Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Passes to Congress on DACA Solution; Hurricane Irma Now Category Five; North Korea Moving Missiles. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:59] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning, the president seems to be signaling his opinion on the future of the DACA program. That's the one that protects the dreamers from being deported. The president tweeting this morning, Congress, get ready to do your job. DACA! The president punting to Congress to come up with a solution somehow over the next six months.

So joining us now are two Republicans on opposite sides of this issue. We have Rudy Fernandez. He's the former special assistant to George W. Bush. He supports DACA. And Arizona State Senator Steve Montenegro. He is against DACA.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here.

Mr. Montenegro, let's start with you. What would you like to see happen to these 800 dreamers?

SEN. STEVE MONTENEGRO (R), ARIZONA: Well, first of all, thank you for having me this morning.

Look, we have to understand that what President Obama did with DACA is just clearly unconstitutional. I think once it -- I think it becomes apparent if it goes through the courts. It's something that is a gross neglect or just ignoring the rule of law, the Constitution, federal laws.

So what we have to make sure we're doing is we're honoring legal immigrants in this country, I mean, and legal immigrants waiting to come into the country. I mean we can't --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I hear you. Listen, I understand that position. We've heard it a couple times on the show and it makes perfect sense, honor the rule of law. But my question is, so now what? These are 800 young people who are already in school, already have jobs here. What do you want to see happen to them?

MONTENEGRO: Well, again, we have to remember that, first of all, they're not kids, as the left would have us to believe. And, really, look, we have to think of the folks that are waiting to immigrate legally into this country. We can't ignore so many folks that are dreaming as well to come into the country legally, who have applied, who have been waiting 10, 12, 14 years --

CAMEROTA: Yes. MONTENEGRO: To enter the country legally. So there are laws that dictate what needs to happen.

Look, if you're in the this country not lawfully --

CAMEROTA: Yes. Go ahead.

MONTENEGRO: Not legally, there's laws that dictate you are deported. That's not something different. That's not something that --

CAMEROTA: OK, so that's -- that's what I wanted to understand. Just -- because I just want to understand what this is going to look like. If Congress for some reason cannot get its act together over the next six months, and frankly they don't have a track record that inspires that much confidence that they'll be able to do this, you're comfortable with ICE agents showing up at these dreamers' workplace and schools and taking them away?

MONTENEGRO: Look, we have to look at the laws that we have in this country. They're nothing new. I mean Congress has to figure out what's going to happen here. That's what the Constitution, that's what our federal laws dictate. Congress needs to decide and give these folks a solution as to what's going to happen.

But it's nothing new. The laws are in this country. If you're here unlawfully, then you are deported. That's nothing new.


Mr. Fernandez, your thoughts on this?

RUDY FERNANDEZ, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, listen, this 800,000 dreamers, they are American by almost any measure that you can imagine. Many of them -- for many of them, this is the only country that they've ever known. Most of them only speak English. They're in our K through 12 schools. They're in our colleges. Many have jobs that have bought homes. Some are serving in our military.

It would be cruel and frankly inhuman to have a -- to mass deport 800,000 children that are here -- yes, they're here illegally through no fault of their own. We have a long standing tradition in this country and Governor Rick Scott of Florida, a conservative and close friend of President Trump, said recently that, you know, we have a long tradition in this country that we don't hold the sins of the parents against children. And it, frankly, would be inhumane. And I don't think we're an inhumane country. I don't think we're a cruel country.

I do agree with President Trump that it's time for Congress to finally put this issue to rest by doing their job and taking action.


FERNANDEZ: And I -- and I support Congress taking definitive action to make sure that these dreamers stay here in the U.S. and can make positive contributions to this country. CAMEROTA: Mr. Montenegro, are you comfortable with -- I mean, again,

just -- what was just said, that they're being held responsible for the sins of their parents. They came here through no choice of their own.

[08:35:01] MONTENEGRO: Well, look, again, let's look at this in reality. I mean over 64 percent of these folks are over 24 years old. So we're not talking about kids. And --

CAMEROTA: I'm not say they're children. I'm saying they were children when they were brought here.

MONTENEGRO: OK. Well, but they were just referred to as children. So I'm correcting that.

FERNANDEZ: But if you -- if you came -- if you came here when you were four years old and you've been here for 20 years, you know, you didn't know that you were violating our immigration laws when you got here.

MONTENEGRO: And the other thing is -- and the other -- well, let me -- let me answer the question here first. And the reality is --

CAMEROTA: OK. Go ahead. So --

MONTENEGRO: OK. The reality is, though, that we do have -- well, we have to understand that we're dealing with immigration laws as well. I suspect that Congress is going to come to some type of agreement that deals with this. And that's the best thing we can do, give these folks a decision. But, again, we have to remember folk that are waiting in the process, who have been waiting for years.


MONTENEGRO: They're dreaming as well. Who's going to speak up for them? Are we going to make sure that we're honoring legal -- the legal immigration process here?

So I suspect that there is something that will be done through Congress, if there's e-verify, if we're talking about ending chain migration, because that's another point that we have to remember. We have to remember that these -- it's not just 800,000 folks. We're dealing with their families now. Is that going to include their families being able to, after through fault of their own, their parents or whoever it is emigrated and receive status as well?

CAMEROTA: Listen -- yes --

MONTENEGRO: I mean we have to make sure we're following --

CAMEROTA: Of course, the rule of law.

MONTENEGRO: Honoring immigrants that are coming here legally.

CAMEROTA: Look, understood. And it's complicated. That's why it's taken so long. That's why, Mr. Fernandez, it seems that the president has been so conflicted about this. But, you know, there are all of these business leaders, 400 business leaders. I mean the biggest names in business, the CEOs of Microsoft, of Apple, et cetera, et cetera, have written a letter to President Trump about this because he -- they want him to know the effect that this would have on the economy. So there's all of these practical applications. For instance, $460 billion loss to the economy, they claim, if these dreamers were to be deported. And then $24.5 billion lost in Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Mr. Fernandez, why do you think Republicans are so divided about this?

FERNANDEZ: Well, listen, keeping these dreamers here who are making -- by, you know, for the most part, they're making very positive contributions, makes economic sense, it makes moral sense and it makes policy sense. And Congress needs to focus on this and finally do their job.

And in Florida, these are some of the best and brightest students in our universities, in our K through 12 school system. These are small business owners.


FERNANDEZ: And, frankly, to deport them and to deport their families would break up communities. And that's -- that's un-American.


CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, all right, we have to leave it there --

MONTENEGRO: Let me just add to that.

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry, we have to leave it there. Thank you both very much for the debate.

FERNANDEZ: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We do have to leave it there because we do have breaking news about Hurricane Irma. It is now an extremely dangerous category five storm with Florida and Puerto Rico in its crosshairs. We're going to have a live update from the National Hurricane Center, next.


[08:41:52] BERMAN: All right, we are following breaking news. Hurricane Irma intensifying rapidly this morning. It is now a category five storm packing winds in excess of 175 miles an hour. This storm is now bearing down in the Caribbean and posing a major threat to millions of people ultimately in Florida.

Joining us now is Dr. Michael Brennan. He's the chief hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

You know, when we got here this morning, this thing had top speeds of 145 miles an hour. Now it's 175 and it looks like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands could be in serious trouble.

DR. MICHAEL BRENNAN, CHIEF HURRICANE SPECIALIST, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Yes, we're very concerned this morning about the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. They're going to see potentially catastrophic impacts from the center of Hurricane Irma as it's going to affect those areas during the next day or two.

Right now we have those -- that core of 175 miles an hour winds near the center. We could see storm surge of seven to 11 feet. That's certainly life-threatening and very, very heavy flooding rainfall. Those winds in the core are capable of catastrophic damage, total building failures, trees knocked down, severe damage to infrastructure in any location that gets the eye wall of Irma at this point.

CAMEROTA: So, Dr. Brennan, put this in context for us. If this is a category five, this is the strongest Atlantic hurricane since when?

BRENNAN: Well, we had category five Matthew in the Caribbean last year. So that was the first category five we'd had in some time in the Atlantic. But Irma is a very, very powerful hurricane regardless of whether it's a category four or five. Just life-threatening impacts again from wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall.

BERMAN: And every single model we see gives it some kind of impact on the United States, the continental United States, whether it be in western Florida or maybe even as you get over to the panhandle right now. Is there anything that could slow it down before landfall?

BRENNAN: Well, if the center of Irma were to move a little south of our forecast and perhaps go over portions of Cuba or even Hispaniola. That could weaken the storm a little bit. But right now we're expecting it to remain north of those islands.

Trying to pin down the impacts in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. is really uncertain now. We do expect Irma to slow down and take some sort of northward turn as we get into Sunday and Monday, but the turn could occur and take the system west of the Florida peninsula, over the peninsula, or along the east coast of the peninsula. And the details and timings of where that turn occurs will have huge impacts on what areas are going to see the most -- the most impacts from the storm. And it's just too early to sort that out.

CAMEROTA: So what's your biggest concern at this hour?

BRENNAN: Well, the biggest concern right now is for the folks in the northeastern Caribbean. They're the ones that are going to see the core of this devastating hurricane in the next day or two. And that's where we're most confident of where the impacts are going to occur.

As we get later out in time, you know, we're concerned about the -- Hispaniola, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Florida Keys, the Florida peninsula. The main message for folks in Florida right now is, these next few days are your chance to get ready, have your hurricane preparedness plan in place. Know if you live in an evacuation zone and what you would do if you were asked to evacuate. The timing to really get ready for the storm, you want to be ready by Friday in south Florida, by Saturday up in central and north Florida. Because, beyond those times, that's when we could see tropical storm force winds arrive and that's really the end time of getting ready for an approaching hurricane.

[08:45:03] BERMAN: Now is the time to pay attention.

Michael Brennan, National Hurricane Center, thanks so much for being with us.

BRENNAN: Yes, thank you.

BERMAN: All right, time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

A South Korean lawmaker tells CNN that North Korea was spotted moving a projectile believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile this morning. North Korean state media says the country is willing to blow up the U.S. mainland.

CAMEROTA: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to announce this morning the Trump administration's decision to end the program protecting dreamers from deportation. It will now be up to Congress to decide the fate of 800,000 undocumented immigrants.

BERMAN: The diplomatic spat between the U.S. and Russia may head to court. Russian President Vladimir Putin now threatening to sue the U.S. over its seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds after Russia allegedly meddled in the U.S. election.

CAMEROTA: President Trump set to meet today with the, quote, "big six." That's a group of Republican congressional leaders and administration officials that will negotiate a plan to try to rewrite the tax code.

BERMAN: More than a week after Harvey hit Texas, searchers are getting more and more desperate for dozens of people still missing. FEMA also starting to rush recovery money to survivors with flood insurance.

CAMEROTA: All right, for more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to for the latest.

BERMAN: All right, the threat North Korea poses keeps on escalating, but is the Trump administration's tough talk helping or hurting. A key national security insider weighs in, next.


[08:50:32] BERMAN: The threat from North Korea on President Trump's mind this morning. This is what he just wrote. I'm allowing Japan and South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.

This comes as South Korea intelligence reports that North Korea may be moving an intercontinental ballistic missile for a new test launch.

Joining us now, CNN's senior national security analyst, former White House counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco.

Lisa, great to have you here.


BERMAN: This new information from the president selling new military equipment to South Korea and Japan, you think that is a good move.

MONACO: Sure. And, frankly I would have liked to have seen him start with that tweet on Sunday instead of lashing out at South Korea, which he did in his initial tweet talking about South Korea being appeasers, which is, of course, not the case. It's one of the reasons why Twitter foreign policy is really not very effective and can be quite dangerous.

But this latest move, increasing the ability of South Korea and Japan to buy more military equipment, I think that's good. I don't think it's going to change Kim Jong-un's calculus, though.

CAMEROTA: Can you help us understand where we are with North Korea? Just give us some context. Help us understand in terms of a national security threat how concerned American should be. Because when you hear the rhetoric obviously coming out of Kim Jong-un, that it's going to be annihilation of the American mainland and all of that, but it's very hard to know if this is just more saber rattling and overheated rhetoric or if something has changed in these past weeks.

MONACO: Well, first, let's be very clear. The desire of the regime in North Korea and their steady march to acquire a nuclear-tipped missile to hit the United States is the most urgent national security issue that we face. And that's why President Obama, during the transition amongst administrations, made that point to President Trump and told him exactly that, the most urgent threat we face.

We should distinguish, though, the threat to the homeland. There's four elements that North Korea needs to have in order to pose that threat to the homeland. First, the nuclear capability, and we saw the most serious test to date.

CAMEROTA: So they have that.

MONACO: They have that. They've been testing -- steadily testing the missile delivery capability.


MONACO: That's the second element.

BERMAN: They're getting that, if they don't have it yet.

MONACO: They're steadily moving that way. Miniaturization, that means getting that nuclear warhead small enough on to the missile system. We've seen one element of our national security community, our intelligence community, give a report about that, that leaked several weeks ago.

CAMEROTA: Intel suggests they have that.

MONACO: Now -- but I want to be clear, that's one element of 16 agencies. I, frankly, would like to see what our full intelligence community says about that. But, still, that's very concerning.

The fourth element is reentry. That's the most complex. Our intelligence community did not believe they're there yet. So, four elements, they're a steady march to get them, but they're not there yet.

BERMAN: They have three out of the four, or two out of the four, maybe three out of the four --

MONACO: Right.

BERMAN: But moving in the direction to having all of them right now.

MONACO: Absolutely.

BERMAN: You know, we heard from Admiral Kirby, who, obviously, you worked with before, you know, suggesting, among other things, that at a certain point you have to accept that North Korea is, as we sit here this morning, a nuclear power.

MONACO: Absolutely. Right? They have the capability to threaten their neighbors. And, importantly, the distinction here we should be focused on is their ability to basically deploy nuclear blackmail. They have an ability to hit South Korea. And if they were to invade South Korea, they could threaten further nuclear destruction if we were to intercede. So that capability of deploying nuclear blackmail is certainly very present.

CAMEROTA: It's just so interesting because you approach it from the national security angle, and that's, of course, they have that capability. Yes, they are a nuclear power. The diplomats that we talked to are like, no, they're not willing to say that because that's a lever that they don't want to -- you know, that's a chip they don't want to give North Korea.

MONACO: Right.

CAMEROTA: I mean it's sort of like reality versus, I don't know, illusion.

MONACO: Well, one of the things we need to do as a country is figure out, what are we willing to put on the table? Ambassador Haley said yesterday that we need to deploy all elements of our diplomatic capability. We have to exhaust all elements of our diplomacy. She's absolutely right on that score. But the question is, what are we willing to do in that regard? They've -- she's clearly rejected the Russia/China freeze for freeze approach, which I think is correct to reject that. But the question is, what are we willing to do from a diplomatic stance?

BERMAN: What are you willing to live with? MONACO: Well, frankly, we need to be focusing very much on deterring

North Korea's use of their current nuclear capability. We should be increasing our defenses, our ballistic missile defenses, et cetera. We ought to be doing more in the covert realm. We should be deploying cyber and other tools to roll back, to sabotage, to curtail their current -- North Korea's current capability and we've got to be putting some diplomatic options on the table.

[08:55:26] CAMEROTA: And very quickly. When Nikki Haley, ambassador, says that North Korea is begging for war, do you agree with that?

MONACO: I don't. And I think what we see is the regime in North Korea is dead set on staying in power, on retaining the regime. And they want to see a unified peninsula under North Korean control and they want to see South Korea seed to their wishes. But they want to retain the regime and they want to be seen as a nuclear power.

CAMEROTA: Lisa Monaco, thank you very much for being here with all of your expertise.

MONACO: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow --

BERMAN: Alone.

CAMEROTA: Only Poppy, picks up after this very quick break.


[08:59:52] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.

And we begin with breaking news this morning.

Hurricane Irma has now strengthened into a powerful category five storm. This is the strongest Atlantic hurricane in a decade. It's packing winds of up to 175 miles an hour as we speak. And while it is still too early to tell how it will impact, both Florida and Puerto Rico have declared state of emergencies. Still, we don't