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Trump Tries To Explain Sweden Remark Amid Confusion; Rating Trump's First Month; What Effect Is Trump Having On America's Democracy? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 20, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Is that true? A question many are asking following President Trump's suggestion that a non-existent attack may have occurred in the Scandinavian country. The president now says he was referencing something that he saw on T.V., a "FOX NEWS" segment about an alleged migrant-related problem with crime in Sweden.

Let's get the facts. We've got Azita Raji, the former U.S. ambassador to Sweden. You are in San Francisco. It is early there. Thank you for getting up, but I know that that is a demonstration of the importance that you feel this question surrounds. So, let's talk fact. Refugees came in. Sweden's been letting in more migrants per capita than just about anybody in the world and, as a result, their crime rate has skyrocketed. Is that true?

AZITA RAJI, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SWEDEN: It's partly true. The crime rate has not skyrocketed and Sweden has taken a large number of refugees, as you pointed out. However, it's also important to point out that Sweden has been, historically, a very diverse country very much like our own and it's -- these population -- this population has been very well integrated and has led to the high-ranking and innovation that both the Sweden -- Sweden and the United States have.

So, when you look at the link between crime and immigration it has been disputed many times. There is no link, in fact. There was a study that just came out by -- from the University of Buffalo that showed data from census data and crime reports. In 40 -- over 40 years from 200 cities that, in fact, showed absolutely no link between immigration patterns and crime. So, I think that when we talk about these immigration patterns we need to use the facts that are available. There's absolutely no data to support that.

CUOMO: Well, it is a fact that Sweden has as many or more rape reports than any country, let alone in Scandinavia or even in greater Europe, so how do you account for that?

RAJI: Well, I'm going to let the Swedes and the Swedish government speak to that, but my understanding is that, as you pointed out, there are rape reports. That is because people are encouraged to come forward to file if there is an incident. But again, that has nothing to do with immigrants. I'm not saying that immigrants don't commit crimes. Some do and some don't, but there is absolutely no correlation.

In fact, the study that just came out showed that in communities that have a higher rate of immigration -- migrants -- that actually some crimes are at a lower -- reported at a lower rate. That take place at a lower rate, rather.

CUOMO: And there is a factual corollary that the victims of these allegations also wind up being within the same class of migrants or refugees, meaning that the crimes they commit, they usually commit against their own. That's not unusual for any population. But, we still wind up in the same situation.

You were the U.S. ambassador to Sweden. In the U.S. there is fear. We don't want the problems here that we see everywhere else in the world and that's why the president's suggestion, while maybe counterfactual or also known as wrong, does stoke the fear here. And people say I don't care if it's just one case, Azita, I don't want it here. What do you say to them?

RAJI: Chris, you're absolutely right and fear is the keyword. We don't want to have policies that are based on fear. There's absolutely no evidence that supports that -- what you just stated. And we want to have evidence-based policies that are based on claims that are -- that are substantiated.

And you know, I'll give you one example. Over the last three years, Sweden has taken about 200,000 people. This is in a country with a population of 10 million. If, proportionately, we took the same number of people in this country that's about six or eight million people. Based on that we should be reporting terrorist attacks in Sweden every week. You see no such thing.

Sweden is one of the most safe and prosperous countries. They are ranking -- last year they were the second most innovative country in the world. Actually, we were number three -- or number four, according to a global innovation index.

And there's just -- if we want -- crime happens because there is a lack of opportunity. This country is based on immigrants, it's based on opportunity. And when you have communities where there's no education, a lack of opportunity, a lack of access to the labor market, then maybe the rational choice might be for some people to resort to crime. But I'm not -- I don't think that there's a correlation between that and immigrants.

CUOMO: The --

RAJI: It's not substantiated anywhere.

CUOMO: The person who decides to dig into this a little bit will learn that Sweden did have to change its policy of how many it absorbs and there is an implication there that they were getting overwhelmed there. That the needs of the community and the social services and the safety concerns made them change their policy and take less. What do you say about that?

[07:35:08] RAJI: Well, to be sure, when you take such a large number of people at a very -- in a short period of time that presents a great deal of challenges and -- challenges in terms of where to house them, how to educate the children, and so forth, and how to absorb and integrate that population. That is not to say that that is linked to a concern to crime.

And I would also further say that that is a long -- that is a short- term challenge for any country, in this case for Sweden, but a long- term economic opportunity and it should be seen that way. These are people that have, in many cases, higher education degrees. They have talents. They have different stories -- innovative ways of looking at solutions -- at problems. And immigrants have to have a great deal of hope and courage and ambition to leave their countries to go to another country to be willing to start all over again.

Those are the attributes of successful entrepreneurs and we have seen that in our own country where entrepreneurs are proportionately -- create businesses at a higher rate than our own citizens.

CUOMO: All right. Azita Raji, I wanted to talk to you about what is right now because there's really no reason to believe that there's any true diplomatic strain over this. If that changes I'll bring you back on and we'll discuss what could be as a result of all this, but thanks for helping us clarify it.

RAJI: Thank you very much, Chris.

CUOMO: Brooke --

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. So, how do you President Trump's supporters think he's doing? We're on day 32 now into the Trump administration. He went back on the campaign trail to get the base fired up again first, on Friday, then over the weekend in Florida. Is there anything he can do to shake their trust? That's next.


[07:40:25] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people. I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news.


CUOMO: President Trump taking his message directly to the people -- campaign-style rally, big crowd just a month after assuming the presidency. So how do his supporters see his words and actions?

BALDWIN: Let's discuss with CNN contributor Salena Zito. She's also a reporter for the "Washington Examiner" and a "New York Post" columnist. Also with us this morning, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.

And Ron, let's begin with you and this notion of all right, you know, Trump's been out and about. He's firing up his base. The base is loving this, you know, verbal pugilistic style of his. Yet, you're saying hang on a second because at some point within the Trump crowd there will be a splintering. How do you mean?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": I think there already is. Look, there's no question there are elements of President Trump's base that feel he is doing exactly what they sent him to Washington to do, to disrupt, to break windows. To, you know, change the way that business is done. And there's no question, also, that his approval rating among Republicans -- self- identified Republicans -- is at historic highs.

But those were not the only people who voted for him and, in fact, if they were the only people who voted for him he would not have won. If you go back to Election Day and you look at the exit poll, over one- quarter of the people who voted for Donald Trump said they did not believe he was qualified, said they did not believe he had the temperament to succeed as president, but they wanted change, they didn't like Hillary Clinton, and they were willing to take a chance on him.

And if you look at the polling, unless you're willing to dismiss every poll, and not only national polls but state polls that have come out in the last couple of weeks, you can look at two groups in particular, Independents and college-educated white voters. He won 48 percent of college-educated white voters in the election, 46 percent of Independents. He's polling at about 35 percent approval among both voters today so I don't think you can look at the evidence and say that all of Donald Trump's voters are satisfied and reassured by the way that he has been conducting himself as president.

And then, in fact, there is a not insignificant portion of his base that more than having their concerns alleviated are having them reinforced.

CUOMO: And yet, Salena, there is a group that he talked to most. Those who feel ignored, forgotten, who are waiting for a slice of jobs that they want to come back. He promised them that. They are not giving up hope. They are not done giving Trump a chance, not by a long stretch. Do you see that echoed again and again when you take your travels?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, REPORTER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER", COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK POST": Sure. I mean, at this point we're only 30 days in so people are still in the honeymoon level and they're still happy. I mean, I have interviewed a variety of people over the past 30 days. I keep in touch with them. I'm also always on the road. And at this moment, you know, he's doing fine. They're satisfied. They are happy with how he conducts himself because they understood who they were voting for. You know, for us it's a little bit difficult.

But to Ron's point -- and I think this is really, really important about independence. You know, you saw that erode for President Obama in August of 2009 when you saw Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell start to gain traction in those off-year elections as governors of New Jersey and Virginia. And that's where Independents started to be sort of unhappy with President Obama's policies and went towards the Republicans.

I think that's when, you know -- sort of August, September -- I think that's when we should start really looking at these numbers and see if they start to break away from his policies and with him -- with his personality.

BALDWIN: Let me stay with you, Salena, because you wrote a piece for the paper and, essentially, your lead line is, you know, President Trump is a caged animal in the White House, right, speaking to --

ZITO: Right, yes.

BALDWIN: -- these rallies, right? In South Carolina on Friday, Melbourne, Florida on Saturday, the caged animal. But take him out of the White House and that's like his special sauce.

ZITO: Right.

BALDWIN: Is that -- is that the magic right now for him?

ZITO: Right. I mean, he's like the lion, right? You're -- in a zoo, in a cage, that's sort of sad and pathetic. But, you know, as Bruce Haines (ph) says in my story, you put him in his natural habitat and he's majestic and -- I mean, you know, not literally but to -- you know, he glows. He's happy. He's expressing himself. He's feeding off of the crowds. And this is not unprecedented. President Obama -- remember, I covered this --

[07:45:00] BALDWIN: The stimulus in '09.

ZITO: -- in Elkhart, Indiana. Yes, February 9th, 2009. He had a very campaign-like rally. President Bush did it, as well -- Clinton.

CUOMO: Right.

ZITO: This is not unprecedented. And they feed -- I mean, that's good, right? D.C. -- you don't -- you don't -- you aren't president of Washington, D.C. That's where you govern. You're president of the people. Those kinds of events are good for all presidents and I think they learn a lot from those kinds of events.

CUOMO: Well, the timing was important. The left didn't like it when I said that. Oh, this is a smart move for the president to get out there and do it --

ZITO: Yes.

CUOMO: -- because they didn't want to hear anything good about the president. We have such a division --

ZITO: Right. CUOMO: -- right now.


CUOMO: But Ron, you know -- OK, so what's the next level of analysis? It's yes, it's good, get out there. Have people cheering for you. That's good optically. Perception could become reality.


CUOMO: But he has a different mandate now. He's not running for office where they just have to like him. He has to get things done --


CUOMO -- and that disconnect will become more stark as time goes on --


CUOMO: -- yes?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, there's more to the job, right? I mean, every president is exhilarated by going out and being among the people and talking about getting outside of the Washington bubble and all of their troubles at home, but there is more to the job. There is -- as Salena said, there is actual governing. And, you know, if you kind of look at this the president, I think, on one front on the use of executive authority -- yes, they have moved aggressively in some areas, there's no question.

They've also suffered pretty unprecedented reversals in the first month. The court decision in the Ninth Circuit -- I don't know if any other president has faced something that early, having to fire your national security adviser that early. Again, unprecedented. At least on the executive side there are both sides of the ledger. On the legislative side I think it's very different.

You know, two of his core promises are repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and fundamental tax reform. And in each case the effort is getting much more difficult, grinding into the mud, largely because of disagreements among Republicans about whether the principle alternatives would hurt their own voters. The import tax, on tax reform as kind of a blow --


BROWNSTEIN: -- against lower middle-income voters. And also, on the Affordable Care Act --

CUOMO: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- the fact that all of the principle Republican alternatives shift cause --

CUOMO: Right. BROWNSTEIN: -- from younger, healthier people who mostly vote Democratic to older, sicker people who mostly vote Republican. You've got to engage --

CUOMO: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- as the president in this kind of very difficult sausage making.

CUOMO: You know, I was watching your show, I think it was last week, and the disconnect between -- I'm a huge fan. I'm still waiting for that signed headshot. The disconnect between inviting people to a rally and those town hall meetings where those Congress members are going in there and seeing people who aren't cherry picked and are coming in, it shows the disconnect between talking the talk and walking the walk.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Ron and Salena, thank you all both so much.

ZITO: Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Are President Trump's attacks on American ideals and institutions ultimately an attack on our democracy? Some are already warning about the Trump effect. We'll look into that. What does that mean for the rest of us over the course of the next few years?


[07:51:20] CUOMO: All right. So, the president is riding a wave of right-wing populism. There's no question about that. What are the implications of it and of his pretty consistent attack of institutions of democracy? Does that have a real effect on the fundamental ideals and institutions of our democracy? We have somebody who actually has studied this extensively. Why don't you bring in our guest?

BALDWIN: All right. Yascha Mounk is with us. A Harvard lecturer and columnist for "Slate." He also co-founded a watchdog group "After Trump." So, you know, I've read quite a bit of what you've written recently and I'm just trying to understand. So, you're essentially arguing that Trump being this authoritarian threat would ultimately threaten our American democracy. How do you mean?

YASCHA MOUNK, POLITICAL THEORIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, COLUMNIST, "SLATE": Well, it's quite simple. In order for democracy to work you have to have people actually commit it to the basic values of a system. Political scientists talk about contributing a consolidated democracy when everybody accepts the basic rules of a game.

And this accepts -- this includes, for example, that you think your political position is legitimate. That you don't threaten to lock up your political opponents. That you say look, sometimes the press is going to write things that I don't like but that doesn't make them the enemy of me or the enemy of the people. It means that they're doing their job. It means accepting that when a judge rules against you, he's still a legitimate judge.

Now, what we've seen over the last three or four weeks is extreme rhetoric to the effect that all of this isn't true. And for now, it's only rhetoric and that's very corrosive of a basic agreement we need to have -- all of us as Americans -- in order to have trust in the system. But your president hasn't yet gone the step further of actually attacking --

CUOMO: Right, but isn't that a huge distinction that, you know -- to put it in not a political theorist's language but in, you know, just common speak, he talks a lot of smack, President Trump. People know that about him. He trashes his enemies, that's what he does. He's hyperbolic, he doubles down, he exaggerates. He gets a lot of things wrong --


CUOMO: -- and that winds up being a bridge too far. But the idea that somebody who was dismissed not just by his critics but by many in his base where they'll say I don't really believe what he says, you know, he's angry.


CUOMO: He's just angry at you. Do you think that there is a serious impact from someone who is often not taken that seriously?

MOUNK: I think so. There's two things to worry about here. The first is that, you know, in a democracy there are certain things we really shouldn't talk smack about. The whole point of democracy is that we often have deep disagreements about public policy. We have deep disagreements about what we should do as a country. But we all agree that the way to settle those is to have elections. A way to settle those is to say look, if I lost this election, you know what, it's OK. You get to rule for a little bit, and that's legitimate.

But the systems we use in order to elect people actually be appropriate things to do. And once you start eroding that trust you really increase the likelihood that there's going to be violentopposition, that there's going to be people in the streets. And over time that can happen quite quickly and be pretty dangerous.

BALDWIN: And you --

MOUNK: The second thing is that in history whenever people used to say oh look, this guy's just talking a little bit of smack-- you know, he doesn't really mean it -- it often turned out to be quite bad. When you look at countries like Venezuela, countries like Italy, and countries like Poland, every time that somebody said you know what, I don't think these institutions are all that legitimate. I'm going to attack the press, I'm going to attack the opposition. A lot of people said you know, he doesn't mean it. It's not going to happen.

BALDWIN: But this is -- let me just jump in. This is the United States, you know.

MOUNK: Sure.

BALDWIN: I feel like, you know, you have the United States and Venezuela, that's a totally different ballgame. I mean, you do look at some trends. Let's say, we'll look at Germany, look at England and what's happened there. But still, it's the U.S.

[07:55:00] MOUNK: Yes, and that's basically a big debate about what it is that has made America so stable historically. So on the one side, America has checks and balances. It has a constitution that gives you opposition and a lot of rights. But on the other hand, America's also always had people who are deeply committed to that political system. We never have had a president who's called the press the enemy of the people. We never had had a president who has attacked judges in the kind of way that Donald Trump has over the last year.

So now, the question is what do you need in order for the system to remain stable? Is it just enough that there's a constitution or do we need people -- do we need politicians who actually have real consensus around the basic ways in which we govern our country.

CUOMO: Well, one good thing that we've seen is that the president's provocation of the media has actually engendered a heightened sense of journalism, and more fact-checking, and more aggression on the part of the --

BALDWIN: And more people are tuning in.

CUOMO: -- media defending its right to exist. So we haven't seen him have real deleterious effect except among his base, but that's just my take. What do you think you are seeing that is motivating your concern? If you had to point to something where you say hey, this is actually a concern, what is happening right here. Is there anything there yet?

MOUNK: Well, one of the things that I've seen in my academic work is people really turn against democracy over the last 20 years. So, for example, when you ask older Americans born in the 1930s and 1940s how important it is for them to live in a democracy, over two-thirds say absolutely essential. Ten out of 10. Once you look at younger Americans, millennials born since 1980, less one-third of them say it's really important to then. Similarly, when you talk about --

CUOMO: That's your generation.

BALDWIN: Oh, I'm not a millennial.

CUOMO: That's your generation.

MOUNK: When you -- when you talk about really extreme alternatives to democracy, like military rule, army rule, 20 years ago one in 16 Americans said that was a good thing. Now it's more than doubled to one in six. Now, that's really concerned me in the last years.

What I've seen in the last weeks is that I think a lot of young people are starting to see what it means when the democracy is threatened. They're starting to realize that they've always criticized the system -- have seen the bad in it but now they're recognizing how much of the things in the system are actually good. How many of these things they want to defend. And so, I've seen a real upswell of energy to say no, we're going to defend our institutions. There's a lot of good things that we want to rescue. And that's something that's given me hope, actually, over the last weeks.

BALDWIN: Yascha, what's the issue with economic anxiety and how does that tie into all of this in terms of, you know, democracy and creating this opening, to your point?

MOUNK: Yes. So, one of the reasons why people say look, we're the United States, we don't have to worry, is that democracy has been incredibly stable here for 250 years. But there's a bunch of things that have been true throughout that time period that are no longer true and one of them is economic growth. So, for all of American history, essentially living standards doubled to nearly doubled from one generation to the next. From 1935 to 1960, it doubled. From 1960 to 1985, it doubled.

And that made it easy for people to have trust in the system. They never liked politicians that much. They never trusted people in D.C. all that much but they said you know what, I'm twice as rich as my dad was. My kid's probably going to be twice as rich as me. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's let them do their thing. Now, a lot of people are saying look, I haven't had my living standards improve. Most people's living standards haven't improved since about 1985.

So you know what, let's change some things up. I don't trust most people anymore. They're not sticking to their end of the deal. Let's let somebody radical who can just shake up everything. And that, I think, is one of the real drivers of a rise of populism not just in the United States but throughout North America and Western Europe and beyond.

BALDWIN: OK. Yascha Mounk, smart guy.

CUOMO: Yes, he is.

BALDWIN: I like your translation, talking smack.

CUOMO: But when Yascha -- when Yascha says it, it sounds like a political theory.

BALDWIN: Yes, it does.

CUOMO: When I say it --

BALDWIN: That's brilliant. Yascha Mounk, thank you so much for joining us.

MOUNK: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: There is a lot of news to tell you about this morning. Let's get right to it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are here today to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump doing damage control.

TRUMP: You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. They're having problems like they never thought possible.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president believes in the first amendment.

TRUMP: The media lies. I will never let them get away with it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need a free press. That's how dictators get started.

CUOMO: A Senate committee preparing an investigation into the Trump- Russia connection.

PRIEBUS: We don't know of any contacts with Russian agents.

BALDWIN: Defense Secretary James Mattis looking to ease Iraqi concerns.

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.


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

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your new day. Alisyn's off, Brooke Baldwin is here. Thank you --

BALDWIN: Good morning.

CUOMO: -- very much. "Last night in Sweden." That is the phrase that is haunting the president. He seemed to be flagging an incident that never happened and it's an example of all the problems that have come with not knowing the facts. Did the president really put what he saw on television over what he should have been learning from his intel briefings?

BALDWIN: All of this, this morning, as the Senate Intelligence Committee asks federal agencies to keep all records related to Russia for their hacking investigation. Meantime, President Trump continues his search for a new national security adviser. We are now in day 32 of the Trump --