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Trump's Wiretapping Claim to Be Scrutinized Monday; Comey to Testify Monday on Russia Election Meddling; White House and Trump: No Regrets For UK Spying Claim; Alan Dershowitz Talks Trump Travel Ban; Trump Reaches Out to Hispanics. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 18, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:17] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It's now 5:00 in the East, 2:00 in the West. Here in the CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
President Trump is on the brink of perhaps the most consequential week of his presidency to date. This wiretapping claim, his Supreme Court nominee. His campaign promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare are all facing critical tests this week.
In less than 48 hours, the President's assertion that his phones at Trump Tower were bugged by his predecessor will be scrutinized by Congress on live TV. So far we have not seen a shred of evidence to support that claim. Now FBI Director James Comey is expected to tell the House Intelligence Committee on Monday whether any evidence exists.
Meanwhile, Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will begin his first Senate confirmation hearing also on Monday. And then on Thursday, the Republican health care plan is set for a vote on the House floor. The President predicts it's going to pass on the first try.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES: I also want everyone to know that all of these nos or potential nos are all yes's. Every single person sitting in this room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, he is working the art of the deal. Right now President Trump though is at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida.
Let's go to White House correspondent Athena Jones in nearby West Palm Beach. And I know Athena, he has dinner plans tonight, right?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana, that's right. He's planning to dine with Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter, who is the billionaire CEO of Marvel Entertainment. So that is to be his guest tonight. I can tell you the President spent several hours this morning at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. White House officials said he was working, and meeting with staff. They wouldn't say whether he was playing golf, but CNN did capture some video of him driving a golf cart on the links and a friend of his tweeted out a photo of him wearing a golf glove. So, it seems he got in a few holes this morning.
He had his daily intelligence briefing last hour at his Mar-A-Lago resort. And this hour he's set to have a phone call with Brazil's President Michel Temer. But of course on much of the focus has been on his explosive and unsubstantiated allegations made two weeks ago today against his predecessor, President Obama, who he accused of having his quote, "wires tapped in Trump Tower."
It's a charge the former President himself has denied. It's a charge that several former intelligence officials say simply isn't true. And House and Senate -- people in the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans who are looking into this matter have all said that they've seen no evidence to support the President's claim. But he has continued to restate it. And in fact White House Press Secretary made another allegation, adding on to the original one just a couple of days ago saying that British intelligence was responsible for helping to tap the phones and the communications in Trump Tower.
That's an allegation that British intelligence has also denied. The latest new denial we have is coming from the number two official at the National Security Agency, Richard Ledgett who gave an interview to the BBC and said in that interview that this claim is errant nonsense. Echoing what the British Intelligence Agency said. And he said claims that the UK was involved with wiretapping demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how the relationship works.
He said of course they wouldn't do it. It would be epically stupid. And of course he's talking about the close relationship between the U.S. and the UK and also the intelligence-sharing relationship among the U.S., the UK and several other commonwealth countries. So, here you have a White House that's created an international incident over these false claims and as you know, Ana, this is not the first time the President has made false claims. The question is, will we see a retraction, will we see any sort of apology? Whether to President Obama or to the British from this White House and will FBI Director Comey's testimony on Monday push them to make some sort of response. That's what we're waiting to see -- Ana.
CABRERA: Absolutely. Athena jones reporting. Thank you.
I want to talk more about the House Intelligence Committee hearing and President Trump's wiretapping claim.
Let's bring in our panel. We have Alex Stewart, a Republican strategist and Kurt Bardella, former spokesman for the Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. All right, guys. I want you first to hear what my colleague Michael Smerconish brought up earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: If he is watching right now at Mar-A- Lago, he could pick up that phone this minute and call the CIA, call the NSA and ask the question, was Trump Tower surveiled and he would get an answer, right?
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Michael all he needed to do two weeks ago was to roll over, punch that button on the red switch and say get these guys down here for lunch and he would have been satisfied and we would have been done with this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:05:04] CABRERA: Now as the former NSA Director Michael Hayden, so Alice, why didn't President Trump end this wiretap controversy, instead of fighting news reports to try to back up his claims? All he had to do was make a phone call, why didn't he do it in?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Ana, I don't think the question is, why didn't he end it? And the question really is, why didn't he start it in the first place? And to Michael Hayden's point, before he even tweeted this out first thing two weeks ago he should have come out with the information that he has. But look, here we are two weeks later, we're still talking about this. And we have House and Senate Republicans and Democrats, we have foreign officials, all saying that they have no evidence to back this up. We have foreign officials saying this is rubbish and ridiculous.
Many people are saying he, Senator John McCain saying, he needs to retract and issue an apology. I personally think that, if he has this information he should have come forward with it. But the fact remains that the President and his administration and his officials and his spokespeople are digging in and they are not budging and they still stand by their assertion, which is not many others, but their assertion that news reports indicate that this happened. They are standing by those news reports and they are standing firm.
STEWART: But the reality is, all he has to do is make one call to do it. The people that know and put an end to this. But it looks as though we may get that on Monday when we hear from Comey.
CABRERA: Kurt, why are they standing firm? We aren't they retracting, why aren't they issuing an apology if there is no proof, no evidence?
KURT BARDELLA, ENDEAVOR STRATEGIES: Because they live in an alternate reality. At the end of the day, no matter what facts come to light, no matter what truths there actually are, this is an administration the President who's trying to buy advisors, who do not believe ever that they should retreat, that they should back down, that they should tell the truth. The President is a liar. He gets his information from sources, that lie. And they're never going to back down from that and they actually think that it is a better fight for them to have this argument right now, and expand it over weeks, because they think that their base wants to hear this.
You know, at the time the whole thing started, remember, it was Jeff Sessions that was getting all the headlines, that was creating controversy. And with one tweet, at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday, Trump changed that narrative completely. And they think it's revenge. Because the reality is, they have an audience that no matter what is said will always stay with them and will believe anything that they have to say no matter how ridiculous, no matter how untruthful. They will never walk away, or abandon Trump. And knowing that, they care more about playing to that audience and anything else going on.
CABRERA: It's so interesting to hear you both speak so critically of the President, when are you both Republicans, members of his party, what could he do Alice to right the ship?
STEWART: I think it's a little harsh in this situation in my opinion to refer to him as a liar. He truly believes what he is saying. He truly believes that his tweet stands on its own and has merit and Sean Spicer truly believes that there are news reports that indicate this. Why he's doing this, still remains to be seen. If he will ever retract that remains to be seen. I firmly doubt that he will do so. But look, if you go back to his rally he had in Nashville this week. Those people love him. They could care less about this.
We're talking about this ad nauseam here in Washington and up in New York and the media is all consumed with this. There are concerns about how the national, the international community is viewing this. But his base, his people, the Republican base, they could care less. They're concerned with what's going to happen Monday. They want Neil Gorsuch confirmed. They want on Thursday, they want a good health care bill passed and that we'll go on to the Senate. Those are the things that they're concerned with. Donald Trump knows that and that's exactly who he is answering to right now.
CABRERA: Kurt what will you be listening for on Monday?
BARDELLA: Well again if there's any actual semblance of proof that backs up anything that the White House and the President have asserted. Again, at the end of the day, there's not always two sides to every story. Sometimes there is just fact and just truth. And this is one of those times. And to have the President who as you noted earlier could have put this thing to bed the minute that he said it by providing the evidence, providing the facts, getting information from within his own administration and the federal government, which he is a commander-in-chief of, this thing should be over by now.
And the fact that they're drawing it out, they've basically sent the entire government on a circus witch-hunt to try to find evidence to back up this ridiculous assertion, there is no evidence. That's what you're going to hear on Monday and it's incumbent upon the President to come out and admit when he is wrong.
CABRERA: How do you prove a negative? I mean, we find ourselves asking that question so often. Let's talk about health care. Because again a huge week and on Thursday we could see a vote on the House floor. Listen to what the President said just yesterday about bringing some of the no-ers if that's even a word, I think I just made it up, on board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We just have a, a really wonderful group of people meeting later. We met with 12, pretty much nos in Congress. You saw that a little while ago and they went from all nos to all yes's. And we have a lot of yes's coming in. It's all coming together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:10:08] CABRERA: So he was referencing his meetings with the Republican Study Committee. A group of conservatives but the crucial group we're hearing is the freedom caucus.
Alice, is he doing enough to bring over some of those conservatives on the Freedom Caucus in order to pass this?
STEWART: Ana, this is the real work that's going on this week and the last several weeks in Washington that people are concerned with. A lot of those as you call them no-ers are becoming yes-ers I guess we could call them.
STEWART: He has been meeting behind the scenes with Freedom Caucus member who have grave concerns about the Paul Ryan bill that's been put out there on the table. They're concerned about the cost of it. They're concerned certainly about the people that will be thrown off of health care. And they want to see the Medicaid expansion end sooner rather than later. The good thing is we have Mike Pence in there rolling up his sleeves, working on the sausage making of making a bill that will work and Donald Trump as well.
I know for a fact, my former boss, Ted Cruz has had many meetings and conversations with the President and Mark Meadows with the Freedom Caucus, they are doing the hard work that people sent them to Washington for to get a bill that will pass the muster. Not just in the House, but also in the Senate. Because they've campaigned the last four elections on repealing and replacing ObamaCare and that is exactly what they're working really hard to get done.
CABRERA: Kurt, I'm wondering about the political calculus in all of this, who stands to lose the most politically if this legislation doesn't pass?
BARDELLA: Well, I think Speaker Ryan has been set up already as the fall guy. The fact that the President doesn't want this to be called Trump care, he calls it Ryan care. You know, the entire process, if they don't end up having votes or something crazy happens on the floor. They end up pulling the bill. This falls on the lap of the Speaker, and that's kind of the way that the Trump White House wanted it. There's a reason why they don't want their name branded on it. Someone who is obsessed with putting his name on things wants nothing to do with this in a vocabulary. That tells you a lot.
And at the end of the day, the Speaker really does have the most to lose, because if this doesn't work, it's his majority that's really being jeopardized right now. And that he's asking these members to really do the same thing that Nancy Pelosi asked Democrats to do back when they ran through ObamaCare. And it cost them ultimately the majority. A lot of these members have to weigh the calculus is doing this, this bill that right now is excessively expensive. Doesn't guarantee care for millions of Americans, is it really worth falling on your sword, potentially losing your career and your job to pass something you don't have 100 percent confidence in?
CABRERA: All right. Kurt Bardella and Alice Stewart, thank you for coming on. Good to see you.
STEWART: Thanks, Ana.
BARDELLA: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, FBI Director James Comey set to update Congress on the investigation into Russia's election meddling. Reaction from Russia, next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:17:00] CABRERA: On Monday, we expect to learn whether the FBI is actively investigating the Trump campaign and ties to Russia, as well as more on Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. FBI Director James Comey will testify before the House Intelligence Committee. This will be public. Now, the US intelligence community has already issued a report concluding that indeed Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a covert campaign to undermine faith in the U.S. election and to help Donald Trump get elected. Now the committee wants to know if the FBI is probing a connection between Trump and Russian officials.
CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Moscow covering the Russian reaction to all of this. Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the official Kremlin position ahead of Monday's testimony is they won't even be watching, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying, look, we don't expect new details to come out of this. We're pretty busy doing other things and a colorful quote saying this series of allegations repeated again and again that Russia meddled in that 2016 electoral campaign is, quote, "like a broken record with a futuristic song."
They want to give the impression they don't see anything corresponding to their present-day reality in those allegations. But I'm sure there will be people inside the Kremlin watching those hearings intently for any causable granular detail delivered by James Comey or other officials, and we'll see if they choose to react to that directly. Let's step back and look at the broader picture here. If you believe the idea that the Kremlin was trying to interfere in the electoral process to perhaps assist Donald Trump, as many U.S. officials have alleged.
And they may not necessarily have got the outcome they wanted. If you think they were looking perhaps to get someone in the White House whose opinions may be closer aligned to those of Vladimir Putin or Russian policy. Remember Donald Trump conspicuous in his absence of the criticism of the Kremlin strong man in the electoral campaign. Well, they now in fact have a beltway torn up with intense scrutiny of Russia's links to the Trump administration that means any attempt to come up with a policy that may suit Russia's interests by that White House will be met with intense domestic criticism and scrutiny and the repeating of those accusations of collusion with Moscow. Certainly, if you believe that Russia simply wants to sow dissent
inside Washington, D.C., well, that objective definitely has occurred. But still, in the longer run here, perhaps some of the spotlights may help aggrandize their ability to be seen in sort of puppet martis (ph) behind the screen influencing events across the Atlantic. But in the longer run they may not actually see a friendlier approach from the United States towards Russia -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.
Coming up, a White House suggestion that the UK spied on President Trump during the election is creating a growing rift with America's closest allies and partners in the intelligence community. Could it impact critical intelligence sharing? That story is up next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:24:13] CABRERA: Here in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera. Now the UK is fighting back on claims that a British Intelligence Agency surveiled Trump Tower under the order of President Obama. The agency says these claims are, quote, "ridiculous, nonsense." The White House and President Trump have yet to offer an apology or even to offer evidence to back up the explosive charge.
CNN's Brian Todd reports how this incident is possibly unnerving the partnership of spies between America and its closest ally.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An accusation that is still bringing outrage from across the Atlantic. The White House Press Secretary reciting a claim from a FOX News analyst that former President Obama got British intelligence to spy on Donald Trump.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice, he used GCHQ.
TODD: GCHQ, Britain's equivalent of the NSA, a super-secret eavesdropping agency with some of the world's best technology. According to the FOX analyst quoted by Sean Spicer, using the GCHQ to spy on Donald Trump would have given President Obama plausible deniability.
SPICER: He's able to get it and there's no American fingerprints on this.
TODD: The British are furious, calling the comments ridiculous. The head intelligence overseer in Britain's parliament saying, longstanding agreements between the five eyes countries means they cannot ask each other to target each other's citizens, what are the five eyes countries?
JAMES BAMFORD, AUTHOR, "BODY OF SECRETS": Five eyes is basically one organization they share everything, they collect help each other collect information.
TODD: Five eyes, the intelligence agencies of English speaking allies, the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Experts say after working so well together to defeat Germany and Japan in World War II, those nations formally established five eyes right after the war to spy on the Soviet Union. Experts say they meet at least once a year. And from human intelligence, to wiretapping. To hacking. It's the most effective intelligence-sharing alliance in the world.
BAMFORD: Basically, GCHQ and the NSA are closer than the NSA and CIA. And what they've done is they've divided the world up into spheres of interest. So that Britain for example can collect against Europe or Russia a lot better than the United States can. So this is their area of focus. The U.S. can eavesdrop on South America or, to some degree a lot of the Pacific area.
TODD: The brotherly ties between British and American Intelligence Agencies often immortalized on the big screen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must be James Bond.
TODD: When James Bond met up with his CIA counterpart Felix Leiter.
JAMES BOND, ACTOR: See, that's what I like about US intelligence. You'll lie down with anybody.
FELIX LEITER: Including you, brother. Including you.
TODD: Now intelligence analysts fear the fallout from the White House citing an unproven accusation.
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: What the UK has that we don't is listening sites. Closer to the Middle East. They have a listening site for instance in Cyprus, which is absolutely crucial to our collection. If they close that down or they strut it off the information, it will risk American lives.
TODD: Other experts say that may not happen because then the British wouldn't get access to U.S. Intelligence which they depend on as much as the Americans depend on the British. What may happen analysts say is that the British and other five eyes partners may get increasingly nervous about sharing some intelligence with the Trump administration. Not knowing if it would be talked about in the open or how it would be used. And as a result some intelligence may be held back from the Americans.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
CABRERA: Coming up live here in the CNN Newsroom. If you want an answer to any question about constitutional law, you turn to the man.
Alan Dershowitz, he joins me live to explain why he's arguing that the same travel bans the courts are proposing right now would be upheld likely if President Obama had proposed it. Will this ban ultimately be upheld according to America's preeminent constitutional scholar? I'll ask Alan Dershowitz, next.
[17:32:12] CABRERA: New developments in the president's latest travel ban. The Justice Department just last night filing a motion saying it will appeal a federal judge's ruling that blocks a key part of the ban, the portion that bars people from six majority Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S. In his decision, the judge pointed to several statements President Trump made about Muslims while on the campaign trail. He also wrote this, quote, "The history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the second executive order remains the realization of the long- envisioned Muslim ban."
President Trump spoke at a rally the night that ban was blocked and mentioned one specific lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even liberal Democratic lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, good lawyer, just said that we would win this case before the Supreme Court of the United States.
TRUMP: Remember this, I wasn't thrilled, but the lawyers all said, oh, let's tailor it. This is a watered-down version of the first one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That good lawyer joins me now. Alan Dershowitz has been called one of the most distinguished defenders of individual rights. He's currently a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School.
Professor, good to have you with us.
How do you feel about President Trump name-dropping?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY & PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well he's right, I do think that the Supreme Court will uphold this ban. There is nothing wrong with picking six countries. They were the same six countries picked by Barack Obama for a related reason. Certainly, any list would have to include Iran, the greatest purveyor of terrorism in the world. Iran has the blood of many Americans on its hands. To have eliminated Iran from the list would be absurd. To eliminate Somalia to eliminate Yemen, these are all countries that have terrorist organizations within them and no vetting process for stopping people from coming to this country. So the list --
CABRERA: What about the problem with the first ban, the fact that he named these specific countries, but there was no proof that those people in those countries specifically had committed terrorist acts here in America?
DERSHOWITZ: No, the president doesn't have to prove that. And the first ban I think would have been upheld, but for the fact it had a religious exclusion in it, which was taken out of the second ban.
What I think both courts did here, lower courts that had stayed the ban, is instead of constitutional analysis, they applied psychoanalysis. They're looking into the heart and soul of the president. And they're basically saying this guy doesn't like Muslims, now Obama, he looked Muslims. And so if he had issued the very same order, it would be constitutional. But if Trump issues the very same order, it's unconstitutional. That's just not the way our law operates. The law is the law. You look to the word of the regulation. There are some exceptions in the legislative history, but I've never heard of a case where campaign rhetoric, by a candidate, is deemed to be dispositive of the purpose of the law and the law is struck down as unconstitutional, not because of what the law says, but because of what the president thinks.
DERSHOWITZ: It just doesn't make sense.
[17:35:33] CABRERA: These judges are in their positions to uphold the law, as you point out. And we have two separate judges and two separate courts who have said that they believe that this part of the law, that bans people from these six Muslim-majority countries from coming into the U.S. is unconstitutional. Does it surprise you that there are two judges who have that ruling?
DERSHOWITZ: No. It's two out of hundreds. Probably, the vast majority of judges today would uphold the law. And I think the Supreme Court will. And I also think the fourth circuit very well might.
The Justice Department was smart. They appealed, the Maryland decision, not the California decision, in order to try to get the case to the fourth circuit before it gets to the ninth circuit. If the fourth circuit upholds the ban and there's a 4-4 split in the Supreme Court, then the lower court decision is affirmed. So it's good lawyering to bring the case from the Maryland court, rather than the California court. But ultimately, if it gets to Supreme Court, I don't think it's going to be 4-4. I think it will be a fairly lopsided majority, in favor of upholding at least the major provisions of the law. There's a long history of limiting people who come from particular countries that are deemed dangerous. I just don't think you can find this to be a Muslim ban. If it were a Muslim ban, it would apply to Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. It is a ban that is designed to prevent Islamic extremist terrorists. And of course, they're going to come from Muslim countries. That's where Islamic extremism comes from.
It reminds me of the bank robber, Willie Sutton. They asked him, why do you rob banks? He says, "That's where the money is." Why do you pick these countries? That's where Islamic radical terrorism comes from and where there's no vetting process. It's a perfectly rational decision and I think it will be upheld by the Supreme Court.
CABRERA: I hear you say it's the vetting piece that could be critical here, too.
So when you talk about the Supreme Court, that moves me along to what we're also watching this week with nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, set to begin hearings on Monday. Does the likelihood that the travel ban makes it to the Supreme Court raise the stakes of his confirmation?
DESHOWITZ: Sure, they're going to ask him about it, obviously. The Democrats may try to delay his nomination. It's inevitable he'll be confirmed. He's very distinguished and has an excellent record. He'll be confirmed.
The question is not whether, but when. And if they can delay it long enough, so that the case comes to the Supreme Court when there's only eight justices, at least some Democrats will probably favor that. I don't think it's going to happen. I think the nomination will go through. I think he'll probably sit on the case. He's going to be asked about it and he'll probably say, look, I can't comment on a pending case, I may have to decide this case, I don't want have to recuse myself.
CABRERA: Let me ask you about the wiretapping claims from President Trump that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. He has not backed down. In fact, he's only doubled down, despite there being zero evidence, zero proof of those claims. Could President Obama have grounds for a libel case?
DERSHOWITZ: Sure, in theory, he would. No president is ever going to bring a libel case. I would certainly advise against it. President Obama does not want to be deposed for day after day. By filing the suit, he would waive all kinds of privileges. So I will guarantee you with one 1,000 percent certainty that President Obama will not bring a defamation suit. Though he would certainly have the right to do so. He would have to prove that President Trump said something that was defamatory and false, but kind of knowingly or recklessly false, because he's a public figure. So it's fun to speculate about, but it's not going to happen.
CABRERA: If you were advising Mr. Trump, President Trump, on this his reaction or response moving forward. what would you tell him to do?
DERSHOWITZ: Interestingly, I would say, isn't it ironic that all the liberals are now saying you can trust the National Security Agency, when they tell us there's no wiretapping? Years ago, it was the liberals saying, oh, my god, you can't trust those guys, of course, they're wiretapping everybody. But it just shows partisan politics has become so extreme that liberals give up their liberal perspective, conservatives give up their conservative perspectives, and everybody wants to choose a side, and whatever side you choose, you're going to come down and say whatever helps your side. It's a tragedy how dialogue has suffered in this country.
[17:40:09] CABRERA: I think we might have lost you at the end, but I think you got most of your statement. I think the bottom line is the facts matter. It doesn't matter which side of the aisle you're on.
DERSHOWITZ: That's right.
CABRERA: It's about following the facts and sticking to the truth and finding the truth. That's what the hearing, we hope, on Monday gets to.
Alan Dershowitz, thank you so much for joining us.
DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.
CABRERA: Still to come, President Trump's budget plan calls for deep cuts to the State Department and the EPA. Next, our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, breaks down what's on the chopping block.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:47:22] CABRERA: Could you design President Trump's border wall. Customs and Border Protection has posted a notice for contractors. The requirements? The wall must be tall, impossible to climb, and difficult to penetrate, all while blending into the landscape.
The notice brings what's been a sore issue for some Hispanics back into the spotlight. But the White House is trying to reach out. The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was invited to Pennsylvania Avenue for meetings on Thursday. The topics ranging from immigration to health care to trade.
And Ammar Campa-Najjar is a member of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was at those meetings.
Good to have you with us.
AMMAR CAMPA-NAJJAR, MEMBER, HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATON OFFICIAL: Thanks for having me.
CABRERA: You're a former Obama administration official.
Ammar, it's my understanding that the president wasn't at these meetings. But you have met with Mr. Trump before. I believe we have a picture of that.
CAMPA-NAJJAR: That's right.
CABRERA: Who all did you meet with on Thursday?
CAMPA-NAJJAR: That's right. So at the request of the White House, Javier Palomarez, the president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, invited about 20 Hispanic business owners for multiple meetings, one with Reince Priebus and one with Ivanka Trump. For my part, I believe the meetings were constructive. I didn't go in there as a Democrat or a former White House official. I went there as an American who was concerned. And we had a robust conversation. And I think it was heartening to many of our members to see that Ivanka Trump and Reince Priebus, two people who have the president's ear, were listening to us. And I hope that our conversations will go to inform the president and his agenda.
By the way, his 100 days are coming up. And I know that he has to have a lot of wins, he wants to have a lot of wins soon. So I think building a broader coalition is a smart strategy because it's going to be an uphill battle on issues like health care and immigration and now the travel ban.
CABRERA: You talk bur optimism after those meetings. On what specific issues did you feel there may have been some progress made?
CAMPA-NAJJAR: We talked about a whole range of issues on deregulation, on tax reform. On health care reform. On immigration reform. And every single American in this country believes that we need a better government. That is in touch with the 21st century needs of our business owners, of Americans, we all agree that we need reforms. The point of contention is that on the details, on the solutions, but I think convening dialogues like those, like the ones we had on Thursday is a way we could pave a path towards a unified future we did talk about some points of contention, that's what America is all about. You know what, we were at the table. And if you're not at the table, you're on the menu. I'm glad to see that we had a voice this time.
CABRERA: That's interesting to put it in that perspective.
Now Democratic lawmakers also had a meeting with the Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly yesterday. Their report coming out of that meeting was that Kelly, at times, was dismissive of their questions, that they were left with even more questions than answers. Does that concern you?
[17:50:10] CAMPA-NAJJAR: Of course, that concerns me, but I think the American people really want to see us want to explore opportunities to unite and not divide. There are a number of politicians in the town who are caring more about the political live l livelihoods than that of the American people. Even though it is a failed slogan, I believe that that he we are stronger together at the end of the day, and we should operate on that. And what I saw in that meeting Thursday is that all of us were working as Americans on the very contentious issues going on for decades, and we are trying to get our arms around it.
CABRERA: For the voice of those who are fearful right now about being deported, because their families have members who are in the U.S. And are undocumented immigrants, did you feel like t the issues concerning them were discussed and heard?
CAMPA-NAJJAR: Well, you know, I think that the first conversation serves as a benchmark for future conversations, and the future administration is hearing. And when we hear that DACA is being preserved that is good. So we have heard that it is preserved for the time being. I'm a Hispanic, and Arab American and my dad was a Muslim immigrant who came to the country after his parents were killed at age 11, so I am than thankful that that we are a welcoming nation, and I am my father here and I am here today talking to you, because of that, but we have struggles. The defining issue of our time is really balancing the civil rights concern on one hand and the national security interests on the other of the I scales of justice and we have to have a mindful discussion about that, and we can't have a partisan view on these issues.
CABRERA: Given your background, what do you feel about the travel ban that the president has proposed?
CAMPA-NAJJAR: I am concerned about a myriad of issues surrounding it, and like I said, my father came here to this country fleeing a Muslim country and seek refuge and thank god, this country accepted him, but I went to an Islamic school in San Diego that was a mosque and three men who were given the same visas of my father and they were three of the 19 hijackers who killed 3,000 innocent civilians and buried my American dream beneath the rubble of two towers and made it impossible to be an Arab or Muslim in the country. And the truth is that there are three countries on the ban that are failed states and run over by terrorists, one that is a state sponsor of terrorist, and two that are safe havens of the terrorists. I am not in favor of calling it a Muslim bank, because they could come here to this country freely. But when James Clapper says that we have concerns about the vetting process, and when you have a lot of the concerns coming from those countries, and I know that people say that those six countries, and no terrorists have come to this country on American soil and enacted any terror, and this is true, before 9/11, before those hijackers came here to kill 3,000, and that is not a good predictor. What is a good predictor or the is the people like Baghdadi saying that he wants to do what those terrorists did. And the first predictor is those people fleeing the country, because we don't want bad actor, because that is what they are fleeing in first place. And every Muslim should be concerned about the terrorism in this country, but it was a terrible time for us after 9/11.
CABRERA: Yes, indeed.
Ammar Campa-Najjar, thank you so much for sharing your perspective.
CAMPA-NAJJAR: Thank you so much.
CABRERA: We will be back. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:58:11] CABRERA: Just into CNN from overseas, important details from the deadly airport incident near Paris. This man was shot and killed today after the police say that he tried to grab a French soldier's weapon inside the terminal at the Orly Airport. Other soldiers killed the man who prosecutors now say was making statements that he was at the airport to, quote, die for Allah." French officials also identified the attacked, calling him radicalized. They say that he was already on police radar for other crimes in Paris. The shootings shutdown the airport for several hours, halted flights at Orly. But things are now getting back to normal. And now I want to introduce you to the very first "CNN Hero" of 2017.
She lost her 8-year-old son to leukemia, but Leslie Morrisette transformed her heartbreak into action. She's using 21st century technology to help kids, who are battling life-threatening illnesses, connect to their everyday lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLIE MORRISETTE, CNN HERO: It's really difficult for kids to spend a lot of time in the hospital. They get so disconnected from their family and friends and schools. And when we bring them this technology, we're able to dial in and be right in the classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, Phillip.
CHILDREN: Hello, Phillip.
MORRISETTE: You can just see their face light right up? It brings them such joy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That is so great to see.
To see the Philbot in action -- the name of this robot -- and watch Leslie's full story, go to CNNheroes.com. While you're there, we'd love to you if you have somebody who you think deserves to be a "CNN Hero," please nominate them. That's CNNheroes.com.
Thank you for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I'll be back here at 7:00 p.m. eastern.
FBI Director James Comey is set to testify on the Hill Monday. And one hour from now, a member of the House Intelligence Committee will join me live to discuss.
Stay with us. "SMERCONISH" is next.