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Trump Travel Ban Now Excludes Iraq; Syria Remains on Trump's Travel Ban; Clarkston Georgia Affected by Trump's Travel Ban; Reaction to Iran on Trump Travel Ban; House Intelligence Committee Steps Up Efforts on Trump/Russia Investigation; Wiretapping Allegations Just One of Many Conspiracies Peddled by Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired March 6, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think the rational was to put them out in the first place, given the fact that Iraq has been a partner of the U.S. and the U.S. has American troops there still.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORERSPONDENT: The original rationale for the 27th of January travel order was probably that ISIS did at the time control a large part of the country. It is where it got its start. But for many Iraqis, it was beyond comprehension that their country, which has suffered more than any other from ISIS, should be put on the travel ban.
So we know that Iraqi officials vigorously lobbied Washington to get this changed, that when the U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis came to Baghdad in January that that was one of the main topic of conversation when he was here, that the Iraqis do host more than 5,000 U.S. military personnel who are supporting Iraq in its war against ISIS.
When that original travel ban came out, the Iraqi parliament voted to implement reciprocal measures against U.S. nationals. Of course, that was a non-binding vote, but the pressure from Baghdad on Washington was very strong.
Now one of the reasons why is U.S. said it had changed it was that there would be for stringent vetting procedures by the Iraqis of their own citizens. But we've seen on the frontline when people are fleeing Mosul that they have their identity cards checked against a vast database, which has everybody's file from the intelligence services. So Iraq has the resources to keep a very close eye on its citizens and it may share those resources more fully with the United States.
BASH: Ben, there was a huge backlash among the president's fellow Republicans here for putting Iraq on the list. And I'm sure that is a big reason why it is no longer on the travel ban list.
I want to turn to Arwa.
Arwa, you are in Turkey. The country is not on the list. But may be the most indirectly affected about this whole crisis than any other, because, as you have been reporting for so long, Turkey now hosts the most Syrian refugees worldwide. They're banned indefinitely under Trump's order. Has the fact that that has not changed, how is that sitting with people in Turkey? ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESOPNDENT: You also need to
think about this, for the Syrians, even though they are not going to be indefinitely banned, the fact that there has been so much uncertain surrounding their status, for those who were already in the middle of the process of trying to apply this gives them no guarantees that once the temporary ban is lifted in about four months they will be able to actually continue with the process. They don't know what other surprises may be lying around the corner.
Also, the underlying message to this to the remaining six countries that are part of the travel ban that is still the same. That is basically America saying to war torn poverty stricken countries we don't necessarily want you so we are going to make your vetting process of you because we think you might be dangerous -- what it does to America's image, it's been devastating for many people who despite how they may feel about America's policies, at the end of the day, did still view America as a being a country where the American dream did come true where you could arrive as an immigrant and begin building your life once again. And now many feel as if this their chances at that have been taken away from them.
BASH: Arwa, thanks.
I want to turn back here in the U.S. to Nick Valencia.
You are in Georgia, as we said. You have been speaking with Syrian and Somali immigrants about the ban. What are you hearing from them?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We watched the announcement earlier, Dana, with Somali immigrants, as well as refugees from Syria.
Here in Clarkston, it is a suburb outside of Atlanta, population, 13,000. Half of the residents here are foreign born, a majority of them are refugees. It was designated as a good place to resettle refugees about a generation ago by the State Department.
One of those people who was resettled here is Dr. Raval Kelly (ph), who his story is a summation of the American dream.
You came here as a dishwasher, you are now a cardiologist fellow at Emerson University. You watched the announcement, what are your thoughts?
RAVEL KELLY (ph), CARDIOLOGIST FELLOW, EMERSON UNIVERSITY: I would have been devastated if somebody told me I could not come to this country. This country is great because we accept refugees and immigrants what want to come to the country and make it better place.
VALENCIA: You have relatives trying to come to the U.S. now?
KELLY (ph): Yes. I have nephews who are - their father killed by ISIS and they're trying to come here and they can't. I want them to apply to come to the U.S. and I want to take care of them.
[14:35:09] VALENCIA: When you hear the Trump administration isolating predominantly Muslim countries, he says it's about securing American, protecting it from terrorist activities. You're thoughts on that?
KELLY (ph): I'm a Muslim, a Syrian. I'm also an American, serving the V.A. hospital here in Atlanta. That speaks for itself.
VALENCIA: Mayor Ted Terry, you have been the mayor here in Clarkston the last four years. You have a critical role here in welcoming refugees. What is this impact to Clarkston, Georgia?
EDWARD "TED" TERRY, (D), CLARKSTON, GEORGIA, MAYOR: Clarkston is known as the Ellis Island of the south. Our entire local economy is revolving around refugee resettlement and welcoming in new Americans. Already, just in the last 30 days, this sort of hold on resettlement is already affecting local grocery stores, causing more vacancies in apartment complexes and really affecting the economy.
VALENCIA: Ted Terry, Dr. Raval Kelly (ph), thank you, gentlemen, for joining us here.
To follow up on that point, Dana, Ted Terry, the mayor here, actually says, as refugees were starting to surge into the community, crime actually went down.
So here, that announcement of the executive order is not going over very well with the residents of Clarkston -- Dana?
BASH: Doesn't sound that way.
Thank you, Nick.
I want to go back to the Middle East to Ramin Mostaghim.
You are in Iran, which is still on this list. It is one of the six countries that the U.S. is severely restricting travel from. I'm assuming that the government is Tehran is not surprised.
RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Not surprised. And almost one hour before midnight we haven't seen a serious reaction. Except today morning a spokesman of foreign ministry reacted to it in a wait and see policy. He said that we would wait and see the items and provision of the new executive order, and in proportion to the items we will reciprocate and decide what to do. And he also insisted that we have already taken our stance against the first executive order so everybody now is believing in what is our stance. Also, he added that Iran has prepared the list of American companies and individuals under Iranian sanctions in reciprocity to the executive order. But the content of that list will not be revealed until they deem it necessary, and then they will reveal it. It seems that Iran wants to take a wait and see policy and wants to look at the new items in the new executive order and is not in rush or wanting to do things very quickly. And wants to be cautious and on tiptoes.
BASH: That makes sense. A cautious response from the Iranians. No question.
Ramin, thank you so much, Ben and Arwa, the three of you, for giving these reports from these important countries late at night. Nick, to you as well, from here in the United States in Georgia.
Thanks to one and all.
Up next, it is a familiar cycle. President Trump floats a conspiracy theory, the White House can't provide evidence, so they call for an investigation to look into it. I'm going to speak live with a Democratic Senator about Trump's claims that his predecessor wiretapped him.
Plus, why Republicans may be finally getting close to revealing their mystery plan to replace Obamacare.
[14:43:14] BASH: Welcome back. I want to go straight to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill with some news about congressional investigation into Russia -- Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right, Dana. The House Intelligence Committee is stepping up efforts to get records and documents from the intelligence community, from the Trump administration on the issue of Russia and Russia meddling. This is a letter sent on Friday from the top two members, Republican Chairman Devin Nunes and the Democratic ranking member, Adam Schiff, saying they want -- asking the acting director of National Intelligence, Michael Dempsey, for a range of records related to key issues central to the investigation including any potential links between Russia and individuals associated with the campaigns during the campaign season as well as leaks -- possible leaks of classified intelligence information to determine who is actually providing this information to the news media.
Also, interestingly, Dana, they want these answers by March 17th. That's two weeks from now on this range of questions arc range of records. We'll see if the administration, the intelligence community does agree with them on this. But it shows they are still trying to gather information, gather data they don't yet have to assess whether or not certain key thing happened such as these alleged contacts between Trump officials and Russian officials during the campaign season -- Dana?
BASH: My experience, and I know yours, too, is that they accept bipartisan letters with deadlines when they want to make it clear publicly with the slow movement of information that they are getting.
Thank you, Manu, for the great reporting.
As we mentioned earlier, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says there is no doubt there was some type of surveillance of Trump's campaign. He doesn't have any proof, but Trump is accusing his predecessor of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower and says he wants Congress to investigate.
This is the latest in a series of conspiracy theories the president has peddled. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:45:20] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also need to keep the ballot box safe from illegal voting.
We are going to protect the integrity of the ballot box and defend the votes of the American citizen.
TRUMP: But we had a massive field of people. You saw that, packed. I get up this morning and I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I said, wait a minute, I made a speech, I looked out, the field was -- it looked like a million, a million and a half people.
I'm the one that got him to put up his birth certificate. Hillary Clinton was unable to get there. I will tell you she tried. You look at her campaign. Everybody knows it happened. I would say that pretty much everybody agrees with me.
All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the "National Enquirer" there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Ted never denied that it was his father.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Yeah, he did. He did deny that his father wasn't involved in assassinating JFK. Ted Cruz we are talking about here.
Let's bring in Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator, let's start with what White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said in the last few minutes to reporters inside the White House that, from his perspective, there is no question that something happened. The president called your committee to equity have. Do you agree with Sean Spicer there is no question something happened, and should your committee look into it?
SEN. RON WYDEN, (D), OREGON: I don't know how you can say that without any hard evidence. It's now almost as if you can set your clock by it on Saturday morning. You are going to get another undocumented far-fetched tweet. At this point, what you have to say is that either the FBI has been communicating with the subject or an investigation or the president of the United States is either making it up or once again relying on undocumented conspiracy theories.
BASH: You have been very outspoken about FISA, which is the court and the process that allows the Justice Department and the FBI to obtain warrants to surveil Americans. You called it an anachronistic in the past. Would President Obama have been able to request such surveillance at Trump Tower if he wanted to?
WYDEN: Let's be clear about the law. The law does not allow the president to order a wiretap. The law stipulates that the Justice Department can come to the foreign bill intelligence surveillance court. And by the way, the president has very extensive authority to declassify matters there. That is the legal standing.
BASH: Correct me if I'm wrong, but if the president really wanted to get to the bottom of these claims that he's making, he would have the authority to declassify any information about these alleged wiretaps that President Obama put out there? Meaning, if they exist, he could declassify with it the stroke of a pen, right.
WYDEN: He certainly could move to declassify. Look, here's where we are. We have had the allegations about wiretapping. We have the press swirling around with reports between the Russians and the Trump campaign, Michael Flynn matters. I have been trying for months to get James Comey to come in front of an open intelligence hearing, and I think at this point, with all of this information out swirling around in press stories, I think the FBI director ought to at least give a status report on these matters.
BASH: You probably heard over the weekend the former DNI, director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, saying that when he was in office, which was up until about two months ago, less than that, there was no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government.
CLAPPER: At the time, we had no evidence of such collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Is that still the case, based on what you have seen? Do you agree with him, no collusion?
WYDEN: What I can tell you, this is not some kind of boxing much between James Clapper and the president. This is a serious matter. And once again, if you desire to have this resolved, the FBI director, Mr. Comey, could come up. And again, there have been press reports that he agrees with Mr. Clapper, but those are just press reports. And if you really want to get to the bottom of it, you bring Mr. Comey forward and he testifies.
[14:50:18] BASH: Well, that would be wonderful. We are all for testimony from the FBI director on anything, particularly something like this.
In the meantime, you are on the committee that is already investigating. Given what you just heard from the former DNI, do you think that is still the case? Based on what you know to date, have you seen any evidence of collusion between Trump officials or anybody in Trump's orbit, and Russians? WYDEN: I have no reason to disbelieve Mr. Clapper. Let's be clear
about that. You know, once again, given the fact that President Trump said that his predecessor ordered a wiretap, this needs to be resolved, and it shouldn't just linger for weeks and weeks. Mr. Comey can resolve it. Again, there were press reports that he wanted the Justice Department to do it. If you really want to get to the bottom of it -- every step of the way I have been interested in getting the steps out, make sure it's not swept under the rug. The step now is for Mr. Comey to forward and testify in an open intelligence hearing.
BASH: Have you seen, as a member of the intelligence committee, or have you been briefed on transcripts of any communication between Russians and Trump associates?
WYDEN: I can't comment on internal deliberations or documents in front of the Intelligence Committee. I just am very concerned that with investigations you would like to have it about a closed box or at least as closed as possible. Here, it all seems to be getting litigated in the press. I think the American people are obviously getting more and more cynical. I would like to see a special counsel named. I think that's in the public interest. But from the standpoint of the next step, in my view, to address the public's concerns, is Mr. Comey coming forward.
BASH: We have to go. But before I let you go, I just have to ask, briefly, are you comfortable with the way that the Justice Department counter-intelligence agencies are delivering information to you for your investigation? And the House Intelligence Committee just gave them a March 17th deadline to give them information. Is that something that you in the Senate would also work along, that time line?
WYDEN: I think Senator Warner is doing a very good job. At this point, the American people deserve some concrete assurances. That's why I made the request that I have been making with respect to Mr. Comey for months now. The American people are interested in matters like open hearings. They are interested in subpoenas. They are interested in a path to declassification. They deserve some concrete assurances.
BASH: Senator Wyden, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
WYDEN: Thank you.
BASH: And more news is coming in from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, including how he responded to whether President Trump and Jim Comey have spoken since the president's wiretapping claim. We are going to have details on that next.
[14:58:55] BASH: We are near the top of the hour now. I'm Dana Bash, in for Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for joining us.
We begin with yet another presidential conspiracy theory, perhaps the most serious one yet, President Trump's baseless allegation that former President Obama wiretapped him during the 2016 campaign. Today, the White House is defending the need for an investigation, despite the fact that the former president, Obama, denies it, and the FBI, according to multiple sources, asked the Justice Department to publicly refute President Trump's claim.
Now, we want to go to Jeff Zeleny to talk about this.
And I think, Jeff, the most important thing to talk about is the context of this.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BASH: How it started. Saturday morning, early morning tweet storm. After, we know, from our reporting, that the president left Washington going to Florida, really angry at his staff. Do you think he just took matters into his own hands? Do you think he just announced this as a distraction tool? Or a combination of both.
ZELENY: Dana, those are great questions. I think it may be a combination of both. You are so right about the context being so important here. As you know, we were all reporting Friday into Saturday that the president was furious with members of his senior staff. They believe his good speech to Congress last week was overtaken by events. So that was his frame of mind going into Florida there. And then he, you know, leveled those extraordinary accusations, something he might have said while campaigning for president. Of course, being president, it is an entirely different situation there.
But the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spent about an hour or so answering questions from reporters. You didn't see that on camera because they held this off camera. They had a briefing off camera today. Dana, this is the first weekday of this presidency where we have not seen the president yet on camera. Very unusual for him. They clearly do not want to be talking about this. But they do, they say, want Congress to investigate this. But so far, they have not provided any evidence to back up those extraordinary claims.
BASH: It's really fascinating. Just what you were just saying, Jeff, Sean Spicer not doing the regular on-camera briefing and instead doing it off camera.
But maybe, more importantly, the fact that the president finally puts out and signs the revised --