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Truth at the Border; Trump's Joint Address; Coast Guard and TSA Cuts; Vision Check by E-mail; Trump Close Health Care Deal; Trump in Room with Russian Ambassador in 2016. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:30:04] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight on CNN, another look at "The Messy Truth," a town hall with host and CNN political commentator Van Jones. Van recently traveled to the Arizona-Mexico border to talk security and, of course, the wall.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (voice-over): I wanted to see it for myself and talk to the people who live this reality every day, like the Bunnell County Sheriff's deputies. If someone is able to go under, over or around the border fence, they walk through this desert, aim for the highway, and disappear into the United States.


CAMEROTA: And Van joins us now to give us a preview.

Van, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: Is that you just going under the border there?

JONES: Well, close to -- close to the border. That wasn't the actual border. I don't want to get droned or whatever, but, yes, that -- there's so many different barriers that people go through. I came away even more confused about what's going on. I found Latinos who are living on the border who are for Trump and who say, hey, listen, actually got a lot of bad stuff going on down here that nobody's talking about. We need more help. I found people who work for law enforcement who say, listen, some of this stuff is going to make things worse, not better. It's just -- once you get down on the ground in reality, it's messy.

CAMEROTA: That is complicated.


CAMEROTA: I mean that just shows you how hard it is. And --

JONES: Yes. CAMEROTA: And does anybody think that a wall with solve the problem?

JONES: You know, I don't think that's the answer. People who are down there say, listen, we've got a lot of barriers. We've got a lot of stuff going on. One of the things they talked about was that it's the demand for drugs inside the United States that's actually causing a lot of the conflict. So people who are coming here just because they are looking for work often have to blend in and get the protection of and the permission of the drug smugglers. So there's a sort of blending in of the people coming here to pick fruit and the people who are coming here to pick -- you know, to put drugs on the streets and it's just a big messy reality.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And there's a notion that you're going to stop drug supply that way, but the cartels use tunnels as much as they use anything else.

JONES: Yes, exactly.

CUOMO: But, you know, that gets you into very discrete issues. Overall --


CUOMO: Do people believe that what Trump is doing is going to make them safer?

JONES: You know, I don't think -- the people that I met are willing to give him a chance, which was surprising. I mean, like you, I was talking to Latinos. Some of them were willing to give him a chance. But there was a much larger group of people down there who really felt like this is going to work out badly for them because what's going to happen is, they're not doing anything wrong. They're, frankly, either they have their papers in place or they're actually citizens, but they feel like now all of them are suspect. All of them are being put in the same bag as -- you know, almost like the drug smugglers.

And so I think part of what I'm learning -- you know, I've gone to West Virginia and talking to coal miners. I've gone to Ohio. I've gone to Pennsylvania. I've gone to Michigan. I've gone to the border. And part of what's going on is, I think that the people who are living these realities don't feel well represented by either political party. They feel the conversation at the national level gets so polarized so fast that all the nuance gets lost and then they wind up paying the cost. They wind up being a political football and nobody is listening to them.

You know, you talk to law enforcement and they say, listen, honestly, if we had -- we don't need a wall. What we actually need is an ability to better sort out the, you know, fish from fowl of who's coming across this border. We need more intelligence. We need more help. We need -- I talked to one law enforcement guy who said, you know, there are people dying out here. And I'm finding dead bodies, children.

CAMEROTA: Oh. JONES: And, you know, nobody's talking about that. So it is, I think, a much more complex country than I think we're willing to admit and acknowledge. But also tonight, we're not just going to talk about that. We also have Trevor Noah on and I want to talk with him about the state of the so-called resistance because while all these things are going on at the grass roots level, at the national level it's either black or it's white. And Trevor is neither black nor white. He's a mixed race. And I want to talk with him about what he's seeing and what he's learning.

CAMEROTA: So let's talk about your comments -- some of your comments and feelings --


CAMEROTA: About President Trump. When he addressed -- gave his address in front of Congress --


CAMEROTA: And he had the wife, the widow of the Navy SEAL stand up and she had that incredibly emotional moment and all of the applause for her. And you said at that time, you gave him huge kudos.


CAMEROTA: You said he became president in that moment. Given what has happened since and transpired since and the tweets about President Obama, do you want to amend your comments?

JONES: No. No. I -- listen, this is live television. You've got to be real in the moment. You've got to say it how you feel it in that moment. Listen, of course, can you -- you know, later on say, well, this, that and the other thing? Is he acting presidential now? Did he act presidential, you know, even inside that speech? You know, often not and some of his proposals were terrible. But in that moment, I'm proud that I can still get -- I'm human. I can still get teary-eyed even in a Trump speech.

[08:35:02] I'm a military kid. My dad was in the military. If you stand a widow up who lost somebody within the last month and that divided Congress -- they didn't even shake his hand, that's how divided that Congress was. And you see all those people coming together. They say, oh, well, it was cynical. He's manipulated her. He's using her. Oh, no president's ever manipulated or used anybody in that speech? That's presidential too, whether you like it or not. But I think we've got to get to the point where when somebody does something that's effective, you can say it. And then turn right around, as I did for the next four hours, and take him apart on policy.

But that moment, for some people they saw it cynical. As a kid of somebody who served in the military, I still say it was an extraordinary moment where -- because I haven't seen this country come together for anything since he went down an escalator. We've had terrorism. We've had mass shootings. We've had floods. We've had fires. Nobody's come together for anything. That was the only moment I saw people really come together and it moved me. And I spoke from my heart.

CUOMO: You know what the veterans say is, they respect that when people stand up for them, but they respect even more when things are done for them. You know, the hard battles --


CUOMO: That that widow is going to face with her family --

JONES: Oh, my God.

CUOMO: You know, what kind of benefits they get, what kind of allowances they get, what kind of care they get that we fall short.

JONES: This is where you --

CUOMO: We stand up and applaud, but those same men and women don't deliver for those veterans.

JONES: And, listen, and that's been true on both sides.

CUOMO: True.

JONES: And you and I agree on this. What we do with our veterans is a disgrace. It is a disgrace. And people always think about, you know, the wife, the Navy SEAL, whatever. You've got a lot of women who are veterans. You've got a lot of people of color who are veterans. They can't get jobs. They've got PTSD and nobody cares. And everybody uses them for a political token, but we've got to do more.

CUOMO: Everybody says they care --


CUOMO: But what do they do?


CAMEROTA: Van, thank you.


CAMEROTA: Thanks for previewing the show. Can't wait to see it.

JONES: Oh, it's going to get hot (ph).

CAMEROTA: Be sure to catch CNN's town hall "The Messy Truth" with special guest Trevor Noah tonight at 9:00 p.m.

CUOMO: All right, President Trump's big military spending and immigration crackdown may mean cuts to other organizations that help keep America safe. So what could this mean at the airports, on the high seas, next?


[08:41:09] CUOMO: So, President Trump's proposed increase in military spending and crackdown on undocumented immigrants may lead to cuts in other areas. Like what? Well, a former Coast Guard official says these cuts could weaken national security. So, CNN's aviation and government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh took a look. Here's the story.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The Trump administration could be making major cuts to the United States Coast Guard and TSA according to two congressional sources. The proposed cuts are intended to offset a major increase in military spending and help pay for Trump's ramped up immigration enforcement.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Immigration officers are finding the gang members, the drug dealers and the criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out of our country.

MARSH: But the Coast Guard does play a role in enforcing immigration laws. Government statistics show in fiscal year 2016 alone, the Coast Guard intercepted more than 6,300 undocumented migrants. Stephen Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander, says cuts to his former agency will hurt, not help the president's national security and immigration agenda.

STEPHEN FLYNN, RETIRED COAST GUARD COMMANDER: Just as a lesson we've learned post 9/11, is you can't do this piecemeal. You have to have it as a comprehensive approach.

MARSH: Among the Coast Guard's duties, securing the waterways near Mar-a-Lago in Florida when President Trump visits. Their proposal calls for a 14 percent cut from its $9 billion operational budget. That includes slashing $43 million from the maritime safety and security teams which board vessels trying to bring illegal drugs into the country.

Over the past five years, Coast Guard cutters and aircraft have removed more than 630 metric tons of pure uncut cocaine with a wholesale value of nearly $19 billion from the high seas. Drugs have been a focus for President Trump.

TRUMP: And for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

MARSH: Flynn warns cuts to the Coast Guard could also impact national security.

FLYNN: The terrorist is not your conventional armed forces. Something the president certainly knows. And the Coast Guard's a front line agency for that.

MARSH: TSA, the agency tasked with keeping terrorists and bombs off of commercial airplanes, could see a $500 million reduction. The agency already plagued by long lines and frustrated travelers in the past because it didn't have the funding it need. Former TSA official Paul Schmick.

PAUL SCHMINK, FORMER TSA OFFICIAL: That type of significant cut, we have to question how good will security be? This cannot be good on either side.


MARSH: OMB saying in part in a statement, the budget blueprint will be released in mid-March. It would be premature for us to comment. It went on to say that the president and his cabinet are working collaboratively as we speak to create a budget that keeps the president's promises.

Now, some Republicans say cutting the Coast Guard budget is a terrible idea. California Congressman Duncan Hunter said in a statement, quote, "OMB needs a reality check, truly." A congressional source who spoke to CNN was skeptical such a proposal could even pass Congress given the Coast Guard's important role in security.

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, Rene, thank you very much for that story.

Well, back to our top story. House Republicans new health care plan, it's meeting resistance from even within the GOP ranks. Can President Trump push it through? We get "The Bottom Line" on that.

CUOMO: Also, a visit to the eye doctor could be as simple as checking your e-mail. But can you trust an online exam? CNN health writer Jacqueline Howard put one to the test in this edition of "Teaching Care of Your Health."

[08:45:05] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH WRITER (voice-over): With a few clicks of a mouse, you can take a vision test at home. The results go to an affiliated eye doctor who can provide an eyeglass prescription for a fee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're doing great.

HOWARD: It's not an eye exam, but it's convenient.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that enough data for a respectable health care practitioner to deliver a prescription? I would argue no.

HOWARD: After taking two tests digitally, I went for an office visit. My online and in person test produced the same prescription results, but in the office we learned I have an eye condition which can make vision blurry. The online test did not pick that up. My eye health was also checked, which is impossible to do online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eye exam is expected to determine if the patient does or doesn't have things like glaucoma, retina problems.

HOWARD: Online vision testing is not available in all states. The American Academy of Ophthalmology supports new technology like this one for convenience and to help reduce costs, but needs to be evaluated over time. They say it may be appropriate only for adults 18 to 39 without severe prescriptions or symptoms of eye disease.



[08:50:01] CUOMO: All right, so two big questions for "The Bottom Line," can Trump close the deal on health care and what can we expect from these now scheduled Russia hearings in the House. Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political analyst Mark Preston.

Question number one, Mark, this is the first time we're going to see the president fight with his own as president.


CUOMO: What's the plus/minus?

PRESTON: Well, the plus/minus is, is I'm looking to see now if he actually tries to put so much pressure on Republicans who aren't backing it, will he go in and support primary challenges to them, or at least threaten to do so. And let's not forget, off to the side right now is this 501(c)(4) political organization that has openly said that they will go out and in order to get through his policies, and he has embraced this, it's his policy, they will go out and they will even go after Republicans as well.

CAMEROTA: Interesting. Well, Congressman Mark Meadows was just on. He didn't seem to be too afraid of President Trump going after him.


CAMEROTA: He -- in fact, he was sort of optimistic that in the next couple of weeks they will have hammered out some sort of compromise. But he admitted that today they are far from it. so listen to what he just said.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: There is not 218 votes today. We had a meeting last night, and I can tell you, I don't know that there's 218 votes of consensus around any bill today, but certainly when anything is brought to the floor, he'll do his whip count and make sure that he has 218, but today is not that day.


CUOMO: He really needs 216, right, because of the vacancies? I don't think he needs 218, but what do you make of it?

PRESTON: Well, I mean, look, Mark Meadows is in a very safe district and he really does stand by his ideology. But the fact of the matter is, he also has support on his side. There are a lot of conservative groups, such as the Club for Growth and others that are backing him as well. So to your point, we could see an internal civil war right now with the Republican Party on this issue.

CAMEROTA: But you're getting ahead of yourself because doesn't President Trump have to --


CAMEROTA: He'll just persuade them, right? I mean he'll go over and work with them and get them to come around. Isn't that what president --

PRESTON: Maybe put a couple of tweets out and everything will be fine, right?


PRESTON: Like he did last night with Rand Paul.

CAMEROTA: I mean --

PRESTON: He said, oh, my friend -- my friend Rand Paul. I mean you all remember that those two didn't really like each other, right?

CAMEROTA: I do remember that, but isn't this where the real work of presidential persuasion begins?

PRESTON: Well, what Meadow said on your interview, which I thought was really interesting, is that he said we passed a bill in the House and the Senate and we sent it to Obama. Why aren't we sending that ball in? Well, I think the Republicans realize now that it's not that easy to legislate and get things through.

CUOMO: Well, he said he wants to keep everybody covered. That's what Trump said. This plan isn't even close to that, let alone what you're going to see from Meadows and those two caucuses on the side. So what does he have to give?

PRESTON: Right. And -- well, interchangeable words, right, coverage and access. So you talk to the Mark Meadows of the world and they'll say, we want to provide more access to people and people are losing their insurance. You know, I don't know what Trump can give in order to get to the finish line. There will be sticks and carrots along the way and there will be progress, make no doubt about that. It's just not going to be very easy to get there.

CAMEROTA: All right, let's talk about the investigation into any alleged ties with Russia or Russia meddling in the election. CNN has something interesting. Some new reporting that finds that in April of 2016 -- so almost a year ago -- there was an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., where president -- it was a small event. President Trump, Jeff Sessions and the ambassador, the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, whose name we've all come to know --


CAMEROTA: Were all there. Is that an a-ha moment for somebody? PRESTON: You know what it is, it's just another -- it's another straw

that's going onto the camel's back and it -- at some point you've got to wonder, when is it going to break. Now, you know, in that event, was there any kind of discussion about collusion? Was there any -- I mean, who knows.

CAMEROTA: There's no suggestion -- there's no suggestion --

PRESTON: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: That they all had a private discussion, but they were in the same room.

CUOMO: But isn't that the problem with all this stuff, is that they're all just suggestions that the Democrats have failed to connect to any kind of collusion or anything that warrants this speculation. I'm not saying there aren't questions, but questions don't always lead to the right kinds of answers. How important is it that the Democrats show some there there at some point soon?

PRESTON: Well, I would even go beyond the Democrats. I would say, when does the Department of Justice show that there's some there there soon.

CUOMO: They've leaked out, the FBI, that we haven't seen any proof of collusion between the Trump people --


CUOMO: And the Russians. So what will be the straw that breaks the camel's back? Like how much can they show that equates something really wrong as opposed to just circumstance?

PRESTON: It's going to be some meeting, some discussion, some, hey, quid pro quo that was going on between some intermediary with the Trump campaign if that were to happen and a Russian official. However, what I think -- if I'm in the Trump campaign, this is what I fear, some of these hanger-oners who say that they were part of the campaign and that they were advising him went out and maybe were a little bit loose with their affiliation with the Trump campaign, but yet we're telling these Russian officials that, in fact, they were very close and somehow that might have got caught on tape or what have you and then the Trump, you know, campaign could be dragged into it.

[08:55:04] CAMEROTA: All right, interesting hypothetical. Mark Preston --

CUOMO: Yes, a lot of ifs.

PRESTON: Well, it's all hypothetical.

CUOMO: A lot of ifs in there, Preston, a lot of ifs.

PRESTON: But, listen, if there are a lot of questions, then let's try to find the answers.

CUOMO: Well --

CAMEROTA: All right, very -- very philosophical. Thank you for "The Bottom --

CUOMO: You just want to keep asking questions. Sometimes you don't get any answers either.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Mark.

PRESTON: Thank you.

CUOMO: Bailed you out.

"The Good Stuff," next.


CUOMO: It is time for "The Good Stuff." A homeless man in Oregon protecting a disabled man who was being attacked by two strangers. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told the guy that, you know, he's, you know, he's disabled. He's -- you're not -- you know, this is not right.


CUOMO: Well, you see the mascara on his eye. He got bead up, Bradley Bergmann (ph), but he still -- he stood in front of the disabled man, he distracted two attackers, he got punched, kicked knocked to the ground. Eventually, though, the attackers ran away. Despite the pain, Bergmann says he is glad he stepped in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They turned off of both the people that were in danger at the time and concentrated on me.


CUOMO: Now, you know what bothered him? He says there were other people there who were just watching.

[09:00:00] CAMEROTA: Oh.

CUOMO: And even though, you know, he wasn't feeling at his best, obviously, he got in there and he said it was the right thing to do and he hopes he inspires others.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Well, that's quite a shiner there, but thank goodness for him.

Time now for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow