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AT THIS HOUR
Where Is Trump's New Travel Ban? Why The Delay?; DHS Report Undermines Trump Rationale For Travel Ban; Senator Complains: GOP Health Plan In "Secret Location"; Why Do Roads In Trump World Lead Back To Russia?; Why Can't Anyone Remember Talks With Russian Diplomat?; Man Arrested For Bomb Threats To Jewish Institutions. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired March 3, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. The big question right now, where is President Trump's new travel ban? It was of course promised days ago, the revised version of it. But radio silence since.
And new this morning, a government document could call into question the need for this new ban at all.
[11:00:03] The spokesperson at the Department of Homeland Security confirming to CNN that a DHS assessment found most foreign-born violent extremists do not enter the United States already radicalized. In fact, the assessment found the majority become radicalized after living here for several years.
Let me bring in right now, CNN senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, for more on this. So Jeff, this is an assessment from the Department of Homeland Security. What is the White House saying about this?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the White House is not saying anything about this. They're being utterly silent this morning about this travel ban. You'll remember the urgency around this, the president, of course, was saying it was so urgent to get this done that's why they signed it during his first week in office.
Of course, that did not hold up to legal challenges. So they've been working on another one for several weeks. But Kate, the silence around this is really quite surprising. We've asked administration officials what they think about this and they have simply not responded.
So the reality here is, behind the scenes, they are still trying to craft a second travel ban that will hopefully in their view stand up to legal challenges. But they're not yet saying anything about this DHS report, but it is one of the reasons, Kate, this has taken so long to get done.
KEILAR: Yes, and also as we're learning, problems within even the White House and their own advisers about what countries to include and what exactly the new one is going to look like. Jeff, great to see you. Thank you so much. A lot more could be coming from the White House, we'll stay close to that.
But more let's continue this conversation about this assessment, about this travel ban, right now with CNN terrorism analyst and editor-in- chief of the "CTC Sentinel," Paul Cruickshank is here.
Paul, you have been studying and tracking radicalization for years. When you see this DHS assessment, does this square with trends that you are seeing?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Absolutely. There's a vast amount of academic research on this, suggesting that right now, the biggest threat in the United States is coming from people who are born in the United States. The majority of ISIS-related cases in the United States right now are people who are born over here.
What this DHS assessment is saying is even with those who are coming from overseas into the United States, the majority of those are being radicalized several years after they're coming to the United States.
And this is not surprising, because ISIS and al Qaeda and all these other jihadi groups are able to reach an audience of radicals here in the United States with their propaganda and able to persuade some of them to try to pull off attacks in their name.
KEILAR: And that of course is the big question then, if you have this assessment from DHS that they've pulled from open sources, and you're looking at a lot more open sources than anybody else, what then are you seeing is happening once folks get into the United States, what's radicalizing them? What's happening in those several years?
CRUICKSHANK: There could be a number of different factors, which leads to radicalization. They might be exposed to ISIS propaganda on the internet. They might be exposed to people in the United States, who are already radicalized and are helping to persuade them to follow that line of thought.
And so the problem isn't really so much outside the United States, it's inside the United States, and that's where the majority of the threat is right now -- Kate.
KEILAR: And dealing with the propaganda is the hardest part, how to combat the propaganda, all of the internet sources and everything like that. That's the most difficult part of this they're saying they have to track down. Great to see you, Paul. Thank you so much.
All right, let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Joining me at this moment, Republican senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul. Senator, it's great to have you. I do want to get to talk about Obamacare, because I know you want to talk about it and your big day yesterday.
But first, because this is the topic we're on, you were supportive of the broad elements of the president's original travel ban. Does this DHS assessment change your view of how it should go?
SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I think that we do need to have scrutiny of those who come to visit in our country, we need to know how long they stay, and whether they go back home. The 9/11, all of those people really had come to visit our country, some of them were on student visas, but some of them were overstaying their visas.
At least two of the hijackers were coming and going on a visa. So I think there does need to be more scrutiny of the program. In my hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky, two refugees from Iraq had fingerprints on a bomb that had been exploded, a terrorist bomb in Iraq.
We had it in our database but we weren't doing sufficient screening and we allowed them to come into the country as refugees. So I think we do need to do a better job. It's hard. If somebody tomorrow says I'm coming from Aleppo, who do you call in Aleppo? Aleppo is in rubble.
Who's going to have the paperwork to prove who they are? So it's very difficult to ascertain someone's identity if they're coming from a war zone.
KEILAR: So you're still generally supportive of, is what I hear from you. But let's move on and talk about your big day and the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. You're not only pushing your own replacement for Obamacare, you literally went on the hunt for the House Republican plan that's still being drafted. Just for our viewers, here is what you had to say yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: This is being presented as if this were a national secret, as if there were a plot to invade another country, as if there were national security. That's wrong. This should be done openly, in the public, and conservatives, who have objections, who don't want Obamacare lite, should be allowed to see the bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Senator, what makes you concerned that the fix is in on this, if you will?
PAUL: Well, when we heard it was secret, we wanted to see it even more because if something secret, you do worry that people are hiding things. What we think is being hidden from conservatives is there's a lot of Obamacare lite in their bill.
There's a new entitlement program that will increase at about 5 percent a year forever. There is also a Cadillac tax or something similar to the Cadillac tax that was in Obamacare. And there's also an individual mandate, believe it or not.
Instead of paying the mandate to the government, they're going to tell you have to pay the mandate, by law, to an insurance company. So a lot of conservatives will be upset to know we're keeping those things from Obamacare and there needs to be an open debate about it. So as we speak, my staff is still going around Washington, looking for the bill. KEILAR: As everyone kind of understands it, the bill is being handled by the committees and is still being drafted on the House side. Have you been told for certain that you're not going to get a chance to analyze it, read it, debate it?
PAUL: Here is what's troubling. The only paper copy I have of the bill has come from a news organization that leaked it. So someone leaked it to a news organization but they won't let me see it. They sent out --
KEILAR: That's not even the most updated -- they say that's not the updated version of the bill, it's still being drafted.
PAUL: That's what they say. But the thing is, the members of the committee said they were allowed to look at it but not take a copy of it. I'm not allowed to look at it or have a copy of it. I think it's 99.9 percent written. It's being sent back and forth to CBO.
We're also told by many people in Washington, take it or leave it, the House is going to send something over and you either take it or leave it. I can tell you right now, conservatives are inclined to leave it.
We want a complete repeal bill and the replacement bill should be separate because we do have differences of opinion on a replacement. We're in agreement on repeal.
If you're going to keep federal programs and have new federal programs, conservatives don't want that. That's going to need to be a separate replacement bill, not part of the repeal bill.
KEILAR: On your hunt for the plan yesterday, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger had something to say about it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: He's the master of theatrics, this is Rand Paul getting his name out there again, walking over with a bunch of cameras and trying to make a big scene. This is what he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: He says it's a stunt. What do you say to Adam Kinzinger, Senator?
PAUL: I think there are differences in our party. There are big government Republicans who want a big federal program. There are small government Republicans who wanted --
KEILAR: Big government Republicans? Those words don't go together very well.
PAUL: Well, there are big government Republicans. If you do a new refundable tax credit, that's a new entitlement program. We can't pay for the current entitlement program. It's not conservative to have a new entitlement program. It's also not conservative to have a new tax on health insurance. That's just not conservative.
It's also not conservative to have an individual mandate. If they're not embarrassed about the Obamacare lite bill they have, they should show it to us. But they also need to realize they are not going to be able to do this against the wishes conservatives.
We have enough votes in the Senate and enough votes in the House to say, look, hold up a minute, if you want these big government programs, put them in a separate bill. We are going to have a repeal bill but it should be the repeal bill we already voted on.
We all agreed to a clean repeal bill about a year ago. Let's vote on the clean repeal and then if there are ideas on replacement, I have some, big government Republicans have some, let's vote on those separately.
KEILAR: So they're working on -- the House is working on its bill. You have your own bill. Where is the support for your bill, then?
PAUL: Well, the House Freedom Caucus has endorsed it. That's 40 conservative members. There are, you know, a significant number of senators who are saying they're not comfortable with the Obamacare lite bill. So I think there is still going to be some negotiation, but this isn't going to be the establishment gets what they want. The leadership --
KEILAR: Have you talked to leadership, Senator? Have you talked to -- have you specifically reached out to Paul Ryan and said, hey, can I see what's in the bill?
PAUL: I've been part of the movement since 2010 that was the grassroots Tea Party movement that called for repeal of Obamacare. I have my finger on the pulse of that movement. They don't want Obamacare lite and they're not going to settle for it.
[11:10:09]And neither are conservatives that are the representatives here. We won in 2010 on a message of complete repeal. We won in 2014 on complete repeal. President Trump has said he's for complete repeal and replacement, but they don't have to be in the same bill.
What I'm saying is the way forward, if you want to have consensus, is every Republican has said they're for a repeal. Let's vote on repeal separately from replacement. There is disagreement on replacement, but we can get to where we need to be if you'll vote on the bills individually.
KEILAR: Have you reached out to Paul Ryan, though, to get a look at the bill that's being drafted?
PAUL: I think leadership is aware that I'm interested in finding the bill. I won't go into personal conversations, but I will let you know that I think everybody knows I want to see the bill and I think they've had a PR disaster by putting it under lock and key and trying to keep it out of view of legislators and the public.
The only leaked copy is coming from the media right now. That's a huge mistake, and I think they understand that now. I'll be surprised if we don't get a bill within the next couple of days, but I get the sooner the better.
KEILAR: Right. But of course, it's going to go through the two relevant committees and there's going to be a whole markup and the whole process, as you know, and you also love regular order, so that is part of the process we'll watch very closely.
Before I let you go, I know you have time constraints, finally, Jeff Sessions now says he's going to recuse himself from any and all investigations involving the Trump campaign. As this has all panned out, are you satisfied with how this turned out, Senator?
PAUL: You know, I think there's a lot of confusion on both sides of the aisle with senators not remembering who they met with. We had a Democrat senator who this week was adamant that she had been on Armed Services for ten years and never met with the Russian ambassador and then it turns out she had.
So I think people can forget about all the times we meet with ambassadors. When you look at the clip, I fully believe Jeff Sessions thought he was referring to the campaign and some sort of nefarious Russian presence, he didn't think he was being asked have you ever met with the Russian ambassador.
There's no way in the world he would intentionally try to obscure something that was easily proven false. I think it was a misunderstanding of the question and answering it with regard to what he thought the question was.
But, you know, I think it's going to sort of itself out. I think some of this is still sort of caught up in the electoral politics of people who are really unhappy they lost the election are going to grasp at anything they can do to try to slow down the process of really repealing Obamacare, reducing taxes, and getting rid of regulations.
KEILAR: He's recusing himself from the investigation into any of those contacts. Senator Rand Paul, great to have you, thank you.
PAUL: Thank you.
KEILAR: Coming up for us, new details on U.S. air strikes going after a high value target in Yemen, just weeks after the raid that killed Navy SEAL Ryan Owens. Now a search is under way for hundreds of al Qaeda contacts uncovered during that operation.
Plus President Trump calls it a witch hunt as new contacts between his top advisers and Russia are revealed. The big question: why can't anyone seem to remember these meetings?
And e-mail irony, Democrats slamming the vice president after a new report says Vice President Mike Pence used a personal e-mail account for government business when he was governor, and that account really was hacked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hypocrisy is too spectacular. Irony has just not only died, irony drank a gallon of antifreeze, climb to the top of the Washington monument and threw yourself off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Just revealed more meetings with more aides with the same Russian diplomat raising more questions now about the Trump campaign and Russia. A senior White House official confirms Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner and now ousted National Security adviser, Michael Flynn, met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December at Trump Tower. That would contradict this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with (inaudible).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The best of my knowledge, that was the president two weeks ago. This is, of course, on top of Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing that he will recuse himself from investigations into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia after facing blowback for failing to disclose two meetings that he had with that very same Russian diplomat during the campaign.
So for some perspective on this, let me bring in right now, Thomas Countryman, he is a former undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, and Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst and retired chief of Russia operations at the CIA.
Gentlemen, thanks for coming in. So Steve, first to you, here's the overarching question I think right now if we talk about more meetings, more diplomats, more of this, and more contacts as they come out. How can there be so many contacts from so many people, multiple people with the same person from Russia and no one remembers it?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it is sort of interesting the sort of interesting effect that I guess Ambassador Kislyak has on people. They have meetings with him and they --
HALL: It's pretty amazing. Look, the ambassador is doing his job. There has been some speculation as to whether or not he's actually a spy. I'm not sure that that such an important issue because he's just clearly an aggressive guy getting out there and talking to as many people as he possibly can. This is part of what Vladimir Putin wants him to do, to collect information and also to make clear what -- you know, what Russia's position are on certain things. But the context is really important here because remember a lot of these contacts were happening at a time that the intelligence community, our intelligence community, has indicated that Russia was involved in an operation, a propaganda, an influence operation to try to affect the results of the election in the direction of Donald Trump.
So in that context, what might be normal conversations with an ambassador or with other members of the Russian mission, become a little bit different and require much more scrutiny in my view.
KEILAR: Right. Again, those meetings may not have been nefarious. It's just the strange nature, why it raises so many questions that folks can't remember them, deny them, and then are forced to acknowledge them later on.
[11:20:10]I mean, Thomas, you were working at the State Department until just a few days after the inauguration. A lot has been written now as Steve alluding to this Russian ambassador. What is your assessment of him?
THOMAS COUNTRYMAN, EX-STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL OUSTED BY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Well, first, I very much agree with Steve that it's not so much about Ambassador Kislyak. He was doing his job. The interesting question is first why there seems to be determined effort on the part of Trump administration officials and campaign officials not to remember, and even to deny any contact.
I think it raises the question not only of what the Russians were doing, what the context of the Russian action was. It also raises questions about the integrity of the attorney general. I heard former Attorney General Gonzales in the last hour refer to ambiguous questions he received.
Go back and look at what Senator Franken asked orally and what Senator Leahy asked on paper. There was nothing ambiguous about it. I think Americans don't want to have an attorney general, who is such a good attorney that he knows how to stay just this side of an indictment for perjury.
I think they would like to see an attorney general who has a sense of ethics that the president clearly lacks and I very much hope that there is no aspect of the investigation that is touched by Attorney General Sessions.
KEILAR: It sounds like right now he will be recusing himself and it does appear that that exchange with Senator Franken is becoming something of a Rorschach test, depending on what angle you're looking at it from, who you talk to.
Steve, these meetings, these new meetings that we're now learning about between this Russian ambassador and Trump folks, is being described by the Trump team as basically getting to know you meetings, albeit they have a problem of not disclosing the meetings until they're forced to. Could all of this be above board?
HALL: Well, again, the context is critically important. Sure, the idea of a ten-minute courtesy call type of meeting in Trump Tower between Ambassador Kislyak and members of the Trump camp, is that reasonable? Sure, that's reasonable. Is it reasonable that a senior senator, Sessions in this case, met with a foreign ambassador?
Senators meet with foreign ambassadors all the time. The problem, again, the backdrop is one of the Russians trying to interfere with our election. And the reason that this has become in my view so politically polarizing is because if there was collusion and cooperation between the Trump campaign during these meetings with the Russians prior to the election, then it could call into question the actually validity of the outcome of the election.
That's a very serious thing. It's so political that that's why we need a completely apolitical, in my view, assessment and investigation as to what really happened.
KEILAR: And I also find very important not looking back but looking forward. What all of this means for, importantly, for the American people, what this means for Donald Trump's policy toward Russia. We haven't seen a lot of change towards that policy, even though words have been very different than actions. That's something I'm keeping a close eye on going forward. Thomas, I would love to talk to you about that. Steve, thank you, you as well.
Breaking right now, a St. Louis man arrested for making threats against Jewish community centers. What it may have to do with a romantic relationship and why this is not the end of the investigation, that's next.
Plus disciplined, presidential, best week ever or is it back to the drawing board? We'll take score of the president's big week.
KEILAR: Breaking news in the investigation of the threats against Jewish centers, a man has now been arrested in St. Louis. Let's go over to Brynn Gingras. She's got much more on this. So Brynn, what do you know about this?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Kate, we know that man's name is Juan Thompson. He's believed to be behind eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions. Now he does not appear to be the main person behind the wave of threats that targeted centers all across the nation, rather a copycat, jumping on the anti-Semitic acts and doing it to harass a woman he had a romantic relationship with, according to police.
Now in one example, authorities believed Thompson actually e-mailed something to the Anti-defamation League Headquarters here in New York using his ex's name and he told that center she is behind the bomb threat against Jews, that she lives in New York City and is making more bomb threats tomorrow.
But lo and behold, the next day the ADL received another bomb threat by phone, according to police. Now the FBI says Thompson continued with a similar pattern of trying to frame his ex by make threats to JCC centers and schools in several different states, also to the Jewish History Museum in New York City.
In some cases he even tried to make it seem like his ex was framing him. Authorities say Thompson had been targeting his ex, harassing and intimidating her since July of last year and the threats he made against the Jewish centers was a culmination of that.
And he has been picked up in St. Louis this morning. He is expected to be charged with cyber stalking later today. We also know that Thompson is a former journalist. He was fired from an online publication called "The Intercept" although he denies any reason for that firing -- Kate.
KEILAR: All right, Brynn, thanks so much. It's such a serious issue, these threats against these Jewish Community Centers, and this is some part of the explanation, it appears. Brynn, thanks so much.
We're also watching this, breaking news overnight, U.S. officials say they conducted air strikes in Yemen including one targeting a high value al Qaeda member, this as the Pentagon is working to locate and monitor hundreds now of individuals possibly connected to the terror group.
Those names were part of the intelligence retrieved during the raid in Yemen in January where one Navy SEAL was killed along with many civilians. Let me bring in to have more discussion on this, Collin Powell. He is a former deputy assistant to President Obama and national security adviser to Vice President Biden.