Return to Transcripts main page
President Trump's Travel Ban Back In the Ninth Circuit; Fears Global Cyberattack Will Spread; Will Comey Firing Trigger A Constitutional Crisis? Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired May 15, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- 38 North, the think tank says that this shows higher capability for North Korean missile than they have seen before. It traveled more than 700 miles in altitude and nearly 500 miles in distance landing in the waters just off Russia, which is home incidentally to the entire Russian Pacific fleet.
Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, speaking in Beijing at a major economic forum hosted by the Chinese President Xi Jinping. He is saying that these actions are clearly destabilizing, but he's putting some of the blame on the United States for intimidating North Korea with ongoing military exercises that are going between South Korea and U.S. forces who are stationed there.
Obviously this timing is a huge embarrassment for Chinese President Xi Jinping giving this major forum that he is hosting, but will he put pressure, economic pressure on North Korea as the Trump administration is insisting?
Also interesting, Alisyn, the timing of all of this given that it occurred as there is political turmoil in Washington. Kim Jong-Un testing this missile as the crisis deepens over the firing of the FBI director perhaps thinking that the U.S. is too distracted right now to do much about it.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Will Ripley, key facts, appreciate it very much.
Also this morning, a busy first day on the job for France's new president, Emmanuel Macron. At the top of his agenda, he has to pick a prime minister. He is also expected to travel to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Macron is France's youngest leader since Napoleon. He is just 39 years old. He was inaugurated on Sunday.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, "Saturday Night Live" and host, Melissa McCarthy, serving up a Sean Spicer tour de force in which Spicer first hid in the bushes and then took his podium for a spin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, as you know, Sean is fulfilling his duty as an officer in the naval reserve and that is why he cannot be here. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm pretty sure I can see him hiding in those bushes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are clearly articulate and charming whereas Sean is bullish --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I have to put your pants out because they are lying in there. Pants lying. Move. Move. You lie all the time and your pants catch on fire. Liar, liar, pants on fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Pants on fire. McCarthy Spicer attacked reporters saying that he might be getting the boot before confronting and getting a Godfather kiss of death from Alec Baldwin.
CUOMO: This was not a Godfather kiss.
CAMEROTA: No, it was not.
CUOMO: This was not (inaudible). This was a make-out session.
CAMEROTA: This was a deeply disturbing moment.
CUOMO: Marlon Brando would never do that. Actually, it was Michael who did, right?
CUOMO: To Fredo.
CAMEROTA: You know the SNL writers are just enjoying themselves.
CUOMO: They are and maybe a little too much. You guys were mean about Huckabee Sanders. You were fat shaming her. You were talking about how she looks and what she wears. I thought it was not funny.
CAMEROTA: I thought that they were making fun of her clothes.
CUOMO: They were making fun of her. I thought it was in poor taste, but that's me. What do you think? Tell Alisyn.
The president's halted travel ban is back under the microscope. Can the government pump new life into one the president's first executive orders by telling a federal appeals court, it is in fact constitutionally sound? That's the question. We have a good debate for you ahead.
CAMEROTA: In a few hours, the federal appeals court will decide whether to uphold the president's revised travel ban or to block on it. The Trump administration wants the Ninth Circuit to lift the block on the ban. It was issued by a federal judge in Hawaii. So let's discuss what's going to happen with Farhana Khera, she is president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, and Ben Ferguson, CNN political commentator and host of the "Ben Ferguson Show." Great to see both of you this morning.
Farhana, I know that you are hoping that the travel ban remains blocked. Why do you believe that is the way the Ninth Circuit will go?
FARHANA KHERA, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MUSLIM ADVOCATES: Very fundamentally, Alisyn. It's because it's a part of who we are as Americans and the courts who have been ruling on this issue understand that. What do I mean?
At the core of who we are as Americans, we don't treat each other differently based on how we look or pray. Those values are at the core of our Constitution, our Bill of Rights.
And there's now been two courts who have issued nationwide halts to the second executive order. Just last week, another judge actually in our case, also signaled her willingness to basically issue a temporary halt if these two other halts are overturned. The courts understand what is at stake and we are hoping the Ninth Circuit will continue to do the right thing.
CAMEROTA: Ben, how do you think it will go?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think reality is the Ninth Circuit is a pretty liberal circuit. The three judges on the panel that look at it were all appointed by Bill Clinton. I don't think that there is a really good chance that they somehow see the president's side of things based on the politics of this.
But you also look at the rewrite of this bill, and the reality is more than 1 billion Muslims around the world still have the ability and access to come to the United States of America.
So to imply that this is somehow a ban based on religion is not reality. If it was, then you wouldn't have over 1 billion people able to come to this country.
The second thing, the countries that this affects are countries which right now are very clearly countries where there is a hotbed of extremism and terrorism. That is the reason why this should go forward.
I hope the judges will look and take the politics out of it. The rhetoric out of it and look at this from a national security standpoint, which is exactly why the president has the authority to do this.
They need to not look at it from a political viewpoint, but look at it specifically from that aspect of can we vet people coming in where many of these countries don't even have a government that we're communicating with that's centralized to background check these individuals. [06:40:12]If you can't call a country and say who is this person and tell us the background. How do we know who they really are?
CAMEROTA: Farhana, what about that logic? Because obviously that is the logic. Ben has channeled it well that President Trump and his administration are using, which is there are 44 Muslim majority countries that are not included in this ban. This is not a Muslim ban.
KHERA: Well, the courts are looking at both the Constitution and national security, Alisyn. What they are finding, first of all, they are finding that it is a Muslim ban because while all Muslim countries are not banned, only Muslim countries have been banned.
And that is in the face a state -- that the fact that the State Department has actually designated some predominantly Christian countries as havens for terrorism. Countries like Colombia, the Philippines and Venezuela.
And those countries were not included in the executive order. In regards to the concern about national security, you know, frankly, dozens of national security officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations disagree with the president.
They are on the record. They have filed declarations and filing with the courts making that view known. In fact, in February, a Department of Homeland Security report that was leaked to the press, actually found the country of citizenship is unlikely to be an indicator of potential terrorist activities. So the courts are looking at these factors and they are ruling against the president.
FERGUSON: Alisyn, you look at Colombia and Venezuela, two of the three countries that were just mentioned. You look at the intelligence coming out of those two countries. There is no active recruitment of terrorism in those countries to then be spread around the world.
We know absolutely without a shadow of a doubt that not only al Qaeda, but also ISIS and ISIL depending on how you describe them are actively recruiting people to the countries that are on the travel ban that Donald Trump has mentioned.
There is no ISIS al Qaeda recruitment going on in Colombia or Venezuela. The terrorism that's happening in those countries are staying within that country. A lot of it is narco terrorism.
CAMEROTA: Understood. You make a good point. But I think that one of the things that's being used against President Trump and his claim that this is not a Muslim ban is his original tension. He said he wanted to ban Muslims. He put that on the campaign website. He tasked Rudy Giuliani with coming up with a way to do it legally. So some of this, the judges are hanging their hat on what his intention was.
FERGUSON: Yes, and that's the politics of this that they have to overlook. You can't talk about Muslim extremism and terrorism and ISIS or al Qaeda without talking about religion. When they attack, they say it is because of religion. When they are shooting at people and killing people, they are actually saying Allah Akbar. So for us to somehow as if we can separate the religion and they happened to be Muslim is just unrealistic.
CAMEROTA: You don't make a distinction between extremists and Muslims?
FERGUSON: You know, I think there are Muslim extremists and for us to act as if there is not Muslim extremists in these parts of the world at least talking about the ban, is just not dealing with reality. National security, we don't need to be politically correct. Again, more than 1 billion Muslims with this ban are still eligible to come and go as they choose in this country.
CAMEROTA: All right, you guys have laid out the case very well that the judges will be hearing that today. We will all be watching to see how it goes. Farhana, Ben, thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right, a global cyberattack, fears of a massive ransomware attack will get worse as workers boot up computers today. You've heard about this. We will give you the details next.
CUOMO: Fears that a massive global cyberattack will spread today as workers head back to their computers. The so-called "Ransomware" attack started late Friday hitting at least 150 countries. Microsoft bluntly warning that the attacks should be a wake-up call.
CNN's Money Europe editor, Nina dos Santos, live in London with more. What do we know?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN MONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Chris, at the moment, we know that 200,000 computers around the world and as you pointed out, 150 countries were infiltrated. Making this the most devastating cyberattack that the world has seen so far.
On the good news front, we just heard from Europol, which is the E.U.'s law enforcement agency that's closely working with the FBI to investigate who could have been behind this.
They say that there is no evidence that the number of computers that have been effected has been increasing from here. That means this virus hopefully is being stopped in its tracks.
And there is also no evidence that more people are paying the ransom in Bitcoins. As you pointed out, Chris, this essentially happened late on Friday when we saw this particular windows flaw which at one point have been exploited by the NSA in the past.
The exploited by the unidentified group of probably criminals, experts say at this point, to try to get money from people. Essentially locking people and public entities out of their computers and demanding a ransom to get access to their data.
Just to give you an idea of how destructive this has been, here in the United Kingdom, it's effectively paralyzed the health system over the course of the weekend meaning that some people have been turned away from surgeries.
Over in Germany and Russia, the train that works have been paralyzed and China has also seen its university network hit really hard as well -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Nina, the ripple effect of this is just stunning. Thank you very much for that reporting.
So does the president's firing of his FBI director rise to the level of a Watergate crisis? We will ask two experts about whether or not this is a constitutional crisis next.
CUOMO: President Trump's firing of James Comey, the man in charge of investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the U.S. election was an unprecedented moment in American history. But is it a constitutional crisis?
Here to discuss, Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst, author of "The Oath." So it is good to have you. Jeffrey Toobin, what would qualify as a constitutional crisis in your opinion and does this meet that definition?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is a grave abuse of presidential power. It is quite clear that the president has the power to remove the FBI director. But I think Congress and public and everyone has the right to evaluate whether he did it for a good reason.
I think he did it for a reason that was very similar to the Watergate cover up in 1972 and 1973, which is that he wanted to stop an FBI investigation. That's an obstruction of justice as far as I'm concerned. I think it is a very serious problem.
CUOMO: The powerful proof on that, Professor, is what the president said, right. He all but admitted that in an interview with NBC that, you know, this was basically a canard of this stuff about the AG's assessment of Comey.
But constitutional crisis, so a loose reckoning would be one branch of government is not acting constitutionally. Do you believe that what the president did here rises to that level of scrutiny?
JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No, I think it is certainly cathartic for people to call something a constitutional crisis. It is not accurate. It is like the term judicial activism. People use it to mean that they disagree with what's going on. We certainly have a political crisis. What the president did is very disturbing.
There is an interesting thing, though, about this president. If you separate his rhetoric from his record, he actually complies with the law when the courts rule against him on immigration, he yielded.
[06:55:08]When they ruled against him on sanctuary cities, he yielded. What he did with Comey was within his authority to do. Comey himself noted that.
So it is not a constitutional crisis. We don't have to add that rhetorical spin. It doesn't mean that this isn't something that should be investigated.
What I disagree with my friend, Jeff, is I don't think you can make the assumption that the president fired him because this investigation was getting too close to him.
The problem with the Nixon analogy is that the Nixon scandal began with a crime. I'm still not sure what the crime is here. This may be the first cover-up in history in the absence of a crime.
TOOBIN: That doesn't make it not obstruction of justice. If you are trying to stop the FBI from doing an investigation, even if ultimately there would not be a successful investigation or an investigation leading to a prosecution, it is still obstruction of justice.
So I agree with you in the sense that I don't know what the ultimate conclusion would be about the collusion, if there was any. But trying to obstruct that investigation is still obstruction of justice.
TURLEY: Well, I would be very surprised if you could make out an obstruction charge based on the president using this constitutional authority in this way. Particularly with an FBI director who has spent months with people suggesting that he should be fired for good reason.
Regardless of what Rosenstein did and when, it's clear from the memo that he felt that Comey should be terminated. So I don't think you can make out an obstruction case out of this. I think we have to be careful not to have buck fever.
You know, fire at everything the minute we see it and say this must be obstruction. I can't get into President Trump's mind and I don't want to there. What I look at is what do we know objectively?
What we know is that there were some people in the administration that felt he should be fired. It does not appear that President Trump really based his own decision on that. That makes this is a pretty muddy and rather murky case.
CUOMO: Professor, hold on a second, just to redirect it, you are ignoring the timing here, aren't you? This is not about his authority or ability to do something. It is about why he did it. I'm not saying that qualifies for the label constitutional crisis or any particular felony or even misdemeanor. But what I'm saying is that is the issue, right. It is not right or wrong because Comey was good or bad at his job. It is about when he did it and the circumstances surrounding that decision, no?
TURLEY: Chris, that is a valid point and Jeff has made the same valid point that a lot of this does go to intent. But we cannot make assumptions on that fact that --
CUOMO: Why do you have to assume when he admitted in the interview?
TURLEY: What I heard him admit to is that he wanted to fire Comey and he wanted to do that before --
CUOMO: And he said to himself, Trump, this Russia thing is just a hoax and it's no good. He has to go. What about that part of what he said where he was talking to himself in the third person?
TURLEY: Well, Chris, now you are channeling for Trump's mind. I have not heard him say that.
CUOMO: That is what he said. Review the record of the interview. He didn't just talked about the AG's assessment. He talked about his feelings about Russia and Comey's incompetence there.
TURLEY: I understand that, but I think when you look at things legally, you have to define what is an actual fact and what's not. Yes, you can put together parts of his interview and certainly reach that conclusion.
But I don't think that you can say that he fired him because this was getting too close to him or he is afraid of what will come from the investigation. There was a lot of certainly bad blood. He certainly want him fired before he read the Rosenstein memo.
But to start saying that this is a case of obstruction or is --
CUOMO: For purposes of legal analysis, I hear you, Professor. What about that, Jeffrey? That that's the buck fever line is that you think you're looking at a big buck but really it's Bambi when you come to actually legal obstruction?
TOOBIN: I'm not suggesting that there is at this moment proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump committed a crime. I am saying that as a political matter, this is a constitutional and political crisis of the first order and it's an abuse of power by the president.
How do you deal with that? Will that be dealt within the courts or political system? I don't know. That is my point. Not that there is a specific criminal offense that's taken place here.
CUOMO: Strong points. Jeffrey, capable counters. Professor Turley, thank you very much for both of you.
Thanks most of all to you, our international viewers, for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, we have the parents of a Penn State student who died after a drinking ritual. They are going to speak out in a new interview with CNN. NEW DAY is going to get after it. Come with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: All I want is for Comey to be honest, and I hope he will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the tapes exists and they are not willfully, willingly provided, absolutely I (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president needs to back off --