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Trump's Claims On Undocumented Immigrants; Attorney General Under Fire Over Russia Meetings; Pentagon May Greenlight Some Missions Without Trump. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 2, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want all Americans to succeed but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Lawless chaos, those are heavy words. I know there are a lot of numbers of there. There's a lot of propaganda. What do we really know about undocumented immigrants? Now, part of the answer is not enough because this isn't tracked that efficiently.

But let's start by comparing prisoners from the U.S. to those who were born elsewhere, OK? Look at your screen. As of 2010, 1.6 percent of foreign-born males aged 18 to 39 were incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of native-born males. It's been that way, basically, since 1980. All right, so specifically, undocumented immigrants.

During the campaign, Trump cited figures from U.S. Sentencing Commission and what do they say? That 36.2 percent of offenders in federal prison were, in 2015, undocumented immigrants, but they have not committed more violent crime than American citizens. Remember, you come across the border illegally, you've committed a crime. Five.4 percent of murders were committed by undocumented immigrants. Less than 20 percent of drug trafficking offenses were by undocumented. So, two percent of sex abuse crimes.

Those are the major categories that are usually being talked about. Those are the realities. The vast majority, about 73 percent, were not in prison for violent crimes, but for immigration-related crimes, which makes sense. It is a crime just to cross the border. Remember, these are only federal prisoners. That's just about 10 percent of the total jailed population.

To try to figure out state and local crimes we can look at the effect of immigrant enforcement on the crime rate. That is lower, too. Remember, the crime rate has been decreasing already over the last 25 years so the decrease you see here should not and cannot be attributed to an increase in removing undocumented criminals -- Aly.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: All right, Chris, thank you very much.

CUOMO: You have a new nickname, by the way. CAMEROTA: I like Aly. I reply to Aly --

CUOMO: You're an Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- Alisyn, Al, really anything.

CUOMO: I see you as someone -- you need more titles, not less. I don't want to shorten your name. I'm never going to say it again.

CAMEROTA: Feel free to use my middle name. Let's talk about the president's promise of a new and improved travel ban and the repeated delays to announce it. Joining us is a great panel. We have Haroon Moghul. He's a senior fellow and director of development at the Center on Global Policy. CNN political commentator Kayleigh McEnany. She's a contributor to "The Hill" and a conservative columnist at "Above the Law." And, CNN political commentator and democratic strategist, Maria Cardona. Great to see all of you.

Kayleigh --

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: -- when the travel was sent down from the Ninth Circuit we had heard from the White House that they were going to, as quickly as possible, present this sort of new and improved version that would be legal and constitutional. It's been delayed several times. We had first heard last week, then we heard this week, then we heard today. And then, the reason that the White House is now giving that it's not being announced.

The new and improved version is -- let me just read to you what a senior administration official said to CNN. "We want the executive order to have its own moment," meaning not be eclipsed by the president's speech. Well, that's not about national security, that's about politics.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE HILL", CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST, "ABOVE THE LAW": Sure, that's what one official is saying but my inclination is that they are still hammering this out. We just got news yesterday they are considering excluding Iraq from the list of seven countries.

And they are smart to do this because let's say they were to put this out in a hurried fashion today or even tomorrow or even the next day. If it's not finely tailored to what the Ninth Circuit has said it will be struck down again. We'll have yet another month to wait for a third executive order. They are smart to take their time and ensure that this will pass legal muster.

CAMEROTA: Haroon, back on February -- back a month ago it was urgent that it happen immediately because national security was at stake.

HAROON MOGHUL, SR. FELLOW & DIR. OF DEVELOPMENT, CENTER ON GLOBAL POLICY: It's a discriminatory policy and probably this will be a new and improved version of a discriminatory policy, kind of like the address to Congress a few days ago was a more polite version of the same thing that Trump always says, which is somewhere between nonsense and fiction.

The problem here, and I think you hit the nail on the head, is that Trump actually has no national security plan -- he has none. He is not keeping us safe. He's actually making us less safe.

CAMEROTA: But he says that this travel ban would make us more safe.

MOGHUL: Well, there's no connection between the countries that he's named -- or potentially seems to be naming and acts of terrorism in the United States. If you actually look at his plan, this is his plan. Offend Muslims, alienate our allies, undermine America's standing in the world, something, something, something, victory. There is no plan. This is a sideshow. We're all less safe.

MCENANY: But it was -- was Obama discriminating when he targeted the same seven countries in the visa waiver program?

CAMEROTA: You don't think that's what -- that's what the Trump White House always come back to, which is these were the countries identified as hotspots and danger zones by the Obama administration -- quickly, Haroon.

[07:35:00] MOGHUL: Yes. It's a completely different context and it was -- it was not used in the way that Trump has used it. I mean, if you look at the executive orders of the past, he was basically just trying to cut off entry from these countries for a 90-day period and it's connected to a policy that he basically put out on the campaign trail, which is stopping Muslim entry to the United States. This was a start. Maybe he used the Obama thing as a faint, but banning Muslims from the country was the original policy that he proposed.

CAMEROTA: Maria, your thoughts? He's finessing it to get it perfect or this is a political delay?

CARDONA: First of all, let's remember that Obama -- the Obama administration never banned -- never banned anybody from those countries completely, number one. Number two, Alisyn, of course this is a delay and, frankly, we should -- this is a breath of fresh air of honesty coming out of the White House, right, telling us that they wanted the executive order to have its own moment. They wanted to enjoy the good press that they have gotten from the speech, and they didn't want to step on that.

I wish they had said that they were delaying it because they wanted to be more careful, because they wanted to do this in a more deliberate manner. They didn't do that. And so, what they're telling us is, this is not urgent. This has nothing to do with national security. This is about keeping one of Trump's major campaign promises --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CARDONA: -- which is to implement a complete Muslim ban. And they are trying to do it in the way that it would make "legal," but his words are going to come back to haunt him. He wanted a complete Muslim ban --

CAMEROTA: OK.

CARDONA: -- and that's why it was it was shut --

CAMEROTA: Kayleigh, I know that you see this completely differently and you do see it as national security, but I want to move on because there was this discrepancy yesterday that I want you to try to respond to -- or maybe this was two days ago. There was a meeting with anchors of news organizations and during that meeting President Trump suggested to them that he was open to finding a way for legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are here. They -- there was multiple sources that heard him say that.

MCENANY: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Then, in his address before Congress, he said something quite different and didn't mention that. And why do you think that -- was that a head fake? Why do you think that there was a discrepancy between his policies?

MCENANY: I don't think so. I think everything President Trump does is done intentionally and is all part of a grand bargain. I think what he said to reporters is entirely compatible with what he said in his address. He said to reporters look, I want some compromise on immigration. He said in his address I'm targeting criminal illegal immigrants. They need to get out of this country. We need border security. That's not being compatible.

CAMEROTA: But he didn't mention legal status, I mean, because legal status is a real buzzword that gets people's attention.

MCENANY: Sure.

CAMEROTA: That's something that really gets attention. So when you hear that you go whoa, this is a headline, but he didn't mention that.

MCENANY: He didn't mention it but that doesn't mean it's on -- not on his radar. It doesn't mean that there isn't going to be a grand bargain like he promised reporters in the end, and I think there will be. He's approaching this reasonably and what he said to reporters is compatible with his joint address.

CAMEROTA: Because you know, Haroon, very quickly, there was a White House official who told our Sara Murray, I just think that was a misdirection play. And the word "misdirection play" has gotten a lot of attention because what is that other than a head fake?

MOGHUL: It's an alternative fact. It's fiction. I mean, it's the same thing he said about the Yemen raid, where he said that there was all this intelligence that came out of this Yemen raid. Nothing came out of it.

CAMEROTA: But why tell the reporters something that's fiction?

MOGHUL: Because it keeps him in the headlines. He's playing with us. CAMEROTA: Oh, all right, thank you. Haroon -- thank you for explaining that. Haroon, Maria --

CARDONA: Or we could call it a lie, which is what it is -- which is what it was.

CAMEROTA: Well, we don't know that. I mean, maybe he does believe in legal status. We just don't know that, Maria.

CARDONA: Show it to us. That's what he has to do. You know, what is so astounding to me, Alisyn, is that everybody is trying to grade him on his words and what we need to do is grade him on his actions. Thus far, the only thing that we have seen is his draconian deportation forces literally starting to go door-to-door to deport undocumented immigrants that do not have criminal history. Yesterday --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CARDONA: -- a dreamer was detained. The other day, we saw Muhammad Ali's son detained --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CARDONA: -- for several hours --

CAMEROTA: We had him on.

CARDONA: -- because of his name and because he was Muslim.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Panel, thank you very much -- Chris.

CARDONA: Thanks, Alisyn.

CUOMO: Maybe an upcoming CNN reality check. Who is being round up and deported versus what we're being told that happening to. Alisyn, thank you very much.

Did Attorney General Jeff Sessions lie under oath when he told senators he had no contacts with Russia? I know that that occurs to not be true right now, but is that the same thing as a lie that could bring legal jeopardy? We have a former White House ethics lawyer. He knows the answer -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:43:10] CUOMO: The Trump White House in damage control over revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose meetings with a top Russian diplomat. Here is the moment, under oath, that has everyone talking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign what will you do? SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, THEN-ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't -- not have communications with the Russians and I'm unable to comment on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: And if that wasn't enough, then in a written request from Sen. Pat Leahy, he was asked again and he answered with a single question, Jeff Sessions -- single word. He said "no" to any contact. So could he be in legal trouble? Is this lying under oath?

Joining us now, White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, Richard Painter. Counselor, good to have you. The simple question is, is what Jeff Sessions did with Al Franken lying or perjury?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, he didn't tell the truth. He needed to disclose the communications that he had with the Russians if he, indeed, did have communications with the Russians. That was the clear point of the question, and that included any communications with the Russians during the course of the time that he was working for the Trump campaign.

We know he had another job in the Senate and was, I believe, on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he says maybe that he made a phone call in that capacity. Now, senators on the Armed Services Committee, I hope, are not routinely calling the Russians. That's not what I expect a senator serving on the committee anyway. But the bottom line is that he did not answer Sen. Franken's question truthfully. He needed to disclose any contacts he had with the Russians --

[07:45:20] CUOMO: OK.

PAINTER: -- during that campaign.

CUOMO: All right, so one additional fact. Senator Claire McCaskill says she's been sitting on that committee for many years and has never had contact with a Russian ambassador during that time, just to your statement about what happens on that committee. But now, the question remains the same. Legally, what gets him for perjury? Is failure to disclose enough? If you can't show that Jeff Sessions knew that these contacts were relevant to the response to that question and intentionally didn't offer them up -- if you can't prove that, is it perjury?

PAINTER: Well, that's the question and we need to know more facts. We had a similar situation -- I don't think as serious but -- 40 years or so ago with the attorney general, Richard Kleindienst, who testified at his confirmation hearing and he was asked about whether he had ever discussed a certain case against the ITT with anyone in the White House and he said no. And it turned out that he had discussed it -- it was on tape with President Richard Nixon.

Then Attorney General Kleindienst made similar arguments -- oh well, I thought you were talking about a different time period or something like that. It ended up settling that one out with a prosecutor for a lower charge -- a lesser charge, which is failure to provide complete information to Congress. It's a misdemeanor but it cost him his job as attorney general and, actually, he was reprimanded by the Arizona State Bar, so --

CUOMO: Do you think this could wind up in that category of --

PAINTER: There are other (ph) charges.

CUOMO: Do you think that lesser charges could be realistic here?

PAINTER: That's -- in these types of situations that is sometimes how the cases are resolved. We'd need to know a lot more about what happened. We don't know, for example, what was being discussed with the Russian ambassador. Once again, I don't understand why members of the Senate Armed Services Committee is having unilateral discussions with the Russians. That's a -- that's a big problem over there in the Senate Armed Services committee if that kind of thing's going on and, at least, you found one senator who is willing to say that she's not doing that.

CUOMO: Right.

PAINTER: That's encouraging.

CUOMO: So you are saying, at a minimum, there is a legitimate basis for wanting to know more. The question is how should that inquiry proceed? What's the proper way to do that?

PAINTER: Well, based on what I've -- what I've heard thus far, I don't think he could continue as attorney general. I don't think he was truthful with the Senate. He did not provide full and complete information in answering those questions that were --

CUOMO: You think Sessions should resign?

PAINTER: -- critically important. Based on what I'm hearing thus far, yes. Maybe there are other facts out there but I don't -- I don't understand why he did not disclose to that committee the conversations he had with the Russians, and this is not just any old question. This is about a country that has been conducting espionage activities against Americans throughout 2016. It's been trying to destabilize our country since the 1920's when they were supporting the Communist Party.

And this is serious stuff, what's going on with the Russians. We've already had one member of our -- this administration have to resign for lying about contacts with the Russians. That's Michael Flynn who lied to the vice president -- very clearly lied to the vice president. And then we've got another one who seems to have trouble telling the truth about what he's saying to the Russians, and that's just not acceptable.

CUOMO: Richard Painter, thank you very much for making the case. Appreciate it -- Alisyn. CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Is the Trump administration moving towards giving authority to military commanders in the field to greenlight anti-terror raids without the president's approval? We're going to discuss how that would work, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:05] CUOMO: The Dow soaring to a new milestone and sitting at another record high just this morning. But right now it's all about Snapchat, I'm told by someone who knows. Her name, "EARLY START" anchor and CNN chief businesscorrespondent, Christine Romans. Why is all about Snapchat?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSIENSS CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's a lot going on this morning and Evan Spiegel is looking like a genius this morning. He's the Snapchat founder and the CEO. He turned down -- remember, he turned down $3 billion -- a $3 billion offer from Facebook back in 2013? Today, he's taking Snapchat public and his personal windfall will likely exceed $3 billion.

Snap's pricing it shares at $17 a share, higher than the initial range. We're told there's good demand. That reportedly gives Snap a value of $24 billion. He was offered $3 billion. It's likely worth $24 billion now, making it the biggest tech IPO since Facebook. It will start trading this morning at the New York Stock Exchange. But, Snap is not yet profitable. This often happens, right? A great idea but doesn't make any money yet. It lost $500 million last year. It recently launched the line of glasses that shoot video, called Spectacles.

It is a good time for Snapchat, though. All three major stock market averages have never been higher. The Dow crushing it, guys -- crushing 21,000, hitting that mark for the first time ever. I want you to look at this stat. Since the election, the stock market has added $2.7 trillion in value. Companies and shareholders are getting very rich. The president's presidential speech fueling that rally, plus new optimism that the Fed will raise rates at its next meeting in two weeks. That will boost profits for the big banks -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I don't understand value -- valuation of Snapchat. Thank goodness you're here to explain why that makes sense on any level. Thank you, Christine.

So, back to our top story. The Justice Department revealing that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with a top Russian ambassador last year while he was an adviser for Donald Trump's campaign. However, Sen. Sessions failed to disclose that in his confirmation process.

[05:55:05] Let's discuss this and more with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, and CNN national security commentator and former chairman of the House Intel Committee, Mike Rogers. Hi, guys.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR, FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: Hello, good morning. CAMEROTA: If you were the chairman of a committee and a -- during a confirmation process a senator said something wrong and said he had no communications whatsoever with Russian officials and then it turned out, twice, he did, how would you feel?

ROGERS: Well, it depends, you know, if he was answering the question thinking he was answering about did I meet with the Russian official in direct connection with the campaign, then I could see, but he should just clarify that. I think it's easily clarified if he does that.

CAMEROTA: Why didn't he clarify it?

ROGERS: I don't know, candidly. I've met with Russia. I was the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. I met with Russian officials, including the ambassador to Russia.

CAMEROTA: You met with this same ambassador --

ROGERS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- to Russia who U.S. Intel officials believe is a top Russian spy? Why did you meet with him?

ROGERS: We were trying to -- at the time, in Afghanistan, there was a drug problem in the north and we believed that the Russians could be helpful in helping us stem the tide of drugs going back and forth. So you always try to find things to work on where you have mutual interests. So I met, actually, two times with the Russian ambassador as a course of my work on the Intelligence Committee. It's not unusual that you might have these meetings as a federal public official. And so, I wouldn't run away from the fact that they had meetings at all. I would just --

CUOMO: That's the -- that's the problem. While that is a very interesting story and a little bit of insight into what you've done with your life --

ROGERS: Yes.

CUOMO: -- the question is, if you are asked about it in this context and you didn't answer, the way you just did now, that raises the suspicion of why you hid the information hat went to the direct answer to the question. Now, how do we find out more? Who will do this inquiry? Everybody's saying, at a minimum, we need to know more.

ROGERS: Sure.

CUOMO: Does Sessions have to hold press conference and take questions? Should this be the House, should it be the Senate, should it be the FBI? How do you find out more?

ROGERS: It depends but, now, the reason the Justice Department released information, my guess, is because those meetings were probably documented somewhere. You know, we're very interested in what the Russians are doing in the United States, clearly, and for good reason. They do a lot of bad things.

CUOMO: But that's a whole other story, right?

ROGERS: Right.

CUOMO: This was from the DOJ, according to "The Washington Post" reporting. We don't who there but probably safe to say it didn't come from Sessions. He didn't direct this to be released, otherwise we would know that. So maybe somebody was worried about this, concerned about it, trying to cover themselves? It demands more.

ROGERS: Well, and again, I think this is an easy correction. If you listen to his -- the context of the question, I believe -- Mike Rogers believes he was talking about did I have a meeting with the Russians in regards to the campaign, which in his mind, he did not. I think this is an easily answerable question by saying I misspoke, let me clarify.

CAMEROTA: Does he need to recuse himself from investigations?

ROGERS: If there is an investigation. It is not a crime for a U.S. senator to meet with a foreign --

CUOMO: No, she's saying --

CAMEROTA: The bigger investigations. All that --

CUOMO: About the Russians.

ROGERS: Oh, about the Russians?

CAMEROTA: Does he need to investigate the Russian ties? I mean, he's the attorney general.

ROGERS: I'm not sure he does. First of all, I'm not exactly clear that there's an investigation about meetings with the Russians, and I'm not clear what the crime would be, necessarily. Now, it may have been a bad judgment thing for other officials to meet with them. I'm not sure -- if it gets to the point where it's very closely tied to people -- if that, in fact, is happening then he probably should recuse himself on those particular matters. But there's so many other things that the attorney general needs to be doing today. He ought to be working and doing those pretty diligently.

CUOMO: And just so people remember the context here because, as you might imagine, this is getting spun 100 different ways.

ROGERS: Yes.

CUOMO: Franken said, "If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign," -- not about the campaign, not about the election. That goes to what Leahy asked him. Leahy asked him if they were talking about the election. That's his answer "no." Here, it's just about timing and Sessions goes on to say well, I'm one of those people. I don't know anything about it. That was the curiosity. ROGERS: Yes. The only -- again, the only defense there could be that he was just talking about the fact that he'd meet with that Russian official on behalf of the campaign. He may have met with him on behalf of the United States Senate and his duties on Armed Services.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

ROGERS: To me, that's a very different thing. He should come out and say that's exactly why I had those meetings. Here's what we talked about, end of story. I would -- I would normally meet with the --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

ROGERS: -- heads of state or their -- or their representatives, frequently, as a United States senator or a U.S. congressman.

CAMEROTA: Barbara, sorry to keep you on hold there, but we have you on for the -- another top story today and that is that there may be this shift in policy that commanders in the field -- generals -- will have more autonomy to act on raids more quickly, rather than having to run it up the flagpole and get the president's approval. What do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, maybe more autonomy. It's something that they've wanted. There was a big feeling in the Pentagon that the Obama White House were micromanagers.