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Bannon, Pence Send Conflicting Messages to E.U.; Trump Withdraws Protections for Transgender Students; Angry Crowds Pack GOP Town Halls Across America; U.S. Secretaries to Meet with Mexican President Today. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN: I wanted to touch on what you just brought up. And that is that there is reporting to CNN. Elise Labott, our global affairs correspondent, has reporting that Steve Bannon did an end run, basically, also around Vice President Pence when it came to the European Union.

[07:00:19] So just as Mike Pence was heading to Belgium to reassure the European Union that, yes, the U.S. stands with them. Apparently, Steve Bannon had a conversation with the German ambassador. I'll read it to you. It was described as a combative conversation.

The sources said Bannon spelled out a nationalist worldview and cited a wave of anti-E.U. populism as evidence of the bloc's flaws, a similar refrain to the one he had previously articulated as the chief of the right-wing website Breitbart News.

So how do our allies know who to listen to?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, I heard the same thing from some of our partners in Europe. And it's very troubling, both as a matter of process you and a matter of substance. As a matter of process, because as you said, apparently, it undercut the vice president at the very time he was engaged in a crucial mission to try to reassure our European partners that we supported the European Union, wanted to work with it.

It's even worse as a matter of substance. Because undermining the E.U. forgets why the E.U. emerged in the first place. It was a product of World War II. And what led to World War II, in part, was extreme nationalism, extreme protectionism. Unfortunately, many of the things that Mr. Bannon seems to be pushing.

The E.U. was put in place to make sure the countries worked together and didn't allow these negative forces to lead to war. So the idea that we would be undermining something that has created and helped nurture 74 years a peace in Europe and has been profoundly good for the United States, is as a matter of policy a very negative thing for the United States. I mean, we have supported the E.U. for decades.


Tony Blinken, thank you very much for the expertise.

BLINKEN: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to all of you, our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let it be heard that we will not be silent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trans equality now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trans equality now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trans equality now.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's made it clear that he is a firm believer in states' rights. Everybody in the administration is agreed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary DeVos argued strenuously to have more protections for students.

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: There are different morals and different values in every state, and that should be reflected in our law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want it?




SPICER: It is a loud group, a small group of people, disrupting something for media attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's deleting all the parts and PBS Kids just to make a wall. He shouldn't do that.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Up first, the Trump administration taking new controversial action, rolling back federal protections for transgender students at public schools. The White House says it should be up to states and school districts to handle that issue.

CAMEROTA: This as Republican lawmakers, Chris, are confronting more red hot anger. Constituents are sounding off at these town hall meetings across the country. Meanwhile, Democrats are preparing to elect a new leader for their party.

It is day 35 of the Trump presidency, and we have it all covered for you. So let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House.

Good morning, Joe.


The Trump administration's guidance on transgender bathrooms this morning is for schools to ignore what the Obama administration said about this issue; but they really don't give any new guidance other than that to the schools on what they're supposed to do next.


JOHNS (voice-over): The federal Departments of Justice and Education issuing a letter to public schools, saying they no longer need to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. The White House arguing this week that this isn't an issue for the federal government to decide.

SPICER: The president, as I said yesterday, is a firm believer in states' rights.

JOHNS: The move in stark contrast to candidate Trump's position last April.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.

MATT LAUER, HOST, NBC'S "THE TODAY SHOW": So if Caitlyn Jenner were to walk into Trump Tower and want to use the bathroom, you would be fine with her using any bathroom she chooses?

TRUMP: That is correct.

JOHNS: Sources tell CNN the president's education secretary opposed the new guidance but was pressured to get on board by the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A source says Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reminded the president they both promised to protect all students. DeVos issuing a strongly worded statement saying, "This is not merely a federal mandate but a moral obligation no individual school district or state can abdicate," reassuring concerned students that her department will investigate "claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools."

[07:05:11] The new guidance rejects the inclusion of gender identity in the interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools.

Hundreds gathering outside of the White House to protest. One of the performers at the president's inauguration, who has a transgender sister, tweeting, "Mr. Trump, you gave me the honor to sing at your inauguration. Please give me and my sis the honor to meet with you to talk transgender rights."


JOHNS: And as you might expect, this issue is far from resolved. There is a case pending before the United States Supreme Court and highly likely that the justices will get the opportunity to have the last word -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Joe. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, the anger continues at Republican town halls across America. The White House claims, without offering any evidence, that the outrage is partly manufactured by activists who are paid to protest.

CNN's Ryan Young is live in Charles City, Iowa, where another town hall takes place today. What's the scene there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn. So far we're expecting people to show up here. But look, this is becoming somewhat of a contact sport. Across the country people are letting their voices be heard.


YOUNG (voice-over): Republican lawmakers across the country coming home to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame! Shame! Shame!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame! Shame! Shame!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame! Shame! Shame!

YOUNG: Facing off with scores of enraged constituents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do your job! Do your job!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do your job! Do your job!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do your job! Do your job!

YOUNG: The anger palpable in Arkansas.


YOUNG: Senator Tom Cotton looking out over a sea of protestors in a packed town hall.



YOUNG: Some emotional about the prospect of losing insurance coverage under Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of insurance do you have?

YOUNG: Others expressing their frustration over the new administration, including this 7-year-old boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important to people who are in Arkansas who like Mexicans, like me and my grandma and all my people. And he's deleting all the parts in PBS Kids just to make a wall. He shouldn't do that.

YOUNG: In New Jersey, a record crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How you will mobilize the other Republicans to push back against this man when he makes delusional statements.

YOUNG: Congressman Leonard Lance shouted down for not standing up to the president's so-called alternative facts.

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I believe that when the president misstates, as for example...


YOUNG: In Northern California, tempers erupting after Congressman Tom McClintock sidestepped this question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you support a bipartisan investigation of the Trump administration's dealings with Vladimir Putin and Russia?

REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm not sure that an investigation, which would take up an awful lot of bandwidth in the Congress, is...

YOUNG: Liberal groups across the country holding empty chair town halls for lawmakers who are reluctant to face voters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is Pat? Where is Pat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is Pat? Where is Pat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is Pat? Where is Pat?

YOUNG: The president and White House downplaying the wave of opposition.

SPICER: I think some people are clearly upset. But there is a bit of professional protestor manufactured base in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Mary Story (ph) from Fayetteville, and I am not a paid protestor.


YOUNG: Yes, you had a few farmers worried about their health care asking Senator Grassley the last time he had a town hall what would happen to their health insurance if it gets repealed. A big conversation. And of course, they're expecting standing room only this morning -- Chris.

CUOMO: And Ryan, those are the members of Congress who are brave enough to go to the town halls.

YOUNG: Absolutely.

CUOMO: A lot are ducking them.

All right. So joining us now is one of those lawmakers who did not duck his constituents. You just saw him in Ryan's piece, and it was hot in there. Republican Congressman Leonard Lance of New Jersey.

Sir, thank you for joining us this morning. Some of your colleagues are ducking this. They're doing teleconference town halls. You wanted to take it head on. Why?

LANCE: I've done town halls over the course of being in Congress. I've done 40 in person, 40 over the telephone. And this is a matter of regular course for me, and I was pleased to have the town hall meeting last night, where there were roughly 900 people in the main room and 400 people in a spill-over room. And I will be doing another town hall meeting Saturday morning.

CUOMO: All right. So I want to play one of the moments that seemed to kind of characterize what the back and forth was when it got tense. Let's play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push back! Push back! Push back!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Push back! Push back! Push back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push back! Push back! Push back!


CUOMO: All right. Now this is an odd situation where you have a president in party, and your constituents are screaming, "Push back." You had gone on to say "Listen, when the president misstates" -- and as soon as they heard the word "misstates," it played to them as you weren't owning their own criticism of the president. They started to shout, "Push back." What do you make of their demand?

LANCE: I think that it's important that where a fact has not been stated accurately that I indicate my position, and I will continue to do that. And for example, the president won with 306 electoral votes; and that was not the largest electoral vote majority since Ronald Reagan. And I stated that. And I try always, Chris, to be a person who speaks the truth. And I continue to do so, and certainly, that was the message I heard last night.

CUOMO: That's the key, though, right? There's a distinction between a misstatement and an intentional misstatement, right? Which you can get into the realm of lie and deception and dissembling and all those other fancy words. That's what this is really about with President Trump. Right? It's not that he was wrong and forgot about President George H.W. Bush as having more electors. It's that he'll say 3 million people voted illegally and have not a shred of valid proof for that and set us on a course of deception on that issue that has a lot of ramifications.

Do you believe it's more than just misstatements and being wrong but about being deceptive?

LANCE: I hope that the president is not deceptive. But if that were to be the case, I would indicate my views. And I always try to speak truthfully. And I hope, moving forward, that there can be as great position of accuracy from the White House and from those of us in Congress, as well, because I think, Chris, the people deserve that.

CUOMO: I understand why saying that the president had been deceptive about something is politically dangerous for someone who's in party in Congress, but let's put it this way. Do you think that you would be comfortable having said everything that President Trump has told the American people as fact?

LANCE: I believe, for example, that those who were at my town heal meeting last night were not paid. And if the White House believes that many of those at town hall meetings have been paid, I think that that is an inaccurate statement. And I indicated last night at my town hall meeting that these were constituents in the district I serve, and they were there to indicate their positions on various public issues. And I was there to listen to them.

CUOMO: You felt that it was organic? And by the way, if people had organized to come in and get people together who shared like mind on a certain issue, would there be anything wrong with that? It certainly wouldn't be unfamiliar. It's what launched the Tea Party branch of your party in 2009, in direct reaction to that new president and his policy.

LANCE: Absolutely true. People have a right to organize. And I'm a strong believer in the First Amendment. And there's nothing wrong with organization.

I do believe that most of those at my town hall meeting last night where they're based upon being constituents in the district, and I was pleased to be able to interact with them.

CUOMO: Now this weekend you're probably going to get questions about what the White House just did with transgender bathrooms. And just so people understand: the Obama administration had put out federal guidance on this. It wasn't necessarily law, but it was a shadow of protection. A court froze it, so it's been in limbo anyway. Now that has been removed. And people are critical of it.

As point of fact, you were one of 43 Republican Congressmen who agreed with President Obama on a similar law or executive action on -- which turned into law -- on contractors not being able to discriminate on the basis of gender. And you got criticism for that.

What is your position about what the White House just did?

LANCE: I will have to review what the White House just did, Chris. But let me say, certainly regarding contracts, I don't think there should be discrimination against anybody. And as I understand it, the secretary of education said yesterday that she believes that we have to protect all students. And I hope all states protect all students. And I think that should be the goal. And I do not want to discriminate against anybody.

CUOMO: Well, you have the politics and the policy. Let's take each. The politics are that Betsy DeVos, apparently, according to sources and reporting and not contradicted by the White House at this point, was compelled to do this. She was forced to do this. She didn't want to do it. She didn't think it was right. She fought to put in the language you just talked about as a half measure at the end. What does that say to you about how this was done?

LANCE: It says to me that Betsy DeVos is someone who is trying to do what is right for the American people. I know that the secretary was criticized during the confirmation process. When I actually think she has an opportunity to take the lead on educational issues.

And I hope that, if this becomes the responsibility of the states, that all states will protect young people in the schools across this country. And I do believe that states have the primary role in educational matters, but I hope that the secretary is able to ensure that all students are treated equally.

CUOMO: Right but this isn't an educational matter, unless you want to extrapolate it as an education in potential intolerance. The reason that we saw the White House under President Obama move on this was because of the absence of this protection in Title IX at this point in time. And if you don't have a federal shadow of protection over this, you're going to go case by case. And every manifestation of our lives and about whether or not the LGBTQ community has equality of rights. You're going to have to go case by case if there's no overarching protection. Are you OK with that?

LANCE: I believe that Congress should ensure that there is protection. I suspect that there is a role for Congress in this matter. And I want no discrimination anywhere in America. I think we should be a country that believes in equal treatment, Chris, for all of our citizens, including young people.

CUOMO: Well, it will be interesting to see after you review more in depth, where you come out on this and how it goes over at the town hall. Mr. Lance, thank you very much, Congressman, for joining us. Appreciate you taking the time for NEW DAY.

LANCE: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Well, Mexico is slamming President Trump's immigration actions ahead of a high-stakes meeting with two of President Trump's cabinet secretaries today. How will they be received in Mexico? We have an Arizona Congressman weighing in on what he's seeing in his community, next.


[07:21:14] CAMEROTA: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security chief John Kelly are in Mexico today to meet with the president there. The visit comes as Mexican officials blast the Trump administration's immigration enforcement actions and continued talk of a border wall.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman from Arizona, Ruben Gallego. Good morning, Congressman.


CAMEROTA: What do you want to see Secretary of State Tillerson accomplish while in Mexico?

GALLEGO: Well, I'd like to have them accomplish one thing, which is calm the tensions between the United States and Mexico, our longtime partner and ally, a big trading partner of Arizona and also ally against narco-traffickers and -- and illegal immigration. You know, we've had years and years of relationships with law enforcement across the way, and I think this antagonistic relationship that Trump has set up is actually not going to help us bring us more security.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sean Spicer yesterday, during a White House press briefing, described the relationship between U.S. and Mexico, even with the Trump administration, as phenomenal. What do you think? How -- why do you see it so differently?

GALLEGO: Well, because I actually talk to the Mexican government. I talk to Mexican congressmen and senators. I read our Mexican newspapers. And you know, if you watch any Spanish TV, you know that is quite the opposite.

I mean, they're threatening to do boycotts right now of U.S. goods, especially corn and other foreign products. You know, they're -- you know, some senators are threatening to -- Mexico is going to cut off other types of relationships, especially curatorships (ph) with the United States.

You know, I think Sean Spicer is very loose with the truth and facts, as we've seen in the past. And I think he's doing that right now.

CAMEROTA: But what do you think got it off to such a bad foot that you see? I mean, is this just about the border wall? And if so, doesn't the U.S. have the right to protect itself as a sovereign nation? GALLEGO: No, this did not start with the border wall. This started

with Donald Trump's campaign, calling people from Mexico that are coming over to this country rapists and thugs, and then continuing through

And also, just this very unilateral action that Mexico -- that the United States is trying to take on Mexico, you know, a country that we've worked with for many years that, you know, have been a great, strong friend and ally. To really treat them in a way that I think is, you know, disrespectful of the, you know, relationship we've had for almost a century now. You know, there's been a border wall. This is not an issue about the border wall. It's how we treat a friend. And, you know, I don't think it's going to be very productive in the end.

CAMEROTA: In fact, you are echoing the sentiments of the Mexican foreign minister, who said basically just that yesterday: "I want to make it clear in the most emphatic way that the Mexican government and the people of Mexico do not have to accept measures unilaterally imposed on a government by another government."

So this is going to be tough for Secretary of State Tillerson. I've heard it described as "clean up on aisle two." I mean, when he goes down there, he has to represent the United States, but it's going to be complicated, because obviously, sometimes President Trump says something different than what those around him say about Mexico.

GALLEGO: Well, this is typical right now of our foreign policy. Essentially, you have some of our -- some of our greatest representatives, whether it's Tillerson, Mattis, or any other cabinet member, including the vice president has to go do clean-up for Trump, because he runs his mouth without knowing the consequences of what he is saying. You know, his foreign policy's being set by tweets, and it's really up-ending, you know, years and years of relationship and work.

Like, let's not forget that Mexico has been extremely helpful in trying to stop terrorists from coming to this country, has sacrificed blood, sweat and money fighting narco-terrorists. You know, they have thousands of police officers who have died, trying to stop the flow of drugs north. And, you know, when the president basically tries to intimidate or insult a country by just one tweet, it does mess up our relations and does make our -- you know, our cabinet members and other people that are effectively the arm of our foreign policy, makes their job a lot harder.

[07:25:20] CAMEROTA: So Congressman, how do you see the new executive orders that -- the new immigration order, I should say, that came out this week from the Trump administration in terms of how to deal with undocumented immigrants? Do you see it as that they will or will not be prioritizing criminals for deportation? And do you see it that DREAMers are exempt?

GALLEGO: Well, one, let's be clear. There is nobody that's against prioritizing criminals. And when we talk criminals, we want to be sure that we're -- we're not just using a very broad term. We're talking about people that are very serious criminals that are a threat to everybody in the community. And you'll have people in the immigrant community that would also be against that type of element in their neighborhoods.

The problem with the executive order is that Trump uses the term "criminal" very broadly and is going to cast such a wide net that essentially will start what we believe is back door mass deportation.

And as for DREAMers, on paper, you know, they are safe for now. But what we're seeing, at least with Donald Trump, is that there will be other methods to basically try to deport DREAMers. We're even seeing right now a DREAMer in Seattle who, without any type of proof, is being held by ICE because they believe he has gang activity. It hasn't been proven; he hasn't gone to court, hasn't had his due process, but they're still trying to deport that gentleman.

That's not the way we do things in the United States. Everyone has a right to due process. But it is very indicative, I think, of what potentially could happen under a Trump administration.

CAMEROTA: That's the case of Dan Medina that you are referring to, who is...


CAMEROTA: ... right now being held. Obviously, we will continue to watch that case, as will you.

Congressman Gallego, thank you very much for joining us with your perspective on all of this.

GALLEGO: Thank you for having me. Good morning.

CAMEROTA: You, too.


CUOMO: All right, Alisyn. So we have some situation developing here. You have the immigrant, Muslim and LGBTQ communities all concerned about the Trump administration's policies. And what can be done to allay their fears? Are they justified? Let's discuss, next.