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Ohio Secretary Of State: 82 Cast Illegal Ballots; Trump Campaign's Ties To Russia Under Scrutiny; Russia's Interference In The U.S. Election; Muhammad Ali's Son Says He Was Detained Because He's Muslim. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 28, 2017 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has repeatedly said but never offered proof that a millions voted illegally in the 2016 election. So the state of Ohio and other states decided to look into what is there in their own voter rolls. How prevalent the issue is? What did they find?

Joining us now is Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted. So Secretary of State, thank you for joining us. Appreciate you taking this on. What is your headline out of the 11.5 million people in the state, almost 8 million registered voters, what did you find?

JON HUSTED (R), OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we do a review every two years on noncitizen voting and we use driver's license data. We found in this most recent report, 385 noncitizens on the rolls and 82 of them that voted in the most recent election.

So these are the facts and we do this to try to help put them out there so people can really understand the scope, which I like to describe as voter fraud among noncitizens exists. It's rare. We hold people accountable and we have ideas on how we can improve the system.

CUOMO: So what did you find out about how? How did 385 noncitizens get on the voter rolls?

HUSTED: Well, one of the ways that you can register is using a driver's license number or a Social Security number. We use driver's license data in Ohio. This is self-reported. These are people who are here legally.

[07:35:07]They get a driver's license. We match the data against the voting records and then that's how we come up with the number. Now the federal government can help us improve this process because right now we don't have the ability to check based on Social Security numbers.

If the government would give us access to the last four digits of Social Security numbers for the people who are in America -- in America legally, but not legally allowed to vote because they are not citizens, we could improve this.

And this is why this is important, the integrity of the election is important and if people are here legally and they want to become citizens, you don't want them to vote, on the voter rolls because that could prevent them ever from becoming citizens because it's a violation of the laws.

CUOMO: Right. Now the idea of fraud comes up a lot in this and you have an interesting statistic I want you to explain. Of the 385 people wrongly registered, a large number of them according to your report volunteer to unregister. What does that tell you, is this done by mistake by people? Is it fraud that they then get exposed and want to fix themselves?

HUSTED: It's a lot of reasons. Look, there are some people, who clearly want to do this to impact an election and they know they're doing it illegally. Other people get on there for reasons that are -- that they just are here, for example. They don't really understand the rules and laws are.

Somebody asks them to register the vote. They have the documentation that allows them do that. They get on the rolls illegally and they make a mistake. So we don't want anybody to make a mistake and get in trouble doing something that they didn't know they were supposed do.

But we also want to stop people who may have more nefarious intent. And why is it important? In Ohio over the last four years, we've had 112 elections at the local level that have been decided by one vote or tied. So we have a lot of close elections.

We want to make sure that the integrity of the elections are upheld, but we also want to have the facts so we can put it in proper context and people can feel comfortable that while it is a problem, it's not as big of a problem as they might have otherwise thought.

CUOMO: Well, and let's get to the might have otherwise thought part because I'll tell you what election wasn't close on a popular vote level was the presidential election, right. And it is no mystery that the number of people who voted illegally according to the president would make him even and maybe pull ahead of Hillary Clinton in the popular vote count. Is there anything that you have seen in your state that implies on any level that there is widespread voter fraud?

HUSTED: Well, as I say, voter fraud exists. It's rare. We have no evidence that it is widespread or systemic. What we like do with these facts is to help put the election fraud in context and also I'm going to urge as I did the Obama administration, I will urge the Trump administration to give us access to the database that will allow us to do this cross match based on Social Security numbers.

That way we can prevent somebody from accidentally or intentionally getting registered and voting and putting themselves in a difficult situation in our election system. So I like to use these things as constructive opportunities to try to improve our election system and to help reassure people that Ohio is a place where it's easy to vote but hard to cheat.

CUOMO: Is 82 too many? And it's also interesting for people, they should look at your report and see even with those 82, how few number of prosecutions you get and convictions you get. I think it was five overall, but this is important work to be doing secretary of state. Thank you very much for bringing it to us here. Appreciate it

HUSTED: Thank you. Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, so what do we really know about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia? Well, the co-author of an extensive new report is here next to break down the facts that he's uncovered.



CAMEROTA: So as you know, Congress is promising a full and fair investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged Russian connections, but the White House says there is nothing to investigate. So what is going on here? We have a guest who has some answers.

Joining us now is Evan Osnos, a staff writer at "The New Yorker" and the co-author of an exhaustive new report on what exactly we know about President Trump's ties to Russia.

Evan, thanks so much for being here. I know that you and your colleagues at "The New Yorker" spent a great deal of time interviewing Russian officials, U.S. officials, U.S. security officials, and Russian security officials. What is the headline of what you discovered?

EVAN OSNOS, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": I think the headline is after all of that work, after this collaboration with David Remnick (ph) and Josh (inaudible) that spanned from Washington to New York to Moscow, we the American people are at the beginning of figuring out what exactly happened here.

And we need an investigation that is as robust frankly as the one that we dedicated to understanding what happened to us on 9/11. And it sounds like an overstatement, but let's remember the United States was attacked.

Seventeen intelligence agencies agree and the question is what happened, why, and who was involved. And for that we need in a sense the full range of tools that the U.S. government has at its disposal to be able to get to the bottom of that question.

CUOMO: Well, the third question winds up being the one that has the most immediate political relevancy, right, because it's about contacts between Trump associates/campaign officials/who is in the administration right now, what they knew, what they did.

How do you square your reporting from what we're hearing from Nunes and from Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who are basically saying there's been no proof and there is nothing to see here? OSNOS: Sure. You heard of course that Congressman Nunes said yesterday that as he understands it there is no -- he's heard nothing about phone calls. His committee at this point has yet to receive any documents. It has yet to have any hearings or call any witnesses according to Adam Schiff, who is the ranking Democrat on the committee.

On the Senate side, where they are privy to the same classified information, you hear from Senator Mark Warner, for instance, of Virginia, that this is as he puts it the most important thing he will do in his public life.

Ron Widen, senator of Oregon, says as far as he's a concerned, there is a huge amount of information here that needs to be declassified. But there are limits on what members of Congress can say about classified information.

But they have their ways of signaling to the public that they think this is something we should care about. And I think what you will find and you're begun to hear this, for instance, in the position that Darrell Issa has taken calling for a special prosecutor.

[07:45:10]That if you're an American who is interested in a strong defense, who is interested in national security, it's hard to pretend as if an attack on the American democratic institution is something that we can casually dismiss.

CAMEROTA: So Evan, I mean, from your interviews and your investigation, what are the red flags that jumped out at you?

OSNOS: Well, what is interesting here is that in some ways this operation and that's the right way to describe it, it's understood as intelligence operation, but if professionals would look into it that this fits into a pattern that goes back not only in Russian history for the last two decades, but really into Soviet history and the cold war when there was a thing known as active measures.

And active measures is a kind of intelligence operation that is different than classic espionage. It's not just about collecting information. It's actually about seeking to bend the curve, to alter the course of political events abroad.

And that's really what happened here. The United States was in a sense -- was susceptible to an active measures campaign partly because we were so is divided. Our politics are so will polarized that as a result Americans were susceptible to propaganda campaign, what we now call fake news.

The United States was also the DNC and John Podesta's e-mail as we know the fact that they were leaked contributed to this climate of intense polarization and as a result it did alter the mood of the American voter.

How much? We need to find out. We don't know. But in an election where the difference was separated by 70,000 votes, it's hard to defend the idea that it had no impact at all. CUOMO: Right. But quantifying the impact will be a very difficult task even if you had full buy-in by everybody involved and that's my question, which is, do you think that there will ever be any type of revelation about a connection between those efforts, those nefarious hacking efforts, and people from the Trump campaign or staff?

OSNOS: I don't know. There is no honest answer that a person could give at this point is simply because we're at the beginning of this process. Let's remember, when the United States was attacked on September 11th, they composed a commission of five Democrats and five Republicans that interviewed 1,200 people, spent years composing a report so that we, as a country, would know exactly what happened here.

And I think if you step out of this partisan divide for a second and say this is not a political exercise, this is simply a question, the U.S. intelligence community has said we know that we were attacked. So then the question is, well, how, why and what are we going to do prevent it from happening again.

Because as one person mentioned in the course of this investigation, if we don't have a strong response now, in 2020, in the next presidential election, it will be in his words open season on the United States, and we need prevent that from happening.

CAMEROTA: Evan Osnos, everyone can read your very thorough reporting. It's called "Active Measures" in "The New Yorker." Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

OSNOS: Happy to be here. Thanks.

CUOMO: All right, so did you hear about this? Muhammad Ali's son and former wife were detained at a Florida airport for about two hours. The pair joins us live to tell us why and why it concerns them, next.



CUOMO: All right, so here's this story. Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother say they were traveling back from Jamaica going to Florida. It was earlier this month. Immigration officials detained them, separated them, and questioned them for nearly two hours.

They are now considering legal action. Why? Because they say it wasn't accidental, random, that they were targeted for being Muslim. This comes, of course, as President Trump is expected to unveil his new travel ban this week.

We have Muhammad Ali, Jr., and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, and their lawyer, Chris Manzini, all with us today. Thank you for coming in. Appreciate it. This is an important story, not just because of who you are but how you were treated, the name, no coincidence. We see your shirt, Muhammad Ali, the great, was your father. You're coming from the airport. What happens? MUHAMMAD ALI JR., MUHAMMAD ALI'S SON: We get out the plane, going to the baggage claim, and the immigration stopped me, and they pulled me aside and asked me a couple of questions. They asked my name, and they asked where I get my name, like where did I get it, and then they asked me, what is your religion, and I thought that was very odd, and I said I am Muslim.

CAMEROTA: And then what happened?

ALI: And then, of course, I think he didn't believe me so he brought me in the back room and he asked me the same questions.

CAMEROTA: After you said you were Muslim, you were then separated from your mom and brought into the back room. Khalilah, what did you think was happening while all of this was going on?

KHALILAH CAMACHO-ALI, MUHAMMAD ALI JR.'S MOTHER: I told them, I said, this is my son, and we are traveling together. Why are you separating us? Right away, that sent out a red flag and they said you will meet him on the other side.

CAMEROTA: Did you know that he even asked what his religion was?

CAMACHO-ALI: No. They were asking me the same question. I was unaware of what was happening and that's what made me so nervous, and I am thinking the worst case scenario, and I am just panicking.

CAMEROTA: Did they ask you what your faith was?

CAMACHO-ALI: Yes. Definitely.

CAMEROTA: And you said Muslim?


CAMEROTA: What was their response?

CAMACHO-ALI: No response. They said, OK. Where did you get your name? I am married to Muhammad Ali.

CUOMO: When you made the connection to Muhammad Ali, did that change the dialogue at all?

CAMACHO-ALI: I thought it would help the problem because it always does and they said, yes, OK, I don't think they actually believed me. But I showed them a picture of me and Muhammad, because a lot of the travelers were asking for autographs and sometimes I have them there with me, and they looked and said, oh, OK, OK.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Mancini, why do you think this is anything different than airport officials doing some due diligence?

CHRIS MANCINI, ATTORNEY FOR MUHAMMAD ALI JR.: They have the right to do that, and the question is are they doing it constitutionally or in accordance with our laws, and what's interesting here is the pattern, both of these people are pulled aside, and they are Muslim. That's not by accident. This is not some rogue agent that decided to ask questions of people, and now we are getting inundated with e- mails, people are calling from all over the country and saying the same thing, and the same thing happened to me.

[07:55:05]CAMEROTA: They were asked about their religion?

MANCINI: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Is it wrong?

MANCINI: It's unconstitutional. We have the establishment cause. We have the --

CUOMO: The religious test.

MANCINI: That's right. It's a religious test. The heartbreaking thing about this is we are getting e-mails from people that are saying, should I deny being a Muslim just so I can get through customs? So where are we now? We're getting into that point where we going to have to deny your faith? It's wrong.

CAMEROTA: The "Sun Sentinel" newspaper just got a statement from the Customs and Border Protection Agency that we want to read right now, "Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot discuss individual travelers. However, all international travelers arriving in the U.S. are subject to Customs and Border Patrol inspection." Did you feel as though you were treated as all other passengers on your plane were?

ALI: No, because if all the people was supposed to be treated like that, then everybody on the plane would be going to the back room and interrogated like that.

CUOMO: We know it's not everybody. They have to make choices, right, and we struggle with that in this country. A lot of other countries do it very overtly, and they see your name and see you and they would say I am going to target you specifically because you're more likely than Camerota to be a problem.

What do you think of that notion, though, hey, we have a real threat, and it's Muslims that are behind the threat, and people are afraid and that's who they are going to look at?

CAMACHO-ALI: We will look at it like this, I just wish the media and higher authorities would take Muslim and Islam off of the terrorists list, because these terrorists are not Muslims.

CUOMO: They are not real Muslims -- but they says they are Muslims.

CAMACHO-ALI: But they are not Muslims. If you profile a real Muslim and you know what they believe in, you would not have suicide bombers or anybody killing anybody and you would not have anybody destroying property. That is what a Muslim is. That's the real part of it.

Now when you go beyond and start killing people and hurting people, you are definitely not even a half Muslim, you are not a Muslim at all. Terrorism and people who are criminals, they are judged by the profile of their crimes, not their race, not their religion, because they went beyond the religious act.

CAMEROTA: So how long were you back there and how did you ultimately convince them that you were here for your purposes?

ALI: Well, I was back there for an hour and 45 minutes, and I told them who I was and who my father was, and it did not speed up the process.

CUOMO: Now, did you get into it with them at all? Would they defend themselves by saying, he was non-responsive. He was hostile and he gave us some grounds for curiosity?

ALI: No, I complied with everything they wanted, and I was patient and I waited.

CUOMO: How did it end?

ALI: It ended, OK, you are free to go.

CUOMO: That was it, no apology or explanation of why?

ALI: No.

CAMEROTA: So Mr. Mancini, where do you go from here?

MANCINI: Well, we are trying to figure out what the profile exactly is. What we are being told is people are asked questions like, do you pray five times a day? What sex are you associated with in the Muslim religion? Do you read any particular literature? Does anyone espoused terrorist views?

So we are trying to see whether or not this is a properly struck balance between the religious freedoms that we so much love and enjoy in this country and the governments need to protect us. I got that.

These are the first people that will tell you they want this country protected, but we are not allowed to do that at the loss of our most basic fundamental rights, our religious freedom and freedom of expression. That's a fight that's coming.

CUOMO: Final word?

CAMACHO-ALI: You know, going in there we were humble and kind and polite, and that's what we are supposed to do. Be human, civil and as a mother and as a citizen of the United States, I was terrified. This is the first time I never felt comfortable in my own country. If I was horrified about my own son and he is grown man, what about other people who have children who feel like they are going to be deported.

CUOMO: Look, you are raising the right issues, and the reason I asked you about the questions about the concerns is that's what is fueling the fear and people are acting out of fear. But we appreciate you being here. Let us know where it goes from here. We appreciate it. CAMACHO-ALI: Thank you. Love your show.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. We are following a lot of news this morning, so let's get right to it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is a landmark event, a message to the world --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president will address the Americans and let them know that help is finally on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The repeal and replacing Obamacare is fundamental (inaudible).

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Yes, we got a clue. It's very, very complicated.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think that President Obama is behind it because there's people who are behind some of the leaks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sean Spicer launching a random check of staffers' phones.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would have handled it differently, but John handles it his way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation is just the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still don't have any evidence of --