Return to Transcripts main page
President Trump's Comments on Sweden Cause Confusion; Interview with Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Defense Secretary Mattis: No Plan To Seize Iraqi Oil; Trump Tries To Explain Sweden Remark Amid Confusion; How Will Travel Ban Change In New Immigration Order?. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired February 20, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: -- this morning as the Senate Intelligence Committee asks federal agencies to keep 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 administration. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Athena Jones live in West Palm beach, Florida. Athena, good morning.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brooke. The president had a busy weekend at Mar-a-Lago, but he took a break between meetings and golf outings to have that campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida. And it was those off-hand remarks about Sweden that left a whole lot of people confused.
JONES: President Donald Trump doing damage control after seemingly suggesting a terror incident occurred in Sweden during his campaign style rally in Florida.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) 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.
JONES: The comments sparking confusion worldwide. The president later explaining it was something he saw on TV, tweeting "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." That FOX News report, an interview with a conservative filmmaker who accused the Swedish government of covering up violent crimes committed by refugees, aired the night before the president's rally.
AMI HOROWITZ, FILMMAKER: There was an absolute surge in both gun violence and rape in Sweden once it began its open door policy.
JONES: Swedish officials outraged, the Swedish embassy tweeting, "We look forward to informing the U.S. administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies." The White House telling reporters the president was talking about rising crime in general and not referring to a specific incident. Meanwhile Vice President Mike Pence trying to reassure European allies
of the U.S.'s support for NATO. This as the Senate Intelligence Committee tells the Trump administration to preserve all records related to Russia as they investigate Russia meddling in the U.S. election.
NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I'm afraid they're going to destroy the documents.
JONES: FBI Director James Comey holding a classified briefing on Russia with senators on Friday. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus denying any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives before the election and knocking down reports that Trump aides were in constant contact with Russians.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it's grossly overstated, and it was wrong.
JONES: All as President Trump is still searching for a new national security adviser after fire Michael Flynn for misleading the vice president about his communications with Russian officials. The president meeting with several candidates for the job over the weekend.
Amid stories of dysfunction and chaos in the first month of his administration, President Trump escalating his war with the media.
TRUMP: I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news.
JONES: Suggesting on Twitter that the media ask the enemy of the American people. The president's incessant attacks on the free press drawing sharp rebuke in politicians on both sides.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. That's how dictators get started.
JONES: Now, the president may have more meetings with potential national security advisers here today before heading back to Washington where this week he plans to unveil a new executive order on immigration. This as questions remain about other big campaign promises he made for day one, like repealing and replacing Obamacare. Brooke?
BALDWIN: Athena, thank you. The government, the press, the people of Sweden puzzled by President Trump's suggestion that an attack had unfolded in Sweden. CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is live in Stockholm with more. Ivan, how has the government there responded to this?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, the foreign ministry, the Sweden embassy in Washington, they reached out to the U.S. State Department asking for clarification on these comments, and have spoken to a spokesperson for the foreign ministry who said, well, Donald Trump, the U.S. president's tweet saying he was actually referring to something he saw on FOX News, that kind of explains it. But we're anticipating a statement soon.
Meanwhile, this is front page news here in the newspapers here in Sweden, pictures of Donald Trump and questions about why he made this statement about Sweden, or in this tabloid, why he attacked Sweden. And there were a lot of questions after his initial statement, people looking for some kind of incident that could have taken place.
[08:05:02] When you look at the police blotters here, yes, police in Stockholm Friday night before the speech, they did stop somebody who was drunk driving in town. They had a police chase here in Stockholm. There's another humorous story about a moose getting very intimate with a wooden moose in this town. This has led to an awful lot of mockery and jokes online with #Swedenincident and #lastnightinSweden. People putting up photos of Swedish meatballs, putting up photos, images of the Swedish chef from the Muppets, suggesting he could have been a terrorist attacker. It's been room for jokes like that. And there's also been more serious tweets from the former prime minister of this country, Carl Bildt. His tweet after the speech, quote, "Sweden, terror attack, what has he been smoking? Questions abound." Back to you, Brooke.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Ivan, thank you very much. Please let us know what you're able to develop about people feel about their reality with refugees, what it means for crime, what it means for society. We've got a great reporter there. Let's use him.
All right, joining us now, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He's the deputy Republican whip, serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also an Air Force veteran. Good to see you, congressman, how are you doing?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) ILLINOIS: You bet. Good, good. How are you?
CUOMO: So how do you feel about what the president said about Sweden? The facts don't meet up with his urgency. But what did you take from it?
KINZINGER: I thought it's obviously embarrassing, and I think it shouldn't have been said. I think it kind of builds into this narrative that it's more when he's doing the campaign about the emotion of the moment than it is about his security briefings, and that's something he's been criticized for. Really, though, in the broad scheme of things, it's an embarrassing moment. On the broad scheme of things this is a huge international incident. I think about if a foreign policy leader said last night in the United States there was a terrorist attack and there wasn't, I don't think that would lead to a break off of diplomatic relations. But I think it feeds into the narrative that the president has got to be more caged with his words and that words really do have an impact on these kinds of things.
CUOMO: Some other words that could have an impact. What do you make of the fact that my checking of Sweden and proving what the actual facts on the ground are there will probably be met with the idea that I am fake news and an enemy of the American people? How do you like that sentiment? Is that what the president should be telling people?
KINZINGER: I don't like that. And here's the thing -- truth matters. Truth has a meaning. Everybody can see truth kind of through their own lens, right. A liberal will see things one way, a conservative another way. The truth is still truth. If a sky is orange, a pilot may see a beautiful sky, a ship captain may see a threatening sky, but it's still truth.
And I think when we begin to say only believe the truth that comports with your worldview, that's very dangerous. And so I think it's one thing to have an adversarial relationship with the press. The press should be questioning of anybody in politics. And politicians, if they feel like the press is being biased then they should be able to call that out. But it's totally different to say a news story is all fake news, it's not real, because I think that leads down a very dangerous path. And that path is only believe the truth that feels good to you. And so for me, I think it's one thing to have an adversarial relationship. It's another thing to say that the press is all lying all the time.
CUOMO: Are you worried that, if you often enough say things that criticize or disagree with the president, he is going to take to Twitter and give you a thumping that will compromise your political future?
KINZINGER: No, I don't worry, because I support him in a lot of areas. Besides some of the words, the foreign policy that's coming out is strong. I think as a conservative Republican we're excited about the agenda going forward.
But I was hired, I was elected to represent 700,000 people and to represent my country, not my party. I'm a Republican because of what I believe but not because I have some allegiance to Republicanism. So I feel good about what I'm doing and just continue to do what I think is right. The consequences will lay themselves out. And at the end of the day when I'm done with this job, whenever that is, I can look in the mirror and smile, I hope.
CUOMO: Do you think any new executive order that comes out this week should be more than just a temporary ban and should have actual extreme vetting procedures that are new to keep us more safe in it?
KINZINGER: No. I'm going to leave that to the president. I think he does have a lot of leverage here. I think the idea of looking at vetting procedures, I would have expected any new administration to come in and do this. Where I was critical of this obviously is when green card holders were brought in, as a veteran of Iraq, you know, folks who were translators for our military were brought into that mix. And I also kind of question why Iraq is on that list in the first place. They're our biggest ally right now in the war against ISIS. And frankly they have some of the strongest vetting procedures to get an Iraqi passport because we built that after that invasion. So we put in some strong vetting procedures. So I hope they're not on the new executive order, but it sounds like they may be.
[08:10:00] CUOMO: Mike Flynn, do you have concerns, and, yes, there are five different congressional panels looking into connections between the administration or campaign and Russia, do you have concerns that Mike Flynn was made a scapegoat to kind of own any Russia intrigue in the White House, because the more the facts come out, I don't know that it's that clear why he was forced to resign. What's your take?
KINZINGER: I was confused a little bit when I thought -- as I said, I the cover-up in this case is worse than the crime. I think it was highly improper to have discussions with the Russians about sanctions when you had a different president who was working on sanctions. I don't know if it would have been illegal. The cover-up seems like it's what's worse. I don't know how broad this goes or anything like that. I do know we need answers.
And I know that it's important for the House Intel Committee who said they're going to do it, the Senate Intel Committee, to use their classified settings to get to the bottom of this. We know the edict has been put out to preserve all communications with regards to this. I don't want to make this a highly partisan issue because then it becomes just that, a partisan issue where it's hard to get to the truth of. I think it's important for the Intel committees to get to the bottom of this. And look, it will either exonerate everything that's being going on and say there are no deep ties, or we'll find out more. But I think that's where the patience comes in and we need to see.
CUOMO: How do you explain the president's -- his tendency to shelter Russia from criticism? He didn't want to stay what the intelligence community was making plain about connections to the hacks. He didn't want to say what is made plain by most of the international community about Russia's connection to the separatists in Ukraine, and it goes on and on. Even when O'Reilly was talking to him about Putin being a killer, that's O'Reilly's words, the president said, well, there are a lot of them, what about us? What do you make of his desire to shelter Russia in a way that is unusual in America politics?
KINZINGER: You know, I don't know what to make of it. So I have really conflicting signals here. In the administration, the people that he has put in the administration are class acts, I think top- notch. Vice President Pence, you have Mattis, all the way down, Secretary of State Tillerson. These are Russia hawks, people who understand that we can have a relationship with Russia but we also can't let them cross certain red lines. But then on the other hand, his words have violated that.
So it's really confusing to me. My hope is it's just a president right now hoping to make some kind of a big deal, a grand bargain as new administrations that come in do. But I would really hope he watches -- I think he has the opportunity to be a fantastic foreign policy president, but I think he needs to watch things like Vladimir Putin is on the moral equivalence of the United States because he's simply not. CUOMO: So 700,000 people sent you to Washington. I bet they would
all have one thing that they want to say yes to, which is a tax cut. When are you guys going to cut our taxes? It was such a big part of the campaign, and it seems backburner at best and there's all this talk about the Tea Party pushing back on the administration's plans and Ryan's plans. Give us the scoop. What is the status of tax reform?
KINZINGER: So we want to do this right, and we're not going to rush it. We're going to do it cautiously. There is quite a bit of movement actually going on right now in the committees in terms of what this is going to look like. But there's no doubt this is not going to be easy to do. It never is. When you think back to 1986 was the last time we had this, and it took a bargain between Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan.
So look, there's concerns. But we're going to continue to work hard on this, to do this right, to simplify the tax code on the business and personal side and I think reinvigorate the economy. So there's a lot of people trying to rush this process to say get it out there. We want to do this right, make sure it's actually a net huge benefit for the American people. So I actually expect we're going to see really positive results by the time we go home in August.
CUOMO: Would be good to see, the sooner the better. Hard work is demanded from Congress. Results are expected. Congressman, thank you for joining us as always.
KINZINGER: Any time.
BALDWIN: All right, Defense Secretary James Mattis made an unannounced trip to Iraq. General Mattis breaking with President Trump on the idea that U.S. should take their oil. CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live there in Istanbul with more. What did Secretary Mattis say?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was before he actually arrived in Baghdad, speaking to the pool reporters who are traveling with him. He said when it comes to Iraq's oil, contrary to what we heard from President Trump during the campaign and after the inauguration, the United States has no designs on Iraqi oil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEDEMAN: So this is interesting to hear from Secretary Mattis. Yesterday he said that the press is not the enemy of the people. Now he contradicts the president again, saying we have no designs on Iraqi oil. Now clearly he's in Iraq to discuss this ongoing operation to drive ISIS out of Western Mosul.
What we've seen so far, fairly good progress. The Iraqi military has managed to clear ISIS out of about a dozen villages on the outskirts of Mosul. Now they're focusing their efforts on the airport in the southern part of the city and, of course, U.S. troops are involved, more than 5,000 U.S. military personnel in the country as well as U.S. aircraft taking part in coalition operations against is -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: All right, Ben, thank you very much, in Istanbul. Homeland Security set to unveil guidance on the president's revised orders concerning immigration and border security. What lawmakers in communities with large undocumented populations think of that plan? That's next.
BALDWIN: President Trump is clarifying remarks after seemingly alluding to a terror attack in Sweden. Here he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:20:04]DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 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're having problems like they never thought possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That remark stirred all kinds of reaction as no major incident has happened in Sweden that we could find. The country's former prime minister, Carl Bilt tweeted this, quote, "Sweden, terror attack. What has he been smoking? Questions abound."
The president explaining his comment in a tweet, quote, "My statement of what's happening in Sweden was a referenced to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants and Sweden."
So with that, let me bring in Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas of California. Congressman, nice to see you, sir. Good morning.
REPRESENTATIVE TONY CARDENAS (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to see you. Good morning.
BALDWIN: All right, so how do you feel about what the president said about Sweden?
CARDENAS: Well, I feel that he's just instilling fear in people. He's making up stories. He's not even checking the facts, but he's the president of the United States. He has the biggest megaphone perhaps in the world.
It's very disturbing in this democracy we have someone being so irresponsible that he's actually trying to scare the American public but also at the same time he's damaging relationships around the world. Sweden, who doesn't get along with Sweden? BALDWIN: I hear you, Congressman. We just had a Republican congressman on, Congressman Kid Zinger who said, yes, it's embarrassing. He said, yes, he would agree with you that truth matters, but it's not an international incident. How would you respond?
CARDENAS: No, look, if Bobby Joe is going to sit on the porch drinking a beer and talking to neighbors, and spewing out stuff that isn't true that's one thing. But when the president of the United States, Donald Trump, says what he says, interfering with the truth, that is something that's incredibly disturbing.
And something that we should all be not just concerned about but sooner or later maybe Congress should start investigating whether or not the president of the United States is actually violating laws when he's making things up and hurting our relationships.
This is -- let me tell you something, this is going to hurt our economy, and when it hurts economies, everybody is going to be feeling it. They're going to be pretty upset when they realize this doesn't need to be that way.
BALDWIN: What about before I move on to immigration, Congressman Cardenas, just given the notion, we know Trump and his supporters love it when he is fierce and he attacks and especially when it comes down in the media. To go as far as essentially calling the media, the enemy of the American people. Carl Bernstein who helped break the Watergate scandal wide open said that language is treacherous. Chris Wallace said it crossed the line. How do you see it?
CARDENAS: Treacherous is not the right word. I think it's very dangerous. Somebody should Google, look at President Robert F. Kennedy. When he was being bombarded after the Bay of Pigs, he was not a happy camper when it came to the press, but even he said without the press you don't have a democracy.
You have George W. Bush when the Supreme Court went against a decision he didn't like, he said I don't agree with them, but I respect it, and he moved on. This president of the United States is attacking everybody in every faction of our society that doesn't agree with him.
He gets upset. He throws a tantrum. He makes up facts. He says things that aren't true. Before you know it, he's scaring the mess out of people. Again, the most important thing here is this is going to hurt our economy like nothing else. He's being irresponsible and Americans are going to feel it in a way that they shouldn't have to.
BALDWIN: On the other side, some would say he is being responsible, and especially when it comes to immigration. Let me ask you, as you're intimately involved, being a congressman in the state of California, border issues, immigration issues.
You even told a story of how you and your brother were pulled over when you graduated from college and were asked what gang you were affiliated this. This is personal to you. The Department of Homeland Security is set to release guidelines on President Trump's plans as it pertains to border and immigration issues. This isn't final, but we'll throw up on the screen exactly what he's planning, starting with expanding expedited removal of unauthorized immigrants all the way down to leaving DACA intact.
If you look at this with me, you know, tightening laws on asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, and ordering a surge in immigration judges in detention facilities. How do you view this?
CARDENAS: I view it as something that is his campaign promise. He's talking about religious bans in the campaign. He was talking about getting rid of every single immigrant he can get his hands on, et cetera.
BALDWIN: But he's talking about with criminal backgrounds, he says.
CARDENAS: Well, yes, that's what he's saying. We've seen proof just in the last week that they're grabbing anybody who happens to be in the vicinity of somebody who is looking for a criminal. What that means is, these are sweeps. This is what this is. These are sweeps.
[08:25:05]This is something that is not going to help the economy, not help our neighborhoods or public safety. If he goes after criminals, you're absolutely right. I think if you had a vote of Congress saying go after all the criminals, 435 members of Congress would vote yes, a 100 United States senators would vote yes, absolutely.
BALDWIN: But Congressman, let's be precise on numbers because you say he's grabbing anybody. So we know that in these ICE raids, 700 raids in the last week. Of that number, 176 were non-criminals. The majority are criminals who shouldn't be in this country.
CARDENAS: Sure, absolutely. Those figures that you're looking at right now look appropriate and very respectful. But at the same time, I'm starting to question everything that any department puts out because this president is browbeating everybody including the departments.
We tried to have a meeting with ICE just this last week, the Hispanic members of Congress. We're equally duly elected, democratically elected federal representatives and the bottom line is they canceled that meeting over excuses. That is irresponsible. That's scary when elected officials cannot sit down and get answers to questions that we have.
BALDWIN: Final question, I was talking to a state senator in California. I was in L.A. the week before last, and he was talking to me about the fear. Even though if we take the ICE numbers as fact, he says that does not mean that people aren't still afraid. What are you hearing, especially the children?
CARDENAS: What I'm hearing is people are not sending their children to school because they're afraid. I'm hearing that people aren't going to work because they're afraid. What that's doing, that's hurting communities, hurting the economy, hurting Americans. That's one of the things that this president just doesn't get. He doesn't understand when he does these kinds of things, American citizens are getting hurt. He thinks he's look specifically at a particular individual or population, but he's hurting the American economy. And that's something that's unconscionable and it doesn't have to be that way.
BALDWIN: Congressman Cardenas, I appreciate you getting up early for us here on NEW DAY. Thank you so much, sir. Have a wonderful Monday.
CARDENAS: My pleasure.
BALDWIN: Chris, over to you.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Brooke, it's such a provocative conversation. There's a debate going on right now in this country over coverage of the president. You keep hearing words matter. People will say, no, he's just taking the wrong way.
Even the Swedish comments, he was taken out of context, he didn't mean it the way he said it. This relationship between what the president says and what he means and how we understand it, does this help him or hurt him ultimately? Let's get the bottom line from the ax next.