Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Administration Widens Net for Deportations; Trump: Anti- Semitism is "Horrible" and "Painful"; President Visits Africa American History Museum; Pres. Trump's Tweet: Town Hall Protests are Liberal Plants. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 21, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Topping this hour of "360", no changes yet for the dreamers, but difficult days ahead potentially for almost any other undocumented immigrants. Sweeping changes to enforcement guidelines make it easier to deport people immediately, making it harder for asylum seekers expanding the focus of reinforcement from the border truly anywhere in the country. In a moment, one former border state mayor on what this may mean on the ground, also, the political pluses and minuses for the Trump administration. But first, our justice correspondent Pamela Brown with the very latest.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, the Department of Homeland Security releasing new guidelines that could massively expand the number of undocumented immigrants detained or deported from the U.S. They broaden who ICE may target and expedite the removal of undocumented immigrants from the U.S.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Everybody who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time. The priority that the President has laid forward, and the priority that ICE is putting forward through GSHSI guidance to make sure that the people who have committed a crime or post a threat to our public safety are the priority of their efforts first and foremost.

BROWN: Under President Obama, ICE focused on deportation in three categories, convicted criminals, public safety threats and those who recently crossed the border illegally. Under the Trump administration, those categories will be broadened out. Now, anyone who is even accused of a crime, such as DUI is eligible for deportation. And the new memos made clear immigration agents now have broader discretion to decide who to round up.

CNN rode along with ICE agents in 2015 when they targeted an undocumented criminal at this auto shop in Chicago, when another undocumented immigrant working at the same shop took off running. He had no criminal background, so ICE let him go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck to you, Ben.

BROWN: But now, under the new guidelines, that same man could be detained and possibly deported.


BROWN: Greisa Martinez was brought to the U.S. from Mexico 20 years ago. The White House says, people like Martinez, known as dreamers will still be protected under DACA for now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were brought here in such a way -- it's very, it's a very, very tough subject. We are going to deal with DACA with heart.

BROWN: But Martinez says, she's still unsure what her future holds in the U.S.

MARTINEZ: We're concerned about what Donald Trump means for our family. Will it mean that we will be separated from our mother just like we were separated from our father nine years ago?


COOPER: So, Pamela, the memos also are ending some programs, what do they call for?

BROWN: That's right. So the memos in the catch and release program, and that was when an undocumented immigrant was arrested and then released until the immigration proceeding which would sometimes be years. So this is effectively ends that program and it calls for more expedited removals for those who have been in the United States for two years or less. It also makes it harder for asylum seekers to stay in the U.S. while they await their proceedings.

Now, it's important to emphasize the administration says these are new guidelines. They are not making any changes to the law. This is all under the existing laws. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Pam Brown. Pam, thanks.

Joining us is now is Julian Castro, former HUD secretary and former Democratic mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

Secretary Castro, thanks for being with us. First of all, what's your immediate reaction to these changes? How big a change is this really?

JULIAN CASTRO, (D) FORMER MAYOR, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: Well, you know, when you go through the executive order, the executive order is a mess. And, as folks throughout the evening have been remarking, seems somewhat contradictory, on the one hand they say, you know, no exceptions except for DACA and well, we're still going to prioritize criminals, on the other hand, it's very clear that this is a significant change. That they are expanding the dragnet, and even though, for instance, they say that dreamers are off limits right now.

The fact is that right here in San Antonio, in my hometown, just a couple days ago, there was a dreamer that was rounded up. So the way I read this is it's a significant change. It's an unleash the hounds type of executive order that is basically going to give license to folks out there in local communities, ICE agents who want to be aggressive to go ahead and be aggressive.

COOPER: It does seem like a lot is left up to interpretation when it comes to judgments that different agencies have to make or frankly that different cities set as priorities.

CASTRO: It does. And, yeah, the executive order talks about, for instance, expanding 287(g), basically expanding a program that worked with local communities as an amplifying force to round up undocumented immigrants. Well, the fact is, the police chiefs from across the country have said that in most places don't want that kind of responsibility. They want to focus on hard-core criminals.

[21:05:00] So you're going to have a lot of local communities and say, "No. We don't want to participate in 287(g). We think there's a better way to keep our community safe. To use our resources more wisely."

COOPER: You know, President Trump -- then candidate Trump, I mean, he campaigned on making these changes. None of this really should come as a surprise to anybody, and he did win the election partly based on his promise to deport many people who are in this country illegally. What do you say to those who say, "Look, this is long overdue" that people have broken the law, not criminal law, but broken the law by coming here and that this shouldn't be a surprise to anybody?

CASTRO: Well, you know, I put that in the category of politics. I don't care whether it's a surprise or not. What I care about are the families who are being impacted by this. Even if somebody, even if you're somebody watching out there and you say, "Look, they broke the law, they got to go." Well, the fact is that so many of the folks that we're talking about have family members. American citizens that you're ripping those people apart from, you're tearing apart families. So this has real-life consequences, far apart from the politics of this.

The other thing that I would say is, if you're out there in middle America and you think, "Wow, this guy really, you know, he lived up to his campaign promise." You know what? What he's proposed is not going to make your life better. It's not going to create one more job for you or for your family. It's not going to solve the problems that you may or may not have in your life. All this is doing is making it worse for families across the United States, and it's going to hurt the economies of states across this country. And, as we've seen in places like Alabama and other states, that has a very real consequence in your life. So get ready for it.

COOPER: There -- you know, I mean, you say get ready for it. This may take a long amount of time. I mean, there's still questions about where is the money going to come from, and we're talking about an awful lot of money to train officers, not just more ICE agents but I mean, courts to process this, holding facilities. There's a lot of details that still have to be worked out. CASTRO: No doubt. And yes, and no. There's some of it that probably is going to happen immediately. For instance, by unleashing the hounds here, there are aggressive ICE agents in some communities that are going to start rounding up more undocumented immigrants right away. At the same time, he's also talking about scrounging the federal budget for money for the wall. That's going to take a long time. That's billions and billions of dollars that will take a while. I don't think that that's ever going to come to pass but that would take a long time.

Same thing for the 5,000 DHS employees that he talks about in the executive order. You're not going to do that overnight. There's a battle in Congress right now about how much more spending there's going to be. So those are big hurdles that this executive order has to overcome.

COOPER: Secretary Castro, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

CASTRO: Thank you.

COOPER: Joining us now is Paul Babeu, former sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona and former Republican congressional candidate. Gloria Borger is back this hour, so are Jeff Toobin and Juliet Kayyem.

Sheriff Babeu, let me start with you. I mean, you've been on the ground, you've seen this firsthand. How big a shift is this?

PAUL BABEU, FORMR SHERIF, PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA: This is significant. Yeah, I remind people, everybody needs to ratchet it down a couple notches, because nothing's changed in the law. What's happening is the law is going to be enforced, and the President is setting very clear priorities for guidance or direction to those who enforce the law. And it's targeted, centered around the criminal element. There's -- some people say 11, some people say 14 million illegals who are here.

The President, very specifically, is targeting the criminal element, the million plus, 74 percent of which have felony convictions. And he's right to do that. And what's noticeable, when you're talking to Secretary Castro, I hear this countless times, and it makes me sick quite honestly, the fact that they're divorced from reality. They have compassion for everyone else, yet I never hear them talk about the Steve Ronnenbach (ph), whose son has been murdered in my state.

The Maryann Mendoza, whose son has been murdered. They have met these people. They never talk about compassion or interest or prioritizing them.

COOPER: Is the definition -- because what some critics have pointed to is that the definition of who is a criminal has now been expanded into this. That it's not just the, you know, felons. It can -- that it's basically up to any law enforcement agent to decide who they want to deport.

BABEU: It's not. It's giving very clear guidance, the same way the six-page memo was put out by Secretary Johnson, giving very clear directives to those 22 agencies under Homeland Security. Same way here, we're looking at those who have been here two years or less. Remember, Obama live T.V. said, "If you've been here and you're illegal, five years or more, you're going to get deferred action."

[0:04:57] The same night, Secretary Johnson put out that directive for prosecutorial discretion. And the reality on the ground, because my deputies at that time enforced it, they were asking people, "How long have you been here?" And Gloria, if you've been here for only two weeks and you tell me five years, which of course you're going to do to stay here, that's the reality.

COOPER: Let me --

BABEU: So it was de facto amnesty for every illegal who is here. That's the reality under Obama.

COOPER: Let me bring Jeff Toobin. Jeff, is that your understanding as well, that essentially, it's not a huge change or expansion of who is a criminal?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, no, it is an expansion of the number of people who are going to get deported, and I have to say, I think it is an appalling that the Sheriff is trying to use the deaths of people at the hands of criminals. Everybody -- Secretary Castro wants to see criminals punished. Everybody wants to see people who murder other people punished, whether they are legal or illegal in the United States.

The question is, do you want law-abiding people thrown out of this country, people who work, people who have families in this country? That's what this order is going to do. And the idea that Donald Trump invented the idea of deporting criminals, you saw earlier in the story that Obama's priority was deporting criminals.

So the expansion here is not with criminals. The expansion is for undocumented people who are living in this country, trying to make a living. That's the people who are going to get deported as a result.

COOPER: Sheriff, I want you --

BABEU: That's not reality. Because I can tell you, my deputies were arresting illegals who are smuggling drugs, or smuggling people. They've been deported 12 times, 16 times, 22 times. And don't be surprise. Don't scratch your head trying to figure out why, it's because there was no consequence. There was no enforcement of the law.

It shouldn't be appalling that I made a statement about Secretary Castro in many people who always forget the tens and tens of thousands of American citizens who have been victimized by this criminal element. The Democrats -- it's largely the Democrat, liberal side, has done their side no service, because they did not go after the criminal element. They've allowed like --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I -- BABEU: -- in the case of Ronnenbach, that criminal Alto Moreno (ph)

was out for a year and a half.

BORGER: But how do you get, a, ten thousand more enforcement agents. That's going to cost -- I've seen the --

BABEU: Billions

BORGER: -- 1 to $4 billion.

BABEU: You're right.

BORGER: Where does that money come from? You're building a wall that already costs $20 million --

BABEU: Sure.

BORGER: -- plus, where are you going to get that? And how are you sure that when you give these local officials such discretion that they're going to use it wisely?

BABEU: Well, there's of couple issues here, because you're talking about law enforcement. You give me the authority, Gloria, in this republic, to make decisions up to and including lethal force. My god, can we not make determinations about who is here in the country and who is a threat, who is not? The law hasn't changed. We're setting priorities. You bring up a very valid point. There's going to take some time to ramp up to hire what is 15,000 agents. It takes nearly a year for a regular police officer to answer calls on his or her own.

So it's going to take four, six, eight, 12 months for this really to get up on its legs and start to walk and to run. The reality here is we're uncuffing. And the President has, very clearly, said this, "You're uncuffing the law and order people." The ICE immigration officers and Border Patrol. What it happened, illegals would come across, and they were given an NTA, notice to appear and to show up to court 30-plus days later, 90, 95 percent would never show up.

COOPER: Let me bring in Juliette Kayyem. Juliette, how do you see this?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. Well, I don't know how you can say that this is uncuffing and revolutionary and Trump is finally doing something that no one else ever thought of before, which is not true. And everything is going to be OK. Those just are not consistent.

As a Democrat who served in the Department of Homeland Security in the last administration, enforcement is difficult. And everyone has to set priorities. What, we saw today was language in the orders or in the guidelines that essentially did appear to unleash, right, because they left open the possibility that anyone, without any criminal violation, could get deported. But then you hear Sean Spicer do the sort of wink and nod, "Oh, we really only want the bad people." Well, if you only want the bad people that's the Obama standard. So, in some ways that just what so easy, I just have to say that I mean, to make it a Democrat Republican thing, that's not what this is. The challenge of enforcement is we have, you know, 12 million, 11 million whatever the number is people that are undocumented. You are not going to deport your way out of this problem.

[21:14:57] And so the reason why Republicans and Democrats have historically always used -- always focused on enforcement as only one piece of the immigration challenge. The others being, you know, could you get a pathway to citizenship, what kind of economy do we want, what kind of skilled labor, what kind of farm labor, those are the hard things.

And so, while this may be legal, it's definitely cruel. I mean, I really mean that as someone who's a proponent of enforcement. Because it just leaves open the kind of discretion that is really going to make immigrant communities fearful and it is going to put them -- make them less likely to help the very local law enforcement who need them for violent crimes, for counter-terrorism.

COOPER: Let me ask the Sheriff about that. I mean, I talked to the mayor of Los Angeles while a back who said, that was one of his big concerns, and while a lot of mayors and local folks don't want to cooperate on something like this, because they're worried that something is illegal who witnesses a crime is not going to want to talk to the police, it's not going to want to come in and give an interview because out of fear that, you know, they may get picked up and deported.

BABEU: That's not true.

COOPER: That's not true.

BABEU: There's special visas for those who would offer testimony or witness information and anybody connected in their family. I've granted those as a sheriff in my county to victims, people who are illegal.

COOPER: But a lot of people may not know that. I mean, you don't --

BABEU: They may not. I've gone out of my way as this is that the part of the law. And I listened to this wonderful woman talk, as she is part of the administration, and I feel like there's a parallel universe as I'm listening to these conversations. Because the reality in my county, all 15 sheriffs in my state, and half of us are Democrats, half of us were Republicans. We all came together in a unified voice and spoke out saying this system is broken. We use, one day's example of criminals, dangerous criminals who were released into my state. One -- two were murderers, and one was convicted of aggravated assault, and we said, "Where do you think they're from?" Everybody responded, "Well, it must be Mexico." Not one was of them was from Mexico, not one of them was Hispanic. They came from Russia, Iraq, and Sudan.

And we did that for the purpose not to say that this is Democrat or Republican, but the system is broken. And that's what has to be fixed. That's why Donald Trump was elected, is to restore law and order. The reason why I brought up the Democrat is because it's these leaders who have failed our country when it comes to law and order, enforcing the law. That's why I've said they've done no favors for their argument. In fact, they undermined it with the good will of the American people --


BABEU: -- because they victimized --


TOOBIN: The Sheriff is talking. The Sheriff is talking as if --

COOPER: Hold on. Not everyone. Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: The Sherriff is talking as if every single person who is in this country without papers is a criminal. He is talking exclusively --

BABEU: No, I'm not.

TOOBIN: -- about criminals, but I think sane people can agree that the vast, vast majority of people who are in this country without papers are trying to make a living. They are not criminals. And this is what we should be talking about. What's going to happen to them? Are they just going to be put into boxcars, 11 million people and thrown out of this country?


TOOBIN: I mean, why --

BABEU: And that's thing, you had eight years to take care of this, and you didn't. And the American people are fed up to hear with this nonsense, and the lawlessness that has occurred in this country.

BORGER: But the President did deport two million people.

BABEU: No, and this is where there's reports out there that there's double counting. That the border with the Russian --

BORGER: You're saying Obama did not deport two million people?

BABEU: Absolutely. That there's even -- and there's reports that are out there that said that these are numbers that are counted through border patrol and then ICE gets a hold of them and you're counting --

COOPER: Juliette, we got to give you the final thought because we got to move on.

KAYYEM: Yeah. So, I just -- there's no question enforcement have to happen. There's just no question. And I don't know why this has become a Democrat Republican thing. The question is priorities, and what priorities are you going to set? You can set them as the criminals, right, that you want everyone will agree with that, right, everyone. There's not a single person who defends criminality.

The question is, whether the pool of people who -- as I said, you are not going to deport your way out of this issue. There are 12 million of them. So, instead of spending so much time on saying how the system is broken, what -- the reason why we focus on, is there going to be a pathway to so citizenship, what kind of country do we really want to be, do we really want to separate families, those are the harder questions. This was easy. I'm getting them. This was easy for Trump. And it had political power as you've just heard from the Sheriff. But it's not going to solve the issue that we have in cities and states throughout this country.


KAYYEM: And so it's cruel, but it's not going to solve the problem.

COOPER: We will continue. There's no doubt. Gloria, thank you. Juliette Kayyem, Sheriff Babeu, great to have you.

Just ahead, the reaction live in Mexico City, where as you might imagine, they see things very differently.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: We're joined by one of the biggest domestic policy changes in years. New guidelines reveal today that expand the scope and rules of engagement from enforcing immigration law. Now, critics say amount declaring open seas on a millions of otherwise law abiding undocumented workers. Supporters say it strengthens the boarder and among other things, makes it easier for citizens to find work. It's enforcing existing law, as they say.

Joining us now is U.C Berkley professor of public policy and former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. He is the author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few". And back with us is former Arizona Sherriff Paul Babeu.

So Secretary Reich, let's start with you. DHS officials repeatedly emphasize that this is not an expansion of existing laws. Are they right? Is this just the Trump administration enforcing the laws that they say the Obama administration chose not enforce?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, it certainly is an expansion of existing laws to the extent that there is on the books and in the plan more enforcement, more enforcers, and a much greater dragnet, a kind of much more discretion with -- who to go up against and who to find. A lot of due process violations in terms of suspicions and beliefs on the part of immigration enforcers that really are not going to be put to the test being in front of courts or judges or magistrates.

But the thing that really worries me, Anderson, is that this entire initiative is based on to Donald Trump lies that he sold to the American people. One that crime is going way up in the United States and the second that illegal immigration is going way up in the United States. When, in fact, the truth is that crime is going down, and illegal immigration has been going down. And so why this suddenly becomes a priority. Well, it's a priority because Donald Trump lied to the American people and the American people believed it.

COOPER: Sheriff Babeu, is this based on lies?

BABEU: It's quite dramatic to start out the interview that way. But I could tell you what shocking about this is is the fact that the law is going to be enforced. There shouldn't be any big surprise.

[21:25:05] There's nothing dramatic about this. Laws are enforced on you and me as American citizens each and every day. Yet, what is so shocking is the fact that we haven't had the law enforced on illegal immigration for years and years, and there's been all this deferred action, there's been these carve outs, and now, we have a president who's been elected, who made this a key plank in his effort to get elected, and he's delivering on his promise. The law has --

REICH: And Mr. Sheriff --

BABEU: He's setting priorities within the laws, and he's targeting who? Of the 14 million illegals who are here, the million criminal illegals, 74 percent of which have felony convictions.

Now those aren't regular illegals. They're not regular people in our neighbor. These are -- a lot of them, very serious criminals. They have been convicted, not charged, convicted on these crimes.

COOPER: So Sheriff, you -- so, when Secretary Reich says --


COOPER: Go ahead.

REICH: I just want to ask the Sheriff; one simple question. That is obviously everybody in the United States is concerned about avoiding criminality and making sure that criminals are punished. That's not the issue. The real question I have for the Sherriff is --

BABEU: It is the issue.

REICH: Well, it's not the issue.

BABEU: It is the issue because if you're so concerned about that now --


COOPER: Let him finish his question.

REICH: If I may, you said -- I want to know what your priorities are, and also whether this in any way interferes with other priorities you may have as sheriff in terms of other kinds of criminality. I want -- I just want to know, as a practical matter, are Americans being served by this? And if so, exactly how?

BABEU: First you start out with a drama filled attack calling the President three times a liar. I'm here to tell you that if you're so concern with this now and everybody in the prior segment was agreeing with me up and down three ways to Sunday, that, of course, we're all concerned about the criminal illegals, then why the hell haven't you done something about it the past eight years?

Why haven't you arrested these people, stood up for the American people, put us first and prioritize our safety and security? The failures of this administration have put us in this very situation that we're in today. The lawlessness that has existed and that's why we have a clear mandate with the new President, going in a different direction.

REICH: Well, I'll tell you -- here's my concern and the reason I'm concerned about these lies, about increasing crime and also increasing illegal immigration, because it takes our attention off of a lot of other things in this country. I mean we've got a huge crisis in this country with regard to everything from white collar crime, a lot of executives in boardrooms who are violating the crime left and right.

We have a lot of problems in this country with regard to basic social services, education. We need health care. We need better public health. I mean, why are we so concerned about --

BABEU: I got an answer for you.

REICH: Wait a minute. Let me finish, upon two fundamental lies about growing crime and growing illegal immigration? Why should that suddenly be the priority?

BABEU: We're up to like eight lies now --

REICH: No, I said two lies, and you have not addressed either of those lies.

BABEU: Let me ask you, you're so keen on asking questions. Have you ever, Mr. Reich, Secretary Reich, met with -- talked to American citizens who have been victimized? Who have had a family member killed, murdered by a criminal illegal? Have you?

REICH: No, I haven't.

BABEU: I have.

REICH: I haven't, but --

BABEU: I have.

REICH: Mr. Sheriff, why are you assuming -- why are you assuming that the two particular facts that I put forth, that we -- I said, that there was a lie that crime is increasing and --


REICH: -- and there's a lie that illegal immigration is increasing --

BABUE: Here's what I'll tell you Mr. --

REICH: Why do you say that those are not important?

BABEU: Here's what I'll tell you. The American people --

REICH: Why are those not important lies?

BABEU: The regular American people are sick and tired of being ignored and everybody else trumpeting the priorities of people who are not from our country, who got here illegally to begin with and then victimized good hardworking tax paying American citizens. Enough is enough. Those days are over. Law and order is going to be restored.

COOPER: Sheriff, the point I guess Secretary Reich is trying to make and you maybe we could response to directly, is -- I mean is illegal immigration the number one crime issue that you face? I mean, obviously, you're in Arizona but --


COOPER: -- but throughout the rest of the country -- I mean, Secretary Reich is saying overall crime has been going down for decades, and illegal immigration has, in the last several years been going down as well.

BABEU: I'll tell you this. Anderson, you've been down to Arizona, remember the primaries in New Hampshire, people talking about heroin, people have meth issues and cocaine. Where do you think most of these drugs are coming from? They're coming through counties like mine, in the southwestern portion of Arizona, it's not just marijuana.

[21:30:01] And the drug cartels that we're fighting -- my sheriff's office led the largest drug bust in the history of Arizona, $3 billion against the Sinaloa Cartel. The President has made this a priority. We're going to secure the border not just because of illegal immigration but the drug smuggling that's destroying and harming every country and the youth across this country.

Also, more important than both of those issues, what about national security? What about people from countries of interest that would use this porous, unsecured border as a likely avenue of approach to come into this country and harm our country? That alone should be the priority to secure this border and the past President has failed to do that.

COOPER: Right.

BABEU: This President will do that, security the border, put Americans, our families and our national security first for once.

COOPER: Sheriff Babeu, I appreciate --

(CROSSTALK) REICH: Well, let me just say, there are a lot of problems in this country having to do with drugs, absolutely and there are lot of problems in this country having to do with national security. But honestly, if you're looking at trends and troubling trends, crime and illegal immigration are not among the most troubling trends we have. By end (inaudible).

BABEU: Maybe for you, because you haven't talked to families who have been victimized.

REICH: No, I'm talking about data. I'm talking about truth. I'm talking about what is actually happening in this country.

COOPER: All right.

REICH: Why do you have to live in a fact-free universe? Just because Donald Trump wants us to believe what is not true?

BABEU: OK. There you go again.

COOPER: We'll leave it there. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate your different perspectives --

BABEU: Thank you.

COOPER: -- many Republican lawmakers who are back home this week meeting with constituents are getting a chilly reception, facing tough questions from angry crowds at town halls. But President Trump tweeted about town hall protesters, plus the reaction, that's next.


[21:35:41] COOPER: Well, for the first time, President Trump publicly and directly condemned the anti- Semitism today after weeks of growing pressure. One of the voices urging and speak out against surgeon anti-Semitic threats was his former rival Hillary Clinton. Jeff Zeleny tonight has the details.


TRUMP: This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump speaking out today against the wave the anti-Semitism during a visit to the new Smithsonian Museum celebrating African-American history.

TRUMP: The anti- Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.

ZELENY: The President's condemnation of bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish site across the country came after days of injuring sharp criticism for virtual silence on rising anti-Semitic threats. His words came hours after his former rival, Hillary Clinton, called on him to act. "JCC threats cemetery desecration and online attacks are so troubling, they need stop," she wrote on Twitter. "Everyone must speak out, starting with the President."

At two press conferences last week, the President stop short of denouncing the attacks of violence and threats. He'd berated a reported from a Jewish magazine for asking a question.

TRUMP: OK. Sit down, I understand the rest of your question. So, here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican. Quiet, quiet, quiet.

ZELENY: At the White House today, Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the President in the wake of the criticism.

SPICER: I think the President's going do what he's talked about since election night. It's through deed and action, talk about how we can unify this country and speak out against, you know, hate, anti- Semitism, racism.


COOPER: Jeff, you heard Sean Spicer talked about deed and action, it has -- the President directed the government to do something specific at this stage?

ZELENY: Anderson, as far as we can tell there's been not much action. Of coarse, he did talk about this today, which was a step forward from being silent for so many days. But he now has the full grasp of the government at his reach, the Justice Department, other agencies.

The White House has not said that he is directed any of them to look into any of these incidents of violence as hate crimes. Now they are of course watching this, and this is something the White House says that the President is keenly aware of and concern about, but no word tonight that he's asking his Justice Department to actually look into this as hate crimes or anything else, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks.

Coming up, more on what President Trump said today and the very different reactions too. I'll be right back.


[21:42:40] COOPER: As you saw a moment ago, President Trump made his first visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington. He called the tour a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, hatred and intolerance. The President spoke with NBC's Craig Melvin and said the museum is very special. People love it. It's been a tremendous number. And he had this to say about racial issues in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Well, we're a very divided nation, and we have been for many, many years, decades. I mean, you go back to the founding, and I would just like to see if we could bring people together, as so many bad things happening. There is something going on that doesn't allow it to fully heal. Sometimes it gets better, and then it busts apart. But we want to have it get very much better, get unified and stay together.


COOPER: Well, joining us now is former George W. Bush White House Director of Black Outreach Paris Dennard and former Obama administration official Van Jones.

Van, we heard the President say today that we're a divided nation, that he thinks we need to get better, that we need to be more unified to get there. Do you see or what sort of steps do you want to see he can take to unify the country? I've heard some critic say, "Well, look, he hasn't done enough." I mean, to be honest, he's only been in office 30 days, so I think, it's easy to criticize. But what would you like to see him do?

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think, so far, he doesn't seem to be a natural at it yet. But you know what? Presidents can grow in office.

When Lyndon Johnson was first elected, you had never thought that Lyndon Johnson would be the kind of champion that he became. People -- you have to leave open the possibility that something important could happen. But that he doesn't seem like a natural at it yet. That speech that he gave, he was talking about something as horrific as anti-Jewish bigotry. That didn't seem to connect with his heart yet and you may still be frustrated not to deal with it.

Here is what I think is important. Right now, poverty is affecting whites in larger numbers in African-Americans. Right now, we got an opioid epidemic that's broken out. It's hurting the white community. We got an addiction crisis in the black community. There's some common pain between blacks and whites that could lead to common purpose.

And if Trump wants to be a truly transformational president, I think the door is open. But I haven't seen it. It doesn't seem to be his top priority yet.

COOPER: Paris Dennard, how do you see it and what would you like to see?

[21:44:58] PARIS DENNARD, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF BLACK OUTREACH: Well, I think that the common pain and common purpose that Van just talked about is the reason why President Trump became the president -- candidate Trump became the President of the United States because the issues that are facing my brothers and sisters in Appalachia are similar to the issues that are facing my brothers and sisters in Detroit. And that's why you saw our first lady visit the same museum a week ago with the first lady of Israel, Mrs. Netanyahu, to show -- to highlight, to show the similarities between the struggles and how we've overcome as a people with the black community and with the Jewish community. And that's why I believe it's important today, on Congressman John Lewis' birthday, for this President's continued effort with black history about to go to this museum and emphatically denounce bigotry and anti-Semitism once and for all from his mouth.

Where the President goes matters, and what he says matters. And this -- on this issue, he has been very, very certain and steadfast in his comments today which I think should be applauded. And so, as we move forward, I hope that President Trump continues on his efforts to unify this country and continues on his efforts to highlight some of the problems that are facing the black community and all communities that are affected by poverty, by this bad economy and through this poor educational system because fragile communities need leadership, and they need this President to make things better.

COOPER: Do you see, Van, efforts to unify the country?

JONES: Look, I think that Donald Trump has a problem. And I don't know if he's really thought it all the way through. I hope that he does. Donald Trump's campaign was conducted in such a way that anti- Jewish bigots, who I'm sure he would not want to be associated with, racists, neo-Nazis and others who I'm sure he would not want to be associated with, took great comfort in his campaign.

And that's kind of hurt to know that. But it's true. If you look at their websites, they almost see him as an icon, and that adds a burden to his shoulders, I wish -- I'm sure he was -- but it's there. He's got to be more aggressive than he has been in pushing back on those people who are trying to ride his coattails. There is a -- there is an -- this alt-right, which is basically just neo-Nazis and white supremacists. They are gaining in momentum according to all numbers. And some of those people pointed Donald Trump as their hero which means he has an opportunity, rare in that office, to be a special champion against racism, a special champion against anti-Jewish bigotry and other forms of intolerance.

And hope, I mean, he's got Paris talking to him, he's got a lot of people talking to him. I hope that he will rise fully into that role. If he does, he will be doing a great service. But if he doesn't, if he doesn't have an extra burden, if he doesn't meet it, I think he's going to be sending a signal that maybe he's not as upset about these guys that I bet he is.

COOPER: Paris, do you see him having an extra burden because of some of the people who, you know, supported him, whether he wanted that support or not?

DENNARD: I think that the extra burden he has is to prove himself to be the man that all of his supporters and the 8 percent of African- Americans and almost 13 percent of African-American males who voted for him know him to be. And that is a champion for those who are in fragile communities. I want this President to be the champion for Detroit, the champion for Baltimore, the champion for Appalachia. I want him to be that champion. And so the burden I think that he has is to do the things that he wants to do to help these fragile communities. And I don't know what more he can say.

Van, when he says, and I quote, "We have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly form, the anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and sad reminder of all the works that still must be done to root out hate, prejudice and evil."


DENNARD: That's what the President said today.

COOPER: Well, that's a question, Paris. Van, what more could he do?

JONES: Well, first of all, I think that sometimes when you do something late, rather than early, it casts a certain kind of a, well, if he's doing this it's because of political pressure.

I think, what he said was great. I think, he should say it with more passion and more frequently and earlier. Listen, if in fact some of those attacks had come down and it turned out a Muslim person was attacking Americans, I think the President would have moved quicker. I think he's got a little bit more of a hair trigger when it comes to Islamic forms of terrorism as opposed to other forms of terrorism. I think he's got to balance that out.

He's got to be a president who's against hateful activity no matter what race, no matter what color, now matter what religion. And then, I think, people will feel more comfortable. I think we are such a quick trigger on some and a slow trigger on others. It doesn't look good.

COOPER: We got to leave it there. Van Jones, Paris Dennard, I appreciate your perspectives. Thank you.

Just ahead, Republican lawmakers holding town halls, taking the heat.

[21:49:57] Late reaction of President Trump on some of those protesters when we continue.


COOPER: Congress is off this week with many House and Senate members back in their home states and districts. Now, in recent weeks, lawmakers have been faced with angry crowds and protesters at some of these public events. Earlier today, President Trump attacked the motivations of people attending some town hall meetings tweeting, "The so-called angry crowds and home districts and some Republicans were actually in numerous cases planned out by liberal activists. Sad." So what's the reaction? Kyung Lah joins us now with the latest.

Kyung, I mean, is the President wrong when he says, this is organized? Because a lot of folks are showing up with signs and seems organized.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're not being directly organized. And that's the nuance here. Is that this is very much, Anderson, a grassroots movement, but they are following the same guide. It is guide called the indivisible guide.

Now, we tracked it back to the people who wrote it. They wrote it shortly after the election. They put it out. It became a viral sensation. These are former D.C. congressional staffers and everyone is following the same manual. So they're all doing the same thing and then what you get are these scenes that you're seeing here played out across the country at these town halls. They know to show up, they know to ask certain questions and then you get to hear what we heard tonight at Virginia Congressman Dave Brat's town hall. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight years of obstruction guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He stole the Supreme Court pick. He stole it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let the --


[21:55:00] COOPER: Is there a single unifying issue among the protesters?

LAH: There's no one particular issue per se when you think of, you know, was it health care? Yes, it's definitely Obamacare. We're hearing a lot of talk about Trump and his taxes, whether there should be investigation. We're hearing a lot about women's rights, frankly, a lot about schooling, children, Betsy DeVos, all of this.

But if there is one unifying thing, it is that they are anti-Trump. The agenda here is to stop Trump's agenda. So that's certainly, Anderson, that is carried across all of these town halls.

COOPER: All right. Kim Lah, thanks very much. We'll be right back. More news ahead.


COOPER: Just a quick reminder before we go, we got a special event coming up tomorrow night. It's a CNN debate. Candidates for the Democratic National Committee chair. Who will actually head the party? Dana Bash and Chris Cuomo are going to moderate that debate. So the future of the Democratic Party at stake very much up for grabs. Who can make the case for a comeback in 20/20? Tomorrow, that's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right after two hour of "360".

Time to hand things over now to Don Lemon and CNN TONIGHT. I'll see you tomorrow night at 8:00.

DON LEMON, "CNN TONIGHT" HOST: Millions of people could be facing deportation. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

The Trump Administration laying out plans for what could be a massive expansion and the numbers of people being deported as protesters flag their flag from Lady Liberty with a new executive order on immigration due any day now.

[22:00:10] Meanwhile, congressional Republicans across the country facing heated town hall crowds in their home districts.