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President Trump Appoints New National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster; White House to Roll Out Revised Executive Order on Immigration Restrictions; Why Won't President Trump Condemn Anti- Semitism? Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired February 21, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General H.R. McMaster will become the national security adviser.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look forward to advancing and protecting the interests of the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is not going to be anyone that speaks ill of H.R. McMaster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have great confidence in the national security team going forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an upgrade over General Flynn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Trump administration is tweaking the president's executive order on immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a very fine line between keeping our community safe and taking away basic protections.
TRUMP: And I am the least anti-Semitic person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a question as to why the president has not condemned anti-Semitism in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. The president naming Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser. The active duty officer assumes the role with several foreign policy changes underway.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: First off will be President Trump's new executive order which is nearing completion, we are told. Now is the White House going to change the travel ban to address the concerns of a federal appeals court and will that be enough to satisfy political critics? But also mounting questions about why President Trump doesn't go after anti-Semitism in America the way he does other things that he says he is against. It's day 33 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin our coverage with CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe
Johns live at the White House.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Likely to be a lot on the agenda today. The White House hoping to get off on the right foot with a meeting of the National Security Council and a new national security adviser, a man who is highly regarded and who didn't have a choice in turning down the job.
TRUMP: He's a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.
JOHNS: President Donald Trump unveiling General H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser.
TRUMP: He is highly respected by everybody in the military, and we are very honored to have him.
JOHNS: McMaster is a decorated Army soldier, a veteran of the first Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and a widely respected military strategist.
LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I would just like to say what a privilege it is to be able to continue serving our nation.
JOHNS: Known as a creative thinker, McMaster is a West Point graduate and holds a PhD in military history, the pick drawing praise from both sides of the political spectrum. Senator John McCain who has been among President Trump's toughest Republican critics, calling McMaster "an outstanding choice, a man of genuine intellect, character and ability." McMaster takes the helm of a National Security Council one week after Michael Flynn was forced to resign for misleading the vice president about his communications with the Russian ambassador.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was disappointed to learn that the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate.
JOHNS: President Trump's first choice to replace Flynn, retired vice admiral Bob Harward, but he turned down the job citing family reasons. Sources tell CNN Harward was also concerned about being able to form his own team. But as an active duty officer, McMaster did not have the option of saying no thanks. What remains to be seen is how independent-minded McMaster will work with Steve Bannon, the president's controversial chief strategist who sits on the National Security Council.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president has said very clearly the new NSA director will have total and complete say over the makeup of the NSC and all of the components of the NSC.
JOHNS: On another note the president expected just a short while from now to take a short trip over to the brand new Smithsonian African- American History Museum. We're told he will be accompanied by, among others, Housing Secretary Ben Carson. Chris?
CUOMO: All right, Joe, appreciate it. We are going to bring you the visit when it happens.
Meantime, the White House is set to unveil its new immigration order this week. New guidelines for law enforcement will be announced today by the Department of Homeland Security that is already a material difference than the last time.
CNN's Laura Jarrett live in Washington with more. And this time we are seeing that this order is being put through the vetting and coordination that was missing the last time.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's exactly right. So we are expecting to see two big pieces of news early this week on immigration. First the Department of Homeland Security is set to release formal guidance to federal agencies later this morning explaining just exactly how to implement the president's executive orders on immigration and border security. We know from earlier drafts of the memos we saw over the weekend that we can expect to see language detailing an expanded process of expedited deportations for undocumented immigrants, much more discretion given to immigration officers on who to arrest, and a deputizing, if you will, of local police officers to serve as immigration officers, and tightening of standards for asylum seekers.
[08:05:18] Now, interestingly, the Trump administration is expected to leave in place, at least for now, we are hearing, President Obama's deferred action for childhood arrivals program, otherwise known as DACA. So that program provides some protection to the undocumented who were brought here as children.
Now, separately the White House is putting together finishing touches on that new version of the travel, and some are wondering what are the key differences the second time around. The head of Homeland Security said that the rollout of the new ban will likely include a phase-in period instead of that automatic switch over we saw last time, and that it's safe to assume green card holders will not be affected by the ban.
This time sources also tell us that the White House Counsel's office is taking a lead role in drafting to avoid some of the legal problems in the last go around. So one critical issue, Alisyn, is going to be what happens to foreign visitors, like someone on a student visa.
CAMEROTA: A big question, and there are other questions as well. So we will have to see all the details as they play out. Laura, thank you very much for all of that background.
So there's lots to discuss. Let's bring in our panel. We have Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Washington Bureau Chief of the "Daily Beast," we have Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator and senior column at "The Daily Beast," and Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News. Great to see all of you.
So Matt, let's talk about the new national security adviser, Lieutenant General McMaster, who has it appears a highly regarded representation and history. But the big question is how much autonomy and power and access to the president will he have? And the reason we wonder about that is because other candidates turned down the job because they felt that somehow they would be eclipsed by, say, Steve Bannon?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. So first I think this is a great pick. This is a guy -- the stereotypes of people that study war would be either they are tough, macho guys who just want to go in and break things and kill people, or sort of intellectuals in ivory tower thinking up theories. And this is a guy who really combines those two things. He's a tough guy, also a smart guy when it comes to things like asymmetric warfare and counterinsurgency. So I think it's a great pick.
How does it fit in? How does he gel? What's the chemistry like? You never know until you get a group of people together who will emerge as leader and how it will shake out. I would say this, I am heartened by the fact that we are sending tough generals into the room to deal with Steve Bannon. If Steve Bannon can walk all over somebody, such as General McMaster and General Kelly, then he is quite the alpha dog if he pulls that off.
CUOMO: Errol, it's interesting how in the analysis of the effectiveness in McMaster, we leave out the name of the president in figuring out how he'll fit into the dynamic. What is your take on what McMaster needs to do to be successful in light of what we just saw with Flynn? And by the way, we still don't know why Flynn was forced to resign. The more facts that come out, it seems like he was made some kind of political scapegoat. So what does that inform us as to the challenges are for McMaster?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The challenge for McMaster will be to be himself and to into action some of his very impressive background. In researching him a little bit, I had not heard his name before, one of the things that comes up is a list that he recommended to some of his subordinates on the history of warfare, and it includes some classics like "The Peloponnesian War" and "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, but it also includes things like the memoirs from General Grant. This is somebody who sees himself and frankly wrote a volume that contributes to a part of a long line of history. And so he knows that he is stepping into a very fraught situation in which he has a commander-in-chief, he's still active duty. He has to do what the commander-in-chief instructs him to do.
On the other hand, he has got a lot of history. And so rather than continually going back to this political reaction and saying the establishment is always wrong, this is somebody who is part of a much larger establishment, a much broader and honorable and important tradition. If he brings that to the table I think he will carry a lot more moral force than any of the political people around the president. CAMEROTA: Jackie, it is really fascinating, though, to think about
what Matt raised, and that is the dynamic and the chemistry that goes on in the Oval Office. So what do we think about how he comes into that pecking order?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: At the end of the day it matters if Trump listens to his advisers, and we know he listened to Bannon. We know he listened to Flynn. So that will be -- to get his ear is going to be the biggest challenge.
[08:10:00] Now, he is a general and Trump does like to surround himself with generals. He is someone who during the campaign he may have said he doesn't like to listen to them, but it seems like he has listened to them since he's been in office. The best example off the top of my head is General Mattis and the issue of torture. He said torture is not something that works, and Trump repeated, well, you know, he says it doesn't work so it doesn't work.
So in the way that Mattis can earn his respect and have his ear is going to be the biggest challenge when you do have, perhaps, competing people, like Steve Bannon, who hasn't really shown a willingness to, let's say, disseminate power in the White House.
CUOMO: Bannon is a little bit of an X factor. Most of what we hear is hearsay and anecdotal. He's not talking to the president, and the president wants people to believe he is setting the tone from the top. But what do you see in the contrast between what we assume is Bannon's agenda and what we have seen these big dogs doing on their own, whether it's Pence going out there and saying things about Russia. I've never learned the president say in terms of holding to logical customary notions of Putin's invasion where he shouldn't be, Mattis, as we just heard, taking on the responsibility for what NATO should be, Kelly going over to Palestine and talking about what a two-state solution should be. So what does that tell us about what's going on in the White House?
LEWIS: Right. And I think with Steve Bannon, what always happens is we need to sort of make a bogeyman to a certain degree. That's just natural. Karl Rove was Bush's brain. And so maybe we are attributing more to Steve Bannon than what he actually deserves.
But I would say this. I think you're right. If you are going to have spokesman and leaders who go around the country ostensibly speaking on your behalf, then the question is do they have credibility. As Jackie was saying in the case of General Mattis, I think it's very clear that he does. When he says we're not going to torture, we're not going to do waterboarding, Trump says, oh, yes, we are not going to do that anymore, right? General Mattis says we are not going to take their oil. Well, I think that Donald Trump will go along with that.
My concern now is Mike Pence. Is he out of the loop? Is he somebody that when he goes to NATO and says something, I don't know that that really represents Donald Trump's -- what Donald Trump is going to do, and that's a problem.
CUOMO: If he threw Flynn under the bus because Pence was insulted by what he did or didn't know, that was a pretty high price.
CAMEROTA: He misled his vice president?
CUOMO: How do we know that?
CAMEROTA: That's what the president keeps saying, and that's the only explanation we keep getting.
CUOMO: And it makes no sense because he says I was fine with the conversations that Flynn was having. I don't think he was misleading. The FBI says he wasn't misleading, and then they fire the guy?
CAMEROTA: Clearly something went wrong because Pence wasn't on the same page.
CUOMO: If that's true.
CAMEROTA: But hold on a second, Errol, I want to move on because we are just getting word right now that the State Department has just confirmed that Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary Kelly will be heading to Mexico tomorrow. That's interesting, obviously, with all the president has been saying about Mexico. And we are expecting this new and resized version of the travel ban to be coming out at some point this week. So there are a lot of pieces in flux right now. What do you think their message to Mexico will be?
LOUIS: Look, I think we see a pattern in the first 33 days of Donald Trump jumping out with facts that may or may not be correct or accurate. He does it with Australia, he does it with Sweden, he does it to a certain extent with this whole fiasco with the first round of the travel ban. And then his people come behind him to try and clean the whole thing up.
So I would interpret the trip to Mexico as trying to clean up some of statements and some of the loose talk that went out there, the failed attempt to have a first meeting at the White House with president. This is going to be, I think, a pattern that repeats itself over and over again, and that's because, getting to Chris's point, there's no doctrine there. There's no foreign policy doctrine. There's a series of tweets that can change at a moment's notice, and that's not how you run a government without having a lot of need for cleanup, which is what we are seeing.
CUOMO: The man tasked with following the biggest elephant in the GOP, not always an easy job.
CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, panel. Talk to you soon.
CUOMO: So is President Trump doing enough to condemn a wave of anti- Semitism? The president's daughter Ivanka is calling for religious tolerance. So what? Where is the president calling for religious intolerance? Why does he keep combatting this notion? Next.
[08:18:11] CUOMO: There is a quantifiable increase in threats of anti-Semitism. Federal authorities are investigating bomb threats against 11 Jewish community centers across the country. There have been nearly 70 threats this year, go online and research for yourself. You will see that's high.
Over the weekend, vandals damaged dozens of head stones at a Jewish cemetery in Missouri. The White House put out a statement, quote, "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 abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable."
Has he made it abundantly clear?
Let's test that. We have CNN senior political commentator, former Republican senator of Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, and Christine Quinn, former New York City Council speaker and president of Women in Need.
Rick Santorum, if the president of the United States does not like something I say in this segment, there's a better than 50 percent chance he will tweet about it and say it is wrong and fake, but nothing about this increase in violence and threats towards the Jewish community. Why?
RICK SANTOUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know why he hasn't tweeted on it. I wish he would. I think it's a legitimate thing to tweet about.
But let's look at the president's record and compare it with what we have seen in the last eight years.
Number one, the president has stood by Israel in ways that President Obama has not and stood very solidly with the state of Israel. His daughter, who is Jewish, has been very, very clear about these things, and I think that's an important voice coming out of the White House.
Here's what I -- I got to tell you, Chris, this is why you hear about, quote, "fake news": for eight years, eight years, the Obama administration sat by and said nothing about the increase in anti- Semitism on college campuses, coming from all over the place, coming from Palestinian groups, in case, yes, from Muslim groups, from progressives groups.
[08:20:14] I mean, rampant anti-Semitism on the most liberal college campuses, and the president of the United States, President Obama, said and did nothing and no comment from the national news media, not a single word. No --
CUOMO: Christine is shaking her head that is not true.
SANTORUM: This lack of sympathy for Jews on college campuses.
CUOMO: Look, I'll give you the two wrongs that make a right analysis, which, by the way, I don't accept.
CUOMO: But you said it quickly and you moved on and your voice went up when you started talking about how bad Obama is and that's OK --
SANTORUM: Because it's an outrage that you guys are pointing to this and --
CUOMO: Let's bring in Christine Quinn.
So, you hear Rick's point. You people stunk even worse, that there was all this stuff going on college campuses, you didn't say anything. So, in light of that, what Trump is doing right now isn't so bad.
CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER NYC CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: First of all, the campaign is over. Campaigning about Obama, they are now the president of the United States, and, you know, Donald Trump is and his supporters are part of that. It's what he does now that matters.
Well, you know, why isn't he striving to be the best, versus comparing to somebody who he might disagree with, but he says he did not do enough?
This is a man, let's not forget, who failed to mention Jewish people in his Holocaust official statement. So he does not have a good track record here.
I don't -- I agree with Senator Santorum that there were things that were very troubling that happened on college campuses, and I, in fact, spoke out about some of them when I was in office.
CUOMO: Did the White House bury them? Did the White House not talk about them?
QUINN: I want to just clarify to our viewers what they were -- they were debates and discussions about whether groups could come on to campus who had a point of opinion that I disagree with, that Senator Santorum disagrees with about Israel and Zionism, and it became a very passionate First Amendment debate. And I'm not in any way saying what was said at times, which is anti-Semitic, was OK, but we're talking here -- that was a debate about the First Amendment that people said inappropriate things.
This is a case of bomb threats, violence and desecrating cemeteries, and again, I just don't understand the school of thought. If you think President Obama did not do enough, then do more. This is not about being compared to your predecessor, and it's about defining yourself and does President Trump want to be somebody defined as somebody that fights hate crimes and supports Jewish people.
CUOMO: Let's bring another factor of this. Hillary Clinton put out a tweet about it. Let's see what she says. "JCC threats, cemetery desecration, online attacks are so troubling and they need to be stopped, everybody must speak out starting with POTUS."
SANTORUM: I couldn't -- look, I agree with this and I agree the president should be more forceful. But let's be honest, the president has been incredibly forceful for his support for the state of Israel, much more so than President Obama. I mean, there is now a harmony of relationship between the state of Israel and the United States and the White House that we have not seen in eight years.
I mean, this president is solidly and squarely behind the Jewish people when it comes to Israel.
And, look, I agree with you. He should say more about this. He should say something about what is going on continually on college campuses.
And, Christine, you're whitewashing this debate. Oh, it was a high brow debate on the First Amendment. No, it wasn't --
CUOMO: Be that as it may, let's say you are right.
SANTORUM: There was real anti-Semitism. Not an intellectual debate about the First Amendment.
QUINN: Wait, wait, you just said, and we can come on another segment and have a conversation about that, and I agree with you, what was said was wrong. But it is different than threats of violence, but you just said President Obama has been great for Israel and --
QUINN: I'm sorry. President Trump has been great for Israel and Jewish people in Israel, and what about Jewish people in the United States? What about all Americans that don't want anybody attacked violently for any reason, but nonetheless in the cancer that is a hate crime?
I just don't understand, particularly since you are saying that he has tried so hard to have a deeper relationship with Israel, why he wouldn't speak out? It just doesn't make any sense.
SANTORUM: Let's hope he does.
QUINN: And it calls into question hypocrisy on the part of his administration, and maybe, I don't know, he's not speaking out because he thinks it will upset some of his base, who, in fact, have espoused -- not through President Trump but their own, during the campaign, anti-Semitic beliefs and statements.
SANTORUM: Whoa! Wait a minute. I mean, Donald Trump's base is more pro-Israel, more pro-Jewish people than anybody.
[08:25:06] I mean, if you talk to anybody in the pro-Israel movement and they will tell you the heart -- the bedrock of that is the evangelical Christian community in this country. In fact, and the folks who have been walking away are liberal Jews who are walking away from Israel, not conservative Christians.
QUINN: But, Rick, we're talking about hate -- you keep going back to the president's position on Israel. And people --
SANTORUM: That's the Jewish state.
QUINN: And this is -- yes, it is, and this is an attack on Jews in America. So, if the president feels in such a deep kinship with the Jewish state of Israel, why won't he speak out?
And I think if you look back to statements that were made not by him or the vice president, but by people at rallies supporting him, you heard discriminatory statements about many people, including Jewish Americans. You can't erase his inaction, and not mentioning Jewish people on Holocaust Remembrance Day and not speaking out personally when he speaks out, about Chris on a regular basis, and about "Saturday Night Live" every Sunday like clock work.
I mean, this is a man who expresses his opinions freely.
CUOMO: All right. So, the question is, Rick, why do you think he doesn't say more?
SANTORUM: You know, I go -- I don't know. I will repeat it for the third time. I believe he should be speaking out about --
CUOMO: Right, I'm not asking you for your personal positions on what should be done. I'm asking you, why do you think he doesn't? I mean, even your case about the anti-Semitism on college campuses, he doesn't say about that other.
But why not? When it's such a layup to do just what Hillary Clinton just did, you throw out a tweet saying this is disgusting, we hate it, I won't tolerate, if I find the people who did it, I will punish them, that's it. Yes?
SANTORUM: Yes. Look, if you look at the fact of the people who are responsible for a lot of these anti-Semitism that we're seeing, I hate to say it, a lot of it is coming from the pro-Palestinian or Muslim community. So, let's just, you know, let's lay out -- let's lay out that fact. And I think its' actually --
CUOMO: I don't know that's a fact, by the way. I don't know that it's a fact.
CUOMO: You have white haters historically who target the Jews --
SANTORUM: That's not what is going on in college campuses, Chris, white haters. I mean, let's say the truth about this. (CROSSTALK)
QUINN: We are talking about cemeteries and JCC centers. Not college campuses.
CUOMO: Right, you are mixing, but I am okay with you mixing also because it all goes under the same umbrella --
CUOMO: But I'll tell you what? You guys have no problem going after Muslims they don't do, let alone what they do do, so why doesn't Trump going after the Muslims who are doing this on college campuses against the Jews?
QUINN: I mean, there's no evidence to support who did --
SANTORUM: No, I'm for him doing that. I think he should.
CUOMO: I know, I am asking you why does he not do it?
SANTORUM: I don't know the answer to that other than the fact that maybe that he has been so much in favor of this restored and renewed relationship, and maybe he says that as the way he is communicating that message. That's the only thing I can think of.
QUINN: Because he never double downs on Twitter. He never repeats himself. He never goes after somebody --
CUOMO: I have a suggestion, and I think this was seen played out in real time when a Hasidic Jewish reporter who says he's supportive of the president asked him a question about this, and the president either didn't listen or misheard it, and saw it as an attack and started saying, hey, hey, I'm the least anti-Semitic person you'll ever meet.
But I think he was being reactive to something. Here's my suggestion -- because you and people on the left and a lot of independent people, and just people who want a tolerance in the country have attacked the president for this by not being critical or it's happening on his watch in increase the proportions, you made it something that he now takes as a personal criticism, and the way President Trump deals with personal criticism is to reject it, so that you have made the topic of attacks against Jews and threats against Jews into something that he is somehow responsible for, he rejects that notion so he will not pay any mind to the assertion?
QUINN: He is responsible for what he says and does, and not just as a citizen, but as the president of the United States.
I know from my work as running a crime victim assistance agency that dealt with hate crimes, the way to stop hate is unequivocally for decent people to stand up and speak out.
If that's the psychological makeup of how he sees things, that's unfortunate for him, but there are bigger things than how he feels offended. And again, if he had just done a tweet immediately after it happened, nobody would have said anything. And trust me, if you are a victim and you hear the president speak out, it makes you feel supported.
CUOMO: Tomorrow is another day. We'll see if he does anything. You know, Rick, I was thinking about the whole theory in mass Sunday, it was turn the other cheek Matthew gospel and I was wondering, I wonder if the president went to service, I wonder if that was the gospel and I wonder what those words mean to him in terms of dealing with his critics.