I think, Alisyn, that it was inevitable. What's missing from that list? What's missing from that list is White House experience. What's missing from that list is David Gergen. Who's the Gergen who has served a variety of presidents in the White House itself? These are individuals who all have political stripes of varying degree. I mean, Reince Priebus is a great example of that. But where is the executive experience in administering the different branches of government and all the different regulatory agencies and I think that's caught up with them. So that's number one. Lack of White House experience.

Number two, by design and I said this the day that it was announced that both Reince Priebus would play the role that he's playing of chief of staff and that Steve Bannon would play the role of senior adviser. I think that was destined to bring about conflict between the two of them. And third, speaking of conflict, you have a president of the United States who thrives on personality conflict. Just look at his Twitter feed. So the combination of those three things I think is a witch's brew of some problems administratively.

CAMEROTA: Michael, one more thing that I think is missing from our own power list, power player's list there, and that is the influence of Ivanka. I saw something on the schedule today that jumped out at me as showing Ivanka's fingerprints all over it. He's having the first major bilateral visit with a -- with, you know, the prime minister of --

CUOMO: Trudeau.

CAMEROTA: Trudeau. And for the first time in a meeting such as this they will be having a working lunch, I believe, or at least a meeting about women in the work place. And they're inviting all of these female CEOs. That has Ivanka's signature written all over it so she is playing a role, we don't know how major, in what her father is doing.

CUOMO: Not enough to keep her husband from getting boxed out of the executive order, though.

CAMEROTA: But still they think that he will play a role in her husband in the Middle East.

CUOMO: But we haven't seen it. He was supposed to be a big player by all accounts. Mike, what is your take? With that Bannon boxed him out on the executive order. There's that story going around that it happened on a religious day that they've rolled out the order.


CAMEROTA: So Jared couldn't be involved. Many say that's a cover story. That Jared was just boxed out.

SMERCONISH: Well, I think when Prime Minister Netanyahu arrives on Wednesday we're going to see the extent of Jared Kushner's influence. To Alisyn's point about Ivanka, I would say blood is thicker than water. He trusts his family. There's no surprise there. But when you run against a machine, when you run against the establishment as he did you are limiting the pool of individuals you can bring in the government and so while we're talking about the turbulent nature of these first days of the Trump administration, you have to ask the question of to whom could they go if they were to bring in some new folks? And by definition many of the usual suspects, the David Gergens, are out of the equation. That's a problem.

CAMEROTA: So who is your David -- who's your dream David Gergen?

SMERCONISH: Probably David Gergen.


SMERCONISH: I don't have one -- I don't have one in mind. But there's just not that -- you know, Ken Duberstein.

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: Play this role for -- and Fred Fielding in a different era as White House counsel play that role. The experienced hand who's got the stripes, who know -- you know, the Dennis McDonough type you need in that White House as a stabilizing force.

CUOMO: It's hard to get one, though, when those people can't depend on consistency from the top. They don't want to set themselves up for failure.

I got a gift for you before you go. Check out a 1924 law today. A congressman from New Jersey named Bill Pascrell is pushing it that allows the Ways and Means Committee to look at IRS tax data.

CAMEROTA: Wow. That's quite a gift, Michael.

CUOMO: I'll tell you why.

CAMEROTA: That is a booby prize.

CUOMO: And here's why. It could be the law that allows Congress to get Trump's taxes.


CUOMO: That's why.

CAMEROTA: That's your consolation prize.

CUOMO: Look it up. Look in that part. You'll use it on your show, I guarantee.

CAMEROTA: Take your parting gifts, Michael. We'll see you later.

SMERCONISH: I will do it. Thank you.


CUOMO: I'm tell you, it's a big one. It's how they got Nixon's taxes, it's how they get to look at these. It's a law that exists.

CAMEROTA: I would thought jewelry or something delicious.

CUOMO: Oh, this is what Mike enjoys, you know.

[07:45:03] CAMEROTA: President Trump revealing a new approach to foreign policy, appearing to abandon the go-it-alone strategy he discussed as a candidate. What's behind the change? We have former deputy of State, Tony Blinken, here to tell us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Interesting development. Russia is sounding the alarm saying ISIS may be looking to do more damage to the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. The Defense Ministry saying a drone relayed images showing stepped-up truck activity in the area. Officials say it is proof ISIS wants to damage the region's historic relics. The warning suggests ISIS would use explosives to destroy as much as it can.

CAMEROTA: Starting today Verizon customers can get an unlimited data plan. This will run you about $80 per month. The introductory plan includes up to 10 gigabytes of mobile hot spot usage. It will allow customers to stream unlimited HD video.

CUOMO: United Airlines is looking for answers after a pilot boarded a flight wearing street clothes in Austin, Texas, and then went on a rant. Passengers say she spoke about her divorce and the presidential election among other issues. It was all done over the intercom. Many aboard the plane took this as a cue to get off the flight. Some wishing the pilot gets the help she needs.

[07:50:08] CAMEROTA: Well, the U.N. Security Council is meeting to discuss North Korea's missile launch over the weekend. How will President Trump handle this international crisis and is his foreign policy shifting now that he is in the Oval Office?

Here to discuss is CNN global affairs analyst Tony Blinken. He was deputy secretary of State under President Obama.

Tony, just help us understand what happens. You get word that North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has launched a test missile. What happens in the White House?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, Alisyn, this is nothing new. This is North Korea on a relentless course over the last year or so to improve, perfect its missile and nuclear program. This is the 25th missile test over the last year. There have been two nuclear tests. And the qualitative threat is growing every single day. They're getting closer to the day when they can put a nuclear weapon on the intercontinental ballistic missile and actually hit the United States.


BLINKEN: So the administration needs to look at its approach here and do it quickly.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And what is that, Tony? I mean, what should their approach be now?

BLINKEN: So two things. Over the last eight years under President Obama, we did two things. We relentlessly built up our defenses in the area. In South Korea, in Japan, throughout the region, putting a missile defense. And so speeding up the deployment of additional missile defense systems would make a good deal of sense. Second, there has to be an unrelenting sustained pressure campaign against North Korea to force a choice on North Korea, to decide to move away from testing, to get back to the table to negotiate.

And this is where China comes in. China has more influence on North Korea, more leverage on North Korea than any country given the trading relationship between the two. And President Trump's change of course last week was a good thing, that is getting back to a better place with China, moving away from the confrontation that he started over this issue that's so important to China, that is Taiwan and the so- called "One China" policy.

This now creates an opportunity for the president to try to work with China to exert pressure on North Korea to get it back to the table.

CAMEROTA: As we have been reporting, this -- the word of this missile launch came during dinner that President Trump was having with the leader of Japan, President Abe, and that's interesting because President Trump has sort of changed his rhetoric about Japan. So, as you'll remember, during the campaign, he had said, well, it could be very well that Japan will have to protect themselves.

BLINKEN: Well, you know --

CAMEROTA: They may have to have their own, you know, weapons or even nuclear weapons. They may have to go it alone. The United States can't be the policeman, you know, basically for everybody. I'm paraphrasing. But then here is what he said -- I'll play it for you -- on Saturday from Palm Beach.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.


CAMEROTA: All right. That happened at 10:30 at night on Saturday. That's how important President Trump felt it was to make that statement.

BLINKEN: Well, you know, Alisyn, the president's remarks, his meeting with Abe, that's welcomed. And it's an important about-face and a good one. The solidarity with Japan, with South Korea, our closest allies and partners in the region, is vital to our own security, and especially when you have this threat that continues to grow from North Korea. It's important that we be in lockstep with the Japanese, with the South Koreans. And working with China to confront the threat. So to the extent the president has made a real change from where he was during the campaign and in the early days of his presidency, that's a positive development.

CAMEROTA: You were talking about China and how you'll have to use -- the White House will have to use the leverage of China to help with North Korea. It's confusing because Steve Bannon, one of the top advisers to President Trump, has said some things that have been seen as aggressive, certainly not conciliatory, on China almost a year ago. Here is what Steve Bannon said in a Breitbart interview about what will happen in the South China Sea. Listen to this.


STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: We're going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren't we? There's no doubt about it. They're -- they're taking the sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States and in front of your face, and you understand how much important is, and say it's an ancient territorial sea.


CAMEROTA: That might have been bluster back then, almost a year ago, but what does that tell you about moving forward now?

BLINKEN: Well, I'd say, Alisyn, first, you know, reality has a way of intruding. And when you become president, when all of these problems start to come at you, you realize you have to deal with them and you have to deal with them with partners and allies. And sometimes those partners, like China, you've got profound differences on other issues, including things like the South China Sea. But when it comes to North Korea, we have to find ways to work together.

[07:55:04] That's the only way to effectively confront the threat posed by North Korea's missile program, its nuclear program. So I -- I think, at least I hope, that this is the administration adjusting to that reality.

CAMEROTA: Today we're going to see President Trump meet with prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. How do you think this is going to go? Because they are not necessarily completely philosophically aligned or tight allies. So what are we going to see?

BLINKEN: Well, you know, I think they're going to put a good face on it. And the relationship is so important to both of us. Our number one trading partner. One of our closest partners around the world. But, look, there are real differences. The starkest one recently, of course, is on immigration. We've been trying to shut the door through the administration on immigration and refugees, Canada is one of the most welcoming countries in the world.

It's not only the right thing to do, it's actually the smart thing to do. You know, if you look at our own country, something like 40 percent of the Fortune 400 companies in this country were created by immigrants. Half of the startups in Silicon Valley created by immigrants. Half of the companies valued at a billion dollars or more, created by immigrants.

We don't want to be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Canada is being smart about it in having this welcoming environment and is also doing the right thing.

CAMEROTA: So immigrants, as business leaders, that's an interesting topic. Also women as business leaders. And what jumped out at me from their schedule today is they're going to be having this roundtable discussion with female CEOs about women's role in the workplace, how to get more equity, how to make life easier for women in the workplace. It's the first time, I believe, that a sort of major bilateral meeting has included this topic. I couldn't help but think that this means that Ivanka Trump is sort of influencing foreign relations.

BLINKEN: That's a welcome development. And I think it's an important opportunity, a good thing to be talking about. This is where there could be a lot of -- very much a common denominator. And to the extent that's going to be one of the important parts of the agenda, that's a good thing. I think you see Ivanka Trump pushing that agenda. One of her top advisers, the president's top advisers, Dina Powell, coming from Wall Street where she worked very hard on programs to empower women. That would be a very positive agenda for the administration.

CAMEROTA: Tony Blinken, thank you very much. Always great to talk to you and get your insights.

BLINKEN: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


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

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those conversations had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I don't think you would want a guy who would forget that.

TRUMP: Defending against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat I consider a very high priority.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: North Korea is testing President Trump.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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.


CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY, it is Monday, February 13th. 8:00 in the East.

Is President Donald Trump's National Security adviser on thin ice? White House officials dodging repeated chances to defend General Flynn after reports that he discussed sanctions with a Russian ambassador before President Trump took office.

CUOMO: The president also facing a test about how he responds to adversaries like North Korea and Russia. There's a growing list of challenges for Mr. Trump on just day 25 of his presidency.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I think you can say it's a bit of uncertainty here at the White House as this new administration tries to work its way through a number of controversies including questions of confidence, questions of trust involving one of the president's most important advisers.


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

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: Does the president still have confidence in his National Security adviser?

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure against Russia.

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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know about it. I haven't seen it. What report is that? I'll look at 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 --