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New Travel Ban Details; National Security Appointment; White House Speaks on Jewish Center Threats. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 21, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: New details on what we'll see in the president's new travel ban. How is the White House working to ensure this one can survive?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump moving ahead with a new pick for national security adviser. So, how is the Capitol Hill responding to the hiring of this outspoken leader?

SANCHEZ: And the White House weighs in after a series of threats to Jewish centers nationwide. Did the response measure up to those unhappy with the president's earlier answers on anti-Semitism?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Boris Sanchez.

CABRERA: And I'm Ana Cabrera. It is Tuesday, February 21st, 4:00 a.m. in the East. It's a long holiday weekend for a lot of people. So, welcome back to reality this morning.

Let's get right to the news. This morning, the Trump White House putting its finishing touches on the new version of the president's travel ban and we are learning more about how this travel ban is being crafted to withstand the challenges that sank the first one.

Here are some key differences previewed by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and other sources. We now know the new executive order will be aimed at travelers from those same seven Muslim majority countries, but now will include a phase-in period to avoid the kind of chaos that left people stranded in airports all across the country last time around. It's also expected this order will give some greater notice of travel restrictions from the countries in question perhaps to address concerns overdue process for visa holders.

The new executive order will not affect green card holders and a source says the new order will likely address religious discrimination issues by removing a section that gave priority to religious minorities, or non-Muslims in those seven countries.

SANCHEZ: One critical issue that remains unsettled though is how the new order is gong to deal one question is the Syrian refugees who were banned indefinitely under the first travel ban. It is worth noting, the new executive order was written by the White House counsel's office specifically to try to avoid any legal problems. That's clearly different from the first version which was drafted in secret by senior White House aides Steve Bannon, Steven Miller and the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The new order is expected to come down tomorrow at the earliest. But we should see some guidelines coming from homeland security to enforcement agencies released this morning.

CABRERA: Whatever the provisions of the new travel ban, President Trump will have a new national security adviser to help him navigate the rollout. Lt. General H.R. McMaster has now been tapped to fill the opening created when Michael Flynn was forced out. McMaster has been serving as head of the Army Capabilities Integration Center in Virginia. He has a PhD in history and he's an author of a book on the Vietnam War. McMaster is known for both his intellect and for his willingness to speak out on military issues.

Now, the president's pick earned quick praise from an array of Republican and some Democratic foreign policy leaders in Washington, including Senator John McCain, Republican critic of Trump.

More now from CNN's Sara Murray at the White House.


SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Ana. President Trump capped off a weekend in Mar-a-Lago by scurrying to fill the open position of national security adviser, naming Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster for the job.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General H.R. McMaster will become the national security adviser, the man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience. I watched and read a lot over the last few days. He is highly respected by everybody in the military and we're very honored to have him.

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I'd just like to say what a privilege it is to be able to continue serving our nation. I'm grateful to you for that opportunity. And I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people. Thank you very much, sir.

TRUMP: You're going to do a great job.

MURRAY: Trump's pick of McMaster came just a week after he fired his first national security adviser Michael Flynn for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about conversations with the Russian ambassador. Now, I'm told by the senior administration official that President Trump really respected McMaster's combat duty, as well as his intellectual drive.

President Trump will turn the page and focus on other matters today, though. He is expected to visit the African-American History Museum.

Back to you, guys.


SANCHEZ: All right. Sara, thank you.

The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating a new series of bomb threats directed against Jewish community centers across the country. The JCCs reported 11 bomb threats on Monday alone. That brings the total number to 69 threats in 27 states just over the past six weeks. Most of them falling on just four dates. Fortunately, though, no bombs have been found so far.

Also on Monday, look at this, more than 100 headstones were found vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Missouri. It's not clear yet if there's any link to the bomb threats though.

CABRERA: The White House is now condemning the bomb threats. This after President Trump twice last week danced around questions about anti-Semitism. A White House statement says, "Hatred and hate- motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom." The president has made it clear that these actions are unacceptable.

The statement does not actually mention Jews, something the White House was also criticized for after a statement put out on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

But Ivanka Trump who converted to Orthodox Judaism before marrying Jared Kushner tweeted this, "America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship and religious centers. #JCC"

SANCHEZ: Congress may be in recess this week, but lawmakers are still working. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn is spending a few days leading a small delegation of Republicans to the Mexican border, as the party tries to balance the need to fulfill President Trump's campaign promise to build a border wall against a vast resources that it would take to actually make that happen.

Senior congressional reporter Manu Raju has latest from Washington -- Manu.



Yesterday, Senator John Cornyn of Texas leading a delegation along the U.S. and Mexico border to talk about the security challenges at the border, as well as the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. This coming at a critical time for the Trump administration as he prepares to send to Congress a proposal to fund that wall along the border with Mexico, which, of course, was Donald Trump's central campaign promise.

But John Cornyn has been a leading skeptic of the plans to build the wall. He told me actually last month that a physical barrier in and of itself is not enough to secure the border. And he raised concerns about the price tag if funding is not cut in other areas to pay for some of that could cost upwards of $20 billion. Now, as part of the trip, it includes some members of the Texas delegation, but also some other key Republican senators, including Dean Heller of Nevada, who's a Republican up for re-election in the state that Donald Trump lost in the elections last year -- Boris and Ana.


CABRERA: All right. Manu Raju, reporting. Thank you.

Controversial Breitbart news editor Milo Yiannopoulos is set to address the fallout over comments he made about pedophilia. A fair of video clips surfaced Sunday where Yiannopoulos appears to condone sexual relationships between younger boys and older men and he seems to even laugh off his experience with the Catholic priest.

The backlash was shift. The Conservative Political Action Conference rescinded its invitation to speak for him this weekend and Simon and Shuster canceled the publication of his forthcoming book. Yiannopoulos tells CNN the videos were deceptively edited, saying, quote, "I not support pedophilia, period."

SANCHEZ: On the president's agenda this week, a face-to-face meeting with one of his fiercest critic from the campaign trail, Ohio Governor John Kasich. Sources familiar with the plan tells CNN the former rivals are set to meet on Friday. An administration official described the meeting as long overdue.

Of course, you know Kasich has not held back on his criticism of Donald Trump, especially his foreign policy. He boycotted the National Republican Conference which was hosted in Ohio, his own state, where he's the sitting governor. Of course, he also wrote-in John McCain's name on Election Day.

SANCHEZ: Uber is hiring former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help the company investigate allegations of sexism. Holder is currently a partner at a law firm Covington and Burling. Arianna Huffington, who's on Uber's board, will also be part of the investigation.

Now, Uber's CEO says, quote, "They will conduct an independent review into this specific issues relating to the workplace environment, raised by Susan Fowler, as well diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly."

Fowler is a former engineer and in a blog post, this past Sunday, she made allegations of blatant and systemic sexism at the company. She says the supervisor propositioned to her for sex and the company's human resources department ignored multiple complaints about inappropriate behavior.

Uber says it launched an urgent investigation immediately after she posted her story.

SANCHEZ: Well, we first told you about this yesterday and it could be a potential blow of hopes of reconciliation between the United States and Russia. The Russian ambassador to the U.N. suddenly passing away. We're live in Moscow with more on what this means going forward.


[04:13:37] CABRERA: The sudden death of Russia's ambassador to the U.N. opening a door not only to grieve, but to turmoil. So, what does this mean for relations between the United States and Russia? Where does this unexpected turn of events lead to diplomacy between the dueling super powers?

CNN's Clare Sebastian is live in Moscow this morning with the very latest.

Clare, what are people saying there?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Ana, this is highly important and extremely visible job, perhaps one of the most important voices for Russian foreign policy on the global stage. Vitaly Churkin has held it for more than a decade.

There's been an outpouring of condolences here in Moscow. The Russian president saying he greatly valued his professionalism and diplomatic talents, said to be very upset at this. We have just seen the Russian foreign minister signing the book of condolences in the Russian foreign ministry. He and Vitaly Churkin went way back. Sergey Lavrov was in fact Churkin's predecessor as the Russian ambassador to the U.N.

But I think it is particularly interesting the outpouring of condolences we see from his colleagues at the U.N., particularly since he had clashed with many dramatically over the course of the last few years.

I want to read a tweet from Samantha Power, the former U.N. ambassador to the U.N. She said, "Devastated by the passing of Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, diplomatic maestro and caring man who did all he could to bridge U.S./Russia differences.

[04:15:03] Particularly striking since it was only in December that we saw a violent clash between the two of them in the Security Council. Vitaly Churkin said that Samantha Power should stop pretending to be Mother Teresa. He had launched an attack on him over Russian actions in Syria. He says U.S. actions in Syria demanded scrutiny.

But nevertheless, there was a respect between the two of them and I think this is something we have seen coming from diplomatic voices at the U.N. You know, this is a crucial time for U.S. and Russia relations. The Trump administration has sent a number of mixed signals to Russia over where this could be going. I think it will be closely watched who is named to replace Vitaly Churkin. This is crucially important job and demands a heavyweight presence, Ana.

CABRERA: And a crucially important time right now.

Thank you so much, Clare Sebastian, reporting.

SANCHEZ: To Australia now where investigators are trying to figure out what caused a deadly small plane crash in that country. Look at this: Officials say all five people on board this aircraft were killed. They say the pilot was Australian. The four passengers were American, including a 70-year-old man from Texas.

This is the site of the crash. You can see a raging fire and thick smoke in the air. Police say the small charted plane slammed into the shopping mall shortly after taking off from Melbourne's Essendon Airport Tuesday morning. Fortunately, though, those stores were not open at the time.

CABRERA: Could have been a lot worse.


The crime rate in Sweden suddenly under scrutiny after the president's false claim of a terror attack there. What's really happening on the ground? We'll take you live to Stockholm, next.


[04:21:04] CABRERA: Swedes are reacting to Trump last night in Sweden gaffe with a mix of sharp wit and humor, along with some anger and confusion. We, of course, know that no terror incidents took place in the country. But what is the reality in Sweden in terms of refugees and crime?

Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson live from Stockholm.

Ivan, I know you have been looking at the data. What have you learned?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana, this has been, of course, a big topic of discussion here. The Swedish prime minister came out saying that he was surprised by the comments that have been made about his country. He said, yeah, Sweden does have challenges, but this is also a country that has among the world's highest indices for kind of human rights and comfort and happiness in society.

He also had some tough words, some gentle words of advice, some criticism for the U.S. president. Take a listen.


STEFAN LOFVEN, PRIME MINISTER OF SWEDEN: Yes, we have opportunities. We have challenges. We are working with them every day. I think also we must all take responsibility for using facts correctly and for verify any information that we spread.


WATSON: So, there you have it. I mean, this is a country of about 10 million people, Ana. It has taken in an enormous number of immigrants in the last several years. In 2015, alone, there were more than 160,000 people who requested asylum here.

And that has become a topic of political debate here. There has been a backlash that helped give rise to a right wing political party here as well. But I think that many Swedes were shocked by the U.S. president's comments and it's actually become a bit of a joke, a meme here last night in Sweden with a lot of people making jokes about things like the '70s band Abba and the Swedish chef from the show "The Muppets" joking about how they could have been involved in some kind of incident or terror attack in this country -- Ana.

CABRERA: Well, people are making jokes. That's good to see that be the reaction versus some kind of backlash.

Thank you so much, Ivan, and I know we are having some technical difficulties there at the beginning. But we appreciate you sticking with us.

SANCHEZ: There are serious questions raised about security at New York's JFK Airport after what officials are calling a possible security incident. According to the TSA, 11 people walked through the checkpoint, three setoff the metal detector without a single agent there to stop them or perform any kind of further screening. Officials say the passengers' carry-on bags were screened, though.

The TSA says it is confident the breach did not pose a threat to the aviation transportation system. The agency says it is reviewing what happened and will try to retrain and discipline employees as it sees fit.

CABRERA: A California police chief pouring out anger and grief after one of his officers was gunned down in a shootout with a suspected gang member. Authorities say 26-year-old man was driving a stolen car when he suddenly opened fire during a traffic stop.

Officer Keith Boyer, a 27-year-old veteran was shot and killed. Another officer is expected to survive. The police chief, Jeff Piper, overcome with emotion.


CHIEF JEFF PIPER, WHITTIER POLICE DEPARTMENT: You know, it is hard for me to hold back -- my tears because all of us have been grieving since 10:00 this morning. I didn't think I had any tears left.

But everybody needs to know what the officers are dealing with on a daily basis, you have no idea how it changed in the last four years.

[04:25:01] People don't want to follow rules. People don't care about other people and it's tragic. This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be.


CABRERA: The suspect was wounded in the shootout. Police say he is expected to survive. They say he is linked to a shooting in Los Angeles on Sunday and is believed to have just been released on parole within the past couple of weeks. It's not clear why he was serving time.

SANCHEZ: To your home state now, Ana. Parts of Colorado are under a red flag warning starting at 11:00 this morning until later tonight. Firefighters are hoping to gain ground on this out of control grass fire. They say unseasonably dry and windy conditions are expected to only get worse today and that means another round of fires could break out.

Officials say at least four fires started on Monday. Hundreds of acres have been scorched since the fires broke out on Sunday.

And I worked in Colorado for a couple of years. We have that Colorado connection. You know how crazy those fires can get. The weird thing though it it's happening in January.

CABRERA: That's what's really scary.

SANCHEZ: Or rather February.

CABRERA: It's wintertime nonetheless versus summertime, when we usually see the biggest problem. Hope it doesn't mean negative things to come. We'll keep an eye on that.

Let's have a little fun.

SANCHEZ: Lighter note.

CABRERA: It's the morning. You are waking up. You want to see panda bears.

Panda lovers saying bye-bye to Bao Bao. The beloved giant panda leaving the only home she's ever known for China this morning. Bao Bao was born three and a half years ago at Washington's national zoo. Under species preservation agreement between the U.S. and Beijing, Bao Bao must now be returned to China before she turns four.

FedEx painted a panda on the plane which will take Bao Bao on the 16- hour flight. She leaves behind her parents and her brother and 6,000 followers on Twitter.

SANCHEZ: She will certainly be missed.

CABRERA: She's cute.

I hear pandas are kind of unruly. They are not as nice as they look.

SANCHEZ: Yes. They are kind of frightening eating that much bamboo so aggressively.

The White House is trying to walk a fine line with this upcoming travel ban. The latest details on how the president will try to tackle security without overstepping legal bounds.