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White House Proposal for Immigration Process; Scaramucci's Confessions. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 2, 2017 - 22:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN: All right. There she is, lady liberty. A symbol of America's benevolent invitation. give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But the new White House policy on immigrants calls that promise into doubt. Let's take into question of who exactly we are and what this country is about.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Chris Cuomo in for Don Lemon.

Here's the main point. There's a new White House proposal that seeks to cut the flow of immigrants, legal immigrants in half but it is how our president wants to do that that is a concern. He proposes changing the signature promise of our country to welcome those in need by creating a merit-based system that would have kept people like me, my family and many of you from ever being here.

When CNN's Jim Acosta put these concerns to White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, it got heated. Take a look.


JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: What you're proposing or what the president is proposing here does not sound like it's in keeping with American tradition when it comes to immigration. The Statue of Liberty says "Give me your tired, poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

It doesn't say anything about speaking English or being able to -- be a computer programmer. Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you're telling them that you have to speak English? Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF POLICY ADVISOR: Well, first of all, right now it's a requirement that to be naturalized you have to speak English. So the notion that speaking English wouldn't be part of the immigration system would be actually very ahistorical.

Secondly, I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world. It's a symbol of American liberty enlightening the world. The poem that you're referring to was added later is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty. But more fundamentally, the history...


ACOSTA: You're saying...

MILLER: But more fundamentally, the history...

ACOSTA: You're saying that does not represent what the country is always thought of as immigration coming into this country?

MILLER: I'm saying that the notion of...


ACOSTA: Stephen, I'm sorry.


ACOSTA: That sounds like -- that sounds like some national park revisionism.

MILLER: No, what I'm asking you is...

ACOSTA: The Statue of Liberty has always...

MILLER: Jim, let me ask you a question.

ACOSTA: ... give hope to the world for the people to come into this country and they're not always going to speak English.

MILLER: Jim, do you believe...

ACOSTA: And they are not always going to be highly skilled.

MILLER: Jim, I appreciate your speech. Jim, I appreciate your speech. So let's talk about this.

ACOSTA: It was a modest...

MILLER: Jim, let's talk about this. In 1970, when we let in 300,000 people a year, was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land? In 1990s, when it was half a million a year, was it violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land.

ACOSTA: Was it violating...


MILLER: When it was 700,000 a year -- no, tell me what year -- tell me what years -- tell me what years meet -- tell me what years meet Jim Acosta's definition of the Statue of Liberty poem law of the land. So you're saying a million a year is the Statue of Liberty number. Nine hundred thousand violates it, 800,000 violates it.

ACOSTA: You're sort of doing a plus one philosophy for English here in immigration and that's what the United States we've been about.

MILLER: Jim, but you're also -- your statements also shockingly historical in another respect, too. Which is if you look at the history of immigration, it's actually ebbed and flowed. We've had periods of very large waves followed by periods of less immigration and more immigration and during the -- we've had...


ACOSTA: We're in a period of immigration right now that wants to build a wall...

MILLER: Yes. It's actually...

ACOSTA: ... you want to bring about a sweeping change...

MILLER: Surely, Jim, you don't actually think that a wall affects green card policy. You couldn't possibly believe that, do you? Actually the notion that you actually think immigration is at a historic low the foreign-born population in United States today -- Jim, Jim...


ACOSTA: On Monday talking about how border crossings...

MILLER: Do you really, I want to be really serious, Jim. Do you really at CNN not know the difference between green card policy and the legal immigration?

ACOSTA: So why...


MILLER: I mean, you really don't know that.

ACOSTA: He came to this country in 1962 right before the Cuban missile crisis and obtained a green card. Yes. People who immigrate to this country can eventually...


MILLER: OK. So, Jim, as a factual question...

ACOSTA: People who came to this country through, not through outside...

MILLER: Jim, as a factual question...

ACOSTA: Do you obtain a green card at some point, they do it through a lot of hard work and, yes, they may learn English as a second language later on in life but this whole notion of well they could learn, you know, they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?

MILLER: Jim, I can honestly say I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It's actually -- it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that, in your mind -- no, this is an amazing moment. This is an amazing moment. That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants who do speak English from all over the world.

[22:05:04] Jim, have you honestly -- Jim, have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia? Is that your personal experience?

ACOSTA: Of course there are people who come to the country from other parts of the world.


MILLER: But that's not what you said. And it shows -- it shows your cosmopolitan bias. And I just want to say.

ACOSTA: It sounds like you're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.


CUOMO: Let's just put the theater of the absurd to the side for a moment and get to the main point. The words, the poem was added later, Miller said. The words being the signature promise of this country from the poem The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.

Of course they were added later. The pedestal on which the words were placed came after the gift of the statue. But that's not what Miller was really trying to brush aside. He was trying to brush aside their significance.

This isn't about calling illegal immigration or bad hombres, as the president likes to say. This is about changing not just how many but who gets to come in legally. Restrictions that would brush aside America's greatest strength, the diversity of people who have sacrificed to come here with nothing except a passion of purpose to make better lives and to make this country great.

They're not just words added later. They are a solemn vow that was supposed to endure forever.

So let's talk about what this policy could mean. Let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta now along with CNN political analyst April Ryan. That was kind of a bizarre exchange. You know, I got where you were going with this. Who are we? What is our definitional premise about who we want in this country?

ACOSTA: Right.

CUOMO: And Miller wanted to dance. You know, talking about numbers and what you know and don't know. But at bottom, what do you think this policy is about for the White House?

ACOSTA: Well, I'm not sure it was a highly skilled performance, if I could borrow a term there from the president's immigration policy on the part of Stephen Miller. It was very much attack the messenger and, you know, who would have thought that the Statue of Liberty doesn't mean what the Statue of Liberty means because a poem was attached to it later on and wasn't originally inscribed with those words.

I think most Americans understand, Chris, what the Statue of Liberty is all about. It's odd to see the White House, the United States of America try to redefine what the Statue of Liberty means and I think it goes to a larger issue here, Chris.

You'll recall when the president announced his candidacy for the White House, he referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists. He has never really accounted for that. He has never really apologized for that or explained that. Why did he refer to Mexican immigrants coming into this country as rapists? Why did he later on refer to Mexican-American judge as incapable of dealing with the Trump University lawsuit? Why is it that as soon as he came into office they tried to pursue a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries.

And so, I do think, Chris, past being prologue, these are fair questions to ask. And you know, when they're talking about an immigration system and keep in mind, this is for legal immigration coming into the United States.

CUOMO: Right.

ACOSTA: We're not talking about building a wall across the border and so on. They are talking about a points-based, merit-based legal immigration system. People need to understand what's in this. You can read about it on There's a great explainer on it, on there about this.


CUOMO: No. Tell them right now. I mean, listen to this, Jim. Because I don't know...

ACOSTA: Yes. It talks about...

CUOMO: I don't know that you or I make the cut by the way.

ACOSTA: Yes, exactly.

CUOMO: I don't know that we make it cut with our families.

ACOSTA: That's right.

CUOMO: I speak English, I'm out.

ACOSTA: If you're over the age of 50 you get no points, if you below 60 percent in English proficiency...


CUOMO: Right. My grandparents on both sides, it says right here, ability to speak English. There goes the Rafas and the Cuomos. You got the two sides of my family.

ACOSTA: Right.

CUOMO: They wouldn't have gotten in. The ability to pay for your own healthcare.

ACOSTA: Right.

CUOMO: Most of that whole generation came here with nothing. And then you have how this talk went down, April Ryan. You were there. Look, we've seen some changes in tone and tenure when it comes to how the White House communicates with the country. But what was your observation about this because you got in the mix as well. Let's play a little piece of that.


MILLER: The people who are going to hurt the most are the policy that you're advocating are immigrant workers minority workers and African- American workers and Hispanic workers.

APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Are you talking the immigrant community, now you brought it up again. You said you want to have a conversation and not target. It's going to be a target...

MILLER: This is what we want to do...

RYAN: The African-American community, are you going to target? I'm not trying to be funny.

MILLER: I know. What you're saying -- what you're saying is 100 percent correct.

RYAN: Thank you.

MILLER: We want to help unemployed African-Americans in this country and unemployed workers of all backgrounds get jobs.


CUOMO: I saw the look on your face there, April. What was this about for you? Where are we in terms of the level of discourse between the free media and the White House?

[22:09:58] RYAN: Well, the level of discourse today, it reached a new low when -- especially when he laid into Jim saying he was ignorant. I've never heard anything like that from a White House principal in that room.

But listening to the back and forth with Jim and then when he kept bringing -- Stephen Miller kept bringing up the issues of African- Americans, yes, the African-American unemployment rate historically higher, two or three times higher than that of mainstream America the overall unemployment rate.

But we have not heard them talking about this before in this manner. And the reason why it struck a chord with me, you know, we had the NAACP convention just recently that the president decline to attend. We had the National Urban League that no one from the administration even attempted to attend. And the National Urban League their premise it's about economics, particularly for urban America and black America.

You had the CBC we haven't heard them talk about this. Even when they did had that meeting, the original meeting. So there was no buy-in for the black or the brown community on this. And I talked to some former labor department personnel from the Obama administration. I'm going to read something to you, Chris.

It says, "While low-skill immigrants compete against the lowest skilled U.S. workers, mostly not African-Americans, they do not significantly displace U.S. workers and immigrants are not the cause of the stagnant wages."

So what they're trying to say about this and trying to make sure that a lot of people here in this nation are competing against the immigrant workers they want to make sure that the people in this nation get jobs, the -- what they're trying to say is not actually accurate, according to the former labor person I talked to in the Obama administration.

So there's a lot to be desired about their comments, particularly as they're bringing in minorities in this country that we have not heard them cry out for before. You know, Jim is right. They talked about the other in negative ways before. Now this is the first time, seven months in, it's just, it rings hollow to some people.

CUOMO: All you have to do is ask the growers, the farmers, the service industry, Donald Trump, ask and see who they're hiring in their places of work at that level of employment.

Now, Jim Acosta, one of the things that you've got to love about you and April, you just hash tag, press on, keep doing the job. Keep reporting. Keep getting it out there. You have information about what we're seeing in movement from the new chief of staff General John Jelly and it involves the attorney general. What do we know?

ACOSTA: That's right, Chris. You know, we saw General Kelly bringing some order and discipline to this White House earlier this week and it appears one of his earliest moves was to reassure the Attorney General Jeff Sessions who we'll all remember was being attacked by the President of United States on social media sort of being cyber-bullied by the president on social media as beleaguered and so forth.

Apparently, John Kelly, according to a source familiar with these discussions called the attorney general earlier this week, I don't have a more precise timeframe on that, but earlier this week, to assure him that his job is safe. And so at least at this point tonight, the attorney general is not going anywhere. So we can put that speculation to rest.

CUOMO: It's interesting. A little further manifestation of Kelly doing the president's bidding, right? Because ordinarily the chief of staff doesn't tell you that as a cabinet member that your job is OK. You're working one on one with the president at that level but maybe this is a sign of things to come.

All right. Let's flip this dialogue around a little bit and you guys can ask me some questions. I spoke to Anthony Scaramucci. Obviously he was the first casualty of John Kelly, General John Kelly. And he had some headlines for us tonight.

Anthony Scaramucci is gone but will not stay gone, April. He is going to have a huge event, as he calls it, an online event on Friday. He's going to be on Facebook live and he's going to speak directly to the American people, specifically the base, as we call it now, those people who supported Trump during the election.

Anthony Scaramucci says he has a message for them about how he has been maligned, why he went to the White House, what he was there to achieve and what he's going to do next. What do you think of that?

RYAN: Now -- well, the question is, who maligned him? He says how he's been maligned. Is he saying anyone in the White House maligned him?

CUOMO: Good question.

RYAN: Particularly his president.

CUOMO: He says he was a target. He did not bad-mouth the president, although he did not reject the notion, offered by a reporter, that he had been done wrong by the President of the United States because he went there to help him and he wound up getting discharged in somewhat of an unceremonious way.

But he says that he was a target for people inside the White House and outside, from both parties and of the media. And he says he's having this event on Friday, Jim, because he will not allow himself to be defined improperly like that.

[22:15:00] Another headline from Scaramucci is that he didn't think he'd be a long-timer. He had spoken to the president about being a short-timer because the president asked him to do a very specific thing, called himself a special purpose vehicle, which is something that usually exists in finance and Anthony used it to mean that he was there to be disruptive, to get into the culture of leaking, find out who was behind it and get rid of them, he says he did that and believed he would always be a short-timer, just not this short. Jim?

ACOSTA: Yes, Chris. I'm not sure he was a short-timer.


RYAN: Chris, Chris, Chris, it's a short time...

CUOMO: One at a time, one at a time. Don't come at me all at once. Jim, what do you have?

ACOSTA: I know better than to interrupt April Ryan. She can take the floor as often and as long as she wants. No, I was going to say that in terms of Anthony Scaramucci, I'm not sure he's a short-timer. I think he might be a no-timer.

He, from a historical standpoint spent almost no time as the communications director here at the White House but I talked to a friend of his earlier this week who's been in contact with him throughout this whole drama who says that Anthony Scaramucci feels very good about the fact that he, quote, "cleared the decks here at the White House."

He feels very good that he was able to oust Reince Priebus as the chief of staff and Sean Spicer as press secretary. He had a sights set on Steve Bannon. That did not work out to his favor. But my guess is that what we'll see on Friday is him saying something along those lines. That he was glad to see Priebus go and, you know, a lot of people here at the White House are glad to see General Kelly in charge over here.

The question is, we've been talking about this all week long, Chris, is you know, General Kelly can yes, bring order and discipline to the staff but can he bring that to the president?

CUOMO: As Anthony Scaramucci said, the fish stinks from the head down. April Ryan?

RYAN: Yes, Chris. I mean, I'm going back to what Jim said. Great minds think alike. With that special purpose specifically to take down Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer?

CUOMO: He says he wasn't about who. It's about what? That he was in there to stop this culture of leaking, this counterproductive culture that was going on in there. And he says he achieved that not just by what happened with Reince Priebus but, remember, he let someone else go as well and he believes that that was why he was there.

And he also made another point, which was very interesting. If you've been out there looking online, obviously, Jim, April, and I are aware, but Anthony Scaramucci had written a memo that was part of his pitch to the president about what he could do for him.

And I have to tell you that memo is very interesting, April, and Anthony's take on it was, you have to get better with the media, be nicer, be nicer to people in general. That when you're positive, things can happen positively. When you're negative, they will happen negatively. Look at some of these punch points.

The media is an important Comms customer. POTUS can choose to fight with the media but Comms cannot - talking about the communications department having different levels of interchange with the media. Comms, again, communication department should seek to de-escalate tensions with the media.

So how does he reconcile being a short-timer with having this kind of intricate plan that obviously would have taken time. He says he was going to try to put in place a team, including Bill Shine, the head of Fox News, the former head of Fox News and others to be in place even if he became a casualty of the infighting.

He wasn't paranoid in general but Anthony was keenly aware that people were out to get him and he believes that that is still true. Jim?

ACOSTA: Yes. And also, Chris, I just want to give a shout out at least in one regard for Anthony Scaramucci. Anthony Scaramucci announced that the television cameras would be back on in the briefing room. That is a hugely welcomed development. We went weeks and weeks, as you know, Chris, without having the cameras on in the briefing and had to tolerate this audio-only briefings that we couldn't air until after the briefing was over and it was just sort of a ridiculous situation.

And it sounds like Anthony Scaramucci going by this memo that was released to our Jake Tapper earlier this evening essentially said, you know, listen, we need to get on better terms with the news media. And I, you know, I and others have been saying this and I think April would join me on this that the White House would be well-served to cut out this fake news, enemy of the people, going after the press, you know, some of the stuff that we saw from Stephen Miller today, name calling and so forth, does not serve the president's agenda well.

And I think Anthony Scaramucci for all of his faults and that profanity-laced tirade in the New Yorker and so on, he had his finger on something that I think would have been pretty useful for the White House and that is to get along better with the news media.

CUOMO: April, Jim, there's actually more to report from the conversation. Some of it goes to what you would discuss from right now, but let's take a break right now. Thank you for setting the show up for us here early on. I appreciate it. We're going to have more about what is next for Anthony Scaramucci and his reckoning of what happened in the White House later on in the show.

When we come back we're going to have much more on the White House's rollout of this new bill that would slash legal immigration, hopefully they say, in half.

[22:20:00] Stephen Miller's comments, were they out of line? What would the bill do for the president's agenda and the Republican Party's agenda? We'll take it on next.


CUOMO: So there's big news tonight about this new proposal from the White House about who can get into this country legally. Now, instead of talking about the White House, we wanted to talk to the White House. That's the best way to serve your interests in this situation.

We asked for Stephen Miller, the man you saw earlier in the show going at it against our Jim Acosta. We asked for Kellyanne Conway. We asked for Sarah Huckabee Sanders. None was able to come on the show. But just know, we asked and we always ask and that invitation stands.

So the policy in question must be discussed. How do you get into the country? Well, do you speak English? Do you make enough to pay your own healthcare? Do you have a healthy salary? Those are going to be new criteria of what's called a merit-based system to decide who comes into the country under the president's new proposal. The hope, they say, their hope, is to cut entries by 50 percent and

change this criteria, which some will argue would be changing the original promise of the land of opportunity.

Let's discuss this change with CNN political commentator Jack Kingston, a former congressman, who was a former adviser to the Trump campaign, and political commentator Ana Navarro. Now we were talking during the break my two friends and I, about who would have made the cut.

[22:25:04] Ana and I, we wouldn't have made the cut. Kingston, would your people have made the cut?

JACK KINGSTON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I would not know, but I can say this that all of my folks came to America to become Americans, not to become a hyphenated American. They came to America to work hard and they came to America to share in the American dream and I think that's still the America that exists and still the reason why people want to come to this country.

CUOMO: What's wrong with being hyphenated? I'm Italian-American. My family came here, both sides, no money, dirt under their nails, didn't speak English. But in their heart, they had that desperation to make better lives for themselves and their families. What does it matter whether they are Italian-American or American? They came here with a passion of purpose. That's what makes this country great. Why change that?

KINGSTON: Well, but I don't think your parents went around here to say we're going to be Italian-American. They came here to be Americans. My parents, the same way. As you know, I'm 50 percent Irish. My dad was 100 percent Irish. I never heard him refer to his family as Irish-Americans or him as an Irish-American. Very, very proud of his Irish heritage and celebrated it and by the way, from Brooklyn, New York.

And as you know, Brooklyn in many ways had kind of a segregated area where there was an Italian section, other ethnic sections that, you know, he said, but we all respected each other, but you kind of knew when you were in somebody else's territory. But it wasn't a rivalry. It was, hey, there's more Italians here, there's more Greeks here, there's more Irish here, that sort of thing.

CUOMO: Well, look, the history is highly imperfect. But Ana, let's get back to what the point is here. They want to change the rules of who comes here legally, not the bad hombres that the president was talking about during the election. This is about who comes in legally. Hoping to cut it by 50 percent. But it's not about how many, it's who gets in. What do you make of these new merit-based criteria?

ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Number one, they are offensive. But number two, they are not worth the paper they are written on. You might as well line the bottom of a bird cage with them because that proposal is never going to see the light of day, much less pass in the U.S. Senate where there are several hyphenated Americans, like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Bob Menendez or the U.S. House even will not pass something like that.

I think it is yet another example of Donald Trump doing what Donald Trump does. Use wedge issues, like he did last week with the transgenders, to make his base happy. Throw a bone, throw a red meat to that base so that they continue not budging and support for him. It has worked for him. But it is unrealistic. It's not going to pass.

Why is it offensive? You know, if we start this merit system, gee, Donald Trump may have to figure out how to start marrying an American woman, somebody born in the United States. I'm not sure how many of his wives would pass the English speaking test the moment they got here. Would they've been able to come in.

Certainly you wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here. Miami would be a field -- you know, would be a swamp still. It has been built by people, some of whom Jack knows, who came here and many of them with nothing, who came here speaking no English and who today are the corporate and business and professional and civic and political leaders in this country and have opened the doors for so many more. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a hyphenated American. It doesn't mean you are less American.


KINGSTON: You know, I just...

NAVARRO: It doesn't mean you are less proud. Let me finish, Jack. I didn't interrupt you.

KINGSTON: That was a monologue, Ana. I mean.

NAVARRO: Well, you'll have your turn. Go as long as you want and don't interrupt me when I'm speaking.


KINGSTON: I had my turn.

CUOMO: No, no, not as long as you want. Let's wait. Let's make a different point here. First of all, all due respect to the first lady, Jack, let's just get the record straight here, Melania Trump, highly educated, speaks a bunch of language, I think five or six.


CUOMO: So this isn't about judging the president or his family. It's about judging who we are as a people and what are values are, Jack. I mean, you can make your hyphenated American point, that's fine. But it's somewhat beside of what our core values are here.

Stephen Miller brushing aside the New Colossus poem saying the language, you know, the poem was added later. What is that supposed to mean? First of all, it's not even factually accurate. Of course it was added later. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France. The pedestal came later. That's why the poem was put on later, but it's about our values, our signature promise. What does it say to the rest of the world about who is welcome?

KINGSTON: Well, I think part of what they're trying to say is let's have some commonsense immigration. When you have unskilled labor, 50 percent of them unskilled labor coming in and winding up on welfare, does that really help build a great nation if you are assimilating a business, would you bring in the best of talent or would you bring in anybody who applied?


CUOMO: You do both.

KINGSTON: I think merit by half...

CUOMO: You do both. You do both. That's how you got the Cuomos, I mean, whether you like us or not, we came in here a lot, like a lot of these families. They came in with very low skill but then they work hard, they make a little bit of money, they put their kids in the schools, they live by the laws and people get better.

[22:30:07] And the next generation you get a different job and then you get two governors and a guy who talks on television. It's being the same.

KINGSTON: Chris, for the last 25 years, one million legal immigrants come to this country for the size of Montana for 25 years. Wouldn't it be nice to know that you're trying to get somebody who's going to crack cancer and figure out the cure to it? If you had your choice, would you pick the best and the brightest or are you going to just random more?

CUOMO: You pick both.


KINGSTON: I mean, and I...

CUOMO: You have so many doctors in this country. You want to talk about what the problem is, how many times have you heard in professional circles, Ana, that you have foreign labor, foreign- educated people coming in and taking jobs or coming here and getting professional educations or returning to their own countries?

There's no data that suggests that we're being somehow being damaged by foreign labor. And when you look at the lower wrung of labor, you don't see the immigrant influence there either. What you see are jobs that nobody else wants to do in America being done by immigrants.

KINGSTON: But, Chris.

ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: And then a lot of children -- a lot of children that become professionals, that become great contributions to this country.

CUOMO: Sure. NAVARRO: I mean, Jack, you work at a law firm that I'm very familiar with (Inaudible) where I know so many of your colleagues are first generation Americans who came here with absolutely nothing without knowing the language and have forged a path for themselves, became professional, many of them self-made and today are working at one of the best law firms in the country.

KINGSTON: Well, let...


NAVARRO: Those are your colleagues and your friends and they are hyphenated and they are Americans and they are proud.

CUOMO: Jack?

KINGSTON: OK. Let me take the premise that both of you keep going back to, is that these people came in here unable to speak English, no skills, very destitute, if you will. But now they are cream of the crop of society. And so we are agreeing that upward mobility is a good thing. And if we agree that upward mobility is a good thing and we have the choice to have merit-based immigrants come to the country who are upwardly mobile, is that not a good thing?

And does that mean because you're discussing it that you're racist? I think one of the problems that the left has with this president, whatever he does, the quick label is this is a racist policy. Frankly, I think it's a discussion worth having.

CUOMO: Well, Jack, you've got to pick a shield or a sword. You haven't heard that word come out of any mouth except your own in this discussion.

KINGSTON: I've heard it not necessarily on this show but...


CUOMO: But that's also damaging dialogue. When you project a criticism on to everybody who asks you a question, that's not fair either. I'm not saying it's racist. I'm questioning, who are we as a country? What do we value? Are the words on that pedestals...


NAVARRO: Chris, let me tell you something. I've got absolutely no qualms or problems saying that I think this policy is pedaling to racism. That's what he's done during his entire campaign. That's what he did when he called Mexican rapists. That's what he did when he called for the Muslim ban. That's what he does. He pits one group of Americans against each other in order to make himself feel bigger and in order to appease his base.

CUOMO: Jack, final point.

KINGSTON: That's my point, Chris. Because I think this is actually the proponents of these are a military officer, Tom Cotton, and an international businessman, David Purdue, that this is not new legislation. This is legislation that the two of them have been working on really from most of year.

And they are coming at it from one, as a business person, one as a military person. National security and who is in your gene pool, if you will. I think that there's -- this is a good discussion to have and I don't believe that it's a racist policy at all.

But one of the things -- one of the losers in the open borders argument are Americans who are here who do not have a high school -- or only have a high school education. Their Household income since 1979 has dropped 17 percent. And the reason is, is because cheap labor comes into the border and displaces them.

CUOMO: That is not born out in the data as clearly as you're presenting it, Jack. But that is a more complicated discussion about why the wage levels are why they are but there's a values argument that needs to be made.

And you're right. It is a discussion worth having. Thank you for getting it started with us tonight.

KINGSTON: It is related to this, Chris.

CUOMO: It is all related but I'm saying, I can't have you paint it that way because it's not...


KINGSTON: You don't want to give me one point here? Come on.

CUOMO: Well, you know, look, I would if it were accurate. Jack, thank you very much for being here.

NAVARRO: That is not true.

CUOMO: Ana, I appreciate you both.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you for having it and having it civilly. That matters these days as well.

All right, so let's take a break. When we come back, the president did sign the new sanctions against Russia into law but he didn't like it. He blasted the bill as clearly unconstitutional. Russia is responding. We're going to tell you what they're saying next.


CUOMO: President Trump calling the immigration bill he supports the most significant reform to America's immigration system in half a century. Maybe so, but the question is, what message would this bill send to the rest of the world?

Joining us to talk about this and the new Russian sanctions bill and the latest on North Korean turmoil, we have Rick Grenell, former spokesman for four U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations. Perfect guest for this situation. Thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: So, you know so well the projection of the promise of America around the world, what a symbol we are for liberty and freedom, what that benevolent invitation at the base of the Statue of Liberty has meant for so many generations of people around the world.

Do you have concerns about this policy proposal to not just cut entry in half by 50 percent, right, in half, that's the hope, but to change who is able to get in?

GRENELL: Look, I don't. And here's why. Americans have always been the most generous people around the world. I mean, you spend one second at the U.N. and you realize that every country recognizes how generous our American taxpayers are.

[22:40:05] We fund UNICEF, we fund the World Food Program. When it comes to immigration issues, we're the most generous. There's a million coming in that's coming in to our country that doesn't even include the visa programs that we have.

So when you put it recall together, I think the world recognizes that immigration policies are to be enforced. Every country does it. Sometimes the United States gets a little bit more of the criticism, if you will, about our policies, which is fair and I think we should have these rational discussions, but I'm not concerned because the American people have always been generous. And this proposal continues to allow the U.S. government to be very generous, probably the most generous country in the world.

CUOMO: What about the criteria? Where are your people from, Rick?

GRENELL: My people?

CUOMO: Yes, your people, your family.

GRENELL: I'm from Michigan and I'm from California.

CUOMO: And where do they come from, how did they get into this country? You're not a pilgrim, right?

GRENELL: Well, look, Chris, I take your point but I think the point is that over time our immigration policy has changed. If you look historically of what we've done, it has always changed. It's ebbed and flowed according to what we are experiencing at the time. Certainly there are are going to be more timing...


CUOMO: Right. There's nothing wrong with wanting high-skilled labor. There's nothing wrong with wanting high-skilled labor. There's nothing wrong with wanting, as Jack Kingston just said, the best of the best. But when you design criteria that keep people out that wind of representing the exact people that are described in that New Colossus poem, what does that say about American values. Think about how many great Americans we wouldn't have if those criteria were in place.

GRENELL: Sure. And I can appreciate your concern but I would push back on you and say, where is the line? Because certainly you're not saying that we should not have any immigration laws. Certainly you're not saying that we shouldn't have any limits, or are you?

CUOMO: No. I don't -- I actually...


GRENELL: Are you saying that we should have limits at all?

CUOMO: I actually don't even think -- I don't even think there's a logical connection between how many and who. If you want to set a level for how many people are coming into the country, go ahead. And there are many different factors and criteria that would take that into consideration. I'm saying you have to do...


GRENELL: We do that in every country.

CUOMO: But I'm saying that when you start to define who can get in in a way that limits vast majorities of people who will be trying to get in, it raises a fundamental question about who you are. There is a reason that the New Colossus was picked...


GRENELL: Well, let me tell you...

CUOMO: ... as a poem to be on the pedestal to the Statue of Liberty. It doesn't say, bring us your professors and the people who can pay for their own health care. There's a reason it doesn't. That's the passion and purpose that formed this country. I don't have to preach this to you. You know this.

GRENELL: Yes. Look, if you've ever served on the visa line in the State Department if you've ever been the recipient of applications, you will see that the American government and first year foreign service officers deny millions of people. This is not about who gets denied. This is about who gets entry.

And I can understand your compassion that you think that we're denying these people, but I would argue that you have to understand what your limit is, Chris. I would ask you the question again, what is the limit? Are you saying no policy whatsoever because no matter what criteria you use, you're denying people to come into this country, which is really going to happen under any policy.

I mean, you can't just say that we should have this touchy-feely policy of letting everybody in. I think that you miss the idea of how many people want to come to this great country. We have to have rules. CUOMO: No question.

GRENELL: And by the way, Chris, every country has rules.

CUOMO: No question.

GRENELL: Every country. I hear a lot of people saying I'm going to move to Canada. Guess what, you can't move to Canada. They have immigration rules and they enforce the rules. You can't just pick up and move to Canada.

CUOMO: Well, you probably could pick up and move to Canada, but I take your point. But some of this is a little bit...


GRENELL: They wouldn't let you in.

CUOMO: Some of this...

GRENELL: They have strict immigration policy.

CUOMO: But I'm saying obviously there are means to egress to another country. I take your point. But what I'm saying is some of this is a rhetorical device. The idea that the alternative to this policy is to have no policy and the alternative to this criteria is to have no criteria. That's not what I'm saying.


GRENELL: I'm not arguing policy.

CUOMO: But we do have a policy.

GRENELL: I'm just saying some policy.

CUOMO: And what is the foundation of that policy? What does it say about the definition or preposition of who you are as a people in the country? It matters. The poem is there for a reason.

Let's move one to another topic.

GRENELL: Absolutely. But let me push back on one thing. I absolutely agree with you, Chris. We have to send the message that we're a generous people and that we're open. But we are. I mean, just look at what we do at the U.N. We're paying through steps contributions for one-quarter of the peacekeeping operations. That's billions of dollars.

CUOMO: It's true.

[22:45:00] GRENELL: That's not even counting the generous...


CUOMO: We're the richest country in the world. GRENELL: Yes, we do World Food Program and UNICEF, we're more than 50 percent of the budget there. When there is a nation that is hungry, we are there immediately. And we're the first.

CUOMO: And look, that is a message that the world should hear and most certainly does and we'll see. We'll know very soon how the world receives this message of this proposal and then we can talk about it more.

Let's talk about some other things that happened in the news. The Russia sanctions bill, obviously other countries being sanctioned in it in approval. There are two things going on here. One, Congress is taking some power back from the president, right? They want to have a role in this. The president doesn't like that and that's one of the reasons he doesn't like this, that he thinks it's an unconstitutional abridgement of the ability of the president to negotiate with foreign countries.

That's one discussion. But then there's a second level which is, once again, where Russia is involved, the president seemed reluctant to go hard and fast at them. What do you make of that assessment?

GRENELL: Well, first of all, I would say that I worked for eight years in the Bush administration and I watched for eight years of the Obama administration and we had the same argument. I saw it play out in Washington, D.C., where President Bush and President Obama tried to push Congress to say, you know, I'm the president. I was elected. Let me be the one to negotiate here.

So there's a long history. Unfortunately, what we see in Washington, D.C., are that a lot of politicians change their position depending on which political party is in the White House. So I've been very consistent that I think that the White House needs to be able to negotiate our national security foreign policy strategies with other countries.

Certainly we don't want to ask France and Germany and other countries to negotiate with 435 members of Congress. That's just not something that's going to benefit us and we want to be able to set up a system where we are, you know, placed in the best possible situation to get the best deal.

CUOMO: Russia's response is...


GRENELL: So that's the point. The second point...

CUOMO: Well, playoff of what...

GRENELL: The second point on Russia I would say...

CUOMO: Play off what their response is and build it into your point, if you could, Rick. They say that this is a fully fledged trade war declared against Russia and that the Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence in the most humiliating manner, transferring executive powers to Congress. Your thoughts?

GRENELL: Look, I think that the Russians are very upset because they think Donald Trump's position now is too tough. I think that flies in the face of what a lot of people thought. Clearly the White House signed these sanctions and I'm somebody that believes that this should be celebrated.

Only in Washington, D.C., do we have people who kind of go to the mat and shut down government and scream and holler if they don't get their way. Here's a president who said, you know what, I don't really love everything about this bill but I'm going to go ahead and sign it. I actually like that. I think incrementalism is what Washington, D.C., needs to do more of.

CUOMO: What do you see in the distinction between how the president treats Russia, which is with a lot of silence, right? I mean, they kick out 700 plus American diplomats and nothing from the president at least on social media. Their aggression in Georgia is now playing. Nothing from the president.

But with China and the North Korea situation, much more heavy handed with the president of China than the president of Russia. Why the distinction, in your mind?

GRENELL: I think two points. One, I would say read what President Trump said in Poland. It's extremely tough on Russia. He said that the Russians should think about joining the rest of us and trying to have a real-life society. So that speech was incredibly tough. So I would encourage you to re-read that.

The second thing is, right now we have a national security problem. It's a crisis. I know on the East Coast people are not paying attention to it. I live on the West Coast. This is a big deal that North Korea has tested 12 missiles this year alone. They have basically been allowed the last eight years of the Obama administration to make this program almost unabated.

It's really a concern that we have on the West Coast for a number of years because we've been a target. So I would say that the answer to your question is that President Trump is focused on pressuring China right now in a very intense way because it's a national security crisis that he's looking at when he looks at North Korea missiles.

CUOMO: Rick Grenell, I appreciate you taking on these issues for us tonight on CNN Tonight. I appreciate it. Thank you for being with us.

GRENELL: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. We're going to take a break. When we come back, the president's poll numbers have dropped to a new low. Not just in one poll but in several. You know, it's less than 200 days into the presidency. So what is behind this lack of approval for the president and is the White House even worried about it? We're going to talk about that.

Plus, more about the future of former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. His advice for the president, next.


CUOMO: President Trump hitting his lowest approval rating in the brand new Quinnipiac poll. So is the White House on the defensive about this? What does it really mean?

Let's discuss. CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, and CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod. The Axe and Avlon, what a gift to you the viewer. So, David Axelrod, what do you see in these numbers?

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, first of all, nice to see you so late at night, Chris.

The numbers are devastating, obviously. They're unprecedented for a president at this stage but he's obviously not running for election for a while and the midterms aren't even for a while. The problem he has is that other people are looking at these numbers too, particularly members of Congress and you can see members of Congress losing their patience. I mean, republican members with President Trump.

And if they begin to feel that there is not a big price to pay for pedaling away from him or that he may become an albatross for them, then it's going to become even more difficult for him to pass his program and he's already have very little success.

[22:55:02] CUOMO: John, do you think there might have been a whiff of this in terms of motivation for what we're seeing with some republicans bucking the president's will on healthcare reaching across to try and get some action with democrats and get some things done? Do you think that maybe they sense this weakness?

JOHN AVLON, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, yes. I think, you know, there's some political gravity that's been apparent but this Quinnipiac poll really quantifies it and it is bad news across the board for the president. You know, it's not just the top line damage. It's fun to dig into some of the details and it gets stunning.

Only 43 percent of college non-educated whites at this -- non-educated college educated whites support the president. That is stunning given that that has been proceed as his base. Only 22 percent of independents strongly support the president at this point. Seventy one percent say he's not level headed and 62 percent say he's not honest.

That combination of core demos he depends on plummeting and those character attributes, that is bad news for the president. That sticks even to Teflon Don and you're right, republicans in Congress will start to take notice of that because it quantifies what they've been feeling.

CUOMO: So if the concern is his attachment to the base, David, what do you think we can calculate that base as being right now in light of these numbers? What is the Trump base? How much of the country?

AXELROD: Yes. Well, you know, I mean, I think that he's got probably a solid 20 to 25 percent of the country.

CUOMO: That's it?

AXELROD: Yes. I think there's got, you know, -- yes. I mean, I think that's his core base. John is quite right. The 43-50 number among non- college educated whites, that's a group that he carried with 67 percent of the vote last November and was made up the bulk of his core constituency is really, really troubling.

And while he never was doing very well on honesty and some of these other measures, you know, there was another part of this poll that asks about his leadership skills. Does he have good leadership skills? Thirty-four, sixty-five and even among this group, there's non-college educated whites group, that was his core, 45, 51. And all through this poll, there is evidence of that.

Now this is of -- this is sort of at the bottom edge of all the polls that we've seen lately. If you average them out Real Clear Politics, for example, the average is that he's at 38-58 but that's still a very troubling place for a president to be.

CUOMO: It's true. And that's a fair point to make. Quinnipiac, for whatever reason seems to be traditionally a little bit low end for Trump. I guess it goes to the sample maybe a little bit to the method.

But if you're the president and we've all been in political atmospheres where these numbers have to get crunched and then explained away. Couldn't they be saying, well, it's not me, it's not the president, it's this congress. They're killing me because they won't get anything done. They didn't deliver on their promise to people love me. They voted me in.

AVLON: Yes, they voted him in but I mean, that kind of self- rationalization is not Donald Trump or the White House's friend. Now they may have very little alternative in presenting the information of Donald Trump. You're going to have to put lipstick on that pig but you can't run against a do-nothing Congress here.

The reality is republicans have unified control over Congress and they have failed to pass any of the major legislative goals of the president and it's in part because the president has been unable to service a national cheerleader and not step on his message with a series of tweeted distractions and other chaos emanating from the Oval Office.

So the president is a big problem here. And what's happening is that members of the Senate have realized, you know what? I did better in my home state than Donald Trump did. I shouldn't be afraid of the intimidation. I should have stock home syndrome of the base. I'm going to do what I think is right because at the end of the day that political currency of trust doesn't exist.

And I think the key moment was when he threw his attorney general under the bus. That early support from the Senate colleague Sessions to be treated with such public humility and cruelty I think sent a very clear message to the senators and that I think is what has really impacted his ability to get anything done.

CUOMO: Axe, one more quick ting for you before we get to Scaramucci. What do you make of it being General John Kelly who goes to Jeff Sessions and says your job is OK? You ever heard of that before?

AXELROD: Well, apparently the president isn't talking to the attorney general. So somewhat, I guess if that message was going to be delivered, someone had to deliver it. It's very clear in this polling and other polling that the public would view it very, very negatively if he fired Sessions. They would view it very negatively if he fired Mueller and by the way, they're very sour on his tweeting.

So those are numbers that the White House should study. But I don't think the president is talking to Sessions based on everything that we've heard and that raises a whole different set of issues.

CUOMO: John?

AVLON: That said, though, Kelly coming in even in this first few days seems to have had a steadying feel and force in the White House. And I think it's good news for people who want to see the White House become more professionalized and this is simply people who are concerned that the executive branch seems out of control.

[23:00:00] Kelly is coming in, he seems to be strengthening H.R. McMaster's hand in the National Security Council. That's good for global governance in terms of just White House that's trying to be consistent and send a consistent message.