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President Trump To Speak At CPAC;CPAC Disinvites Breitbart News Editor Milo Yiannopoulos; Trump's New Advisor; New Trump Travel Ban Expected This Week. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 21, 2017 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:30] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference. It gets underway tomorrow. It's a big deal within the GOP and President Trump is going to address the conservatives Friday morning. Now, you may remember Trump didn't address the group when he was a candidate because there was a fear of backlash by anti-Trumpers at that time.

Let's discuss how things have changed and the current state of play with the one and only Michael Smerconish, the host of CNN's "SMERCONISH." So, how do you see CPAC this year? What are the issues at play?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a continuation of the 2016 campaign, much like we just saw over the weekend with that rally in Melbourne, Florida. The president is picking and choosing his opportunities to make sure that he stays in front of friendly audiences to combat what he regards as the rest of us in the mainstream media not giving him a fair shake, so I'm not surprised by this.

To your point earlier, Chris, there are always some fringe types within that CPAC room. I've been to many of those conferences over the years so there are some intangibles. But I think that, by and large, he'll be given a very friendly audience.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about one of those fringe types, and that is the professional provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, who has come into sort of national awareness because some college campuses, I guess, canceled his appearances and conservatives were up in arms because they thought that this was political correctness run amuck. Why can't this conservative provocateur kid go and speak at college campuses?

Well, now CPAC has canceled him because it appears that sometimes things are beyond the pale. There are some subjects that even a professional provocateur should not be saying. And now, conservatives have to explain why they don't want him to speak.

SMERCONISH: I think you're struggling, Alisyn, to use the word pedophilia, so I'll say it for you. I listened to that audiotape that surfaced over the weekend and there's a debate about pedophilia that Milo Yiannopoulos weighs in on. Why in the world would CPAC want to be associated with that debate, regardless of what the point might be that he's trying to make?

When I saw the invitation first extended, to me, it represented this continuation of how provocateurs are the individuals who wield great control over, in particular, conservatives because they are the ones who dictate many of the talking points to those hardcore primary voters. I mean, frankly, the positioning of Bannon in the White House represents that whole process having come full circle. And so, you know, there's been this -- there's been this extension of power to provocateurs that has come at the expense of traditional party leadership. I don't think it's in the best interest of either extreme of either party.

CUOMO: So, what does Trump need to have happen when he goes there on Friday? You know what I mean? What is the value of CPAC? What is the kind of plan for Trump in terms of expanding base?

SMERCONISH: You know, Chris, we're having this conversation on a Tuesday morning. Can you imagine all that's about to transpire in this 24/7 news cycle? It's hard for me to predict where we'll be on Friday, just given the pace of things that have happened each and every day on his watch. In very general terms I think he's using that forum as an opportunity to speak in front of a friendly audience because between today and Friday there will be many things that will tick off the clock.

[07:35:00] CAMEROTA: You know, Michael, I want to get back to what you just said because I think that that's a really compelling point. And that is that, you know, provocateurs have taken the place of conventional leadership because it's juicier, and it's more headline- grabbing, and you can build more blogs around it, and you can build more websites around it, and --

CUOMO: But the only major one is Trump when you say provocateurs. I mean, really, he filled the entire space in terms of who succeeded on that. I mean, this guy -- to compare this guy from Breitbart to Trump is insulting to Trump.

CAMEROTA: Well, I'm not comparing him to Trump, I'm comparing him to Rush Limbaugh and to other right-wing radio hosts.

CUOMO: It's even insulting to those guys.

CAMEROTA: I get -- I get it, but I think that what your point was is that people who sort of say the most outlandish things right now -- and as we know, they don't necessarily have to be fact-based -- get a lot of attention.

SMERCONISH: Correct. Alisyn gets it. Let me try and reach Chris on this point, which is I am saying that Donald Trump is the embodiment of a 30-year trend in the making. An embodiment of empowering Rush Limbaugh, "The Drudge Report," FOX News --

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: Breitbart, "Newsmax." They exert control over primary voters -- CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: -- in a way that the traditional conservative leadership used to do. And that's why Milo Yiannopoulos would even be extended an invitation to come to a gathering like CPAC. But the problem is that that comes at the expense of reaching a more middle-of-the-road audience --

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: -- than you need in a general election.

CUOMO: I agree with the first part. I'm just saying that this was an obvious mistake because even though, you know, this culture -- our political culture embraces freedom of speech in the extreme and it always has and it's only expanding, to your point. But you make decisions about what you want to be identified with and when CPAC went on, on this -- I'd love to talk to Matt Schlapp about it, a friend of the show -- organizes CPAC -- what were they thinking? What was the benefit to them except just buzz? And not all buzz is good, despite what the president says.

SMERCONISH: I think you're right. And look, this is nothing new to them. In the past, it's not been Milo Yiannopoulos. There's always been an Ann Coulter in that mix for exactly that reason because they want us talking about it in the lead-up and the days after.

CAMEROTA: If only we knew how to get Matt Schlapp's phone number. Perhaps we could call him and have him and on the show and ask him that question.

CUOMO: We have been efforting.

CAMEROTA: OK, good. Great to see you, Michael.

CUOMO: Smerconish. A quick programming note.

SMERCONISH: Good to see you guys.

CUOMO: Dana Bash and I are going to moderate a primetime debate tomorrow night. There's this big question. What will the Democrats do? Are they just going to oppose? Where is their strength? What is their message? Well, that's going to come down to who leads them. Tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern you will see the candidates. One of the people on that stage will wind up pointing the direction for the party.

CAMEROTA: Looking forward to that. Well, the president's new national security adviser is described as a brilliant military strategist -- a warrior-thinker. Up next, we'll hear from someone who worked with him and knows him very well.

CUOMO: I like him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:41:17] CUOMO: Decorated Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will get his first intelligence brief today as President Trump's national security adviser. Who is he? Why are people confident in this choice? Let's discuss with someone who knows him personally. CNN military analyst Col. Cedric Leighton, former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Always good to have you with us, Colonel. So please, H.R. McMaster -- why are you confident in the selection?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Chris, I think it is one of the best selections that could have been made, given the circumstances set for the national security adviser. He has combat experience, he's got staff experience, and he has really the kind of think tank experience that is very rare for general officers to have these days. So he brings a lot of that to the table and that's why I'm very confident that this is a very good pick for a position that is probably, next to the White House Chief of Staff, one of the most powerful positions in the White House.

CUOMO: Let's pull back one of the labels for a second. He is identified as one of Petraeus' smart guys. He's called a "warrior thinker." What is that?

LEIGHTON: Well, a warrior thinker is somebody who actually not only fights the battles and uses his experience to win tactical victories, but it's somebody who can pull back from that and kind of take an approach that is a 30,000-foot approach that allows you to see not only what the tactics are but also to help formulate the strategies that allow you to win wars.

So a warrior thinker, in this case, is somebody that has actually been able to really bring the type of doctrine that the Army needs in order to win counterinsurgency battles. And he did that not only theoretically, General McMaster, but General McMaster did this practically, both in battle as well as in running operations in Iraq during the second Iraq War.

CUOMO: Very Sun Tzu in your analysis of what he represents. Now, another big feature is that McMaster is active duty. Now, for political types they've used that as a little bit of a stick with the White House, saying well, he had to take the job whereas, others had passed it up, but that's a little bit of nonsense. What does it mean to you that he's active duty?

LEIGHTON: Well, to be an active duty officer it is absolutely true, Chris, that he had to take the position in order to continue with his military career. But it also gives him a certain amount of leverage because he knows the people that are actively working issues within the Army and within the Joint staff and within the DOD, writ large. He also has connections to the State Department and he knows people that he's worked with in foreign countries. He's been in London -- at a think tank in London, and he has also done some work, obviously, in CENTCOM. And, he's worked with local leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So this general brings so much to the table, not only the Sun Tzu part of it but the practical application of political understanding that you don't find that often in general officers today. CUOMO: So, what do you make of this notion that well, it's still tricky because Mattis is a four-star and he is a three-star and that that's how you military guys are? It's hard to be the top dog if you're not the most stars. Is that real?

LEIGHTON: Well, to an extent it is. But in real life, if you look at previous national security advisers such as Brent Scowcroft who did it twice, once as an active duty --

CUOMO: Right.

LEIGHTON: -- three-star general, and then as a civilian retired three-star general. And then you also look at Colin Powell. And neither one of them had any issues either going back to the roles that they had or in, you know, furthering their careers on the civilian side so it is, I think, a misnomer. There are ways to coordinate and real four-star generals know how to work with everybody. And they also know who the national security adviser represents and he speaks for the president when he talks to these people.

[07:45:20] CUOMO: Ced, give me a quick anecdote about H.R. McMaster that should make people excited about his level of leadership.

LEIGHTON: Well, H.R. is one of those people who can really reach out and touch all the people that work for him. So when he was in Desert Storm he was the one who actually led the biggest tank battle since the Second World War and he defeated a far superior Iraqi force.

And he did it not only with superior technology, but he also did it in a way that worked wonders with his troops. He had the highest morale, I think, in any unit in the armored cavalry of that time. And it was one of those things that really saw the capability of the American solider up close and personal. It got them to do the kinds of things that they needed to do but to do it so effectively.

CUOMO: Helpful. Colonel Cedric Leighton, appreciate the insight. Good to have you on the show, as always.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: All right. Town hall fury. Lawmakers getting an earful from constituents back home. These raucous scenes becoming a familiar sight, so we will take to you one, next.


[07:50:15] CUOMO: Congressman Scott Taylor, the latest lawmaker targeted by protesters at town halls. Why is this going on? Is this about people being shipped in to create a distraction or is this genuine discontent? CNN's Kyung Lah has the story from Virginia Beach.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome home, Congressman Scott Taylor, to your district's town hall.

EZRA LEVIN, INDIVISIBLE GUIDE: Would you support the creation of a House Select Committee investigating Russian interference in our election?


LAH: From jeers to clear disapproval, part of a growing tide of grassroots rage against their representatives. The White House is noticing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They fill up our rallies with people that you wonder how they get there.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This has become paid, AstroTurf-type movement.

LAH: Are you making any money on this?

LEVIN: Making any money? No. I mean, no, this is not a money-making venture.

LAH: Meet the team responsible for the movement dubbed "Indivisible" -- three former Democratic congressional staffers.

LEAH GREENBERG, INDIVISIBLE GUIDE: We had seen a very powerful local activist movement, the Tea Party, emerge and so we knew exactly how powerful local action could be because it had been used against us very effectively.

LAH: Days after the election based loosely on Tea Party tactics, they sketched out an online guide for progressives of how to stop Trump's agenda.

LEVIN: When we put it out, we had hoped that, I think, our parents would like it on Facebook.

LAH: It became a viral sensation. The "Indivisible Guide" now viewed 15 million times, downloaded by 1.7 million. The authors have now filed with the IRS as a non-profit. There's one full-time employee, Ezra Levin, who still hasn't been paid. Three weeks ago they put up a donation tab on their website. Only small donations so far, they say. Their movement growing, based on a simple idea.

LEVIN: "No" is a complete sentence. That's that a smart move because it keeps your coalition together and it allows you to have the greatest impact possible.

TAYLOR: But --

LAH: The congressman forged to a loud town hall but it was outside that got confrontational-- the crowd that couldn't get into the packed auditorium. Two political sides separated by police.

PROTESTERS: Build that wall. Build that wall. LAH: One taken away in handcuffs but no injuries. The new congressman just a month into his new job says Congress should continue to face voters.

TAYLOR: There's legitimate safety concerns. At the same time, I think it's important that we get out and talk to our people.

LAH: However intimidating it may seem. Kyung Lah, CNN, Virginia Beach, Virginia.


CAMEROTA: Very interesting to see what's happening at all these town halls. President Trump, meanwhile, will roll out his new immigration executive order this week and sources tell CNN that the revised travel ban will include the same seven Muslim-majority countries in the halted order. The president says this order will be more agreeable to the courts.

Let's discuss it with Haroon Moghul, executive director of the Forum for Change and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Policy. And, Farhana Khera. She's executive director of Muslim Advocates and the National Association of Muslim Lawyers. Great to have both of you with us this morning.

Haroon, I want to start with you. The White House says this is not a Muslim ban.

HAROON MOGHUL, EXEC. DIRECTOR, FORUM FOR CHANGE: Lipstick on a pig? It is -- it is the same thing and I think it's part of a pattern we're seeing where the Trump administration is targeting Muslims while dropping the ball on other kinds of extremism. And so, I think for a lot of Muslims right now there is a feeling that this is just more of the same. Maybe the language is a little bit more polite and some of the details have been brushed away where there was resistance within the government.

The bigger problem that I'm hearing from a lot of Muslims that I feel myself is that he's not actually doing anything substantive to keep America safe. He's actually making us less safe and he's dressing up these discriminatory policies as national security to create the impression that he's acting decisively. And we all know that when there are attacks, real or many times, in his case, imagined, he uses those attacks to further justify discriminatory policy.

CAMEROTA: Farhana, I mean, I know that you do believe that this is a Muslim ban, as does Haroon, but what about the White House argument that the most -- the countries with the largest Muslim majorities -- Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Indian, I could go on and on -- are not included in this. People can still -- Muslims can still come in from these countries. How can it be a Muslim ban?

FARHANA KHERA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MUSLIM ADVOCATES AND NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM LAWYERS: Well, let me first say, Alisyn, I totally agree with Haroon. I think the president is desperately trying to put lipstick on a pig. And to answer your question very directly, even in the first executive order the seven countries that were identified were simply the first seven.

[07:55:12] The language of the executive order specifically anticipated an expansion of that list. And now, obviously, we haven't seen the second one yet, though I think we'll be looking very closely at the language of that one to see whether it, too anticipates --

CAMEROTA: Well, but just to -- just to be clear, because CNN does have some reporting on this --


CAMEROTA: -- they are expecting it to be these same seven. So this new --


CAMEROTA: -- revised order, if it's the same seven countries. Are you saying that it will expand to include very country that has a Muslim majority?

KHERA: So, again, I haven't seen the language of the -- of number two, but executive order number one clearly anticipated an expansion of the list. But more importantly, Alisyn, these seven countries actually represent a majority of Muslim refugees who've immigrated to the United States in the last year. And I think that actually speaks to the real motivation behind this Muslim ban, and that is to halt the immigration of Muslims. Why else target these particular countries when immigrants from these particular countries have not actually engaged in terroristic activities in the United States?

CAMEROTA: Yes, sure. No, I hear you. I mean, look, there's lots of issues with it. I -- you guys can certainly have lots of issues with this. But on this particular point I don't understand your point. Why not include then? If this is a Muslim ban and you don't want refugees or any immigrants who are Muslim coming in from any sort of hot spot, then why don't they have Pakistan and Afghanistan and Indonesia on here, Haroon?

KHERA: Well --

CAMEROTA: Or go ahead. You can finish your thought, Farhana.

KHERA: Yes, I was just going to say, Alisyn, I think that the real problem here is that it's really harmful and dangerous for us as a country to just be blanketly labeling particular countries as a threat and halting immigration from those countries. I think where our government needs to be focused is identifying dangerous individuals who may be seeking to enter the country.

And if I may add, I think the reason for that and the reason why, again, based on this early reporting, we're still very concerned about executive order number two is that it would halt new immigration and new visitors from our country -- to our country. And let me just give you an example. Imagine living your life without an iPhone, without an iPad or other product by Apple. Imagine if -- and that's what would have happened if -- CAMEROTA: Yes.

KHERA: -- decades ago the United States had barred entry to the father of Steve Jobs, who first entered the United States on a student visa.


KHERA: So I think shutting our borders means shutting innovation, shutting access to healthcare, and shutting economic growth.


KHERA: And I think no American can reasonably think that's a good thing.

CAMEROTA: Look, we are a nation of immigrants. All of our grandparents came from somewhere else. But, Haroon, I mean -- again, you know what the White House says. They say that they didn't come up with these seven countries. They say it was the Obama administration that identified these seven countries as these particular hotspots where there needs to be a pause so they can figure out what better vetting is, though they haven't identified that. And, again, if Indonesia's not on here how can it be a blanket Muslim ban?

MOGHUL: Look at his language. So, I mean, this is a fascinating thing, right? I mean, you just reported earlier on the show about a wave of anti-Semitic attacks and yet the president refuses to condemn anti-Semitism. Is he an anti-Semite? I don't think so, but he's empowered anti-Semites. He's got Steve Bannon as the power behind the throne, right? The guy who seems to be running things within this chaotic White House but unable to really get anything done in a professional or competent manner.

He's putting people in place who have odious views. He's said, himself, that he wants a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. He's bringing in people who have white supremacist neo-Nazi views. He refuses to condemn them. So if you're a person who's concerned with secular democracy -- you believe in what America represents -- if a candidate running for office says I'm going to ban an entire group of people based on their religion fromentering the country, and then within the first week of, basically, being president, sets in motion something that appears to be the first stage of that ban --


MOGHUL: -- then the question is, you know, is he going to add Indonesia? I mean, it seems like if he could -- if there hadn't been resistance from the courts, then he would have, and he will. And he's going to keep trying because that's what he actually believes. He doesn't believe in the idea of America. He's not actually trying to keep us safe. He's just trying to turn American into a kind of supremacist country that most of us wouldn't want to live in.

CAMEROTA: You make a good point that it is his own words that have been most damning on this topic. Haroon, Farhana, thank you very much for all the information. We'll look forward to hearing what happens with this new revised order today.

We are following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General H.R. McMaster will become the national security adviser.

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I look forward to advancing and protecting the interests of the American people.