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NY Attorney General Refuses to Step Down; Trump Responds to White House Security Breach; Congressmen Asked about Health Care at Town Halls; Mike Pence in Rand Paul's Home State Rallying Support for Obamacare Repeal Bill; California Has Not Filed Travel Ban Lawsuit. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 11, 2017 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:19] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

We begin with this breaking news surrounding the sudden order for 46 U.S. attorneys general to resign, and now learning U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who up until now, refused to step down, has officially been formally fired. Bharara, in the past half hour or so, tweeted, "I did not resign. Moments ago, I was fired. Being the U.S. Attorney in southern district of New York will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life."

Sources say Bharara was blindsided by the order to step down but not because it came with zero warning but because, back in November, President Trump actually asked Bharara to stay on. In fact, listen to what Bharara told reporters inside Trump Tower right after that meeting.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER NEW YORK SOUTHERN DISTRICT ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president-elect asked - presumably, because he's a New Yorker, and is aware of the great work that our office has done. He asked to discuss whether or not I'd be prepared to stay on as the United States attorney to do the work as we have done it independently without fear for the last seven years. We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on. I have already spoken to Senator Sessions, the nominee for the attorney general. He also asked I stayed on so I expect I'll be continuing to do the work at the southern district.


CABRERA: Back to that in a moment.

We also have more breaking news. For the first time, we're now hearing President Trump's reaction to this stunning White House security breach. We have bizarre new details on the fence jumper, the intruder at the White House. Let's begin with the firing of Preet Bharara. And CNN justice

reporter, Laura Jarrett, and CNN correspondent, Sara Ganim, are following this story.

Laura, to you first.

What changed between the meeting a few months ago and now?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's a million-dollar question, Ana, and what we're trying to figure out. What we do know is that Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, there in Manhattan, said earlier to sources he was not going to resign, he was not going to submit a letter of resignation. The Justice Department got word of this and the deputy assistant attorney general, the acting attorney general Dana Boente, called to confirm. Bharara said it was true, he was not intending to resign and then Mr. Boente called him back and said the president has fired you.

CABRERA: Why? Did he give a reason why?

JARRETT: We're trying to figure out what exactly changed here. We heard from the Justice Department yesterday that all 46 of the presidential appointed U.S. attorneys had been asked to resign. This is not completely unprecedented. Bill Clinton did it, President Bush did it when they took office in order to put in their own people. That part isn't unprecedented.

The part that's interesting and unusual is the way it was carried out and the process here, and that's the part that sort of threw people and the fact they were given so little notice.

CABRERA: Sara, help us understand Bharara's role here in New York and the type of cases he handles.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the most well-respected and powerful U.S. attorneys in the country. He was appointed almost eight years ago by President Barack Obama. Had been the chief counsel to Senator majority leader, Chuck Schumer, who, of course, has now emerged as one of the chief adversaries of Donald Trump. But Schumer is actually the one who encouraged President Obama to appoint Bharara after one of his investigations led then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to be forced to resign. And Bharara's office prosecuted everything from terrorists, like the attempted Times Square bomber and crime bosses to the hacking group Anonymous. He's perhaps best well- known for going after corruption cases, notably, the corruption cases on Wall Street. "Time" magazine's cover from 2012 really said it all. They said, "This man is busting Wall Street." People called him the enforcer and he's greatly feared there. He prosecuted dozens of insider-trading and securities fraud cases, including Bernie Madoff's brother, Peter Madoff. Of course, corruption cases.

But it went beyond that, too. He was appointed by a Democratic president but went after Democrats and Republicans. He had non- partisan investigations. His office was in the middle of two investigations involving the two most powerful Democrats in the state. His office was about to try or is about to try several former aides to Andrew Cuomo accused of bribery and bid rigging. And he was in the final stages of the investigation in Bill de Blasio looking at allegations of Pay-to-Play.

Remember, he leads an important federal district. This is the southern district of New York where Trump Tower is, so any federal investigation involving, for example, wiretapping or anything else, would likely involved his office or his former office, the southern district of New York.

[15:05:41] CABRERA: The big question next, Laura, what happens to not only his cases but these other attorneys' cases who have suddenly been essentially fired?

JARRETT: For right now, they'll go to career prosecutors who have been in the local offices doing their cases every day as per usual. There are a number of career prosecutors who have been there for years and not in the politically appointed arena, so they'll stay on and carry the torch. But certainly, the way that this was done, the way this was carried out, Ana, left those in his local offices with a bad taste many their mouth.

CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan.

Ladies, stay with me as well.

This is a fast-moving story. You've been following it all morning. The initial developments made last night. What do you make of this latest development?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYT: It's a bizarre on a number of counts. The U.S. attorney tweeting he's fired is unusual. Usually, they do this by stayed legalese press releases.


CABRERA: Taking a cue from the president, I guess.

CALLAN: Quick learner. And Preet's reputation is that he knows politics and how to get a headline and he's going to make a fierce adversary for President Trump, I can assure you, once he's out of office, which he is now. He's been a fearless prosecutor of political corruption. Gone after Democrats, the Republicans. Even Islamic terrorists described him as the crusader prosecutor because of the terrorism cases that he aggressively prosecuted in New York. And he has a formidable reputation. To be told you will stay and then fired, not going to inspire warm feelings.

CABRERA: Just getting word, Jake Tapper learning how this is all -- how it went down. Dana Boente called Preet initially and asked, is this true you're not going to resign, you're waiting to be fired, and he said, yes, that was true, he's not going to resign. And then, apparently, he called back, according to Jake Tapper's reporting, and said President Trump was firing him.

What do you make, Paul, of how publicly this has played out? Is that unusual? CALLAN: It's very unusual. I can't remember seeing a case like this. It's compounded by the fact it's the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. In the legal profession, this is widely considered to be the most important U.S. attorney's office in the United States because it's the head of -- I mean, it's center of finance in the United States and the media is here, so it's a highly- coveted office in terms of everything that it does. This is very, very unusual for this to be handled in this kind of a manner.

CABRERA: No word just yet, even on Twitter, from the president himself. We watch that, of course.

Paul Callan, Sara Ganim and Laura Jarrett, thanks to you.

I want to turn to the stunning White House security breach and bizarre new developments on the intruder. For the first time, we're hearing President Trump's reaction to this breach. And the president was inside the White House when the intruder was finally stopped just outside his residence, a few hundred feet away.

This is what President Trump had to say about this midnight security lapse.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secret Service did a fantastic job last night. I appreciated it.

Secret Service did fantastic job. He was a trouble person. Very sad.

Secret Service was fantastic.


CABRERA: Now the intruder made it all the way to the south portico entrance before the Secret Service stopped him.

I want to bring in senior White House correspondent, Athena Jones.

Athena, what are you hearing about this suspect? This is 26-year-old Jonathan Tran.

ATHENA JONES, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know he was arraigned today. He's being held at the court house until then. But new reporting from Producer Laurie Yuri (ph), who spoke with Tran's younger brother in California, Brian, who said his older brother was troubled. That's the same word the president used. That Jonathan Tran was

troubled after being laid off from an electrical engineering company. His brother said he was living in his car and eating junk food.

[15:10:17] We know that Jonathan Tran is 26 years old, graduated from San Jose University with an electrical engineering degree, and stressed out from the job he was later laid off from.

Brian Tran said a Secret Service agent called their family's home to inform them of the fence jumping incident and he said his mother is very troubled about the matter. The brother also said his older brother, Jonathan has been a good brother to him.

So the Tran family clearly surprised and troubled by this incident. But there you heard the president praising the Secret Service.

And White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer provided a few more details as well. He said, last night, Secret Service informed the president that Homeland Security Secretary General Kelly was kept aware of the situation the entire time. And then Spicer reiterated that the president has full faith in the Secret Service, saying, "The Secret Service did a phenomenal job and continue to do a phenomenal job protecting the president and the first family, and the president was very appreciative of their efforts" -- Ana?

CABRERA: The White House expressing confidence in the Secret Service but, according to the police reports, the Secret Service didn't learn of this until a Secret Service office happened to bump into the suspect and he asked him what he's doing there. Is that correct?

JONES: Absolutely. That's what's so interesting here. We have some different details offered from the Secret Service and then from the Metropolitan Police Department. And their police report indicating that the suspect, the Secret Service said he jumped over the south fence. The police report said he jumped over a fence near the Treasury Department behind me, next to the White House. And so it appears that the suspect was able to breach more than one barrier, according to White House security footage. That detail included in the police report.

But it is noteworthy that, in the end, the arresting officer, the Secret Service agent confronted this person because he was nearing the residence and so they didn't see him jump over the fence necessarily but saw him later and were able to detain him. That Secret Service agent asking the suspect what he was doing there and whether he had an appointment and a pass holder, and telling him that he -- or later sang that he was a friend of the president and he did have an appointment.

But this is serious, Ana, because the suspect made it to the south portico, not inside the White House but to the back door, essentially, of the White House, only a couple hundred feet from the president's bedroom. And this is not the first time. So this will get a lot of attention.

CABRERA: Athena Jones, we know you're staying on top of it.

This is not the first known major security incident. However, it is for the Trump administration at the White House.

I want to bring in our law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent.

Jonathan, thank you so much for joining us.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thank you. CABRERA: How does a guy go undetected until an officer happens to run into him?

WACKROW: That's what the Secret Service will have to look at. What you want to do is stop the threat immediately. You want to stop that individual as they come over the fence line right away to mitigate that threat. However, this Secret Service has a comprehensive security plan with multiple players. And even though some layers were penetrated, at the end of the day, the defensive posture won out. The uniformed division officer did the right thing. They questioned the individual. Once there was indication the person did not belong at the location, they were apprehended. That's a win for the Secret Service. I appreciate the president actually commending the Secret Service because they need to be. However, they need to backtrack and understand how did this individual get that close to the White House? That's way too close for comfort, but something the management will have to look at.

CABRERA: Shouldn't there have been an alarm after he had gone over one of these fences?

WACKROW: Not to get into too much of the security plan at the White House but there are definite physical barriers such as fences. There are alarms. There's different types of alarms that are present. So the Secret Service has to look at what happened here. What kind of indicator was there that it was a breach at the White House? Again, this individual seemingly traveled a great distance within a secure perimeter of the complex before the uniformed division officer saw him. That's the question out there. But I think it's important to understand that, in its totality, it was a win for the service. They won out. That's why we don't just rely on the fence or alarm or human capital, but the Secret Service takes a holistic approach and multi- layered security to protect the safety of the president and the first lady.

[15:15:34] CABRERA: Jonathan, thank you for your insight.

WACKROW: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: It's a battle. The fight over health care, from Capitol Hill to Main Street. Congressmen Darrell Issa facing an angry crowd in his home state of California. We'll take you there live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:20:05] CABRERA: Several members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, are holding town hall meetings today, hearing from voters face-to-face about their concerns regarding what's happening in Washington. And one dominant topic that we keep on hearing, week in and week out, but especially this weekend, is the uncertainty about the nation's health care system.



CABRERA: This is just a short time ago. You see protesters outside of the town hall meeting hosted by California Republican Darrell Issa. Here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care in the United States is a multibillion dollar business. That protects those at the top earning the billions of dollars.


REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R), CALIFORNIA: Please get to your question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you willing to do to get the cost down?

ISSA: In those places, they prescribe less because they're afraid of being sued. That's part of the fix that we don't have here today.


CABRERA: With me now, Jonathan Tasini, a Democratic strategist; and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart.

Jonathan, I'll start with you.

People are concerned about costs. That's the bottom line. How well are the Republicans able to sell this plan so far where costs are concerned?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First, happy birthday to Allice. I think that it's her birthday and I think that's one thing


CABRERA: Happy birthday, Alice.

STEWART: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thanks for spending it with us.

TASINI: I run an intelligence agency, Alice, so I know everything.


They should be quite concerned given the Republican plan, which I think, as I call it, it's make America sick again. It will throw people off of Medicaid and Medicare, and raise co-pays and deductibles and premiums for seniors. It's one of the reasons the AARP, the organization that represents seniors, is opposed to it. And as important, since we're talking about insurers, they require a sort of certainty, and there will be an uncertain market because of the Republican fund. No idea how many people are included in the plan, so you'll see the rates, I think, skyrocket probably in 2018.

CABRERA: Alice, the vice president was in Kentucky today. He was promising a plan that promises better access, lower costs. And how does this new plan accomplish it?

STEWART: He outlined the case for us having this conversation saying specifically that President Obama promised health care changes which would result in lower costs and more choices when it's been just the opposite and fewer choices. The vice president mentioned today, the average American is paying $3,000 more a year for health care, and many counties, one insurance company from which to choose from. So the plan we have now on the table is a great start.

I think the notion of health savings accounts is important. I think including people with preexisting conditions is critical and you also, and it's positive that it's already been approved in two House committees, overwhelmingly, but also have to take into consideration the concerns of some of the conservatives that have concerns about the expansion of Medicaid. They want to end immediately and not over time. I think what we're going to see with moving forward in order for it to pass in the Senate is a little bit of what we have on the table now and concerns from those who are much more conservative in order to get a plan that works.

CABRERA: Alice, 11 million people are currently covered by that Medicaid expansion as providing funding for the states so that these people with lower incomes, maybe older, can't afford health care themselves, there's a little bit of help for those folks. What do you tell them if Medicaid expansion were to go away immediately?

STEWART: That's part of the conversation that needs to be included moving forward and part of the plan on the table is working with governors to make sure that no one falls through the cracks and making sure that the proper money is allocated for different locations where it's need. But overall, this is a good start. There's a lot to be discussed. And I think these town halls are a good thing. We had them back when Obama was discussed back in 10 or eight years ago, but no one's voices were heard. And the good thing here is voices are being heard and we'll have a lot of conversations before a final bill is put up for a vote.

CABRERA: Go ahead, Jonathan.

TASINI: If I could respond to a few things. When we talk about access, I could today have access to a first-class seat in a beautiful cabin with the shower. I can't afford it. The Republicans are completely phony when they tell people they'll have access because people can't afford it. And the second thing is related to that. The health savings accounts. We have a country where most people don't have a lot of money just sitting around where they can put into health savings accounts. Tens of millions of people live in poverty. And those people covered by the Medicaid expansion, which Republicans cut and freeze at the 2016 levels, effectively, that is going to make them sicker, leave them without health care.

It's true that there are some problems with the Affordable Care Act. I'm actually a single-payer, Medicare-for-all advocate. I think that's the only way to solve it. But when you throw people off Medicaid and make it more expensive for others to buy it, that's not a solution.

[15:25:44] CABRERA: Jonathan, we know Republicans have is proposed giving the states some power and providing grants for the state in replacement of the funds that may be lost by the Medicaid.

TASINI: Republicans never liked it. They see those as weaknesses in society. And block grants have never worked. So unlike the 100 percent coverage that the profit gave, under the Republican plan, 90 percent. And there is no question that if you look now at the states now the way they fund Medicaid and have different criteria, there will be lots of people who will not be covered who are covered currently under the Affordable Care Act.

And it's the reason, the way you led into the story, that people turn out to the town halls to Republicans and Democrats and demanding they continue to give them health care.

CABRERA: We have to leave it there but we'll have you both back on throughout the hour.

TASINI: And, Alice, happy birthday again.

STEWART: Thank you.

CABRERA: Alice Stewart, happy birthday.

STEWART: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you both for being with us.

This health care fight may be a hard sell for both sides of the aisle but, coming up next, we'll talk with the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy. He's going to talk about whether there's anything lawmakers can do to win him over and those who might also be critical of the current plan.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:31:28] CABRERA: Opposition from both sides of the political aisle facing Vice President Mike Pence who is on the road this weekend trying to sell the Republican health care plan, and in Kentucky today, Senator Rand Paul's home state. Paul is a vocal critic, calling it dead on arrival. Here's what he said earlier this week.


SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: This is Obamacare-lite. It will not pass. Conservatives aren't going to take it.


CABRERA: Today, the vice president had a subtle message for the Libertarian Senator.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, let me be clear, this is going to be a battle in Washington, D.C. And for us to seize this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all, we need every Republican in Congress, and we're counting on Kentucky. President Trump and I know, at the end of the day, after a good and vigorous debate, we know Kentucky will be there and we will repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all.



CABRERA: Let's bring in Democratic Connecticut governor, Dan Malloy, and another Republican plan critic. He's joining me from Hartford.

Governor, thank you so much for being with us.

The vice president is taking this health care fight to individual states. In your mind, what does he need to say to gain support in Connecticut?

DAN MALLOY, (D), CONNECTICUT: He won't gain support in Connecticut because we know what the document said he's promoting. It will take insurance away from millions of people and gut Medicaid and cause people to lose lives, cause hospitals to close and other clinics to close. The reality is in the long run over the next few years, it will cost more than a billion dollars if it were to maintain to the audience of people we currently serve with that life-saving, life- changing coverage. By the way, I'm in my 60s. If I was to go to the marketplace under this plan, I would have to pay probably about $8,000 more for my coverage. That's what they're doing, folks. Everyone, wake up and understand that this is repeal and place with the emphasis on repeal and really not replace. What they're going to do.

CABRERA: I hear you're not happy, Governor. But this is what majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said yesterday. Listen.


SEN. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The work that Chairman Walden, when it deals with Medicaid, we did not do that in a vacuum. We brought together governors, who have expanded and governors who did not expanded and worked together to find common ground. So, yes, there's questions on both sides of the aisle. But sometimes, when you have pushback on one side and the other side from a political spectrum, you might have found the sweet spot.


CABRERA: Does he have a point? If neither side gets everything he wants? Isn't that the definition of compromise?

MALLOY: No, he doesn't have a point. A governor is not telling him to touch Medicaid. Nevada is disagreeing. Ohio is disagreeing. Asa Hutchinson is disagreeing. Governor after governor thinks this is the craziest plan anyone has come up with. The difference is the gentleman is not listening and that's a kind of a malady that I guess both sides could claim some responsibility for in Washington, but governors who have expanded Medicaid know it's life changing and life- saving and what they really want to do is gut that program and I've been listening and watching the show today. The idea that they're going to block grant, that block grant, the way they are structuring it would cause us to have to take 35,000 people in our little state out of the Medicaid program. That would mean that hospitals would not be reimbursed for emergency visits, which, by the way, we have weaned down significantly that emergency rooms over last few years because of this program. But I want to go back to this. Raising rates on the seniors, whose idea is this? Who are they listening to? Nobody thinks that's a good idea. I will say this, if you don't understand what they're proposing, and all you want is repeal, I suppose that makes sense. But the details here are so bad that they are desperate to rush this through before anyone reads the documents.

[15:35:49] CABRERA: It's a complicated law the way it works here in America. One of the proposals within this new Republican plan is to give tax credits that are age-based. Talk about the expensiveness for somebody older, while older people under the Republican plan would get more money in a tax credit than a younger person. Why can't that work?

MALLOY: Because health care is more expensive the older you get. Because quite frankly, you get sick more often and a knee replaced or hip replaced or major dental surgery. The increase is minuscule in comparison to the difference in pricing. They want to give seniors less money. I am telling you, in 2021, with no other changes, with no increase in costs for a person my age, the additional costs would be $8,000 a year after you get your check.

CABRERA: The tax credits, we should say, are proposed between $2,000 and $4,000. That would be going back to folks that are, depending on age, you talked about the $8,000 cost. It may not cover everything, but let's say this is implemented, how would you handle it?

MALLOY: This is what would happen. Cut a billion dollars of other services and then have to take insurance away from 35,000 people. That's what you would have to do. Those people are living in poverty. Where are they going to the coverage? When they don't get coverage, they get sicker. Then they show up at the emergency room in the hospital. And you don't get the preventative care they should otherwise be getting. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Trumpcare is a disaster. What they try to do, what the Republicans in the House won't even get through the Senate.

CABRERA: Governor Dan Malloy, thanks to being with us on a Saturday.

MALLOY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, much more on the breaking news at the top of the show. President Trump firing the U.S. attorney in southern Manhattan.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:40:20] CABRERA: Preet Bharara had been refusing to step down, now formally fired by President Trump. High-profile U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who, up until this point had been refusing to step down, has now been formally fired by President Trump. Bharara was among the 46 U.S. attorneys asked to resign with little notice by the Justice Department yesterday. Moments ago, Bharara announced on Twitter, "I did not resign. "Moments ago," he said "I was fired. Being the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York. will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life."

Sources say Bharara said he was blindsided by this order to step down and not because it came with seemingly zero warning but because back in November, President Trump asked Bharara to stay on.

Listen to what Bharara told reporters inside Trump Tower after that meeting.


PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president-elect asked, presumably because he's a New Yorker and is aware of the great work of our office, to discuss whether or not I'd be prepaid to stay on as United States attorney to do the work as we have done it independently without fear or favor for the last seven years. We had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I've spoken to Senator Sessions, who is the nominee to be attorney general. He also asked that I stay on. So I expect I'll be continue the work at the southern district of New York.


CABRERA: He was appointed by President Barack Obama. He had been the chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who has emerged as a chief critic of President Trump. Much more on this at the top of the hour.

Also, travel ban, round two. Days away from the executive order going into effect. It's now facing new legal challenges. How will this rollout be different from the first one?

And we'll go back to our other breaking news. New details emerging about the White House fence jumper captured near the executive entrance. The suspect's brother now speaking out. Also, we have reaction from President Trump.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:48:51] CABRERA: Trump's travel ban is set to take effect on Thursday. But several states are now going to courts hoping to stop this from happening. The new executive order imposes a 90-day ban by citizens of six largely Muslim countries and blocks refugees for entering the country for 120 days. President Trump said this order will protect the country for terrorism. Critics say it still amounts to a ban on Muslims.

Hawaii was the first to legally challenge the new ban.


DOUG CHIN, HAWAII ATTORNEY GENERAL: The problem with these executive orders is that it's taking us back to pre-1965 because it's putting out actual countries and saying all of these people are presumptively terrorists. And that's a problem.


CABRERA: One state stands out for not joining this fight, California.

And I'm joined now by Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles.

Mr. Mayor, California has not shied away from fight the president on immigration policy, but not on this one?

ANTONIO, VILLARAIGOSA (D), FORMER LOS ANGELES MAYOR: First of all, great to be on your first show as anchor.

CABRERA: Thank you.

[15:50:01] VILLARAIGOSA: I'm no longer speaker of the assembly and certainly not governor yet, so I can't tell you what the thinking is behind not suing on this. I can tell you they've hired Eric Holder, that they have a new attorney general, and that they're focused on these issues. And it may be that they're allowing some of the other states to do this. But I can tell you that California is not going to conform with many of these new directives and certainly with respect to immigrants in California.

CABRERA: San Francisco, as you point out is fighting back. Went to court on another immigration issue. Asking the judge to block Trump's executive order to strip the funding from so-called sanctuary cities. A lot of cities in California that are so-called sanctuary cities. You were the mayor of L.A. and that's a sanctuary city as well.

Just for viewers who may not be familiar with that term, it essentially says local law enforcement will not enforce federal immigration laws. Why be a sanctuary city?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well first of all, L.A. was not, does not, has not declared itself a sanctuary city. They've had this policy since the 1970s, during Chief Darrell Gates' tenure. They did for one reason. It keeps the city safer. In point of fact, the reason for Special Order 40. The foundation behind what some people call sanctuary cities, was that victims and witnesses don't come forward, don't trust the police. They don't work hand in hand with the police when they think they might be reported to the immigration agencies.

In addition, those police have, as their first priority, the public safety of the community, not enforcing our immigration law. L.A. does not call itself a sanctuary city. But they do, as you say, not cooperate with immigration agencies the way San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, and many cities with large immigrant populations.

CABRERA: Now there's this state bill, SB-54, in committee, California State Senate, to make California a sanctuary state. Earlier this week, Republicans held a press conference and they had sheriffs speaking out against this bill, saying it would actually allow criminals to slip through the cracks. You talked about the sanctuary city, or sanctuary state idea being safety-related. How can you insure safety from all Californians especially when you have local law enforcement speaking out against this idea?

VILLARAIGOSA: First of all, Californians aren't safe. During my tenure as mayor, there was nearly a 50 percent drop in violent crime in homicides, L.A. went from one of the most violent cities in America to one of the safest with Special Order 40. In addition to that, let's be clear, according to the National Academy of Sciences, immigrants, including the undocumented, commit less crimes than the native-born. Native born commit five times the crimes than the undocumented do. So this notion that they're here committing crimes, on a scale and scope that is somehow a threat to the public safety, isn't further from the truth. In fact, it's the opposite.

CABRERA: I want to get in one more question before I let you go. We learned this week from the department of homeland security that arrests and detainment of people crossing the southern border illegally had actually dropped about 40 percent between January and February. Is that a time of year when they say they typically see a 20 percent spike. So do you believe that all of President Trump's tough talk is a bad thing? Or is it working?

VILLARAIGOSA: Actually, it's been dropping since 2008. As a matter of fact, there's a net migration minus. More people are going back than are coming through that border from Mexico. It's just a fact. But unfortunately, the White House doesn't let the facts get in the way. In fact, often CNN and other media outlets are chronicling how fake news and lies and misrepresentations of fact are what come out of the White House, their tweets and the like. You know, that phenomenon has been happening for a long time. And anybody who knows anything about immigration knows that.

CABRERA: Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for joining us. So good to have you with us.

VILLARAIGOSA.: Good to be on your show. Good luck.

[15:54:53] CABRERA: Thanks.

Next week, we introduce you to the first "CNN Hero" of 2017.

But first, we check in with last year's hero, Jason Arizobal, who dedicated his life to helping young people with disabilities in Columbia. On a recent trip to New York, he made a special visit to a fellow Colombian who brings free meals to people in need every single night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)





CABRERA: Our thanks again for all you do, Jason.

And to nominate your hero, just log on to

Very soon, the man accused of jumping over the White House fence will appear in court. We have the latest coming up at the top of the hour.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.