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White House: Trump Will Not Stop Comey from Testifying; Trump Undermines Own Defense over Travel Ban; 2 Attackers Arrested as Trump Tweets about London Mayor. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 5, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: On Ryan and Gloria's point, one more thing. The one who has the worst job right now is the entire Justice Department, who is trying very, very steadfastly to promote a consistent constitutional message for the travel ban, and they cannot do so based on the tweeting, based on his statements, based on his precampaign, and his now post-campaign, now presidential speech and rhetoric.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: They said don't call it a travel ban. They went out of their way to say this isn't a ban of any sort. This is all about national security. We saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders try to dance around that language now.
But the president this morning -- we have his tweets that we could put up -- he doubled and tripled down that this is a travel ban. He even used capital letters to call it a travel ban. He said the Justice Department should have stayed the original travel ban, not watered down, politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court. It goes on to say the Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered-down travel ban before the Supreme Court and seek much tougher version.
Let me ask you, Bob Bianchi, here with us. You're a prosecutor. When you're reading these tweets from the president and you're having to defend his executive order, how does that make you feel to see the president sending these tweets?
BOB BIANCHI, FORMER COUNTY PROSECUTOR, MORRIS COUNTY, NEW JERSEY: Listen, I've been saying this for a while. The increase in Xanax prescriptions has to be off the hook. You have DOJ going in there trying to forcefully argue the credibility of the travel ban. Then you have the president tweeting something that literally contradicts what the lawyers are going in and saying. Not only does it frustrate the legal case, but like all of these guests are indicating here and everyone is saying as a leader of an organization of a law enforcement agency myself, it's not only important to be consistent in actions but a consistent message not only so your staff and people work for you know how to act, what your vision is and what to do, but also so the community has trust in the integrity and competence of the agency that you're running, especially from a law enforcement point of view. One of the biggest critical problems that we have right now, before we get to terrorism and soft targets, which have been around for a long time, before we get to target harden ourselves, is a consistent message. Without a consistent message, law enforcement can't operate. All these things are, unfortunately, these communication devices speaking to the public is contradicting what they are trying to do in court. I've never seen anything like it.
CABRERA: Hagar Chemali, you are a former spokesperson for the government. You were a member of the Treasury Department for terror financial intelligence, specifically focusing in that area. When she came out and said basically don't read too much into the tweets -- I forget her exact words -- you said, yeah, everything is going to be scrutinized by what you say does matter. Welcome to government.
HAGAR CHEMALI, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, TREASURY DEPARTMENT, TERROR FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE: Absolutely. This is how Washington works. It's how it's worked for decades. As spokespersons and those who work in communications in the government, you should be trained to know exactly how the American public is going to react to something, how the media is going to react and you have to be a step ahead. I don't want to say it's easy that people could do it in their sleep, but trained professionals in the government who have political experience know exactly what to say, how to say it, what means to use and there are a lot of steps that I find could have been explained. They get very upset at the drama that is created over how they say something, when a tweet coms out. And yet I think they are the ones that need to look internally and say, wait a minute, clearly, we're not going to win with that battle. We need to change our strategy.
CABRERA: Remember, so often we heard Sean Spicer say, "The tweet speaks for itself," when he's been asked about previous tweets from the president.
Let's play some sound from some of the other administration officials who were asked about these controversial tweets just this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: This obsession of covering everything on Twitter and very little as he does on president.
UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: That's his preferred method of communication.
CONWAY: That's not true.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: It's social media, Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, NEW DAY ANCHOR: It's not social media. It's his thoughts and words.
GORKA: It's not policy. It's not an executive order. It's social media. Please understand the difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Gloria Borger, should the tweets be considered official presidential statements? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Of course. They
are going to be archived. They are words written by the president. It doesn't matter where they appear. These are words that are typed and written by the president of the United States. And they are going to be archived as such. And you can blame the media all you want, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. She was blaming the media for misinterpreting the president. The words are the words. The words matter. And at a certain point, you do have to take the president literally. I know during the campaign, the catch phrase was take him seriously but not literally. I think now that he is president, his words need to be taken literally because not only do we look at them, but our allies look at them, our enemies look at them. They ricochet around the world in a nanosecond. And here's the mayor of London, for example, trying to lead in a time of crisis and he's being called pathetic for a wrong reason by the president of the United States. How is that helpful? It is not helpful. If you're working in the Department of Justice, and the president of the United States criticizes you for the work you have done on the travel ban, when it is your own administration, what does that do to the people that actually work for you and are trying to represent your point of view?
[14:36:01] CABRERA: He's going after his own administration in the tweets that we just read.
CABRERA: And Kellyanne Conway and her husband is weighing this on this now. George Conway was somebody who was considered for a nomination to be in a senior position. He withdrew his name last week. But he tweeted this, "These tweets may make some people feel better, but they certainly won't help the general there get five votes in the Supreme Court, which is what actually matters. Sad."
Chris Cillizza, George Conway weighing in. I wonder if he ran this tweet by Kellyanne Conway, who is part of the administration before he sent it out.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That would be interesting. What George Conway is hitting on is the criticism from many people who support Donald Trump, which is he does everything with his heart and nothing with his head. Donald Trump knows the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already used some of the language he's used on Twitter and in rallies against him as he tries to say the travel ban has nothing to do with Muslims. He knows that words have consequences. I don't want to be too dismissive, but you have to say this. You do not get to have your cake and eat it, too, in politics. Either Donald Trump's Twitter feed is the sort of most important way that his supporters can hear from him and he cherishes it and never get rid of it, or it's not a really serious thing that we in the media shouldn't pay attention to. Those two things cannot be married. You cannot have both of those things at the same time. That's what they are trying to do.
(CROSSTALK) CABRERA: Go ahead, Laura.
COATES: If I could, one of the issues what's to legally profound, the Supreme Court just received an 800-plus page filing trying to articulate one point. That is the prerogative of the president to make sure that national security interests go above all else must be judged by a mutual document. It's not on the campaign trail. It's a presidential statement he's now making. He never says Muslim ban. He says he wants the original travel ban to go back into effect and a stronger one. The Fourth and Ninth Circuits have said that those offend the First Amendment of the Constitution. He's given out eight easy buttons to nine Supreme Court justice and said this is an easy call, it should remain to be not able to be implemented. I have given you the tools, the fire and the ammunition on the wrong side of my administration.
CABRERA: Robert, go ahead.
BIANCHI: The sad thing about this is the Obama administration had identified some of these countries as being problematic because of their own vetting process on the other side of the pond. It was a legitimate relationship as to why they did that. Can we imagine where we would be today had it be done for that reason? There was a consistent message that that is exactly the reason. And then when the United States feels comfortable that those countries come up to speed to check on their end that the people aren't terrorists, we would be in a different space. This is all created because of the continued and unbelievably amazing tweets that are coming out, as you have indicated, contradicting his own lawyers making this argument. It would have been a different situation. So if the reason for this ban or wherever you want to call it was for those eight or nine countries, whatever it was --
BIANCHI: It's unfortunate that if there's a, quote, unquote, "constitutional rational relationship" for them to have made this argument to make us safer that we are where we are right now because of this tweeting that contradicts that message.
[14:40:07] CABRERA: Those six countries, by the way, are Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. We're learning in this most recent in London, they have identified two of the attackers, and one was a British citizen born in Pakistan, the other, who they don't have an exact origin, but claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan. Two of the three countries that aren't even on this ban.
What are the merits of the safety element of this ban that the president says this is all about.
CHEMALI: You have hit the nail on the head. I think not only are some of those countries not on the ban, but when Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president's priority is the national security of the United States in protecting citizens, that's a great priority. That's a good goal to have.
CABRERA: She said the need for this executive order is very clear.
CHEMALI: And that's impossible for them to prove. When you look at an attack in it London, or the attacks in Manchester, Paris, Nice, Boston, the pattern with all of them is home-grown extremism. Some of them had emigrated 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago. A number of them are born in the country. But they all have the same pattern. They are young, most disenfranchised youth, who are influenced over social media, most of the time. They travel to the region, which should be a red flag, and come back, and they find ways to get influenced or recruited most of the time through social media.
CABRERA: You don't believe the travel ban would do much?
CHEMALI: No, it's misguided. It's a distraction from the real problem. They need to focus their resources and time on home-grown extremism and giving the agencies that have the tools to monitor and to go after these guys in the United States, and I think the U.K. and France should do the same. That's what they need to be focused on. And decapitating the FBI, I don't see how it helps us.
CABRERA: We'll leave it there. Everybody, thank you. Great discussion.
Up next, we have some breaking news on the attack in London. As police race to see if the attackers were part of a larger network, they are now identifying two of the terrorists. We'll take you live to London, when we come back.
[14:46:08] CABRERA: We're are getting breaking news on the London attack. Police have now identified by name two of the attackers. They have detained 11 people after a wave of anti-terror raids.
But as London grieves, the president of the United States is lashing out at the city's mayor: "Pathetic excuse by London mayor, Sadiq Khan, who had to think fast on his no reason to be alarmed statement." This came on the heels of this tweet: "At least seven dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and mayor of London says there's no reason to be alarmed."
I want to bring in Nic Robertson, outside 10 Downing Street.
Nic, first to this breaking news. What are we learning about the two terrorists?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: One of them, 27 years old, he was born in Pakistan, a British national, Kareem Shazad (ph). The police are also saying that he was known to both the police and MI-5, the British intelligence services, prior to this attack. He had been on their radar before. The others Rashid Rahan (ph), is of Moroccan/Libyan descent, 30 years old. But he's had an alias, Rashid al Kadar (ph). That alias was of a 25-year-old man. The police say they are working to try to identify now the other attacker. That's the priority for them at the moment. But putting in context the fact they had known this 27-year-old British Pakistani born individual, they say they had to put that into the context of they have the currently following 500 different counterterrorism potential plots. They have 20,000 people of interest who passed across their radar in the past few years. They say currently they have 3,000 people of interest that they are looking at specifically right now. So the police are trying to put in context the fact that they knew about one of these attackers in advance of the attack. They say they have no information that this attack was coming.
CABRERA: Nic Robertson reporting for us in London. Thanks for staying on top of the investigation.
And joining us now, Maajid Nawaz, the author of "Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism," and now co-founder and chairman of Quilliam, the counter extremism think tank.
Thanks for being with us.
Following this terror rampage in London, the Muslim community responded. They came out hard condemning the attack, even though they didn't know the background of the terrorists at this time. I know you have been critical about the Muslim community not doing enough. Is this enough and is this what you had in mind?
MAAJID NAWAZ, CO-FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, QUILLIAM FOUNDATION & AUTHOR: NAWAZ: If it you look at the attackers, Ana, they are both have a known Islamist background. One of them featured on a BBC documentary, "The Jihadi Next Door." It's because they were affiliated with the network, which is now a banned of terrorist organization. It was a splinter group from my former organization but it was not violent. But the point there that it talks to the point about we need to do more. That's because condemning ISIS is actually the easy part. I don't need a pat on the back for condemning people that enslave women in Iraq and Syria, and behead people in front of buildings. See how low the bar has sunk that I can condemn these people and expect to be praised. Even al Qaeda condemns ISIS. That doesn't tell us much.
Where we need to be talking about as a community is about those ideas that underpin the extremism. The idea is that it's a legal group, and rightly so, it should remain local, because it's not a terrorist organization. In the group these terrorists belong to, those ideas that they share, ideas that are anti-Semitic, misogynist, anti-secular and anti-democratic, caliphate ideas, ideas that are essentially a theocratic in nature. The ideology is what I call it. It's briefly defined in one sentence as the desire to impose any version. It's really there that we need to be having the difficult conversations.
[14:50:35] CABRERA: Let me stop you for a second. You have thrown out a couple groups that I have not heard of. And yet, ISIS said they were behind this attack. ISIS was claiming responsibility. Are you saying, based on your knowledge, that ISIS really wasn't?
NAWAZ: It was banned in the U.K. because as an b organization its leader pledged allegiance to ISIS. These terrorists and colleagues who were featured in this documentary, when asked whether they condemned ISIS, they refused to. The leader who used to be affiliated with him, his conviction was precisely because he swore allegiance to ISIS. They have effectively emerged.
CABRERA: So we are learning there was this attack and the attack back in March outside parliament and there was the Manchester attack that. Happened less than two weeks before this event. Three attacks in three months and we're hearing from the British prime minister none of them are connected. How troubling is that? What does that tell you about the breath of this terrorist influence?
NAWAZ: Unfortunately, they don't need to be connected. We're in the middle of Europe and Britain included. If you look at just in Britain, you heard it now with Nic Robertson. Our security services have 3,000 hard-core jihadists they are worried about are ready to strike. And they come from a pool of 20,000 extra that they are simply unable to keep up with. If you look at that number, 23,000, only 5 percent of the U.K. is listening. That's 20,000 from a pool of four million Muslims. And they are surrounded by a wider circle of Islamists who sympathize with the sorts of ideas I mentioned earlier. And they form a wider legal group of people such as those who belong to groups like my former organization. What that tells us is that we have reached insurgency levels. That's just in Britain. You bring in France and other European countries, and that's why they don't need to be connected. They are from this group.
NAWAZ: Indeed. We need to push back against that ideology to have any chance of success.
CABRERA: We are out of time, but if it you could give us just in a short answer what you think is the solution in terms of pushing back against that ideology, what would it be?
NAWAZ: The only true long-term solution is galvanizing Muslim communities to challenge extremism and distinguish it from Islam of the faith and though it's not just Muslims. Everyone must stand together.
CABRERA: How do they challenge beyond condemning?
NAWAZ: For example, I don't need to be black to challenge racism. We have a long history of how that was done. And the debate around racism was change with civil society campaign against the Islamist ideology. We need a full-on civil service campaign against this ideology.
CABRERA: Maajid Nawaz, thank you.
NAWAZ: Thank you.
[14:53:56] CABRERA: More on our breaking news. The White House saying President Trump will not invoke executive privilege to block James Comey's testimony. That coming on Thursday. We'll discuss what this means for the case. Plus, the president goes after the mayor of London, his own Justice
Department, and pretty much undermines his own legal team, all in a series of tweets today. What led up to these rants? Stay with us.
CABRERA: Top of the hour. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke. Thank you for joining us.
Moments ago, major decision. The White House announcing it will allow fired FBI Director James Comey to testify. Will not try to block the testimony.
Once again, the administration also forced to defend President Trump's comments on Twitter. This time his tweets slammed the mayor of London just two days after a terror attack in that city. More tweets from the president could end up undermining his own agenda on the travel ban. We'll dig into all of that.
But first, to the White House and the big announcement on Comey. He's expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee this Thursday. Comey is expected to speak about how he felt pressured by the president to drop the case against one of his top aides, Michael Flynn.
Let's get right out to CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, this is significant. President Trump will not invoke executive privilege.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. This would have set up a huge clash in Washington between the
president and Congress had he tried to invoke executive privilege and block James Comey from testifying on Thursday. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders, filling in for Sean Spicer today in the White House briefing, made it clear, almost came into the briefing armed with that news nugget to hand out to everybody that, no, the president has decided he's not going to do that. Of course, that was not the end of some pretty tough questions for Sanders today. Obviously, the president's tweet storm that he's been on for the last 24r hours or so in the aftermath of the attack --