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Trump's Sweden Gaffe; White House Russia Controversy; Mattis Lands in Baghdad; Westbrook and Durant Team Up; DeMarcus Cousins Traded. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 20, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We start with a surprising comment made by the president over the weekend. At the same campaign- style rally in Tampa, where the president slammed the media for spreading falsehoods, he made a common that's drawing questions about where he gets his facts and how he forms his world view. President Trump was trying to back up a claim that unchecked immigration poses a threat and then - well, just watch.


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


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The main problem with that claim is that there was no attack Friday in Sweden. Mr. Trump, in his remarks, also mentioned Germany, Brussels, Nice and Paris, so the context was clear. It turns out the remark came one day after Fox News aired an interview with a filmmaker who has tried to tie Sweden taking in refuges to an increase in violent crimes there. Well, Mr. Trump is now trying to clarify those remarks. The White House is trying to clean up the mess and Sweden is trying to contradict the president's claim.

CNN's Athena Jones is traveling with the president and has more from Florida.



The president's comments at that Melbourne rally on Saturday suggesting there may have been some sort of terror incident in Sweden on Friday night left a lot of people all around the world scratching their heads. The president later Sunday tweeting that he was referring to a Fox News report that aired on Friday night. Here's some of what that report had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps no nation on earth is more committed to accepting foreign migrants and refugees than Sweden. In 2016 alone, the country accepted more than 160,000 asylum seekers, despite having a population of less than 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're at least able to commit crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was an absolute surge in both gun violence and rape in Sweden once they began this open door policy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they know that this crime has happened and they can feel it. The statistics are clear. But they would refer to what is the root cause behind it and say, oh, it's just more - it happened to be more violence. It's men who are raping people, not the refugees. They'll make excuses for it.

I think that's kind of what they're referring to, that the government has gone out of its way to try to cover up some of these problems.


JONES: What's clear here is that the president is an avid watcher of cable news. It's where he gets a lot of his information from. And - but this lack of precision, the fact that he said something that made it sound like he was referring to a terror incident left a lot of people scratching their heads. You had the former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt, taking to Twitter to say, "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound."

The fact of the matter is that the president often repeats things that he's heard or read without checking. And this has become a problem. It shows that the president's words matter and that a lot of people all around the world are listening very, very closely to what the president says.

Boris. Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Athena Jones reporting for us.

It is worth noting, Swedish government figures show the overall crime rate there has changed very little over the last ten years. Something Stockholm, no doubt, had in mind when its embassy in Washington tweeting this, quote, "we look forward to informing the U.S. administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies."

So, with us to help break down all the latest from Washington and Mar- a-Lago, CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott here with us in New York.

Good morning to you, Eugene.


SANCHEZ: Good morning.

So, we have to ask about Trump's comments going into the weekend about Sweden.

SCOTT: Sure.

SANCHEZ: You heard the sound bite earlier. There was this back and forth kind of Twitter war. Then he acknowledges - I believe we have the tweet. "My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants and Sweden." To be completely clear, he brought Sweden up in between a series of other terrorist attacks that he was talking about, right?

SCOTT: OK. Sure.

SANCHEZ: He was talking about Brussels, Nice, Paris.

SCOTT: Right.

SANCHEZ: He has clearly an issue here with facts in some way.

SCOTT: Right. Right.

SANCHEZ: We - too many examples to cite where he says things that are demonstrably untrue.

SCOTT: Sure.

SANCHEZ: But it doesn't really hurt his credibility among his supporters, does it?

SCOTT: It doesn't. And we saw it this weekend that he returned to the campaign trail in Florida specifically to be with his base, to be with the people that Kellyanne said gives him oxygen. But the reason why something like this is problematic, and we know the immigration ban he's going to reintroduce in a few days, one of his strongest arguments for why he needs to do what he wants to do is because of everything that's happening in Europe. When you're making up things that are happening in Europe, that does not help your case.

CABRERA: Let's talk more about what's happening on the world stage here. We know there's been an increase pressure put on the U.S. to investigate Trump connections to Russia -

[05:05:02] SCOTT: Sure.

CABRERA: And what may have transpired before the election.

SCOTT: Right.

CABRERA: Results came in and before the inauguration of the president -

SCOTT: Sure.

CABRERA: When Michael Flynn was eventually terminated because of what had taken place.


CABRERA: I want you to listen to something that Lindsey Graham had to say about tightening the pressure on Russia itself.

SCOTT: Sure.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And I hope he will embrace the idea that as the leader of the free world he should be working with us to punish Russia. To our German friends, you're next. To our friends in France, they're coming after you. To my friend Mr. Lavrov, I hope you finally suffer some consequences for what you and your regime have been doing to democracies. And 2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.


CABRERA: So he mentioned Germany and France because their elections are coming up next.

SCOTT: Right.

CABRERA: So going back to the last part of his comment about, you know, kicking Russia in the you know where in Congress.


CABRERA: Talk to us about what is happening in Congress right now as it pertains to Russia. Where does this investigation of sorts stand?

SCOTT: Sure. Well, it stands in different places for different people, right? You have the grand wing who want to approach this very aggressively, who are very interested in seeing what Russia has done. Even beyond the United States, Graham has said that he's concerned, as he just shared, about Russia's involvement in other elections internationally. And that's why it's important for the U.S. to respond to them appropriately.

But there are also some Republican lawmakers who have come out and said, this is not where they want to spend their time focusing. They would rather focus on the fact that leaks are coming out of the intelligence community, which is illegal. But the reality is, many people want to know what all happened, even beyond Flynn. It's very concerning. And I think what's very interesting about this conference is you had Graham come out, you had John McCain, you have Mike Pence come and talk to world leaders and say that the United States will be hard on Russia. But world leaders would have liked to have heard that from Donald Trump himself.

CABRERA: Are world leaders buying into what Mike Pence is saying? Are they seeing what he's saying and taking it that he has authority?

SCOTT: I think some are, but the reality is, what we do know is that Mike Pence is not always known what was going on in the White House himself - CABRERA: Right.


SCOTT: Pertaining to Russia. So I don't know how much confidence everyone has.

SANCHEZ: Yes, NATO's saying we want to hear this from the president -

SCOTT: They do.

SANCHEZ: Not just the vice president. It's interesting what you said before about how some Republicans - this issue of Russia kind of splits the party in some way because Reince Priebus also talked about the investigation this weekend saying there's nothing to see here.

SCOTT: Right.

SANCHEZ: I want to play that clip for you now.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Those are things that Richard Burr and that team have to do. And that doesn't mean that there's anything there. It just means they need to do some things that satisfy their committee, and they've looked into something. And as long as they do their job and we cooperate with them, they'll issue a report and the report will say there's nothing there.


SANCHEZ: So, of course, as he says this, the Senate Intelligence Community is told anyone involved in the White House, if you have any documents pertaining to Russia, do not shred them.

SCOTT: Right.

SANCHEZ: Is that because there's a concern that they might be destroying evidence?

SCOTT: Well it's really important to communicate that we don't know what's there. But to your point, the way we can know for sure is from an investigation and an investigation done well. The concern with Michael Flynn, people have to remember, isn't limited to Michael Flynn. It's about Trump associated broadly. And the reality is, we know that some Trump associates are lawmakers in Congress and in the Senate. So people want to know what type of conversations people had from the Trump team broadly with Russia.

CABRERA: Back here at home, we're all waiting to see what's next with this immigration order.


CABRERA: We know the original one is now kind of no more and President Trump has said he's going to have a new immigration order coming out this week. We're getting a little bit of a sense of what that may look like. Fill us in.

SCOTT: I think one of the main things that we're going to see from the Trump administration is a clear argument that this is not a discriminatory ban against Muslim people because that was one of the main areas of attack that he had to face. We know that he believes he has the power to make this case and make this argument. But the courts say you have to prove that this is necessary.

What we didn't see is any data proving that refugees pose a significant threat on national security because the data doesn't support that. But I think what people are hoping to see from Trump is something more analytical and something with more background beyond, I have the power to do this.

SANCHEZ: All right, Eugene Scott, thank you so much for the time in respect (ph) to this morning. We'll see you in just a half hour.

SCOTT: Thank you, guys. Sure.

SANCHEZ: Thanks for getting up early for it.

CABRERA: Time now for an early start on your money.

A controversial pillar of the Republican tax plan might be dead in the water with President Trump promising a proposal in the next few weeks. What does it all mean for tax reform now? A central part of the House GOP's plan is a tax on imports coming into the U.S. Countries who relying on imports oppose it, including big retailers, many of whom met with President Trump last week. And reports suggest many Republican lawmakers don't want this import tax either.

[05:10:05] So, what's the problem? Well, the import tax would help pay for that proposed big corporate tax cut. Cutting the rate from 35 percent to 20 percent will cost an estimated $1.8 trillion. The import tax could offset that cost by $1.2 trillion and Republicans really have no back up plan. Now Trump has not said yet if he'll even including the import tax in his plan. However, his previous tax proposal did not contain it and experts estimated it would cost the U.S. $7 trillion.

SANCHEZ: Surprising that you would have Republicans talking about an import tax. It doesn't really fit the traditional platform of the party, right, but nor does Donald Trump, of course.

CABRERA: Well, anything's possible.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Right.

CABRERA: So that's why we watch and we wait. We wait for the facts.

SANCHEZ: Well, the world tour continues. The secretary of defense lands in Baghdad for his first visit in the new administration. How will he try to ease concerns after the president famously said we would take Iraqi oil. A live report from the Mideast, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:15:10] SANCHEZ: This morning, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has landed in Baghdad as Iraqi forces launch an offensive to recapture the western part of the city of Mosul. The move comes after Iraq regained control of eastern Mosul in a month's long battle.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live with the latest.

Ben, of course, Mosul, the last remaining ISIS stronghold in Iraq. Could this be the final stand for ISIS in that country?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It could be. And it could be one that lasts very long, Boris. We saw, for instance, the battle for eastern Mosul. It took well over three months. The Iraqi military took a lot of casualties in that battle. And now, of course, they're looking - they've begun yesterday morning this second part of the operation, which by all accounts is going to be just as difficult, if not more so.

Now, they are assisted by the U.S.-led coalition. There are more than 5,000 U.S. military personnel on the ground. U.S.-led coalition aircraft have been providing air support for the Iraqi forces. And, of course, the arrival of Secretary Mattis is critical to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to this war against ISIS. And General Mattis - excuse me, Secretary Mattis, is a man with many years of experience in Iraq. He served in the first gulf war, the second gulf war. He knows the country well and he knows the sensitivities well. And that, perhaps, is why before he arrived in Baghdad, he stressed that contrary to what we heard from President Trump during the campaign and afterwards, the United States has no interest in seizing Iraq's oil. This is what he said.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I'm sure that we will continue to do so in the future. We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.


WEDEMAN: Now, of course, this battle for Mosul, as I said, could continue for quite some time. Iraqi forces have been able to clear ISIS out of several villages to the south of the city. Now they're aiming to recapture the city's airport.


SANCHEZ: All right, Ben Wedeman reporting from Istanbul. Ben, thank you.

CABRERA: With all those hundreds of thousands of children there in the line - line of fire. A very tense situation.

Let's switch gears, talk some sports now. Anthony Davis making it look easy in the big easy. But that's not the big story coming out of the NBA all-star game. Andy Scholes live in New Orleans with this morning's "Bleacher Report," next.

Stay there, Andy.


[05:22:21] SANCHEZ: The boogie is headed to New Orleans and it seemed like a flashback yesterday when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook shared the court at the NBA all-star game.

CABRERA: And as Andy Scholes notes, some wondered if they'd even talk to each other.

Andy, so what happened?

SANCHEZ: Awkward.


You know the story leading into the all-star game all week long was how would Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant interact when they were back on the court together for the first time since Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors this past off season. And we got our answer right away in the first quarter. Russell Westbrook checking into the game and just moments after that him and Durant with a nice little give and go alioop (ph) for a bucket there. And then after a time-out was called, the west all-stars all joined around the guys and started cheering. And it was a very nice moment, but there was no hug, no hand share, didn't look like Westbrook and Durant even talked to each other. They only spent 82 seconds on the floor together during this game and afterwards Westbrook he was asked afterwards if him and Durant - if the spat is officially over now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First quarter, you and Kevin Durant, you fed (ph) the balls to each other, kind of, you know, have some fun. It's all over now?

RUSSELL WESTBROOK, NBA WEST ALL-STAR GUARD: He's too loud. That's all I have - he's just too loud. It's basketball. That's it.


SCHOLES: As for the rest of the game, the stars were out for this one, Beyonce and Jay-z, their daughter taking in the game court side among other stars. Now, the Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo putting on a show. And there you see Steph Curry laying down on the floor to get away from him on that runaway slam. But moments later, Giannis getting Steph Curry on a poster with this put-back slam. It was in a - kind of a coming out party for Giannis Antetokounmpo. But in the end, it was the hometown guy with Pelican Anthony Davis, who would be your game's MVP. Davis breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record for points in an all- star game pouring in 52. And for the third straight year, the west would come out on top, 192-182 the final. The highest scoring game in all-star history. Now, the Kings DeMarcus Cousins only played two minutes for the west

all-stars, which made many wonder what was going on. Well, we quickly found out after the game. According to reports, Cousins was traded to the Pelicans for a package that includes a first round pick and rookie Buddy Hield. There you go, a trade during the all-star game. Guys, you don't rarely - you rarely see that, especially for someone who is playing in the all-star game.

CABRERA: Interesting.

SCHOLES: But there's still some people - guys, right now, on Bourbon Street walking around. I think it's Pelicans - New Orleans Pelicans fans celebrating the trade that they got Boogie Cousins.

[05:25:00] SANCHEZ: Yes, it's a big deal. He's one of the best young players in the NBA. No stranger to controversy, though.

SCHOLES: That is very true. (INAUDIBLE) with Anthony Davis, who also - these - both these guys went to Kentucky. So it's -


SCHOLES: It's like Kentucky Wildcats of the south now.

SANCHEZ: That's right. They just got to get John Wall in there.

Andy Scholes, thank you so much. Appreciate it.


CABRERA: See you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

CABRERA: Big questions for President Trump after suggesting to thousands of supporters a terror attack happened in Sweden. The only problem was, it did not happen. So how is the president defending his words?


[05:30:07] SANCHEZ: Suggestion of a terror attack that never happened, prompting new questions for President Trump.