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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Interview with Senator James Lankford; CNN Learns Border Officials Pushing for a Fence; President Trump to Issue New Immigration Executive Order. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 16, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: -- the time we have. Thanks very much for watching. Our special coverage continues right now with Erin Burnett OutFront.
ERIN BURNETT, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next. We're just trying to manage this bleep. That's how one republican congressman describes Trump's stunning press conference and even Trump's favorite news outlet tonight calling him out tonight. Plus, the president ask a black reporter who set up a meeting with black law makers asking her, are they friends of yours? That reporter OutFront tonight.
And excluseive new details on Trump's great wall this hour. Wait until you hear what it's really going to to look like. Those new details OutFront. Let's go OutFront. Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, breaking news. Trump lashing out. President Trump and a remarkable first solo press conference insisting with little warning to his own staff on taking his own message straight to the people. The president spoke for one hour and 15 minutes.
He actually ranted for 24 minutes before he even took the first question. He said he's made, " incredible progress" in just four weeks. He complained about inheriting a mess from President Obama, but a huge part of the press conference was devoted to just airing his grievances especially against what he calls the very dishonest media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press has become so dishonest. The press honestly is out of control. I turn on the T.V., open the newspaper, and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Fine-tuned machine. Well, one republican lawmaker gave his reaction to the president's performance to us, saying, "we're just trying to manage this bleep." The people that love him will love him more, the people that hate him will hate him more and the people in the middle will probably look at it the way that we look at it in congress which is that it's the new normal. That's just the bleep that happens. Here's the thing. Even Fox News had this to say about it this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It's absolutely crazy. He keeps repeating ridiculous throw-away lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we're some kind of fools for asking the question. Really? No, sir. We are not fools for asking these questions and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was Fox News. Jim Acosta, who had his own remarkable exchange with the president, begins our coverage OutFront at the White House. And Jim, you know, this was stunning. He just woke up this morning and said, you know what, forget you guys, I'm going to go do this myself, one hour and 15 minutes, 24 minutes before he even took the first question. This was a heated news conference.
JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think remarkable is one way to describe it, Erin. That's why you heard the president today say he has directed the justice department to investigate those leaks coming out of his administration to reporters about his campaign's contacts with the Russians during the election. Leaks that were really the basis for stories that the president described today as fake knew, an inconsistency that we pressed the president on during that wild news conference.
TRUMP: to be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad. A mess.
ACOSTA: President Trump launched into his first full news conference of his administration ready for combat with his favorite adversary, the news media, as he battled back against reports his team had contacts with the Russians during the campaign.
TRUMP: Well, I had nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there. I have no anything.
ACOSTA: It took a few tries but the president finally stated that he's not aware of any aides who in touch with Russian operatives.
TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.
ACOSTA: The president also acknowledged the mistakes made by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who was forced out for misleading the administration about his calls with the Russian ambassador before Mr. Trump was sworn into office.
TRUMP: The thing is he didn't tell our vice president properly and then he said he didn't remember, so either way it wasn't very satisfactory to me. And I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position.
ACOSTA: He repeatedly called the reports about his campaign's contacts with the Russians fake news while conceding the leaks were real.
TRUMP: But the leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it. And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.
ACOSTA: A contradiction we tried to clarify.
ACOSTA: It seems that there is a disconnect there if the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?
TRUMP: So the reporting is fake. Look, look -- you know what is? Ok. Here's the thing. The public isn't -- you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved. I'm involved. I've been involved with this stuff all my life. But I'm involved. So I know when you're telling the truth or when you're not. I just see many, many untruthful things.
ACOSTA: This from a president who once said as a candidate that he loved leaks. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.
ACOST: It sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes to leaking if that is something that you encouraged in the campaign.
TRUMP: OK. Fair question. Ready?
ACOSTA: If I may ask you that.
TRUMP: No, no, but are you -- let me do one other thing. Do you mind?
ACOSTA: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: All right. So in one case you're talking about highly classified information. In the other case you're talking about John Podesta saying bad things about the --
ACOSTA: The president repeated that he's determined to repeal Obamacare but on immigration a shift as he indicated a willingness to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to be able to stay in the country. But one area where the president said he's not changing, media critic in chief. Aren't you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people's faith in the first amendment, freedom of the press, the press in this country, when you call stories you don't like fake news? Why not just say it's a story I don't like?
TRUMP: I do that.
ACOSTA: When you call it fake news you're undermining confidence in our news media.
TRUMP: Here's the thing. OK.
ACOSTA: Isn't that important? TRUMP: I understand what you -- and you're right about that except this. See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. Sometimes I'll say wow, that's going to be a great story, and I'll get killed. I know what's bad. I'd be a pretty good reporter, not as good as you, but I know what's good. I know what's bad.
BURNETT: It was a stunning news conference and even as the end of your piece there was just airing Jim Acosta. We do have some new breaking news and this very significant. As we know, General Flynn had -- was fired essentially from his job as national security adviser. Donald Trump offered that job to Vice Admiral Robert Harward, who has turned him down, right? Turned him down at this moment for the national security adviser position?
ACOSTA: Oh, that's right, Erin. We are hearing from sources that retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, who was a candidate to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser, he has turned down that offer so the help-wanted sign is still hanging in the window at the national security adviser's office here at the White House tonight, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim Acosta. I want to get -- so much to talk about this. This news is very significant here, someone turning down the President of the United States for this crucial job of national security adviser. Right now our senior Political Analyst Mark Preston is with me. Also with me, April Ryan with American Urban Radio Network, she was in that press conference today and also with me David Urban, Trump campaign adviser and Julie Pace, chief Washington correspondent for the associated press.
OK. Thanks to all of you. Mark Preston, let me start with you. Vice Admiral Robert Harward was -- is an incredibly respected military leader. He is currently at Lockheed Martin. Had a long and storied career in the navy SEALs. This was -- this was very important for Donald Trump. He had picked him to immediately replace General Flynn and the circumstances of him turning this down are what?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're still trying to find that out right now and find the context of the actual conversation was and why he decided not to accept the offer as we had expect him to do so. But I think we need to take a step back and look at the administration as a whole. This isn't uncommon necessarily. There has been some struggles by the Trump administration to put people that are very experienced into top positions within the White House.
A lot of people don't want to get caught up in the chaos that we've seen in the White House in these first three weeks, four weeks. Perhaps that's why we saw this just happen. But we'll certainly learn more. But it has been a problem for Donald Trump and for him to say that it's a fine-tuned machine right now would be inaccurate.
BURNETT: And Julie, this is a blow to the president. Yes, people turn down jobs but right now at this moment, a president who came out and gave his own press conference today for an hour and 15 minutes to say it's a well-oiled machine or fine-tuned machine, whatever his exact words were, and not chaotic, this is a big blow.
JULIE PACE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT FOR ASSOCIATED PRESS: It is. And particularly because on the national security front you want to be able to show continuity. You want to be able to show a sense of focus, not just to voters in the United States but you want to show that to allies around the world and particularly to America's foes around the world that you have people in these top jobs who are dealing with the world's problems.
And President Trump talks a lot about how he sees a world on fire and yet he's missing someone in this really crucial role, the person who sits in the White House and advises him on national security every single day.
BURNETT: David Urban.
DAVID URBAN, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Yes.
BURNETT: This is not what the president wanted to hear. He thought that he was going to have, Vice Admiral Harward. This is -- this is -- he thought he was going to say yes.
URBAN: Erin, I'm not quite certain what the rationale behind Admiral Harward's decision is, so I think we need to wait and see. I think we shouldn't jump to conclusions and lots of good people have lots of reasons, personal or otherwise, why they don't take jobs in an administration. So, I think we shouldn't jump to any conclusions here about anything.
BURNETT: If it ends up being something that was related to personnel or who he was able to hire or something like that though, David, would that concern you if he somehow didn't feel he had the latitude to do what he need to do and that's why he said no?
URBAN: No, it doesn't concern me, Erin. I think there are -- there are lots of good men and women willing to serve this administration. As you see in the current cabinet picks and folks waiting to get confirmed, lots of top-shelf folks and I'm sure there are other folks in the wings being considered and being vetted this very moment.
BURNETT: Spider Marks joins me, a general who of course knows Admiral Harward. Are you able to fill in any of the blanks here at this moment, Spider?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I would state what you probably have is an incredibly talented guy, Bob Harward, not only has the skillset, he also is very close with the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis which is a really crucial relationship. And I'm certain that was part of the calculus. But I can't, as Dave indicated, I can't speculate as to why he chose not to take the job. And I think you touched on it, Erin, which is primarily, you know, will I have the latitude to build a team that allows me to really be the portal for national security, which is really what you want that the model for the national security adviser as the integrator and a portal into those kinds of discussions so the president has a single point of contact and really is the voice of reason at the 11th hour, if you will
The the last voice that president is going to hear before a decision is being made because of the proximity of the national security adviser not only to the decision-maker of the president, but also the process. So it really is -- it's very early to tell what was going on. But in my mind, like any organization, what we have seen in this first 27-plus days of this administration is there is a lot of white water and a lot of turn.
And I'm sure the Bob will looked at this, Admiral Harward looked at this and he said, look, there's a lot of lot of forming and storming going on right now. I'd love to be able to be a part of this since we get a little further down the road but right now there might have been some speculations. I don't know what those might be but there might have been some speculations that made it untenable for him.
URBAN: Erin, this is David Urban again. I think we shouldn't speculate until we know.
BURNETT: And we're going to be finding out more this hour as we get more information. But of course you have something like this and you have the president earlier today saying the White House is a fine- tuned machine, it does raise some serious questions. It also comes, Julie in the context of General Flynn's departure, the questions about Russia. You heard Fox News, you know, and I played Fox News on purpose. The president coming out slamming the media, he sees Fox News as a friend and ally.
That was Shep Smith on Fox News who saying these questions on Russia are very fair. You had an exchange with the president, a heated exchange with him on these issues on whether anyone from his campaign had contacts with Russia, whether he was aware of that. This of course goes back to General Flynn. Here's how he answered your question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealing so that's one person, but he was dealing, as he should have been --
PACE: During the election?
TRUMP: No. Nobody that I know of.
PACE: So you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?
TRUMP: How many times do I have to answer this question?
PACE: Can you just say yes or no?
TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. Yes. I know you have to get up and ask a question, so important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He was combative, Julie with you.
PACE: He was. He was combative with a lot of us but I think that it's important to note that I was probably the fourth reporter that was trying to just pin down a yes-or-no answer to whether he knew that people who worked on his campaign had been talking to Russia during the course of the election and often when you ask President Trump a question you get an answer that meanders in a lot of different directions and that's what he was doing with a lot of us.
And I think part of that was strategic. We did nail him down eventually to get him to say nobody that he was aware of was talking to the Russians during the campaign, which in some ways is a bit of a lawyerly answer. You often hear people say things like, not to my knowledge, not that I'm aware of, giving them a bit of a distance in case something does comes up later but he was combative and he was -- he was really trying to avoid it appeared answering yes or no on that pretty straightforward question.
BURNETT: And it is a pretty straightforward question. And David, in terms of his tone though and this is part of what stood out, as I'm going to emphasize again. It was 24 minutes before he even took the first question in what was his first solo press conference, right? The whole point of them is taking questions. And the way he was with Julie was similar to how he behaved to many others during the news conference. Here's some examples.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I listen to you during the campaign -- Mr. President --
TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: BBC.
TRUMP: OK. Here's another beauty. I want to find a friendly reporter. Used to say I was -- are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Wait, wait, watch how friendly he is. Go ahead. He said he's going to ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not. It's not. Not a -- not a simple question. Not a fair question. Okay. Sit down. I understand the rest of your question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: David, how does taking this tone help? I mean, even you had Fox News coming out afterward and saying -- criticizing him for his behavior. In fact, Shepard Smith they're calling it crazy?
URBAN: Erin, I don't agree with Shep. This is the president, the same tone the president's taken throughout the campaign. The eight months that I had the privilege of working on the campaign, you saw this tone, the same president, same person at rallies and the press conference across the United States. I don't think his tone has changed, I don't think his message has changed. And as to the -- as to the question as to the real leaks and fake news, I think the president has a point on that. The leaks here are really serious breaches of classified material being leaked to the press and the story, the underlying story in the New York Times, if you read between the lines, there really is -- it's a lot of smoke and no fire.
BURNETT: I will just, you know -- talking about Russia here what we have reported here at CNN is that associates of Donald Trump had constant communication with Russians, some of whom were known as intelligence operatives during the -- throughout the campaign. I can't speak for the New York Times. I'm simply saying what we have reported here at CNN.
URBAN: Correct, Erin. I'm not saying that -- I was talking about the story in the times where, you know, the reporters acknowledge in the very bottom of the story that these contacts may have been actual real business contacts. They can't tell. They can't tell if the folks knew or didn't know whether they were discussing any information with agents of the Russian intelligence. They just can't tell. And so the headline is completely different than the story. So, I agree with the president and real leaks, fake news on this story 100 percent.
BURNETT: Well, I have to say I think they have a lot of questions that they need to answer and if you're having constant communication then you owe it to the American people to explain exactly what that is. But I'm not going to get an argue about it right now. I just -- that happens to be my point of view. April, it wasn't just about Russia though. There were some topics here, they talked about anti- Semitism, he talked about racism. At one point he claimed he is the least racist person. This clearly got this him, his exchange with you is now making some headlines, though, and I want to play it for our viewers in full.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS CORRESPONDENT: Are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as -- are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus --
TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?
RYAN: No, no, no.
TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?
RYAN: I'm just a reporter.
TRUMP: No. Set up the meeting.
RYAN: I know some of them but I'm sure they're watching right now.
TRUMP: Let's go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: So, he says to you, a black journalist, are they friends of
yours, the Black Caucus? Let's just start there for the moment. How did you take that?
RYAN: You know what, Erin, I was really looking for an answer to the question. It's not about me and I'm not going to make it about me. There are issues in the community and the black community that are way bigger than my feelings being hurt or what have you. So, it was about the issues, the questions that I asked and your tape showed a portion of what I had asked. I asked about the historically black colleges and universities. This executive order that he's going to write or sign --
BURNETT: Are you going to include the CB --
RYAN: -- at the end of the month and then also I asked about the black agenda. He said that he wanted to fix urban America, inner cities. And that's what it was about. His answer to that. Then he went into that piece and he started talking about Congressman Elijah Cummings which Congressman Elijah Cummins says, that was not true --
RYAN: You go ahead.
BURNETT: No. I just want to say I -- he did immediately follow up by the way ask for a meeting. He moved to do that very quickly after your exchange.
RYAN: And here's some news for you. Here's some news for you. The White House has reached out to the Congressional Black Caucus and they're trying to set a day and time.
BURNETT: So that's good. That came out of your questioning. But I have to ask you when he said that, he says, you know, I'm the least racist person, and then he's talking to you --
RYAN: That was for the other -- that was for the other -- the anti- Semitic question. That's what he said with that question.
BURNETT: Yes, yes. Absolutely. But he made that statement. Then when he's talking to you as an African-American reporter and he's talking about the CBC and asks you are they friends of yours, I know it's not about you, but did you take that as racist in any way or like light-hearted or how did you take that?
RYAN: Well, Erin, you know, I was sitting there. I could have asked questions on Russia as well. I'm very versed in a lot of things but it's unfortunate that when you see me you see my color. But I'm a journalist and I ask the question and I got an answer, I got his answer. And I, you know -- I just have to do my job. This is what I'm going to be doing for the next four to eight years so I'm just chronicling what he says and it's up to you to report whatever you feel about it.
PRESTON: You know, Erin -- BURNETT: Yes. Go ahead.
PRESTON: Can I just jump in for a little bit because I've known -- I've known April for a very long time and for how she is addressing the situation at this point is very admirable. I do have to stay though when we're talking about tone and I'm not putting -- let these be my words and not April's words, but when you're talking about tone and Donald Trump to sit up there for -- President Trump sit up there for an hour and a half be critical of the tone of the media towards him and then go out and say -- he describes it as hatred, he says, you know, I'm really not a bad person and then he goes on to say, I do get good ratings, you have to admit that, the tone is such, hatred.
The stream of consciousness causes him to have these slip-ups, errors, says things quite frankly that are inappropriate which is when he said to April, you know, is this a -- you know, are they friends of yours. I'm not sure if he would have said that to our own Jim Acosta. Maybe he would have, maybe he wouldn't. But I don't think Donald Trump, let me -- let me say this. I don't think he is a racist and I don't think he's anti-Semitic but I do think that he's reckless in his words and I think that's an example.
BURNETT: David --
RYAN: There may need to be more sensitivity that -- Mark, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But I mean, you know, as a reporter in Washington, 20 years, you're going to know people. I mean, I know people in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. I know people in the Congressional Black Caucus. I also know White Congressional Leaders, I know Congressional Leaders those who are democratic, I know Congressional leaders who are republican. So, I mean, I'm a reporter.
URBAN: Erin, I think -- I think --
BURNETT: David, let me give you -- just give you a chance to response to what April is saying and she is being gracious about it. Also what Mark Preston says.
URBAN: April being incredibly gracious.
BURNETT: And Mark is saying, look, I don't think he's racist but what he's going is at the least reckless. Would you agree?
URBAN: No. I -- no. I think the premise is unfair. April asked a question about the Black Caucus. The president said, hey, do you know the folks of Black Caucus? I'd be happy to set up a -- set up a meeting with them. I mean, It was in response to a question that was posed. Mark's right, if Jim Acosta would ask the question, I think the president would have responded the same way.
BURNETT: Do you think he would have? He would have said (INAUDIBLE)
URBAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BURNETT: Jim Acosta?
URBAN: Yes, of course. Jim Acosta or whoever asked the question. It was a response to a specific question.
BURNETT: Julie, do you think he would he have said it to you?
URBAN: It is -- absolutely, it's not -- it's not a racist question to press.
JULIE: All I'm saying is don't mess with April Ryan. Never mess with April Ryan.
BURNETT: All right. All right. Well, I appreciate it and thank all of you very -- all of you very much. By the way, this Harward story on Admiral Harward turning down the president for the national security adviser position developing at this moment. A friend of Harward's telling CNN he was reluctant to take that job because the White House seems so chaotic. This story developing at the moment. We are going to bring more to you in just a moment.
Thanks to all of you and April, of course I want to make sure everyone to show about your new book. The author of At Mama's Knee: Mothers And Race In Black And White. And OutFront next, breaking news. Law enforcement officials telling CNN Michael Flynn changed his story under questioning by the FBI about Russia. We have the latest details on that and the breaking news on Admiral Harward as nationwide protests over Trump's immigration rates and his border wall, you see those right now tonight.
We have exclusive new details about what the wall could look like and what it will cost. And we're going to talk to the men who weaponized the podium for Saturday Night Live.
BURNETT: Breaking news. Sources telling CNN that Vice Admiral Bob Harward has turned down President Trump's offer as national security adviser. Harward is a former navy SEAL, close to the Defense Secretary James Mattis, senior executive at Lockheed Martin, extensive experience in the Middle East. He was offered the job after General Michael Flynn was asked to resign. Jim Sciutto joins me on the phone with this breaking news.
And Jim, this is not good news for the White House. Harward had thought long and hard about this, had had extensive negotiations with the president and decided no.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm told by people close to him, Erin that this was a difficult decision for him. Duty is supreme for U.S. Service Members, current and former SEALs, Navy SEALs included, duty to the president. To say no to a president is significant. And I'm told and there's some colorful expressions that were used to describe the situation in the White House, since this is a family program, I'm going to -- I'm going to settle on the word chaotic in the White House.
That was a factor. Also lines of command, lines of communication also a factor. But a difficult decision for him. I'm told that he was torn, torn between duty and his impression of chaos in the White House, but that's the latter won out in effect and because of that, that's a problem. If as a president you can't attract that kind of top talent, duty-bound talent to an extremely important position in the White House, it's a problem for the White House.
BURNETT: I mean, it's a very serious problem, Jim. And let me just follow with this question. John King is to follow on your reporting just sending a quote from a senior republican familiar with Admiral Harward's decision, it was a question of clarity regarding the lines of authority. That obviously does lend itself too, he didn't feel he could have the latitude to do what he wanted with whom he wanted in this White House. And that is a very big problem.
SCIUTTO: No question. Listen, going in, it was my understanding that a replacement for Flynn would want to know if he had a direct line to the president. There are concerns about others in the White House inner circle, Steve Bannon included who's making the calls on these kinds of things and that's a major issue here. But beyond that, beyond the lines of communication are clear impressions from people like this that the White House is just having serious problems on these decisions.
Who's making these decisions, what is actually the policy, whether you're talking about troops on the ground in Syria, one or two-state solution in Israel, are you tough on Russia or not tough on Russia? You have contradictory messages. Until those are resolved it's difficult for people like that, like Vice Admiral Harward to make a decision in effect to join the team.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim Sciutto. And I want to go straight now to the Republican Senator James Lankford who sits on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees. I know, sir, you along with all of our colleagues, democrat and republican, want this job filled. It is a crucial job. Let me get your reaction to the news, Vice Admiral Harward turning down the president's offer, Jim Sciutto referring to the word of chaos in the White House as his reasoning. We are a family program so I will simply say according to a friend Harward's, he call the offer a "bleep sandwich." What's your reaction?
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), INTELLIGENCE & HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEES: Yes, obviously, that's all hearsay. You're telling me it's third hand as we get at this point. So, I have no idea with what the actual facts are on them.
This is a position the president is trying to fill. He's got 72 hours so far, and tried to work through the process to be able to fill an incredibly important position. So, am I surprised 72 hours after Flynn resigns that we're still in the process of doing a turn of that? No, I'm not. Is it an incredibly important position? Yes, it is, because this is a person that advises the president directly. This is an inner circle of the White House. And so, I will look forward to seeing that position filled.
Seems the implication seems to be is the White House can't hire good talent when they've had good folks, cabinet officers have been very sharp folks, and they'll be able to finish this out. But 72 hours may be a little quick to turn this around.
BURNETT: It may be but nonetheless, this is who the president wanted for this job. Our reporting is that one of his reasons was that it was chaotic. Senior Republican familiar with Harward's thinking tells our John King and I quote, let me read it to you, Senator, "It was a question of clarity regarding the lines of authority. I wouldn't call it a disagreement as much as questions that could not be resolved to his comfort level."
You heard Jim Sciutto talking about that. These are serious things.
LANKFORD: Yes, they're serious statements but again, the facts will all come out in the days ahead. It seems a little early to do the speculation based on some hearsay there. So, we'll see how it all comes out and what the actual statements are from him in the days ahead.
BURNETT: It does raise questions about what Donald Trump said today, though, in his first solo press conference as president of the United States, Senator. He was asked about his administration and how it was running. And here's how he answered that question today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos. Chaos.
Yet, it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Fine-tuned machine today from the president. You're hearing now from Harward. You're obviously, you yourself, have an opinion. Do you agree, is this a fine-tuned machine, this White House?
LANKFORD: Yes, I'd say when I call the White House and be able to ask a question, I get connected to somebody, if they don't have that position filled yet, then they can connect me to the right person to get the answer for it. They're still hiring a lot of people. You know, there's been a very, very slow process, dragging their heels in to be able to put cabinet officials in.
So, this very long, in fact, historically long process of trying to get cabinet officials nominated has been very painful. That's not the president that's done that. That's been the other side of the aisle slowing the process down. That slows down people from getting into agencies who then advise the White House to be able to take it on from there. So, there are a lot of factors in it. But the beginning of every
White House, as you know well, are at it a long time. There's a bit of chaos at the beginning of every White House, as everybody trying to unpack, figure out who makes the call, what they do next and where it moves from there.
BURNETT: But to you, this is within the realm of normal, this is not abnormal, where the president was today is not abnormal? There is no chaos, that's where you stand?
LANKFORD: I would say it's normal chaos. It's always chaotic on that. I wouldn't say there's no chaos. I would say it's normal chaos and the organization of trying to get everyone on board. And I can't speak to the press conference today. I was working throughout the course of the day and didn't see the press conference.
But I would tell you, I'm not surprised by things still getting organized. If you go back eight years, if you go back 16 years, you'll find the early days of every White House getting organized, you'll find people coming and going go at the earliest days. There -- that's just the turn of everything getting started.
BURNETT: So, you know, just trying to understand where this stands, though, with the president of the United States. He talked today about his frustration. You heard him say he sees the stories of chaos. He also ranted about leaks. He said the leakers are the criminals. That's where the problem is. It's not actually what's contained within the leaks.
Here's how he put it at the press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The leaks are real. You're the one that wrote about them and reported them. The leaks are real. You know what they say. You saw it.
And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How are the leaks real but the news fake?
LANKFORD: Well, I don't know. You'll have to ask him on that.
I would say the leaks are a big issue, though. It was a big issue in the Obama White House as there were several folks that leaked out information and they were very aggressive to be able to go after individuals that leaked out information. The same should be in the Trump organization.
It dramatically hurts our efforts overseas with our allies because our allies don't know when they're on the phone with the president if that's going to be leaked out. They want to have a private conversation. They assume it's private. And so far, we've had private conversations leaked out. That's a
Every time an intelligence document is leaked out, that means our allies don't want to participate with us and other intelligence operations because they're concerned that information will also be leaked out in the days ahead.
[19:35:09] It is a criminal activity.
BURNETT: So, who's leaking?
LANKFORD: The big issue is no American can have their phone calls recorded by any organization without a court order and that information certainly, if they gathered it, based on trying to track what Russia was doing and Michael Flynn is on the phone with them, that by law is to be redacted and minimized but that was leaked out. So, there are very real --
BURNETT: No one's seen the transcripts. No one's seen the transcripts, right? Presumably the tap was on the Russian end of the call.
LANKFORD: You would assume that but I would also tell you in that information coming out, those are very serious issues. When you start talking about a leak or about information coming out on calls, because that's a U.S. person in that and U.S. persons are protected from being monitored.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time tonight, Senator. Thank you.
LANKFORD: You bet.
BURNETT: And tonight, protests across this country. It has been billed as a day without immigrants. Immigrants staying home from work, businesses and restaurants made them shutting down. You see these images from around this nation.
These are signs of businesses that closed to show their support. The outrage is centered around President Trump's pledge to crack down on those in the country illegally, and, of course, his promise of a great wall. A wall that we have breaking details on tonight.
In fact, it may not be a wall after all. Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT with this exclusive reporting.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is 18 feet tall made of steel with a cement base. Call it what you want, but the government planners, security experts and Homeland Security officials who will be in charge of building it call this a fence.
This is the most recently built barrier between the United States and Mexico near Brownsville, Texas. And CNN has been told by multiple sources within the agencies involved in building, paying for and enforcing this barrier that this is what President Trump's wall may look like.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is planning to present the plan for border security to its bosses possibly this week, and CNN has learned new details.
First, they say the wall should not be a wall. It should be a fence, and that could become a sticky situation for a president who insists otherwise.
TRUMP: On the fence, it's not a fence, it's a wall. You just misreported it. We're going to build a wall.
GRIFFIN: Sources tell CNN the biggest job in moving forward is convincing the president that the fence is more secure and it will be up to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, sources say, who must find a way to allow the White House to spin the promise of a wall into a fence.
Secretary Kelly seems to have already begun, in testimony to Congress, repeatedly referring to the border fortification as a barrier.
JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Yes, there are many, many places that we need some type of physical barrier right now backed up by men and women of border protection.
GRIFFIN: Why would President Trump agree to a fence instead of a beautiful wall as he says? Security and common sense.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials on the ground and in charge of actually securing the border tell CNN a fence actually offers more security than a solid wall. One source telling CNN, you never want to have a barrier in place that will obstruct your vision. That prevents you from seeing the other side of the border.
Another saying, "I'm not calling it a wall, because we are talking about a fence that we can look through. That's what we need."
It's more secure for border agents. It eliminates many environmental factors like drainage, and its costs will be significantly lower. If the current plan is approved it will look like this Ballard-style fencing with steel slats secured six feet below ground and standing 18 feet above. The slats reinforced with rebar and cement.
Another part of the proposal, according to sources, it will not go coast to coast. This is the current fence from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico with large gaps in between for a total of 654 miles. The latest plans involve adding 177 new miles of fencing and replacing 272 miles of already built fence, according to one high- level source with knowledge of the project.
That means the total barrier between the United States and Mexico would cover 831 total miles of a nearly 2,000-mile border. Still not even half according to these sources. (END VIDEOTAPE)
GRIFFIN: And as for the cost, Erin, if President Trump accepts this recommendation, it's going to be about $5 billion. Should the president insist on the complete coverage going coast to coast, Erin, they are proposing a phase three plan to do that, an additional 1,080 miles of fencing. The cost: roughly $21 billion. But leading experts say constructing it across rough terrain mountains is so not only unrealistic but according to one source pure fantasy -- Erin.
[19:40:07] BURNETT: All right. Drew, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT now, Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and filmmaker, and former Arizona sheriff, Paul Babeu, is back with us.
Jose, you heard the report. One source there is saying, look, a fence is more security than a wall.
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST & FILMMAKER: I think it's just really important to make sure that we have facts, not alternative facts but like real facts, right? So, 40 percent of the immigrants who are here illegally didn't cross that border. They overstayed their visa.
Like, for example, I'm from the Philippines as an undocumented person. So I did not cross that border. The fastest growing undocumented population in this country are Asian immigrants, not Latino or Mexican immigrants.
VARGAS: So, I'm trying to understand whom are we protecting ourselves from and I actually think we owe the Mexican people of this country an apology for racializing this issue as much as we have, right? I mean, thinking for example, nation -- the language we've used here, by the way -- you know, I've been traveling the country nonstop for the past five years and people use the term illegal and Mexican interchangeably, as if all undocumented people are Mexican.
You know, I have to say, I was reading about the sheriff's background, you know, since, you know, the sheriff cares about border security, how about the fact that this fence, would this infringe upon the actual sovereign land of Native Americans? You know, the Tohono Nation --
BURNETT: Of course, there are all kind of issues.
VARGAS: Is that kind of -- if you believe in border security, sir, like is this infringing upon the security of the border of the Native American tribes in that area?
PAUL BABEU, FORMER PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA SHERIFF: Well, I can tell you, I've actually worked with the tribal reservations, not just in Arizona, in other areas. We can actually build barriers and I'm one who has actually built border fence in California, supported operations here in Yuma, Arizona, and this is more.
Everybody conflates these issues thinking it's just about Mexico. This is far greater than Mexico, far more important than the issue of the illegal immigration.
How about the drug smuggling that's coming from Mexico? How about people from countries of interest that the FBI, the CIA, all federal law enforcement have said that this porous southwest border here in the United States is a grave national security threat? So, all of these reasons point to the reason why we should secure this border.
So, you bring up tribal reservations, many of them actually want to work in partnership with the federal government because they deal with all kinds of issues. You mentioned Tohono O'odham. There's 20,000 people who live on T.O., and yet you see drug smugglers that come abandoning over the past years hundreds of vehicles with loads of -- they just steal cars up in Phoenix or other places, bringing drugs back and forth throughout this largely -- large area that hasn't been enforced, and this is where we --
BURNETT: Sheriff, do you think, though -- and you and I talked about this. Do you think a wall would stop that drug smuggling, right? Because one thing we know about those guys, they can build a tunnel, we showed you one 70 feet under the ground, they can build more, ventilate them, put electricity down there.
I mean, these guys don't gave hoot about a wall, do they?
BABEU: Well, it's not just -- everybody gets caught on a wall, and more important than the wall is the enforcement of law. The enforcement of immigration laws which we haven't fully had, fighting the cartels. My sheriff's office still holds the record of the largest drug busts against the Sinaloa cartel, $3 billion.
We know how to fight these guys yet still these drugs that come, in and it's not just marijuana, it's methamphetamine, it's cocaine, it's heroin, and it goes all over the country. It's in our interest --
BURNETT: Yes, you're talking about enforcing the law. I want to ask you something about the president said today about enforcing the law. I'm not talking about drugs. I'm talking about DREAMers, the DACA. And, you know, the president campaigned on --
VARGAS: Eight hundred thousand of them.
BURNETT: Eight hundred thousand of them.
OK, he said something today different than he has said before in this hour and 15 minute long press conference about those young people, three-quarters of a million of them. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids in many cases, not this all cases, some of the cases they're having DACA and they're gang members and they're drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids.
[19:45:00] I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do. And, you know, the law is rough. I'm not talking about new laws. I'm talking the existing law is very rough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VARGAS: By the way, you know, this is one of those rare times when President Trump talks about his heart. And I commend him for using that language, because when it comes to this issue, sometimes he's been very heartless in the way he talks about us as if all of us, you know, are, quote/unquote, "criminals".
I want to even make sure we define that term is because under the executive order that was signed all immigrants in this country are now, quote/unquote, "criminals", including the very people he's talking about, right?
BURNETT: So, does when you hear this make you think he is changing?
VARGAS: I don't know. I mean, it's really hard --
BURNETT: You're a little emotional talking about this. You're emotional hearing him.
VARGAS: To me, though, I really want to get to this idea of what laws have been broken exactly. You know, like, for example, if it's not just about the DREAMers, like there was that woman in Arizona, Guadalupe, right, who lived in this country for more than 20 years. She's my age. She has U.S. citizen children. She was deported to Mexico.
There's a young DREAMer right now who is detained in Washington state because apparently there was some gang affiliation, although apparently it's a tattoo.
Like we really need to make sure that we define our terms here and I think I very much hope that the president is looking at his heart and knowing that it is not in our economic interests and more so in our moral interests in this country, right, to take these young people who are contributing to this country, who are parts of our communities, and guess what? Every single one of those 800,000 people have parents and grandparents and uncles, right?
BURNETT: Many of whom, of course, are here as well.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.
And next, the breaking news. President Trump says he's about to roll out a reworked travel ban. Big news in that press conference today. What is in it?
And Chelsea Clinton on the attack on Twitter tonight.
[19:50:35] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump announcing a new executive order on immigration. He said it's coming. This after the original travel ban was temporarily halted, of course. Trump said today at his press conference that his lawyers are basing a new order off of that ruling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The new order is going to be very much tailored to the -- what I consider to be a very bad decision. But we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways, more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. He says it's going come out early next week.
Paul Callan is with me.
Paul, so he said he's going to get just about everything from the previous order, and in some ways, more. So, what does that mean? The seven countries stay the same? What does that mean? Everything and more?
CALLAN: I think he'll keep the same seven countries. There's a possibility he would add another country, and I'll tell you why that might make sense.
BURNETT: Like North Korea?
CALLAN: Well, maybe like North Korea, because then he wouldn't be discriminating against Muslims, would he?
CALLAN: Remember, the court -- what the lawyers are going to do is they're going to tailor this so at last no religious discrimination, OK? And remember, there were provisions that gave special exceptions to minority Christian groups in certain Muslim countries. So, they'll probably add a provision, giving the same protection to Muslim religious -- small religious orders within these countries. Then you couldn't say, discriminated against Muslims.
So, there are ways that you can rewrite this to make it better. But the big thing is, people who have visas, such as green card holders --
BURNETT: They get to come in?
CALLAN: They're going to get to come in and they're going to be protected.
BURNETT: What I find interesting is, of course, you're talking about a rework who won't make anybody on the left that's upset about it happy, right? But it could absolutely be upheld. Today at his press conference, he was angry at the ninth circuit court of appeals. He made no bones about that.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had to go quicker than we thought because of the bad decision we received from a circuit that has been overturned at a record number. I've heard 80 percent. I find that hard to believe. That's just a number I heard, that they're overturned 80 percent of the time. I think that circuit is -- that circuit is in chaos. And that circuit is, frankly, in turmoil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Your reaction?
CALLAN: Well, I've always said, he makes a big mistake when he attacks the court as an institution. Because he's going to make people on the Supreme Court angry and other courts angry.
CALLAN: It's not wise to do that.
He's right about the Ninth Circuit, by the way. His 80 percent might be slightly off but they are reversed in huge amounts. But remember this, when a case goes to the Supreme Court, it's a really close call. That's how it gets to the Supreme Court.
So, of course, a lot of Supreme Court cases will reverse the lower circuit. So, they just happen to be a particularly liberal bench that does get reversed more often.
BURNETT: All right. Paul Callan, thank you.
CALLAN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Chelsea Clinton turned to Twitter to take on Trump.
[19:57:13] BURNETT: Tonight, Chelsea Clinton on the attack, taking to twitter to go after president Trump and his policies, six times just today. In one, criticizing his response to a question about anti- Semitism at the press conference today, tweeting, "One would think he would have thought of an answer since yesterday. Here's one. There's no place for any bigotry ever in America."
Brianna Keilar is OUTFRONT.
REPORTER: What do you say to those among the Jewish community who believe and feel that your administration is playing with xenophobia and may be racist tones? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Twice in two days, Donald Trump was given the opportunity to outright condemn anti-Semitism and did not.
TRUMP: I think a lot of good things are happening and you're going to see a lot of love. You're going to see a lot of love.
KEILAR: And twice in two days, Chelsea Clinton hammered it for him on Twitter. "One would think he would have thought of an answer since yesterday," she tweeted. "Here's one, There's no place for any bigotry ever in America."
The former first daughter criticized Trump on the campaign trail --
CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: So, to me, this campaign is about repudiating Donald Trump's divisive, demeaning, degrading rhetoric that should offend all of us.
KEILAR: But her attacks have gotten sharper. When top White House aide Kellyanne Conway recently referred to a terror attack that didn't happen --
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE AIDE: After two Iraqis came here to this country were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.
KEILAR: -- Chelsea Clinton trolled her. "Very grateful no one seriously hurt in the Louvre attack," she tweeted, "or the completely fake Bowling Green massacre. Please don't make up attacks."
"Bosnia lie a great reminder," Conway fired back, referring to Hillary Clinton's false 2008 claim that she had once touched down in Bosnia under sniper fire. "And to Chelsea Clinton and others, you can't invent quality candidates either. I misspoke, you lost the election."
Chelsea Clinton also posted a picture revealing she had attended a protest of Trump's travel ban in New York City.
All this tweeting has fanned long-run speculation that she could run for office. Much ass these comments did last year.
CLINTON: If I didn't like whoever were to secede my councilwoman or public advocate, I would have to think, could I make a real difference here? Is this something that I should do? But for now, I'm well- represented and I love what I do.
BURNETT: So, Brianna, is that what she's gearing up to do now? Run for office?
KEILAR: No is what I am told. There have been some rumors that maybe she would run for one of these Democratic seats in New York in the House or the Senate, but a source close to Chelsea Clinton told me that that idea is, quote, "insane". That she wants to speak up about the issues that matter to her, not run for office. Do keep in mind, though, Erin, she is going to be on a book tour in
April. She's got a book coming out talking about political engagement for teens. Not a bad time for publicity.
BURNETT: Absolutely not. All right. Brianna, thank you.
Thanks to all of you for joining us. Anderson's next.