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President Trump Backs Merit-Based Immigration Restriction Bill; President Trump Signs Sanctions Bill on Russia. Interview with Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia; Interview with Senator Todd Young of Indiana. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 3, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't understand how anybody wants a pro-growth effort in America to oppose this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of Congress, they can either vote with the interest of U.S. citizens and U.S. workers, or they can vote against their interests.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it will pass the Senate and I will do everything I can to prevent it from passing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the president of Mexico called me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were direct conversations. I wouldn't say it was a lie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He continues to do things like this that cut at the core of his credibility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump lashing out at Congress after reluctantly signing the Russia sanctions bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin has done something that nobody else in America could do, unite the Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There she is, Lady Liberty, really a waiving symbol, an invitation of benevolence to the whole world. Is that about to change? Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August 3rd, 8:00 in the east. President Trump facing bipartisan backlash over support of a bill that aims to slash legal immigration to American by 50 percent. English speakers would be favored in the proposed merit based system. Family based immigration would therefore be reduced.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile a new national poll has President Trump's approval rating hitting a new low at just 33 percent, and the president's credibility continues to take hits as well. The White House now admits that two phone calls the president says he took never actually happened. President Trump hopes for a boost from his base with a campaign style rally in West Virginia tonight. So let's begin out coverage with CNN's Sara Murray. She is live at the White House. Another busy day, Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And apparently when things get tough, the president is going to play to his base. As you said, he's headed to ruby red West Virginia tonight for a campaign rally. He also had the chief of staff John Kelly, make a phone call to Jeff Sessions this week, assuring sessions, a favorite among Trump's conservative base, that his job was in in fact safe. All of this on top of the president throwing his support behind a controversial immigration plan yesterday.
MURRAY: President Trump Endorsing proposed legislation to slash legal immigration in half over the next decade and shift the country to a so called merit based system.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.
MURRAY: The rollout of the bill accompanied by a combative press briefing. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller facing off with CNN's Jim Acosta about whether the policy align with American values.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Statue of Liberty says give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. It doesn't say anything about speaking English.
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty and light in the world. It's a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you're referring was added later. It's not actually a part of the original statue of liberty.
MURRAY: A line of questioning that quickly turned personal.
ACOSTA: This whole notion they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just bringing in people from Great Britain and Australia.
MILLER: It shows your cosmopolitan bias. And I just want to say --
ACOSTA: -- to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.
MILLER: That is one the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you have ever said, and for you that's still a really -- the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong.
MURRAY: The controversial plan also sparking fierce debate in Congress.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: To take all the green cards and put them in one end of the economy is just, I think, ill-advised and I can't support that.
MURRAY: The growing rift between President Trump and his own party also on display Wednesday when the president reluctantly signed the Russian sanctions bill away from the cameras before slamming Congress's veto-proof bill as seriously flawed and unconstitutional, claiming that he can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.
Senator John McCain striking back, noting I hope the president will be as vocal about Russia's aggressive behavior as he was about his concerns with this legislation.
It comes as the president's approval numbers hit a new low and mounting credibility issues are straining his political capital. The White House conceding that two phone calls the president recently touted with the president of Mexico and the Boy Scouts actually never happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He specifically said he received a phone call from the president of Mexico.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: They were actually -- they were direct conversations, not actual phone calls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he lied?
SANDERS: I wouldn't say it was a lie. That's a pretty bold accusation. It's -- the conversations took place. They just simply didn't take place over a phone call. He had them in person.
MURRAY: As for the president's claim the Boy Scouts called to tell him last week's appearance was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, the press secretary said this.
[08:05:00] SANDERS: Multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership following his speech there that day congratulated him, praised him, and offered quite -- I'm looking for the word. Quite powerful compliments following his speech, and that's what those references were about.
MURRAY: Now the Boy Scouts have denied that there was any actual phone call between members of their leadership congratulating President Trump or lavishing praise on him for that speech. And in fact the leadership of the Boy Scouts actually put out an apology for President Trump's address to the group for politicizing what is supposed to be a non-political event. Back to you guys.
CUOMO: What a turn of events. Could you have imagined in any other time, Sara, the words "huddled masses" and those, the tired, the poor, yearning to be free being dismissed as words added later, as if they weren't a signature of the invitation to America. Let's bring in our panel, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, CNN political director David Chalian, and Washington bureau chief for the "Associated Press," Julie Pace. Ron Brownstein, on top of what Miller said, kind of dismissing what
America means to the entire world, what do we see in these poll numbers that should be of specific concern?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, if you're talking about the poll numbers, the Quinnipiac poll puts him at a low ebb. It's probably the lowest one we have seen. But the general trajectory is clear across all of the polls. And the striking thing in this Quinnipiac survey is the erosion, not only among the groups that were skeptical of him from the beginning, so he has miserable numbers among millennials, among minorities, among college educated whites, but you're seeing significant erosion, Chris, even among the groups that were the cornerstone of his coalition.
In 2016 he won a higher share of non-college whites, working class white of any candidate, either party since Ronald Reagan of 1984. He's now net negative in approval among them, and his strong disapproval among them has moved up to 43 percent.
Similarly adults 50 to 64, look at that. His strong disapproval has doubled since he took office among voters in that age group. And I think it's worth noting that both those blue collar whites and those older working adult were by all analyses among the biggest losers in the Republican health care plans that we've been debating for the last several months. People were paying attention. And you see now this kind of dangerous erosion. One last point, if you look at the overall strong disapproval, 55 percent, that's more than double the share that say in this poll they strongly approve of him, and historically, that strong sentiment has been an important predictor of turnout in midterm elections.
CAMEROTA: David, it's also interesting to look at his support among Republicans. So today 76 percent approve, 17 percent disapprove. That's obviously down from inauguration day. I remember seeing some polls that I think were 90 percent approval among Republicans, and certainly there are some at the time he only had three percent disapproval. What's happening there? What do you think it causing this.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That is a real warning sign. And it gets to what Ron is saying about pieces of the coalition. It seems like -- and again, his most diehard supporters, when he goes to West Virginia tonight you're going to see folks there who are going to love him, but maybe he can't actually stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not have any effect.
There is this notion that 76 percent number among Republicans, every Republican operative I speak to that works in politics that's working on the midterm elections, that's a danger sign for them. That's where they begin to start figuring out strategies with the potential of President Trump being a negative weight on the rest of the ticket that is actually on the ballot in November, 2018. Right when you start dropping bow low 80 percent approval in your own party that is when folks start to get a little more concerned about their own fortunes than necessarily the whole. CUOMO: Julie, he also has a little bit of a character problem also.
It's that when he says things that are true people find them outrageous and offensive. And most of the time they find what he says to not be true. Sixth-two percent say he is not honest.
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It's a pretty astounding figure there. And the best defense that you hear from Trump supporters and folks in the White House is that the numbers were pretty similar during the campaign and he still won. I don't know if that's a great defense, but it's what they lean on there.
I think there is a different, though, between how Americans view your character as a candidate and how they view it as president, because once you're president, the things you're talking, the things that you're trying to gain credibility with the American people for are things like their safety, the economic security of the country. We're talking about bigger picture things than the types of insults that you might throw at a political rival during a campaign. So I am not sure saying say, just because the numbers look bad now, they were bad in the campaign and he still won is actually a great position to be in as president of the United States.
[08:10:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So Ron Brownstein, let's talk about the policy now about immigration. There are a couple of senators who want to cut legal immigration in half over the course of the next 10 years. The president seems to be embracing this policy, America first, give jobs to Americans, all of that kind of rhetoric despite the fact that the vast majority of economists say that immigrants contribute wildly to our economy. They help it on so many levels. Eighteen economists were interviewed by "The Washington Post" in July, 89 percent of them said it's a terrible idea to cut legal immigration. And it also seems that it wouldn't pass. There are a enough people like Lindsey Graham in Congress who say that it would devastate their state. So is this President Trump just being able to say what he thinks the base likes to hear and he'll get props and credit from the base for just even talking about it and sort of channeling them.
BROWNSTEIN: It is part of a systematic I think elevation of culturally polarizing issues around the failure of the health care bill. There was the ban on transgender soldiers, the seeming welcoming of police brutality on Friday. This embrace of cutting legal immigration in half as well as indications the Justice Department wants a new offensive against affirmative action.
A couple points on the immigration. First of all, last time they tried this, a serious attempt was made to cut legal immigration, it was 1996 and it only got 20 votes in the Senate, and among those voting no were Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, and John McCain. Just file that away.
The question to me, really, is whether this even benefits the people it is targeted at. The fact is that over the next 35 years, the estimates are we're going to add nearly 40 million more seniors. Virtually all of the projected the growth in the workforce over that period is from immigrants or their children. The estimates have been done by the Pew Research Project show that under this bill there would be no net growth in the work force, which means that the same amount of workers would have to bear the burden of roughly 40 million more retirees.
And what that translates into is either Social Security and Medicare benefits or much higher Social Security and Medicare taxes at a time when 80 percent of seniors are white. And so what you're talking about is putting more strain on the programs that Trump's own voters are relying on if you go down the road that Tom Cotton and David Perdue are talking about here. And I think that is one of the reasons why it is going to be virtually impossible -- it is impossible to get to 60 votes in the Senate. I doubt this would even get a majority. And again, if you look at the last time they tried to do this, they were only able to get 20 senators to go along, and that wasn't as steep a cut as this.
CUOMO: It's interesting. The president is tweeting saying business is looking better than ever. Continuing to get rid of costly and unnecessary regulations, business will grow. Not if you have this bill become low because you're going to lose a big part of the necessary low skill labor base that you can't fill with American jobs, and your business owners know that best.
But there's a more simple test. Brownstein, Chalian, Pace, who's people would have made it under these criteria? Would all of you be here if these were the measures? Did your ancestors have money to pay for health care? Were they high skilled laborers? Did they all speak English on entry? How many of you would have been here? That's a very simple test of what Miller was doing on that podium yesterday, brushing away as words added later the promise of the New Colossus poem by Emma Lazarus. And the president during the campaign, I love the uneducated. But you can't come in. David Chalian, how big an implication is this value statement of this bill proposal?
CHALIAN: What I think Stephen Miller was doing there when he did sort of push aside that larger values conversation that Jim Acosta was trying to engage him on, he was saying, no, no, no. We are putting this nationalist agenda first. This is part of how we see America first and what that means. It's in policies like this.
This, again, as with so many things, time and again in the last six and a half months with this administration, I always scratch my head and say, what is it, where here are they trying to appeal to 50 percent plus one? Where are they trying to bring in a majority of the country to their position? Time and again I think this administration fails that test. And so you can keep up this rhetoric and policies that are geared at what 33 percent may like, but then you are going to go down in history as a failed president.
CAMEROTA: Panel thank you very much for all of your perspectives.
CUOMO: Another big move, the president signing the sanctions bill into law, but then he said, but it's unconstitutional, and he went after congress. Reaction from a Republican senator, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:18:28] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump lashing out at Congress after reluctantly signing a tough sanctions bill against Russia, Iran and North Korea.
In an extraordinary statement, the president saying, quote: The bill remains seriously flawed particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch's authority to negotiate. Congress could not negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the executive's flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people and will drive China, Russia and North Korea much closer together.
Joining us now is Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana. He serves on the Foreign Relations and Health Committees.
Good to have you.
SEN. TODD YOUNG (R), INDIANA: Thanks for having me, Chris.
CUOMO: So, is the president right? You forced him to sign an unconstitutional piece of legislation.
YOUNG: Chris, I'm proud the president signed this piece of legislation. He listened to the American people, as he pledged he would. It passed overwhelming out of both the House and Senate, 98-2 in the U.S. Senate. This is legislation that will actually assist in further and future negotiations with the Russians to ensure that we correct their bad behavior and I think it was the right thing to do.
CUOMO: The reporting was resoundingly that part of the consensus, the 98-2 that you refer to, was dissatisfaction with the president's posturing on Russia, and that you guys wanted to make a move not just to check the power of executive but this executive in particular. Do you agree?
YOUNG: No, I campaigned on a platform of ensuring that we fulfill our constitutional responsibilities as a unique and distinct branch of government. So, irrespective of whether Republican or Democrat that occupies the White House, whether it deals with sanctions, policies or authorizing the use of military force, it's essential that Congress does its job. That's what this was all about.
CUOMO: Next subject: the immigration bill that the White House is behind creating a merit-based criteria for getting in. Do you support it?
YOUNG: I haven't read it. I am aware of the press release. I think with respect to immigration policy, we have a lot of work to do in a bipartisan fashion here in Congress. I've always thought that if it we can secure the border first which is a humanitarian and national security imperative, that's going to make the rest of the immigration reform a lot easier.
So, as a Marine, I was stationed on the southern border. I know how to get it secure through a variety of different mechanisms. It's imminently doable if we'll just come together. Take care of that. And then, as you I said, we'll move on to things dealing with the labor market which I think this new bill is designed to address.
CUOMO: We'll get back to that. Have to switch back to Russia for a second because the president just tweeted about it.
Our relationship with Russia is at an all time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't give us health care.
YOUNG: So, my response is it is at an all-time low. Vladimir Putin has grabbed Crimea. He's encroached on Ukraine. He's meddled in our elections. He's inserted himself into the Middle East, creating mayhem and exacerbating a horrible humanitarian and national security crisis there. So, it's important we stay vigilant with respect to Russia.
It's also important Congress continues to act boldly on other areas of foreign policy. We're contemplating sending more forces and becoming further engaged in different areas of the world, and so, Congress need to speak with the unified and loud voice with respect to those matters, including the authorization and use of military force. I recently drafted an AUMF and perhaps we can get into that consequential issue.
CUOMO: You know what? We don't have a lot of time left. So, let's do exactly that.
The AUMF, it's from 2001. You could argue that this is one of the most obvious abdications of power in terms of constitutionality we've seen. Congress has been letting presidents take their power of declarations of war in effect for a long time. As you know very well for serving your country and thank you for that service -- the world is so different now than it was in 2001 and what we were trying to protect against with that last vote on that AUMF.
Do you believe there is the courage in Congress now to take up the issue and own the decision of when we go to war?
YOUNG: You know, I think a number about of Republicans and Democrats have demonstrated the constitutional fortitude to not just speak but act on this issue. I commend Tim Kaine and Jeff Flake for also having produced a very thoughtful authorization for the use of military force. I produce my own that provides greater discretion to the commander in chief to fight and win battles and ultimately, to keep the American people safe and secure.
This is a long war unlike previous wars we've fought, so from time to time, it's essential that Congress, the people's branch, reaffirms our support for the men and women in the field and their families who are putting everything on the line to keep us safe and secure.
So, aside from the legal issuers, that's what this is about. It's a strong message of support. Secretary Mattis has indicated it's not only appropriate, it's essential that Congress shows we support people not just by providing military equipment, and ensuring military is sufficiently funded but also indicated in an unambiguous way that we're behind them in this ongoing fight against radical Islamic extremism.
CUOMO: Well, look, the decisions have consequences. We just lost two more lives in Afghanistan.
YOUNG: That's right.
CUOMO: You guys in Congress should have to vote. You should have to say that you're behind it in these decisions and there's accountability for them, should you not?
YOUNG: We should. We should. Which is precisely I put forward an AUMF. Under the president's Article 2 authority as commander in chief of our forces, he, of course, has the ability in times of imminent danger to engage in limited conflict.
But I think that presidents in generations past have overstepped those bounds. Congress has delegated its responsibility to the executive branch and it's time to be more assertive. So, that's why I introduced an AUMF.
I think we have an opportunity in this environment right now where there's a heightened emphasis in recent days on renewing bipartisanship to come together to support our troop the around this issue.
[08:25:06] CUOMO: Well, I'm glad to hear you say that, Senator. This talk of bipartisanship, it couldn't be more welcome to Americans. At least from what we're hearing from your audience. It's time to get things done.
Thank you for being with us on NEW DAY, sir, and thank you for your service.
YOUNG: Thanks for having me, Chris.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, that is not the only plan Congress is it considering on authorizing military force. Former Democratic V.P. nominee, Senator Tim Kaine joins us next to explain his bipartisan proposal.
CAMEROTA: This morning, President Trump is blaming Congress over the sanctions bill that he reluctantly signed into law. The president tweeting moments ago our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low, you can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us health care.
Joining us now is Democratic senator and former vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine.
Good morning, Senator. SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Alisyn, great to be with you. Thanks.
CAMEROTA: Are you and your fellow lawmakers to blame for the U.S. Russian relations right now?
KAINE: That presidential tweet, Alisyn, is ridiculous. The relationship is at a low because Vladimir Putin is invading sovereign nations, is attacking American, Montenegrin, French elections.