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Ivanka Trump's White House Job Raises Ethical Questions;M elania Trump Makes Rare Public Appearances; Secretary of State Tillerson Meets With Turkish President; Holdout Could Derail Trump University Payout. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 30, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Ivanka Trump has a new White House role. She is an unpaid adviser to the president and, of course, that is raising some ethical questions and how she will resolve her potential conflicts of interest.

So let's debate this. We have CNN contributor and former White House ethics czar, Norm Eisen. And, CNN political commentator and former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller. Gentlemen, great to have both of us.


CAMEROTA: Norm, let me start with you. You were so concerned about what Ivanka's role could be in the White House that on Friday you sent a letter to the current White House counsel expressing your concerns. What were you worried about?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning, Alisyn and John. Thanks for having me. I was concerned that like so much else that President Trump and his administration do, that Ivanka Trump was saying she was not a government employee when, in fact, according to the law she was a government employee. And that matters, Alisyn, because --

CAMEROTA: Why? What's the difference?

EISEN: -- if you're not a government employee then you don't have to follow the conflicts rules and the other laws. But ours is a country where no person, not even the child of a president, is above the law. So I joined colleagues, bipartisan -- the Bush era ethics czar, Professor Painter, Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 and other watchdog groups -- my own crew, a watchdog group. We all joined together to tell the White House counsel, hey, she -- if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. She's an employee, treat her as one, by gum, they did it.

CAMEROTA: There you go, very effective.

EISEN: So more power -- more power. There's so much more to do --

CAMEROTA: There you go.

EISEN: -- all the way to Mr. Trump, himself. He's got to now admit that he's also subject to the Constitution which, of course, he refuses to do.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Jason Miller, the White House says this -- the nepotism laws don't apply here because she's working in the White House. Their own Department of Justice agrees with that. Norman Eisen isn't so sure. The law is a little bit murky on this case. But there are those who know whatever the law says -- let me put it to you this way. You worked for Ted Cruz at one point, Jason Miller. Would Ivanka Trump be getting this type of role, assistant to the president which is unparalleled with the chief of staff, in a Ted Cruz administration?

MILLER: Ivanka Trump is highly qualified to be in any administration and how lucky are we as a country that we have someone who's a successful businesswoman who started a company from scratch and took it to be worth more than a couple of hundred million dollars to come into an administration and work for free? I think that's a great asset to the country. She brings a great worldview and a point of view, whether it's on family leave or on climate change, and give different perspectives in this White House.

And I think there's a couple of important things to point out --

BERMAN: But she's getting hired -- is she hired for that or is she getting hired because she's the president's daughter and he trusts her as such?

MILLER: She's being brought in because she's a very successful businesswoman. She's worked with the president closely over the past decade. You know, this is a very unique situation in the fact that the president has adult children who are very smart and very successful. Children that are older than we've seen the children in previous administrations.

And I think there's another important thing to point out is the fact that Ivanka started this process of working with the Office of Government Ethics and the White House counsel in starting to move her assets and step away from her business and put it in a trust, and also sell off different things. Started this process when it became clear that her husband, Jared, was going to go into the administration. So she's been taking these steps for a long time and I think it was good that she stepped up --


MILLER: -- and made sure that it was very clear that she was going to abide by the exact same rules that any other employee was going to. And --

CAMEROTA: OK, so let me get Norman in here because I want to touch on that. Norm, is that as how you understand it, that she will not have any outside business interests, not make money -- nothing lucrative happening while she's in the White House?

EISEN: Alisyn, that's not quite right. Like her father, she's insisting on the right to maintain ownership of her businesses. So as a -- it is true she -- MILLER: But she won't be making any decisions.

EISEN: She's handing off management but she's maintaining ownership of the business, so she has a financial interest which raises interest about -- raises questions about conflicts. And while the question of whether or not this nepotism -- Mr. Kushner on one side of the throne, Ivanka Trump on the other, with their father and father-in-law, respectively, sitting in the middle. While it may or may not be allowed by federal anti-nepotism law, again, many bipartisan experts, myself included, say it's not allowed. There's an argument about that.

But is it a good idea? Do we really want a country that is run like a monarchy, where you have throne flanked by family members? Or do we want to see --

MILLER: Alisyn, I've got to jump in here.

BERMAN: Go ahead, Jason.

EISEN: Do we want people in the Oval Office who was -- whose first loyalty will be to the country, not to the man --

[07:35:00] CAMEROTA: OK.

EISEN: -- sitting behind the desk?

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Jason.

MILLER: All right, let me jump in. One of the things -- and again, Ivanka's moving everything to a trust that will be managed by others or selling off different assets, and so she won't have any day-to-day involvement with her business. One of the important things to point out here, as well, is that Ivanka is working with Jamie Gorelick, who's the former deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration, someone who Norm has, himself, even praised in the past. And Jamie will review all business deals that happen with Ivanka's business to make sure that no conflict of issues, complications --

BERMAN: But she works -- but she works for Ivanka, she doesn't work for America.

MILLER: But she's --

BERMAN: There's a big difference.

MILLER: She's a highly --

BERMAN: She's a very respected lawyer --

MILLER: -- respected lawyer.

BERMAN: -- who works for and is paid by Ivanka Trump, which isn't the United States of America. MILLER: But John, I think we're missing the broader point that if this were a President Clinton or if this were anybody else -- if this were a Democratic president, people -- we would be heralding. We would say how great is this that we have such a highly successful businesswoman who's coming in to work for free to help our country?

CAMEROTA: You think --

EISEN: Well, you get -- absolutely.


EISEN: Gentlemen, you get what you pay for.

CAMEROTA: Hold on.

EISEN: You get what you pay for.

CAMEROTA: Norm, hold on. Jason, you think --

MILLER: Oh Norm, that's silly. Come on, come on.

CAMEROTA: -- that if Chelsea Clinton were installed at the side of her mom that everybody would be applauding and Republicans would think that was a brilliant idea? Of course, people would call it nepotism.

MILLER: I don't think it would be a story in the media, no.

BERMAN: Chelsea Clinton -- everything Chelsea Clinton does now when she has no parents who are in the White House is a giant story and people claim privilege with that, Jason. So --

MILLER: And Chelsea, who has accomplished law in her own right, but again, we're talking about Ivanka. Someone who took a business -- started a business from scratch.


MILLER: It's worth more than a couple of hundred million now. Very successful.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Jason --

MILLER: We need more brainpower like that in the White House.

CAMEROTA: The one part I don't understand is how is this not nepotism?

MILLER: Well, I mean, how is it nepotism?

CAMEROTA: Well, she's the daughter --

MILLER: The fact that she's come in --

CAMEROTA: -- of the president. That's how it's nepotism.

MILLER: No, because she's working for free. She's volunteering her time and her effort --


MILLER: -- for the good of the country.

CAMEROTA: So because she's not collecting a salary it doesn't -- it skirts nepotism laws.

MILLER: No, and she's a -- right, and everybody from the White House counsel to the DOJ has said that this doesn't violate any sort of nepotism rules. And we should be -- and again, we should be heralding the fact that --

CAMEROTA: OK, except Norm. Hold on, hold on. So go ahead, answer that, Norm.

EISEN: Well, for decades, DOJ and the White House, both in the Obama White House where I worked -- I enforced this rule and the Bush White House held at that anti-nepotism law did apply to the White House. The better reading of the law, I believe, is that it does apply but you can't -- whether the law applies or not, it's not a good idea to have these two kids who have no government -- Jared and Ivanka have no government experience whatsoever --

MILLER: But that's good. I mean, look what the -- look what the political professionals have done.

EISEN: -- being involved in -- Jason --

MILLER: They screwed it up.

EISEN: -- you can't say -- you can't say it's good because this White House has been a mess with Jared at the helm. Let me say -- look, these two are reported -- let me finish. These two are reported to have been Democrats or Democratic-leaning in the past so I, like everybody, would prefer to have them rather than Mr. Bannon involved in decisions.

BERMAN: Let me ask -- let me follow up on that, Norm. First of all, both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are in their thirties. You know, we have members of Congress who are that age. Referring to them as kids, you know, they are the children of Donald Trump but kids may be, you know, unfair in that case. But, Jason Miller, to Norm's last point, you know, you've been on the inside here. Are they more liberal than the other members of the Trump administration -- people on the inside? Do you think they will temper, politically, other folks inside this administration, Jason?

MILLER: So, excellent question. It gives me the opportunity to talk about my experience with the president. I worked for him for about eight months or so. Look, President Trump does with his leadership style -- and we saw this at the Trump Organization and we saw this in the campaign and we're seeing it now in the White House -- is the president puts together a big diverse group and he likes to get a number of different ideas. And he'll ping a number of people both inside the White House and out to get different perspectives and thoughts and things. And so, he will take all the information --

BERMAN: All they more liberal than Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus?

MILLER: Well, they certainly have their own positions. I wouldn't go and try to pin it in an ideological sense. I would say that they bring a business perspective, a non-politician perspective. And again, I'm surprised that we're not talking right now about how great it is we have another influence in the White House talking about issues like family leave and maternity leave and things like that, which is great.

CAMEROTA: We have already seen it, yes.

MILLER: And the other thing with Ivanka --

CAMEROTA: Her influence on that.

MILLER: -- we're talking women in the workplace.


MILLER: I mean, this is fantastic. We should be heralding that we have someone this senior coming into the White House who's going to help out and elevate these issues. Ivanka's a great asset to this White House.

EISEN: Jason --

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Norm, that's it. Jason, you've made your point. Norm, you have as well. Thank you very much for the debate.

BERMAN: It's fascinating to listen to. All right, a new law. A new law on the president's desk would let internet providers sell your search history. Should that kind of stuff be kept private? You have an interesting search history.


BERMAN: We'll explain how you can protect yourself. That's next.

CAMEROTA: Have you hacked me?


[07:43:40] CAMEROTA: First lady Melania Trump stepping out to the spotlight to talk about female empowerment and world violence. This is the first time that we've heard from her in more than a months. CNN's Randi Kaye hasmore.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was first lady Melania Trump's first visit to the State Department, her first visit to any cabinet department. More than two months into her husband's term, Mrs. Trump is still keeping a low profile. Until Wednesday, the last time she spoke before a television camera was February 18th at a thank-you rally in Florida with her husband.

M. TRUMP: Thank you.

KAYE: Here at the State Department she took part in the International Women of Courage awards.

M. TRUMP: These honorees who have fought on the frontlines against injustice are true heroes.

KAYE: The first lady is still living in New York City at Trump Tower with the couple's young son, Barron, at least until he finishes the school year. Her arrival in Washington this week considered such a rare event that "The Washington Post" likened it to a rare bird sighting.

M. TRUMP: I urge you do not be afraid to fail. A failure will never have the power to define you as long as you learn from it.

[07:45:00] KAYE: It seems the first lady is taking steps to define her platform, highlighting education and women's empowerment at this event. Impeccably dressed, she presented awards to women and girls from around the world, honored for their courage, strength, and leadership.

M. TRUMP: I ask you to allow the chance exemplified by these heroic women to inspire you in your own lives and to remind yourself that you, too, are capable of greatness.

KAYE: It has been an unusually active week in Washingtonfor the first lady. On Monday, she announced her new communications director. And on Tuesday night, she and the president hosted a bipartisan reception for senators and their spouses at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Enjoy these incredible musicians. They are really something special. And Melania, thank you very much.

KAYE: Melania Trump hadn't been in Washington since earlier this month when she hosted a luncheon to celebrate International Women's Day, but there isn't any video of her speech since the press was escorted from the room as she took the podium.

M. TRUMP: Hello, how are you?

KAYE: Before that, Melania Trump appeared in New York City on March 2nd, reading to children at New York's Presbyterian Hospital from a book, she told the kids, was one of her favorites, Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

M. TRUMP: You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

KAYE: Last weekend, Melania Trump flew to the couple's winter White House while her husband stayed behind in Washington. She attended a fundraiser in Florida for the Republican Party. And next month she's expected to host the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn. Randi Kaye, CNN New York.


BERMAN: You know, Kate Bennett, our White House reporter who follows Ivanka Trump -- not Ivanka Trump, Melania -- very, very closely says we will see more and more of her over the coming months, so it will be interesting.

CAMEROTA: Well, the public would like that. I mean, she has high approval ratings -- higher than the president.

BERMAN: The president noted something close. He didn't say his weren't high but he noted how high hers were yesterday.

All right, growing outrage this morning over the repeal of internet privacy protections that were set to go into effect later this year. Republican lawmakers voted to get rid of the rules. The decision to gut those safeguards, it now sits on the president's desk. Chief business correspondence and star of "EARLY START," Christine Romans in our Money Center. Christine, why do privacy experts want to keep these rules?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, they say it's an attack on freedom and it puts your personal information up for sale -- this repeal. What's remarkable is we're seeing pushback across the spectrum, John, from "The New York Times" editorial pages to commenters on "Breitbart."

The rules would enforce internet service providers to get your permission before collecting your data and notify you of what they are collecting. Like your browsing history, your app usage, even your location. It is the first real attempt at giving consumers some control over their own information in a generation. Now, the rules were passed in the final days of the Obama administration and President Trump is on board with repealing them. The White House calls it unneeded and not business-friendly.

So, what could you do if you're worried about your privacy? Well, switching to a private browsing mode or using other privacy tools online will not keep your information private. Many are turning to a tool called the virtual private network, or VPN. That will protect your online activity from everyone, including internet providers, but do your research. Some reserve the right to sell your information, too. The other option is privacy software called Tor. It makes your online activity anonymous, meaning it can be collected but not associated necessarily with you, John.

BERMAN: I have nothing to hide in my search history, as far as you know.

ROMANS: I'm sure you don't.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thanks so much. All right, the president's legal headaches over Trump University not over. A single mother fighting the settlement. She wants to face him in court but will a judge agree? We'll have her story, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:20] BERMAN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting with the president of Turkey at this hour. The war on ISIS dominating these talks with this key NATO ally. CNN's Elise Labott live in Ankara, Turkey with more. Elise, what's going on?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Sec. Tillerson holding lunch with the foreign minister right now -- just wrapped up two hours with President Erdogan. A very difficult set of issues for them to discuss. The main thing is that he's here to deliver a very unhappy message for the Turks, which is that the U.S. is ready to cooperate with the Kurds, which are the Turks sworn enemy and who they view as terrorists, in the push against Raqqa in Syria. They know that's not something that the Turks want to hear but they're saying these Kurds are the best fighters, the best chance to go against ISIS, and that's really the message he'll be delivering today.

And President Erdogan -- that's not something he wants to hear at all but it's -- right now it's very difficult for him because he's facing a referendum which would extend his rule and give him a lot of extra powers in the next couple of weeks so he doesn't want to make any concessions to the U.S. right now. The U.S. has been very antimately (ph)opposed to this referendum, so have the European allies. But notably, Sec. Tillerson is expected to kind of sidestep this issue -- not do anything to rock the boat. He, notably, won't be meeting with any members of the opposition here in Ankara.

And he's also expected to face some pressure from President Erdogan to extradite that cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey believes was responsible for that failed coup attempt last year. So, a lot of landmines that Sec. Tillerson is trying to walk through while he really just tries to secure this critical Turkish cooperation in the fight against ISIS. As you know, the operation against ISIS -- the coalition airstrikes are coming out of Turkish bases and the Kurds -- the Turks are threatening to go against the Turks on the border. So a lot of issues he's here to address -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, yes. Secretary Tillerson has a lot on his plate. Elise, thank you for all of that reporting live from Turkey for us.

Back here at home Trump University is back in the spotlight. You may remember back in January, then-president-elect Donald Trump agreed to settle three fraud lawsuits for $25 million. Well, today, a judge -- the very same judge who Mr. Trump attacked over his Mexican heritage -- will consider a motion that could put that settlement in jeopardy. One former student wants to face the president in court. CNN's Drew Griffin spoke with her.

DREW GRIFFIN,CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Alisyn, Sherri Simpson could do nothing and get at least half her money back in this settlement, but that's not enough. She wants all of it and most of all, she wants to see the president in court.

[07:55:10] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GRIFFIN: It's all Sherri Simpson has left of what she first thought would be her ticket to financial freedom. She says when she plopped down her money -- $20,000 back in 2010 -- she really believed signing up for Donald Trump's real estate school would lead to a wealthy future.

D. TRUMP: Success, it's going to happen to you.

SHERRI SIMPSON, FORMER TRUMP UNIVERSITY STUDENT: He promised us that he handpicked all of his mentors and teachers and that they were all trained with his system.

GRIFFIN: Simpson says she quickly found out it was all a charade. She's filed a motion with the San Diego Federal Court asking she be allowed to opt out of the national Trump University settlement. She wants the ability, she says, to sue Donald Trump one-on-one. If the judge agrees, the entire settlement agreement could be tossed out.

Why not take that money and run instead of facing a possible elongated and, I assume, very costly federal lawsuit?

SIMPSON: And possibly very nasty, given his history with this case.

GRIFFIN: Well, it will be nasty, of course.

SIMPSON: I think what he did to me and what he did to everybody else was really fraudulent and I'd really like to take him to trial. I'd like to hold him accountable for what he did.

GRIFFIN: Simpson is a registered Democrat. During the campaign she even recorded an anti-Trump commercial for an outside group trying to defeat Donald Trump.

SIMPSON: America, do not make the same mistake that I did with Donald Trump.

GRIFFIN: And while she described herself in that commercial as just a single mom, Sherri Simpson is also an attorney -- an attorney who specializes in real estate foreclosures, bankruptcies. She's had her law license placed on probation and has, herself, filed for bankruptcy twice.

Let me ask you a tough question for an attorney who deals with bankruptcies and foreclosures. How could you be so gullible and how could you be so -- I'm sorry, but at the time, dumb, to fall for this sales pitch?

SIMPSON: Can I ask you a question back? It looks like the whole country has done the same thing. He's a salesman. Donald Trump was the salesman. He was the one behind it. To the best of my knowledge, he was an extremely successful billionaire real estate mogul. I never suspected that it was a moneymaking scheme -- that there was no substance behind the smoke and mirrors. I really didn't.

GRIFFIN: You said in the beginning of this interview you aren't a political person. Are you still not a political person? SIMPSON: I'm still not a political person.

GRIFFIN: You seem like an anti-Trump person.

SIMPSON: Yes, except this didn't start when he was running for president. This didn't start when he was president. This started, for me, seven years ago.

GRIFFIN: Do you feel he got away with it?

SIMPSON: I do. I feel he got away with it.


GRIFFIN: So what does she want? She wants all the money back -- $20,000 with interest, plus three times that amount in damages. And, John and Alisyn, she wants something else. She wants an apology from Donald Trump, himself -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, that may be the hardest part of her demands.

BERMAN: Well, his next apology might be his first. I mean, if so, we will see. It could happen. Who knows?

CAMEROTA: What a fascinating profile there, thanks to Drew. So we're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The House is in a situation where the issues become overly politicized. We're going to have to rely on the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here to assure the American people we will get to the bottom of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a chairman more loyal to the White House than the investigation.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: How he conducts himself, when and where he shares things, are issues for him -- that's it.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, will be serving as assistant to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is an ethics crisis in the White House and it starts at the top with the president.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he isn't qualified, nobody is.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: This seat, for the first time in U.S. history, was stolen from one president and delivered to the next.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. Chris is off, John Berman joins me. We have a lot to talk about today.

BERMAN: Indeed, we do.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. So, all eyes on Capitol Hill today. In just two hours the Senate Intelligence Committee begins its first hearing on Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and the alleged ties to the Trump campaign. Committee members are promising to stay above the political fray that is plaguing the House investigation.

BERMAN: This, as the FBI Director James Comey -- he has spoken out publicly about the impact of this political partisanship on the Russia investigations. And also this morning, a new job for the first daughter, Ivanka Trump. She will take on the official title of assistant to the president. That actually is a very lofty title inside the White House and it's raising some new ethics questions. We have a lot to cover on day 70 of the Trump presidency. Let's start with CNN's Sara Murray, live at the White House. Good morning, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN: Good morning, John.