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GOP Lawmakers Face Hostile Constituents; Helping Veterans with PTSD; Ohio Voters on Trump Presidency. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 22, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:49] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, voter outrage appears to be spreading like wildfire, popping up in congressional town halls all across the country. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wave in the White House now the notorious white nationalist is a special advisor to the president of the United States. I'd like to know your thoughts on that.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: First of all, I don't speak for the president. I think the president --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd like to know how you feel about it. You're our congressman.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to acknowledge that we got too damn many people on food stamps in Kentucky. These coal jobs are not coming back and now these people don't have the insurance they need because they're poor. If you can answers any of that, I'll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren.


CUOMO: Senator McConnell said, I hope you feel better now. Careful. Careful. You know, talking to constituents is not like talking to us. You have to show respect.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.


CUOMO: Much ado about nothing or something to watch and see as potential impact going forward, these town halls? BROWNSTEIN: Something to watch, I think, clearly, especially when

you're considering a midterm election. You know, one thing I've learned, I think, in the last few years, I think like a lot of political analyst, I thought that intensity didn't matter as much because it gets washed out in the sheer size and scale of our national elections. But the fact is that in 2010 and 2014 and 2016, intensity mattered a lot.

And what you see -- the fuel for this, Chris, is that while there are a lot of people, obviously, who feel Donald Trump is doing exactly what he was elected to do, and are excited about that, he is facing, by far, by far the highest levels of disapproval of any newly elected president ever in polls. And what's I think even more relevant here is that virtually everyone who say they disapprove of President Trump say they strongly disapprove of President Trump. Those are the kind of emotions that drive people to come out to town hall meetings in the middle of the winter and they are also the kind of emotions that drive people to turn out in what are generally lower turnout midterm elections.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Ron, President Trump has tried to suggest that these are organized agitators, that these have been -- you know, there's left-wing agitators that have sent all these people. You know, these folks don't take kindly to that, this notion that it isn't born out of their own outrage organically.

[08:35:06] BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, look, I mean I think it is easier now -- one thing we are seeing is just kind of a secular change in our politics. In the social media age, it is easier to organize movements than we've ever seen before. Look at the protests that, you know, broke out the day after President Trump's inauguration. More than one in every 100 Americans was on the street. I mean that's incredible, without any real kind of national structure or organization, and it just shows how much the social media era makes it easier for like- minded people to find each other and encourage each other.

But if you want to believe that all of this is manufactured, I think you are setting yourself up for some trouble because it has organic roots that is evident as well in polling. I mean you're talking about a disapproval rating among Democrats for President Trump that's well over 80 percent, an approval rating that's in the single digits. Usually a president has an approval rating in the opposite party at this point of 30, 40 percent. He's talking about 7, 8 percent. There is a lot of opposition out there. It is genuine and it is something that Republicans are going to have to deal with in 2018 because certainly it dos point toward an energized Democratic participation in that election.

CUOMO: Let's play on the idea of seeing what it leads to in light of these new parameters for immigration enforcement.


CUOMO: We hear from even Republican lawmakers, well, let's see. Let's see who they round up first before we go to the extreme. But the problem is, they've just created the potential for very selective and harsh law enforcement. What's the plus/minus?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, you know, the context for this is often misunderstood. The number -- you know, the best data we have on how many undocumented immigrants there are comes from the Pew Research Center, which does exhaustive studies using both U.S. and Mexican sources. And what they show is the number of undocumented immigrants peaked in 2007. Since 2009, since the great recession, we've had a net flow in the other direction towards Mexico. There were 500,000 fewer --

CUOMO: But people still see tons of people that they believe are undocumented.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. I understand.

CUOMO: The numbers are still real.


CUOMO: The reality is second to the perception.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Right. Well, just -- you know, occasionally, as far as mentioning the reality, which is that -- which is that the -- the number is actually lower today than it was seven, eight years ago. It peaked in 2007.

I would say a couple of things. First, in polling, historically going -- I've been writing polls on immigration since the early 1990s at "The L.A. Times" and consistently always a majority of Americans support some path to legal status, of not necessarily citizenship for people who have been here and committed no other wrongdoing other than the fact of entering illegally. There has never been a majority for deportation, even during the Republican primaries. Only in two states, as I recall, did a majority in the exit poll support deportation. So there is -- you know, the idea of mass deportation has never been something with big approval.

By the way, most House Republicans are in districts with very few foreign-born Americans. Eight-five percent of the House Republicans are in districts where the foreign-born population is lower than the national average. So, to some extent, they are insulated against the backlash here. The question will be those white collar suburbs where deportation, I think, is unpopular and you have many districts that Hillary Clinton won that Republicans are in.

CAMEROTA: Interesting to watch.

Ron, thank you for "The Bottom Line."


CAMEROTA: See, he's got to go.

Voters sharing their thoughts on the Trump presidency just one month in. What do they think he's accomplished and how do they feel about the Russia connection? More of our voter panel, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:41:57] CAMEROTA: Time now for the "Five Things To Know for Your New Day."

The Trump administration expanding immigration enforcement policies. The White House rejecting the new guidelines will cause mass deportations.

President Trump, for the first time, publicly condemning a rise in anti-Semitism, but some critics say his, quote, "sudden" acknowledgement is too little too late.

Malaysian investigators say two women poisoned the half-brother of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un with a toxin that they rubbed on their hands. North Korea denies that and demands the women's immediate release.

American Airlines flights in Philadelphia back up and running after a computer glitch with the airline forced the FAA to issue a temporary ground stop.

Hundreds forced from their homes after severe flooding in San Jose, California. Emergency crews rescuing some people stranded in floodwaters.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to for the latest.

So, up next, we have a group of voters from Ohio sharing their thoughts on Donald Trump's first month in office.

But first, an Army vet suffering from PTSD when he came home from Iraq finds relief in mixed martial arts. Now he's using the sport to help other veterans come to grips with civilian life in this morning's "Turning Points."


TODD VANCE (ph): Bang, boom, boom. Come in here for that body lock.

I'm Todd Vance, founder of POW.

When I was in the Army, I was a squad leader, and we ran over 250 combat missions.

I got back from Iraq in 2005 and I thought I was on top of the world. Slowly but surely, reality was setting in about what I had seen and what I had done. I turned into a recluse and I was drinking too much. I did self-medicate. I ended up going to the VA for help and counseling and they diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress.

Jab. Take away the jab.

So I started training at the local MMA gym. It gave me that stability and the discipline, the camaraderie that I was missing so much from the military. Martial arts 100 percent saved my life.

I realized that I had a passion for working with and for military veterans. The POW program started here in San Diego, California. We got a nonprofit status in 2012. We basically started off as a veteran competition team. We're actually doing a lot of group therapy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being here with, you know, my brothers and sisters and being able to work it out with them in a physical environment is like the best of both worlds.

VANCE: It's so therapeutic for me to be able to revisit things that bothered me in the past and to help a younger veteran process that stuff and to get them on track.

One, two, three.




[08:48:46] CAMEROTA: So how are voters feeling about President Trump's first month in office? Well, we wanted to head to the heartland to find out. I sat down with some passionate Trump supporters, as well as some of his critics, in Columbus, Ohio, at the Ladies' Gallery inside the Ohio Statehouse. Our discussion centered or foreign policy, Russia and if there's any chance of uniting this divided country.


CAMEROTA: Are you comfortable with the idea that some of Mr. Trump's top advisers would be dealing with the Russians during the campaign and before he was installed in the presidency?

DENNIS MCKIRAHAN, RETIRED SALESPERSON: Well, it's the old rule that 80 percent of the things you worry about never happen. We probably get overexcited about a lot of these things and probably it's nothing most of the time. I mean look at our history. It's been that way. It's not the only thing that's ever happened that was skeptical.

CAMEROTA: So not a big deal to you?

MCKIRAHAN: Not a big deal to me.

CAMEROTA: Any of you?

MCKIRAHAN: Here's the big deal.

KRIS MCCURRY, MORTGAGE BANKER: I think you've got to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.


MCKIRAHAN: The big deal that we don't all agree -- MCCURRY: I mean keep them under the radar. They're supposed to be talking to these people.

BRENNER: Exactly.

MCCURRY: The fact that he was talking --

CHRISTIAN TAMTE, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: Do any one of you remember Gorbachev and the shoe and I will destroy you from the inside? Is that lost or is that because it's not our generation that we don't remember that?

MCKIRAHAN: Well, no, I remember that.

CAMEROTA: What do you mean by that?

TAMTE: Russia told us they were going to destroy us from the inside.

MCKIRAHAN: Right. Yes.

TAMTE: They are a snake.

[08:50:00] BRENNER: Oh, sure. Well, we don't disagree on that.

TAMTE: They are. We know this and -- and so keep your friends close and your enemies closer, we've been doing that, I think, over the years and we haven't -- I could -- I could see how you would want to go ahead and increase communications with them, but that is a slow, careful process, not, let's get in bed with Russia.

I don't want to be buddy-buddy with the bad guy.

BRENNER: I don't think we are.

TAMTE: I think we absolutely --

MCKIRAHAN: But that's opinion -- that's opinion when you --

BRENNER: No, I don't think it's buddy-buddy at all. I think --


MCKIRAHAN: All right, I don't think we're --

BRENNER: I think what it comes down to is -- is, you've got to look at Trump from a business person. And if I'm sitting down, I'm doing a business deal with you. If we hate each other, we're going to get nowhere, right.

TAMTE: I understand this --

BRENNER: But if we can at least converse --


BRENNER: Then we have a chance of getting somewhere. TAMTE: So do we converse in those back rooms where no one can see


MCKIRAHAN: Sometimes you do.

BRENNER: Sometimes you have to.

TAMTE: I'm sorry, no.

CAMEROTA: Do you guys ever play a game with yourself called, what if Hillary Clinton did it? And do you ever do sort of a mind trick where you think --

MCKIRAHAN: I do it all the time on both sides, yes.

CAMEROTA: OK. So -- so, yes, I think that it's an interesting game. And so when you say, what if Hillary Clinton's national security adviser before she was installed in the White House, if she had won, had had repeated calls with the Russians and her top advisors had had repeated calls with the Russian and then went on a Sunday show and misled her vice president and lied about it, then what?

MCKIRAHAN: I would call for an investigation. That's not a problem.

CAMEROTA: But why --

MCKIRAHAN: And that's what they're doing.

CAMEROTA: But why do you seem to be more calm about it on the Trump side?

MCKIRAHAN: I'm calm on either side of that one.

CAMEROTA: But are you calling for an investigation with Mr. Trump as well?

MCKIRAHAN: Sure. I don't have a problem with it.

CAMEROTA: OK. If Huma Abedin were in this same situation, you would say, people have back room conversations. What's the big deal?


MCKIRAHAN: No, I would say room -- there's room for being a skeptic.

MCCURRY: I think investigations --


MCCURRY: Have an investigation. I'm more of a facts person. We're just speculating that it would happen. I did hear that he -- they have transcripts of his calls, so there's not any funky, you know, stuff that they don't know about going on. But once the facts come out, you know, that's what we run with. I --

CAMEROTA: That's -- and if there was something where he was saying, oh, we'll ease sanctions when we get in, then would you be disappointed and would you think differently?

MCCURRY: Yes. I mean I'm all for doing the right thing. I mean -- I mean I --

REV. DR. MARY REAMAN, PASTOR, TREE OF LIFE COMMUNITY: But what is the right thing?

MCCURRY: That's good.

MCKIRAHAN: Only God know for sure.

MCCURRY: If he's -- if there's foul play, then good, he should --

BRENNER: Something, though, that --

MCCURRY: He already resigned. You know, it -- I agree with that, that (INAUDIBLE).

TAMTE: This is the whole thing with Trump. I want to do the right thing. Silence. There's nothing after that. You all -- we all want to do the right thing and you got behind the guy that yelled the loudest and made the best show. And the thing is, there's nothing to -- he didn't say anything while he was running. He's not saying anything now. And you don't know what that right -- you can't even tell -- please, I really -- and I don't mean this as an attack. I really am -- I'm like to sit back and be calm and really listen.

BRENNER: But at the end of the day it seems like when -- when someone on the right does something wrong, there's an automatic assumption that they're wrong and that there was evil motive there. And if you -- if you look at the -- at the course of the last 10, 20 years, it's gotten even worse.

CAMEROTA: Do you guys ever play that mental game?


CAMEROTA: Of what if Barack Obama did this, what if Hillary Clinton did this? What if Hillary Clinton's national security adviser had conversations with the Russian ambassador before Hillary Clinton -- wouldn't you say she's making an overture to a foreign dignitary, big whoop?

TAMTE: I would be very upset. I would be --

CAMEROTA: Oh, you would?

TAMTE: In fact, I was not even happy with all the things that Obama did. I was not all like, woo-hoo, Obama for everything. I would be livid with Hillary Clinton if I found out that she did something too. I try very hard to look at things from all sides.

RAEMAN: This is what I think is part of the issue. I don't know that I'm right and you don't either. And we have to say --

MCKIRAHAN: We only know what we know. We only know -- RAEMAN: We have to begin to say to each other, I don't know. I believe x, y, z, but I don't know and I want to have the humility enough to listen. If we keep saying, I'm right and you're wrong, or, you have to be wrong for me to be right, which is not true, we can both be right, and we can both be wrong. Until we overcome that, until we can say with humility, I don't know how to address these issues and I'm not going to come at it in a partisan way but I'm going to use my mind and my heart equally and have compassion and empathy for the human being and the planet, nothing changes.

CAMEROTA: How are you left feeling? I mean when you see the division, even in this civil setting, and when you see the division in the country, what -- what do -- what do you think is going to happen over the next four years?

MICHAEL MILISITS, VOTED FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Honestly, I'm cautiously optimistic because, you know, he did say that he was going to unite America, and it appears to me that the majority of America has united against his agenda and is now starting to mobilize in a way that we have never seen before.

CAMEROTA: But then where does it leave these guys? Like, in other words, if you're marching all the time against President Trump, then what about the 44 percent of the country that thinks that he's doing a great job? What do we -- what do you do about these guys?

[08:55:04] MILISITS: That's the question I've been asking everyone that I come in contact with.

MCKIRAHAN: See -- I see -- I see --

MILISITS: That's the million dollar question, really, I mean that's --



MILISITS: That -- that, you know, and that's -- that's why we need to have this dialogue.

CAMEROTA: What do you -- how do you feel? Do you feel that there's any -- do you feel like trying to find common ground --

MCCURRY: Yes, I --

CAMEROTA: Or do you feel like giving up with the other side --


CAMEROTA: Because you don't have a lot of common ground with them?

MCCURRY: I personally am -- have tons of friends of all walks of life. We get along. I think there's just too big of an anti-Trump bandwagon going on right now. And, I mean, we -- we have to give him a little bit of a chance here. It's gone a little crazy.

CAMEROTA: And, Christian, what do you think in terms of the division? Is this just what we live with now?

TAMTE: He ran on make America great again. One, I've always thought America was great before. I think we're still great and I think we're just getting better. And the world is now seeing what America really is. And that is, that when we see something that isn't lined up with what we believe, then we have the right to stand up, the world will see. The world will see.


CAMEROTA: All right, so we asked for your thoughts on this discussion. And I want to share two somewhat representative tweets of what you sent in. Henrick writes, "come on, Alisyn Camerota, there are a lot of people sore about the progressive agenda, meaning the global village, it's falling down and that's it." Braxton tweets, "if Hillary had even remotely done any of these, Trump would be holding lock her up rallies. The hypocrisy is incomprehensible."

We thank you very much for weighing in and for watching. I'll see you tomorrow.

CNN "Newsroom" with Poppy Harlow picks up after this very quick break.


[09:00:12] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.