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President Trump's aggressive immigration and border control policy; Vice president Mike Pence declared that Russia would be held accountable for its actions; Hundreds protest President Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim majority nations; American wrestler in Mexico has become a superstar by playing a Trump fan in the ring; Another heartbreaking video depicting the horrors of war. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 19, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:11] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Top of the hour now. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington on the Sunday. Great to have you with us.

And we have breaking news this hour. A multiple fronts. First, President Trump just a short time ago offering an explanation for this confusing statement he made at a rally in Florida last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible.


BROWN: His comment had the Swedish embassy tweeting unclear to us what President Trump was referring to. Have asked U.S. officials for explanation. And just a short time ago, Trump tweeted statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on FOX News concerning immigrants and Sweden. More on that in just a moment.

Meanwhile, CNN has learned the Senate committee investigating Russian hacking in the 2016 election is telling the Trump administration preserve all records related to Russia. This news comes after members of the intelligence community received a classified briefing on Russia straight from FBI director James Comey.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus says the request doesn't mean that there is anything there.

I want to bring in Elise Labott, CNN's global affairs correspondent.

Elise, what are you hearing?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, we understand that the Senate intelligence committee asked about a dozen individuals, agencies and organizations to preserve all records that could be pertinent to the Senate committee's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Now, obviously, there's been a lot of attention paid to the calls between former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. on this and senators have said that would be involved in the investigation. But this is really much more of a deep dive of Russian involvement, Russian hacking, Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And it could involve aides of President Trump's campaign who we understand CNN has been told that members of his campaign were in touch with members of Russian government, Russian officials and operatives, during the length of the campaign. Now, we don't know what that was about. But obviously, senators want to get to the bottom of it.

And talking about this briefing, this closed door briefing between FBI director James Comey and the Senate intelligence committee was a real closed door briefing and senators came out very hush, hush about it. But you heard it from even Republican senators like Marco Rubio, saying that he is confident, after that briefing that the Senate intelligence committee was going to do a bipartisan investigation of Russian meddling and influence in the election. So, it seems as if there was some information in that briefing that certainly go senators concerned, Pamela.

BROWN: It certainly did.

All right, Elise Labott. Thank you so much for your reporting there. We do appreciate it.

And let's talk it over with our panel now, Jill Doherty, a Russia expert and CNN's former Moscow bureau chief. Julian Zelizer, Princeton University historian, Michael Daly, special correspondent for the "Daily Beast" and Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times" and a columnist for "the Hill."

Thank you all so much for coming on. We do appreciate it.

And Lynn, I want to start with you because this message from Senate Intel committee to preserve records related to Russia is causing a lot of people to wonder is this a standard protocol or is this a little unusual? Can you put it into perspective for us?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Well, everything is unusual. Let's just take that as a starting point in this unfolding early stages of the Trump presidency. So, you know, preserving the record is a basic investigative procedure. So why don't we just take that as a starting point, but do put it in the context that you have now even Republicans on the hill wanting to look further into connections.

BROWN: So, I just have to look forward to what we heard from house minority leader Nancy Pelosi, even alluding to this idea that the Trump campaign could be deleting documents related to Russia. Let's take a listen to that sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I'm afraid they are going to destroy the documents, but that level of, the fact that I would even say that, the level of trust has gone so far low in this. That's too bad because we are talking about the national security of our country, our intelligence and the rest.


BROWN: So, without knowing more about what she was say, we know that the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, made a similar comment.

Michael, to you, do you think that Pelosi and Schumer are being possibly alarmists at this point insinuating that the Trump administration could be deleting documents about Russia?

[19:05:08] MICHAEL DALY, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, I guess it's possible, the Trump administration is. But, you know, James Comey, I mean, those senators sat down with him. And they have to walk away with the impression that James Comey is going to find out what happened. I don't think that he is going to play one side of the other. I think he is an actual G-man. When they sat down with him, they probably came out and said he is actually going to do an investigation. Let's like, you know, hitch ourselves to it. I can't believe that he would count on anybody getting rid of documents and all that. And most of the materials I think that the FBI probably has a pretty good idea of what they are at this point.

BROWN: And the FBI has been investigating for months and the counterintelligence division.

But Jill, as this is ongoing, is this Trump Russia honeymoon faze that so many of us have talked about it over the last several months, is it over? And how is the Russian media reacting and portraying President Trump at this point?

JILL DOHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Yes. Pam, I would say that it is over. And it's striking, I mean, how overnight this has changed. You remember, literally a few weeks ago, it was a love fest. There was nothing in the Russian media more than Trump. Even more reports about Trump than about Mr. Putin, the president of Russia. And now, complete opposite.

The information or the understanding that we have is that the Kremlin has said basically, cool it. Do not report that much on Trump. And the recording that you have and I was just looking at RT, which is the Russian television international broadcasting, I just searched for the name Trump and four to five stories, first five are all negative. I mean, there are other reports out there. I was looking at one and called (INAUDIBLE), it's newspaper. And they said time to end the love affair with Trump and this is a clown fest. I mean, things of that level. Very cutting, very insulting.

And I think that he wanted, you know, kind of give the idea of what they are going through. I think they feel that they fell in love with Donald Trump. They have not. They are not going to get the relationship they expected. And that they were pretty much fools to do it. And now, they are really kind of sobering up. I mean, that's -- again, quite striking of the media turn around.

BROWN: Very interesting perspective there on how the Russian media is approaching the Trump administration now that he is in the White House.

And Julian, this comes on the heels of President Trump's blistering attack on the media calling certain media outlets including CNN, the enemy of the American people. Now, journalist Carl Bernstein, the man who helped break the Watergate scandal as we know back in the 1970s, has this to say.


CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Trump's attacks on the American press as enemies of the American people are more treacherous than Richard Nixon's attacks on the press. Nixon's attack on the press were largely in private. There's a history of what enemy of the people that phrase means as used by dictators and authoritarians. Trump is out there on his own leading a demagogic attack on the institutions of free democracy including the press.


BROWN: So Julian, what is your take? Is the president possibly attempting to disqualify anything and everything that certain media outlets may report in the future on the administration in Russia?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think that is what he is doing. He has been systemically attacking the media as an institution since the campaign. Raising questions about the legitimacy of the news that you hear, see and read. And so, with Russia and other issues, he is trying to provide his own narrative about events. And he is arguing that the narrative you hear and a lot of media institutions is not true. And the problem is, when you antagonize people, they are going to be doubly hard on how they look at you. And so, I think that's part of what he is confronting right now with that, with the courts and pretty soon, with Congress.

BROWN: And you also say it's way too early to tell how this controversy may end up for the Trump White House. Explain.

ZELIZER: Well, there's different kinds of presidential scandals. The Iran contra scandal, which brings back memories of shredding ended up with the president being OK. President Reagan surviving the scandal, even though many officials around him fell in 1986 and 1987. And there's other scandals like one that President Carter faced that in the end, fizzled all together.

But of course then there is Watergate and that's the question people are asking. Is this Watergate or is this worse than Watergate? So the point was not all scandals are equal and part of it will be not just the evidence produced, but the political dynamics surrounding how the investigations unfold.

[19:10:04] BROWN: All right, Jill Doherty, Lynn Sweet, Julian Zelizer, and Michael Daly, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss in this show. Do appreciate it.

And ahead this hour, a cryptic message from the president leaves people in Sweden scratching their heads.

Plus, memos obtained by CNN reveal the administration's hard line position on undocumented immigrants. New details on what the head of homeland security is telling his agency chiefs. Stay with us. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:13:37] BROWN: President Trump is clarifying controversial comments he made about Sweden last night in which he appeared to reference a nonexistent incident. Mr. Trump tweeting tonight, my statement as to what's happen ng Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on FOX News concerning immigrants and Sweden.

CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones is West Palm Beach, Florida near Mar-a-Lago where the president is spending the weekend.

So Athena, you were at that rally last night where the president made these comments. Was it clear he was referring to a FOX News report?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Pamela. No, it was not at all clear that he was referring to a news report of any kind. He seemed to be referring to a terror incident that took place in Sweden on Friday night. Let's just play what he had to say and then you can decide what it sounds like he was trying to talk about. Let's play that.


TRUMP: You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Swede. They took in large numbers. They are having problems like they never thought possible.


JONES: And so, he grouped Sweden in with other countries where there have been terror attacks. There of course has not been a major terror attack in Sweden. The president later clarifying that he was referring to a report he saw Friday night, a report on FOX News. Here is that segment that aired on Friday night. Go ahead and play that. We will talk ab it on the other side.


[19:15:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps no nation on earth is more committed to accepting foreign migrants and refugees than Sweden. 2016 alone, the country accepted more than 160,000 asylum seekers despite having a population of less 10 million people. Only 500 of these migrants were able to get jobs in Sweden. But if these arrivals aren't able to work, they are at least able to commit crimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: That segment went on to include an interview with a documentarian who says that the Swedish government has been covering up a series of violent crimes committed by refugees.

What's clear here is that the president is an avid viewer of cable news. He gets a lot of his information from cable news. But this lack of precision, the fact that he made it sound like he was talking about a specific terror incident, the fact that he likes to repeat things that he had been told or has heard without really checking them, that proved problematic. It left a lot of people scratching their heads, including a former prime minister of Sweden who tweeted at him, you know, what is he smoking? Questions about now, at least we have clarity on where he got the information.

But the fact of the matter is, the president's words matter and there are people all over the world who are essentially hanging on his every word. And so it's important what he says has some backing and to be clear on what he's getting at -- Pamela.

BROWN: And we are told that the embassy of Sweden just responded to the president's tweet saying that he learned about this on FOX News. We're going to talk about this with our panel.

Athena Jones, thank you very much for that. Athena there in West Palm Beach, Florida.

And now, I want to bring in that panel. Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton and author of "the fierce urgency of now," Michael Daly, special correspondent for the "Daily Beast" and Lynn Sweet, she is the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times."

Julian, to you first. As I just point out, the Swedish embassy has responded to President Trump's clarification, tweeting we look forward to informing the U.S. administration about Swedish immigration and immigration policies. Do you think President Trump understands the possible ramifications that can come from his statements particularly when he is talking about other countries?

ZELIZER: Well, I don't know if he understands it or not. But he and his people surrounding him need to. Presidential rhetoric matters and a few words can make a big difference. And here, we see with one speech with a little part of that speech, he is now caused this diplomatic back and forth. And we have seen historically how the words of presidents can have consequences. So, he will need to do more than simply hear a story in passing and then repeat that in a national address, which it ended up being.

BROWN: And Lynn, what do you say to those who blame the media for making a mountain of a mole hill, for taking his words so literally as in last night? What do you say to those supporters of Trump who claim that?

SWEET: Well, I say to those supporters, the accuracy of a statement is still something that is of value. And the Swedish newspaper, (INAUDIBLE), at a leading newspaper, actually printed something in English with the headline saying in English, this happened in Sweden last night, Mr. President and went on to list incidents, including a driving while intoxicated in Stockholm, to show there was no terrorist incident last night.

But to your point, I cannot say here that I have the complete answer in talking about what I think is a de-legitimation attempt by the president on the news. But I know that in the meantime, what we do with a president or in alderman say things that are not accurate. It is the press' role to try and put out the facts for people to have in their availability. And that's what we do. And we are in a, in a new era here with President Trump. But I think to your question, this is what journalists do. This is what we have been doing.

BROWN: And the irony is that just yesterday, you know, he was going after the media saying the media is America's enemy. CNN was included in that group and yet, he's citing something he saw on cable news and he is someone who of course could get clarification on anything he want wants, right, when it comes to matters that are sensitive such as talking about another country, Michael, what is your take on that?

DALY: I say, you know, there is nothing new about this guy. I mean, his family is of German extraction. If you look at "art of the deal," he says he is Swedish. I mean, when he said Sweden, do you believe it? I'm thinking, yes, I remember when he said Sweden.

And you know, if it, if you take an accurate book about him, which was Wayne Barrett's book, the definitive book that was substantiated by a New Jersey gaming commission. I remember when he was serving jury duty, I have to be sitting next to him - I made myself sit next to him back in the beginning of all this and I asked him about Wayne Berry. He said the most dishonest, the most dishonest person ever. And that just you know, it isn't like he's changed. He went these tweets, I think you got to wonder about, you got to think about why he is doing it. I mean, I saw him just sit in jury duty with no one paying attention to him and that was not easy for him. And I think of him up in the White House after business hours, he is sitting by himself. If there's anybody around, Mr. President, what they would say no matter who is the president and there's this thing where he can send this tweet and get the whole world talking about him. And we are all talk about it. We are not really talking about his policies. We are not talking about what he is doing. We are talking about Donald Trump.

And you go anywhere in America, you get in the subway, on a bus, you go out to Queens, go to Brooklyn, on the other side of the Hudson River, all they are talking about is Donald Trump. And every time it dies down, he comes out with a couple of tweets and everybody starts talking again. But there is nothing going to do about it.

[19:21:10] BROWN: I want to actually to pull up this tweet from Chelsea Clinton in response to what the president said. She tweeted what happened in Sweden Friday night? Did they catch the Bowling Green massacre perpetrators, referring to what Kellyanne Conway said about a nonexistent event in Bowling Green.

But Lynn, is there a potential risk to Democrats focusing on what Trump is saying versus what he is doing and signing?

SWEET: Well, yes. And that was very, you know, the raising the level of I guess on (INAUDIBLE) on twitter.

Here is the most important thing I think we should be watching for. President Trump is delivering a speech to a joint session of Congress at the end of the month. If this was any other administration, we would be spending the weekend talking about how the president and his aides were going over the presidential address where he addresses the members of Congress and the house chamber for the first time. We are not even talking about this.

We are talking -- so, I think the idea that soon, he will have to translate his ideas into legislation he supports or doesn't support. Policies that he is either going to urge Republicans to embrace or not and his next big speech of note as I said will be a joint session to Congress. They don't call it the state of the union when a president is in the first year because there is not time to assess the state of the union. So, we will see if his aides even start talking about the work they are doing on what will be a very significant speech. Not in a rally, not in a friendly audience, but with dozens and dozens of even hundreds of Democrats in the room.

BROWN: Well, do you think, I'm just curious on the point you are making, do you think this is intentional on the part of President Trump to sort of deflect from focusing on that?

ZELIZER: I think it is more -- sorry.

BROWN: Go ahead, Julian.

SWEET: No, no.

ZELIZER: I mean, I think there is the politics of distraction. But this argument about Sweden is related to his argument about immigration and refugees. And he is building support, both for an executive order that's been in the press today to tighten controls over immigration and he is going to reissue an executive order on the refugee ban. And that's where the comments about Sweden actually fit in to that speech.

And so, I think that's where the rhetoric does matter, because he is trying to nurture support with his base and beyond his base for why these policies need to stand. And that is why they have to be taken seriously beyond simply being a distraction.

BROWN: And just quickly, Julian, just for context, I think that's important. It is clear this president is hyper aware of the press that covers him and watching cable news. I mean, Sweden's a prime example, he is watching FOX, got that information and went to this rally and said it. How does that stack up to past presidents and how much they consume of the media that covers them?

ZELIZER: That's not new. Lyndon Johnson used to have all three networks running in the oval office so he could see how he was being covered on issues like Vietnam. He was destroyed when Walter Cronkite turned against the war and there's many examples of this. So, all presidents are consumed with the news. Most presidents though get their information somewhere other than simply the news. They confirm, they look, they look at the investigations that are put before them and nor do they set out to attack the media as an institution as a main item of their first 100 days. So, those are the differences as even though this is a common problem that presidents confront, how they are covered.

BROWN: Michael, final word to you.

DALY: I don't think he is that deliberate. I think you are talking about a guy with pretty meager inner resources and I just don't think he plans that far. I just think it's of the moment with him. It's what grabs him of the moment. I don't think he is sitting there going if I do this, I'll get the press to do this or raise my base or this. It's just like let's see what happens.

I mean, before twitter, there would be a guy who sounded very much like Donald Trump who would call up and would say he was John Barren right, or John Miller, he would say, I hear that Donald is doing this and Donald is going out with this and Donald is doing this and then the next day, it would be in page six. I mean, this is like --

[19:25:30] BROWN: Because he was impersonating.

DALY: Gone global.

BROWN: Yes. Just for context there.

DALY: You know, I'm trying to be not fake news here, but everybody I know whoever heard that voice has sounded an awful lot like Donald Trump. And it's just, you know, it actually in one deposition, he admitted that he used that name sometimes. But I just think it's that gone global. And it's very difficult to compare him to any of other president because that is not what you are dealing with here. That's not who this is. But when it starts turning serious is when you see the people who are affected by that.

I mean, I was at a mass at 6:00 a.m. this morning out in Corona, Queens and it's packed. It's all with the restaurant workers are going to go make everybody else's brunch. They are going to mass and they are scared. And they're call Nicaraguans -- I'm sorry, I get going on this.

BROWN: No. I know you are passionate about it, Michael, for sure.

Thank you to the three of you for coming on. Michael Daly, Julian Zelizer , and Lynn Sweet, we do appreciate it.

SWEET: Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BROWN: And still to come, as the U.S. and alleys in the region debate their future in Syria, the reality on the ground couldn't be more grim. Up next, the heartbreaking images of the victims of war.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:30:33] BROWN: For what is yet another heartbreaking video depicting the horrors of war. As discussions of a possible U.S. boots on the ground happen in Washington, a video circulating online reminds us of the realities of daily life inside Syria. A young boy gets both legs blown off at the knee during a bomb blast and is heard crying out for his father's help.

We have to warn you, some viewers may find the video difficult to watch.

Here's CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It starts with confusion, thick with dust. A man appears carrying something. It's a boy, bleeding stumps where his legs were just moments before.

Someone cries for an ambulance. The boy (INAUDIBLE) sits up. Pick me up, daddy, he cries. This was the aftermath of what Syrian activists say were air raids by regime helicopters dropping barrel bombs on an around the town of El Habi (ph) in Idlib province. The Syrian government has yet to comment on the incident.

Later, video also posted by activists, claims to show (INAUDIBLE) in a hospital bed.

How's your health, he has asked. He stares back. Silent.

The Syrian regime urged on by Russia, says it's holding to a cease fire, but it's patchy at best.

In Idlib province, rebels are fighting government forces, fighting one another, fighting ISIS and other groups and al-Qaeda. What started almost six years ago as a peaceful uprising has descended into madness.

And the innocent children like Abdul, like (INAUDIBLE), like so many others, pay the price.

Elsewhere, Turkish forces are backing factions of the free Syrian army in their battle against ISIS. With while further east, U.S. backed Kurdish and Arab forces are fighting ISIS as well.

President Trump has raised the possibility of setting up a safe zone inside Syria and Pentagon officials tell CNN they are pondering dispatching U.S. ground troops there. So far, it's all talk and no action, the blood bath however continues.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Istanbul.


BROWN: Coming up on this Sunday, President Trump's aggressive immigration and border control policy. We here at CNN have seen internal homeland security memos with details about how the rules are tightening on asylum seekers, including children. Details up next.


[19:36:19] BROWN: Well, CNN has obtained homeland security memos that describe aggressive new policies for immigration and border patrol. One memo from homeland security secretary John Kelly says quote "the president has determined that the lawful detention of aliens arrive ng the United States is the most efficient means by which to enforce the immigration laws that have orders." This comes at President Trump promises a new executive order on immigration this week.

I want to bring in our Ryan Nobles now from Washington.

So Ryan, based on the memo CNN has obtained, can we expect more immigrants to be rounded up and detained?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly appears to be b the case in this situation, Pam. Essentially, this memo does a lot of thing us. Among them, beginning the process of ramping down a program under the Obama administration called catch and release which essentially when an undocumented immigrants were detained, they were liberally granted parole while its case made its way through the course, ouch often a lengthy process. So this memo sets the standard for parole under the circumstances much higher. And that's just one example of how this shift in policy could lead to more people being detained and those being held for longer periods of time and many more being deported.

The memo calls for more immigration judges and detention facilities. It also gives immigration officers more power. And this falls in line of course with President Trump's hard line on immigration, something he promised during the campaign and it was born out of executive order that the president signed his first week in office.

And already, immigrations custom enforcement has conducted a series of raids at the beginning of the month and that led to more than 700 immigrants being arrested. Most of them already had criminal records. That, if course, was before these instructions were handed down.

So, Pam, it stands to reason that with this new tougher policy in place, more deportations and arrests should be expected.

BROWN: So, what about asylum seekers and minors, the so-called dreamers. How will the system change for them?

NOBLES: Well, at this point, there's no specific change in the executive order of deferred action for childhood arrivals. That's known as DACA. But the memo says that policy will be addressed at a later time.

Now, as for asylum seekers, this is a big change. The administration is implementing a much stricter policy to gain access to the United States through asylum. And if someone makes it to the U.S. under those circumstances, they could be sent to Mexico with their case being heard through video conference. That's not even if they didn't necessarily come from Mexico before they are allowed back into the United States. So it is a much different situation for asylum seekers. And as for children right now, there isn't a huge change to that policy. But it is something that the administration plans to address in the near future.

BROWN: All right. We will have to wait and see what happens.

Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

And coming up right here in the NEWSROOM on this Sunday, marching with a message. Hundreds take to the streets of Times Square to protest the president's travel ban and leading the pack, hip hop mogul, Russell Simmons. I talked to him about why this e event is to important.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:42:58] BROWN: Well, just a day after vice president Mike Pence declared that Russia would be held accountable for its actions, many in the Republican party are still split on whether to investigate Moscow's alleged hacking of the election. Some called for probe, while others said it would distract from the GOP's agenda. Ohio Republican governor and former presidential candidate John Kasich was asked about that this morning in an exclusive interview on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Here's what he said.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Look, if our intelligence community thinks we need to get to the bottom of this, I happen to believe perhaps a joint house Senate intelligence committee investigation ought to get to the bottom of Russian hacking where they are trying to influence our election. You know, what is it all about? What's the bottom line?

Now, I don't favor at this point moving it outside to the intelligence committees. I think that the intelligence committees have the capability to conduct a thorough understanding of what happened so that we can be in a position to prevent it in the future.

Many European countries are worried about Russia hacking their election, disrupting their elections, so I believe that the house and Senate can carry this out and I think it has to be done in a bipartisan and thorough way. And I think that a person like Senator Feinstein, Senator Warner, if they feel as though we are not getting to the bottom line and an investigations become partisan, then we have to look at something more independent. But I'm confident that the house and the Senate intelligence committee can do this. It's in the best national security interests of the United States. And frankly, the rest of the world is looking at how we handle this because they don't want to be hacked. They don't want to have their elections to be disrupted in any way.


BROWN: Well, Americans of all backgrounds converged on a New York landmark to collectively declare today, I am a Muslim, too. Hundreds protest President Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim majority nations.

CNN correspondent Rachel Crane was there for the demonstration.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, earlier today, a rally held here in Time Square put on today by I am a Muslim, too. There was an incredible sense of community as the crowd stood together, standing in solidarity, to support quality and intolerance and to fight Islamophobia which they say has surge since Donald trump became the president.

We had a chance to speak to some of people in the park. Take a listen to what they said to say.


[19:45:22] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm the daughter of Muslim immigrants. And I'm here to fight to resist, to speak out against the hate. And the overall just this regime that we have elected in. This president who openly, openly is against my religion and against me. I was born here. I'm a born American, so I'm here for them.


CRANE: Pamela, that young lady just one of many people that attended today's rally. At one point, it spanned two city blocks. Also, in attendance, Russell Simmons, Mayor Bill de Blasio, both of them spoke at the rally. Also Susan Sarandon and Chelsea Clinton. She tweeted a photo from a rally pointing out that it was her daughter, Charlotte's first rally -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Thanks so much, Rachel Crane.

And as Rachel mentioned there, hip-hop mogul, music mogul Russell Simmons was there. He is actually one of the organizers of today's protest rally. I spoke with him last hour. And here is what he had to say about Donald Trump, someone he has known personally for nearly 30 years.


RUSSELL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN, RUSH COMMUNICATIONS: We didn't talk a lot of politics, but b obviously had read some of his statements and they were not all great. And when he ran for election, you know, I love the country more than I love our friendship. People say that it's a kind of I'm walking away from a friend, but I love this country. And I love the constitution. And I love the kind of tolerance that we are promoting and what America is becoming. And there is a little bit of a halt in that growth.

But I think they will continue on a path. And I'm very excited that he helped to organize people. I have been fighting Islmaphobia for the last ten years probably. I have been the chairman of the foundation for ethnic understanding for close to 20. But for the last ten year, we have seen Islamaphobia grow. And it's grown so much that we were in the middle of promoting Muslims are speaking out because people like Donald Trump don't recognize that our great allies in the fight against terror are Muslims and that they are 97, I don't know what the number is, someone said 97 percent of the victims of ISIS and other terrorists, Muslim terrorists. So they are not Muslims. They are people who attacking these people are just terrorists, just like the KKK and not Christians. They are not acting by the Christian faith. The Koran says love all men of good faith of good books equally. And that's what most Muslims believe, to love people.

BROWN: We should note that the Trump administration says the travel ban was not a Muslim ban and that in fact, a majority of Muslims are impacted by it. But clearly, you felt a need to come out here and rally and be a part of this movement in you will.

I'm curious, have you tried to reach out to President Trump? When is the last time you spoke with him?

SIMMONS: The minute he announced that I made a statement I'm sure was off color, he called my office. We didn't speak then and haven't spoken since. I do believe he should talk to more people. And I do believe those people who are his friends should wrap their arms around him and give him different perspectives on many suggests. It is a Muslim ban. He promised he would do a Muslim ban in advance. And it's only Muslim countries.

And you talk about countries that are not produced a murder, terrorist, a terrorist who committed a murder since 1975.


BROWN: And coming up right here in the NEWSROOM, he is one bad hombre. How one American pro wrestlers is sending Mexico into a frenzy by channeling his inner Trump in the ring. That's next. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:52:40] BROWN: When it's fight night in Mexico, apparently there's one person everyone comes to watch. He's a pro-wrestler from Pennsylvania whose over the top support for President Trump has made him the ultimate ring villain Mexicans love to hate.

Here is Shasta Darlington.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In today's Mexico it's hard to dream up a more despised character for the Lucha Libre ring, a Donald Trump loving gringo who goes head-to-head with the country's national heroes. Sam Polinsky, a pro wrestler from Pittsburgh came up with the idea after moving to Mexico ten months ago.

SAM POLINSKY, PRO WRESTLER: You need to have the ultimate villain in order for people to buy into it and really believe. Right now there's no more ultimate villain than Donald Trump.

DARLINGTON: And so Sam (INAUDIBLE), the ladies bad guy was born. He says if he voted, it probably would have been for Trump.

POLINSKY: I'm not the biggest fan of Hillary Clinton.

DARLINGTON: But his character is just for show. Luch Libre is all about the bad guys. Mexicans love to hate them. The more vicious, the better. Thousands of fans pile into the arena in Mexico, looking for an escape.

Whether it's a good guy or bad guy he says, you can shout and get everything off your chest.

I come to release the stress of week of work says this man.

And he Trump loving gringo, this is great character to have fun with he says, totally worth with.

Fans are rarely disappointed by the wild acrobatics as good guys battle evil. String of over-the-top characters like snake-toting baddy and the mini blue gorilla.

When you're this close you can actually see the sweat flying through the air.

Sam Polinsky gets into character before each show with bleached locks and roll-on tan fuelling the anti-Trump fury at least in the arena.

[19:55:05] POLINSKY: I leave the arena, the same people that were cursing at me and screaming at me want a picture with me or want an autograph.

DARLINGTON: But they still love to see him take a beating in the ring.


DARLINGTON: Shasta Darlington, CNN, Mexico City.



[19:59:10] BROWN: And before we go tonight, a special programming note for you. In the era of President Trump, who will lead the Democratic Party? CNN hosts the Democratic leadership debate moderated by Dana Bash and Chris Cuomo this Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern only right here on CNN.

And up next on CNN, get ready to head back to the future. It's an eighties marathon from the Reagan revolution to the fall of the Berlin wall and the rise of Donald Trump, the Atlantic City casino mogul. You will get your MTV, Madonna and some seriously outdated hairdos. You can catch up for that. Up first, raised on television. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Thank you for being with me tonight.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy a long holiday weekend. Have a great night, everybody.