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Trump Cancels Visit to London; TV Episode Focuses on Removing a President from Office; will.i.am Happy Traveling and Teaching Kids. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired January 12, 2018 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour:
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump uses bolder language, painting immigrants from Africa, Central America and Haiti with one ugly brush stroke. >
VAUSE: The other Trump bombshell from "little rocket man" to "good relationship" -- the U.S. President says he has a good relationship now with the North Korean leader.
SESAY: And the man behind the Leave campaign now saying Britain should vote again on Brexit.
VAUSE: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Good to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay.
NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now. >
VAUSE: Well, the U.S. President has left little doubt about his opinions of immigrants from some developing countries. He made remarks which were extremely offensive, even racist.
SESAY: The President was meeting U.S. lawmakers in the Oval Office talking about possible changes to immigration policy. The line of discussion turned to people from Haiti, Africa and Central South America. A source said Mr. Trump asked in frustration "Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?"
VAUSE: Now, those countries seek something called temporary protective status because of an enduring natural disaster or serious political unrest.
But the President wasn't finished there. In referring to Haitians having temporary protected status he said, "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out."
Lawmakers reacted with anger and dismay; some were horrified. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does things that I never thought I would see come from the president of the United States. But this is extremely damaging and it is very, very hurtful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are traumatized as a nation about this president and how he behaves. He's certainly not behaving presidential.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just beneath the presidency. But also suggests he doesn't quite get what it is that really makes America great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, for more on this, let's bring in political commentator Mo Kelly and CNN political commentator and Trump supporter John Phillips.
Ok. We start with the heading you can't make this stuff up. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports Trump was taping a message in the state dining room on Thursday afternoon for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
As the story was breaking, according to one official, another official said Trump expressed to aides within the hour that the media was blowing his comments out of proportion.
Mo -- it seems the President of the United States doesn't get it.
MO KELLY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would take him at his word in the sense that President Trump has been consistent in the way that he has spoken of people from Africa and also Latin America with contempt.
He obviously wants to ascribe the value of immigrants from those regions relative to the socioeconomic status of those countries. And it's something which is not consistent with American ideals. And there's no other way to describe it.
It personally hurt me and this transcends politics. And after a while can we call it what it is? It's a racist statement.
VAUSE: Ok. I'll just put this discussion on hold for a moment because we are now learning that the U.S. President has cancelled his trip to London. This was going to be state visit. Initially told the plan for a visit would happen at the end of February but word came from Washington in the past few that the trip is now likely off.
The officials have declined to say why. Said the decision was made by the Americans and Donald Trump has also tweeted about it right now. We can read the tweet. "The reason I cancelled my trip to London is that I'm not a big fan of the Obama administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for peanuts only to build a new one in an off location for $1.2 billion. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon. No."
Ok. Had nothing to do with the possible planned protests that were waiting for Donald Trump when he arrived.
Hey -- John. Ok. These -- the comments that Donald Trump on Thursday, they are not the first time he's made racist comments. Here's a reminder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Mexico sends its people they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some I assume are good people.
Look at my African-American over here. Look at him.
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So John -- short of burning a cross on the north lawn of the White House --
JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, come on.
VAUSE: -- is there enough proof that the President is in fact a racist?
[00:04:57] PHILLIPS: The comments today reminded me of something you would see on a one star review of a motel on Yelp. And I think that it was part of a private conversation. What was said before or what was said after we're not privy to. It didn't happen in public.
I will say this. A nation's immigration policy is supposed to benefit the nation not the immigrant. In American history we used to have a policy that gave preferential treatment to those who could assimilate easier. We gave preferential treatment to those who could take care of themselves when they got here.
And in the 1964 Ted Kennedy immigration bill we moved away from that. What Donald Trump ran on, what was in his platform as a candidate for the presidency and what he's pushing the policy but he's pushing as president of the United States is to go back to that.
We live in a screwed up world when a medical doctor from India has a difficult time immigrating to the United States but the Tsarnaev family can.
VAUSE: Ok. You say this was a private conversation -- fair point. It was in front of a bunch of Democrats, a bunch of Republicans. It wasn't entirely private.
And the White House isn't denying this. In fact, one official -- one White House official told CNN the President's "shithole" remark is being received much differently inside of the White House than it is outside of it. Though this might enrage Washington, the staff is predicting the comment will resonate with his base much like his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, how that did not alienate it as well.
So Mo -- do you agree these comments will actually over well with those most -- you know, ardent of Trump supporters?
KELLY: Absolutely. He has been consistent in terms of who he wants to demonize. He has demonized African-Americans. He has demonized Latinos -- Judge Curiel, for example. He has been consistent in terms of how he perceives those individuals who either are not American.
And let's not forget President Obama is the son of a Kenyan immigrant. All this is tied together. President Trump -- I believe him. I take him at his word. And at this point can we just go ahead and say that he has contempt for people who do not look like him. He has earned this criticism.
VAUSE: He took a lot of heat this week, John -- when he appeared to be embracing comprehensive immigration reform. That now appears to be dead and not going to go anywhere.
But after this comment, this "shithole" comment, one of those supporters, Ann Coulter, she tweeted this. "He's trying to win me back." Is that the play that's happening at the moment?
PHILLIPS: Look, the metrics for Donald Trump are different than the metrics for Republicans in Congress. Republicans in congress ran on tax reform. They ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare. They ran on getting rid of many regulations that are on the books.
Donald Trump ran on different subjects. He ran on going after trade bills like TPP which he has already killed. He ran on getting us out of foreign wars which he so far has not gotten us involved in any new wars.
He also ran on building the wall and on being a hawk on immigration. If he doesn't come through with the wall, if he doesn't come through with legislation on immigration that's not the comprehensive George W. Bush version of it, then his people are going to go absolutely bananas.
PHILLIPS: If he wants to win re-election he has to come through.
VAUSE: Ok. There has been a tsunami of outrage. But here's reaction from Senator Tim Scott. He's the only Republican African-American in the Senate. That's why I think this is important.
"Our strength lies in our diversity including those who came here from Africa, the Caribbean and every other corner of the world. To deny these facts would be to ignore the brightest part of our history."
And Mo -- the reason why I think this is important because it does raise the question that President Trump appreciates what -- the uniqueness of this country, the strength of this country, the character of this country. And you know, does this now mean that, you know, the poem on the Statue of Liberty comes with an asterisk? Unless of course, you're talking of some "shithole".
KELLY: Well, I mean obviously what was described in the Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island really doesn't apply anymore if you want to look at what Donald Trump has had to say.
John -- respectfully, this transcends politics. This is about the common decency which isn't all that common anymore in regard to what America stands for. And although we can make political calculations about how this will affect the President, I think this is catering to the worst of our angels instead of our best angels, our better angels. We're better than this even though the President may not be.
VAUSE: Ok. Well, this was a three-alarm fire for the White House on Thursday. And the racial slur from the President, it overshadowed comments he made to the "Wall Street Journal" about the leader of North Korea.
This is part of it. He said, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-Un." Asked if he had spoken with Mr. Kim Trump said, "I don't want to comment on it. I'm not saying I have or haven't. I just don't want to comment."
Donald Trump framed his own comments as part of a broader strategy. "You will see that a lot with me," he said about combative tweets. And then, all of this suddenly -- suddenly he's my best friend.
He said, "I can give you 20 examples, it could be 30 -- I'm a very flexible person."
Ok. With that in mind let's go to Will Ripley. He's live in Seoul, South Korea this morning. Will -- first, is it possible there has been some back channel communication in some form between these two leaders? Has there been any reaction from Pyongyang to this statement from Donald Trump?
[00:10:05] WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look John -- anything is possible. It's possible that aliens are hovering over our planet right now but we can't see them.
There are back channel communications between the United States and North Korea, the United Nations and New York and elsewhere. But from every North Korean government official I've ever spoken with, every American official on the U.S. side of that back channel that I've spoken with no indication whatsoever that there have been any direct contact between Kim Jong-Un and President Trump.
So one source that I was speaking with earlier today put it this way; he said I wouldn't bet the ranch. And this is a president that just last week was boasting about the size of his nuclear button and taunting Kim Jong-Un about his nuclear button, who three months ago said that diplomacy was a waste of time in a tweet to his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This is a president that has threatened to totally destroy North Korea, that threatened fire and fury. But then inexplicably in somewhat in a confusing change of tone this week said that he'd be willing to sit down and engage with Kim Jong-Un. Now he's saying that they probably have a good relationship. It is all a bit of a roller coaster but that is the day and age that we live in.
I will read you this. A senior administration official speaking to CNN when asked if there had been communication be2tween President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, he said quote, "not something we would discuss but we are not aware this contact has occurred."
From the North Korean perspective they have told me repeatedly that they have no desire at this point to engage directly with the Trump administration. They don't that they can trust the Trump administration. There's been a lot of mixed messaging and a lot of insults coming directly from the President himself.
However given the fact that inner Korean talks have resumed this week and we could see some potential thawing of relations between North and South Korea and President Moon Jae-In and President Trump had a phone call saying that that could eventually lead to a conversation between the United States and North Korea and maybe down the road a conversation between the two leaders.
Look, that is something that could be possible down the road. Obviously there are lots of issues that separate the U.S. and North Korea, the nuclear program being the biggest of all.
But for President Trump to allude to the fact that he already has a good relationship with Kim Jong-Un and then neither confirm or deny whether he's had a direct conversation with him, certainly a lot of people who are career watchers are really scratching their heads -- John.
VAUSE: Ok. Will -- thank you. Will Ripley, live for us in Seoul.
Mo -- back to you very quickly, what are the chances Donald Trump meant to say South Korea President Moon Jae-In and got confused?
KELLY: I don't know. I don't even purport to know what's going on in the mind of this president if only because his decision making concerns me greatly. His decision making in terms of just having off- the-cuff remarks in the company of other senators, his decision-making in terms of his tweets as far as how he handles international diplomacy -- I have no idea what's on this president's mind.
VAUSE: And last word to John -- you know, how is that trying to convince Americans that there's a stable genius in the White House? How is that coming?
PHILLIPS: Well, maybe Dennis Rodman put in a good word for him.
VAUSE: Another stable genius.
PHILLIPS: We know that there is back channel communications going on between the United States and North Korea. We also know that the North Koreans have talked to the South Koreans for the first time in quite some time. So maybe the charm is working.
VAUSE: Maybe it is. Who knows? John and Mo -- good to see you both. Thank you.
KELLY: Thank you.
SESAY: Turning now to the latest on the devastating California mudslides. Officials now say 43 people are considered missing -- that is up from this time yesterday. And officials say that number is constantly being updated. The death toll, that remains at 17.
And mandatory evacuation has been ordered for some areas as crews continue their search and rescue effort. Crews have completed a sweep of at least 75 percent of the debris field. More than 500 homes were damaged in Santa Barbara County.
Beyond the numbers, the one thing that many of those who lived through the devastation point to over and over again is the sheer destructive force of the avalanche of mud.
Our own Sara Sidner brings us that part of the story.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The power of this mudslide is hard to describe but you can certainly see it. Huge boulders in the road and that's nothing compared to what we're seeing that have gone through homes.
None of this was here. This was a beautiful grassy yard. Now it's several feet deep in mud. And these massive rocks all pushed here by these mudslides.
We just spoke with a resident who said it was like several freight trains all at once roaring through here. That was the sound that this made. And you can see just how powerful it was because look at where the mud is on that home. It had gotten in back almost all the way to the top of the roof there.
And then across the street this used to be sort of a forest area. It looks like it was a creek or something. There are huge boulders that came through here, trees; and that home and all the rest of them along this road are ruined, devastated, filled with mud.
[00:14:58] We have been watching all day as rescue teams have been coming through here with dogs trying to search the area to see if they can find anyone still alive.
Now the numbers have been fluctuating quite rapidly going from eight people missing to 43 people missing and back down again. Authorities saying look they are still trying to figure out exactly the number of people who still are missing.
But we do now know that 17 people have been killed. And those people have been named. The eldest -- 89 years old; the youngest just three.
Back to you -- guys.
SESAY: So very, very sad. And this reminder: you can help victims of the southern California mudslides, find more information on our Web site at CNN.com/impact.
VAUSE: Coming up next here, one of Brexit's most ardent supporters now says maybe there should be another referendum. We'll explain why in a moment.
SESAY: Plus anger across Tunisia. More anti-government protests are scheduled despite hundreds of arrests already.
SESAY: Welcome back, everyone.
Now to a stunning turnaround from British politician Nigel Farage, who is of course one of Brexit's loudest champions. He is now saying he might welcome a second referendum on E.U. membership. Farage spoke to British media Thursday to explain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIGEL FARAGE, BRITISH POLITICIAN: I made a lot (ph) of thinking that we should have a second referendum --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On -- on what?
FARAGE: -- because -- on E.U. membership.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole thing?
FARAGE: Yes, of course. Of course, unless you want to have a multiple choice referendum --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no, no. I'm --
FARAGE: -- it is confusing. I think if we had a second vote on W.U. membership we would kill it off for a generation. The percentage that would vote to leave next time would be very much bigger than it was last time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, 52 percent of British voters elected to leave the E.U. in 2016. That decision sent shockwaves right around the world and catapulted the U.K. into this messy years' long process of extricating itself from the European Union.
Let's get more from our European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas. He chairs the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA. Dominic -- happy New Year. Good to have you with us.
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Happy New Year to you.
SESAY: Before we get to Nigel Farage and trying to decipher what he was up to. The breaking news this hour that Donald Trump will no longer be making that visit to the United Kingdom. It was supposed to be a state visit and it kind of got kind of tweaked. It was just going to be a visit to open a new embassy.
Now he says that's not happening. He claimed something to do with Obama era decision making regarding that embassy. Is that truly what's at play here or do you read more into it?
THOMAS: He's well aware of the fact that the optics will look absolutely appalling if he travels to the United Kingdom unless he goes to one of his private golf courses in Scotland. I think just about everybody will be mobilized to come out and demonstrate against him. So it would look absolutely awful to him back here.
[00:20:02] And he knows the coverage will be -- the last time he set foot in Europe was with Emmanuel Macron --
SESAY: That's right.
THOMAS: -- the July 14 celebrations in France and he walked away from that relatively unscathed.
To go the United Kingdom at this stage would be a disaster for him.
SESAY: Mind you -- and just to piggyback on these comments he made on Thursday referring to, you know, the African comments that he's made here as being shitholes effectively.
I mean how is that going to play into the relationship between the U.K. and the U.S.? We know that Theresa May, you know, has bristled when the President has made such overtly racist comments then the re- tweeting of those videos.
THOMAS: Right. Exactly. He started back with these comments sort of, you know, endorsing, you know, far right politicians that are completely marginalized on the British landscape. I mean Theresa May's administration, you know, may have problems with its record on diversity and multiculturalism but it's a long way from making these sorts of statements and that Donald Trump is going to make.
Further for Theresa May, beyond Brexit and beyond the European Union, remember, she's talked a lot about a global Britain. And that global Britain is very much hitching its wagon to places like the African continent with whom it has enjoyed some very close relationships in recent years economically.
But also they are well aware of the historic relationships going back to slavery, imperialism, and such troubling areas that Britain has been reckoning with since that moment historically.
SESAY: I've got to ask about Nigel Farage quickly. Why would he open the door to a conversation on a second referendum? THOMAS: Well, I would be the last with Nigel Farage to say that he
had any kind of real political savviness. I mean at best he is a buffoon.
I think in this particular case, nobody was more surprised than him that the Brexit referendum actually went ahead. I think he's watched in the past week Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle which is pointed to the fact that she's not exactly standing on firm ground that Brexit is the absolutely central subject of discussion.
And by making this statement he has forced the conservative party to reaffirm its unambiguous commitment to Brexit, right, to not allow another referendum and to make sure that this goes ahead. And to that extent strategically one could argue Farage is winning.
SESAY: Yes. I mean there is a point to make clear to our viewers that the likes of Tony Blair, former British PM, (INAUDIBLE) and others are saying there should be a second referendum.
I mean Farage has tried to walk it back a little bit saying -- like saying if parliament doesn't vote on this then they could -- a second referendum could happen.
Are we clear on what the results of a second referendum would be?
THOMAS: No, we're not. So Nigel Farage will say that it would be an overwhelming support for this. And his argument is we could bury this for a future generation.
Of course what would happen if this did not work out? It's all the snap election, Brexit and other such elections in Europe have not always worked out the way that they have expected. So I think the outcome is highly unpredictable.
And what many critics have in fact point out, is that first of all, not only is the conservative party ambiguous on this questions. The Labour Party is as well --
THOMAS: And that figures from the past like Tony Blair, Nick Clegg and the (INAUDIBLE) Lib-Dems could also potentially mobilize people to come out in favor of another kind of Brexit referendum because these are really figures from the British political past. And we're in very a different era right now.
So it's very difficult to tell how this would work -- how it would work itself out.
SESAY: The only thing we can say with certainty is Theresa May was not happy and neither with other Brexiteers.
THOMAS: No. This was a difficult start once again to 2018 and for this second round of negotiations that are about to take place in Brussels.
SESAY: Yikes. Dominic Thomas -- appreciate it.
THOMAS: We'll be back.
SESAY: We will. Thank you.
Let's turn our attention to Tunisia. Protesters are demanding the release of hundreds of anti-government demonstrators. Nationwide protests started earlier this week over new austerity measures that raise taxes on cars, alcohol, phone calls and the Internet. At least one person has been killed and more protests are scheduled for the days ahead.
Tunisia's sparked the 2011 Arab Spring, you may remember, which overthrew the country's long-time president and its government.
A new youth movement is leading the charge hoping the government will overturn the austerity measures. But Tunisia's finance minister says the price hikes are necessary to grow the economy.
Well, joining me now from San Francisco is national security and foreign policy analyst Ari Aramesh. Ari -- good to have you with us once again.
ARASH ARAMESH, NATIONAL SECURITY AND FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Good to be with you.
SESAY: So listen, on the surface, these protests are, you know, a challenge to the new austerity measures. Look, the roots of this anger run deep and they stretch back years.
Help our viewers understand what's really going on here?
ARAMESH: Well, their roots run real deep. Let's keep in mind that the Arab Spring of 2012 -- I'm sorry, 2011 -- that led to the toppling of many Arab regimes -- including that of Mubarak's in Egypt, that of Saleh in Yemen who was just recently killed and so on and so forth -- led to the civil war in Syria and so on and so forth. It actually all started in Tunisia.
[00:25:07] Tunisia since 2011 has been somewhat of a stable transition -- has had somewhat of a stable transition towards democracy. Now, let's keep in mind that only in seven years it's had I think nine governments, nine different prime ministers have come and gone.
But again, it hasn't really fallen into an armed conflict between Islamists and the secularists or the military. So that's something to keep in mind.
Having said that, the country has some major fundamental infrastructure issues. First and foremost, fundamentally there is corruption. There is corruption on all levels from the very, very top -- at the very top of the government, at the very top brass, all the way down to the workers and to sort of the guy that you need to sign paper for so you can actually build a building, for instance. So there is corruption at every level. Secondly, there is poverty. And third, one of the things, especially one of the issues that just came up is that there has been massive inflation. Inflation has been on the rise, prices have been going up. And the government trying to keep its deficits low has imposed some austerity measures that have been very unpopular.
So you have this eruption now and it led to some violence and now you see the armies on the streets of Tunis and other major cities in Tunisia.
SESAY: That's right. I mean we have seen protests across 10 different areas in the country over the last couple of nights. I mean I think the question a lot of people have, are we looking at the possibility of another Arab Spring as we see all these young people out on the streets night after night?
ARAMESH: I'm not sure if it's going to be another Arab Spring because I'm not sure if it's going to lead to a sort of a domino effect as it had been in 2011.
But what's clear here is there are issues on the Arab streets that have not been resolved. These are deep wounds. These are wounds of illegitimacy. These are wounds of centuries of living under tyranny, either through colonialism and then later on post-dependence on their tyrannical regimes.
Let's not forget that for decades, Zine Abidine Ben Ali, the deposed president of Tunisia who fled to Saudi Arabia kept a pretty tight grip on his people. There's been very little practice and exercise of democracy in any country in the Mideast.
So we've got to give them a little time. Democracy takes time. We've got to be patient. What these countries need, very quickly Isha -- what these countries need is not a $2.9 billion IMF loan. That's good but it's not enough.
They need direct foreign investment. They need jobs. They need countries and world leaders -- forget about our President who happens to think of, you know, certain countries in the world in certain terms. But they need direct investment and world leaders in European countries, in the United States and China and world leaders have to -- and there's plenty of money to be made.
But they need direct foreign investments and they need jobs. They need manufacturing and they need infrastructure. Not just loans -- loans and handouts are not going to be sustainable.
SESAY: No, absolutely.
Great insight an analysis -- Ari, as always. Ari Aramesh -- we appreciate it. Thank you so much.
VAUSE: Ok. With that we will take a short break.
When we come back, some say art maybe can imitate life -- the television drama about the White House. We'll speak with the executive producer of "Madam Secretary" when we come back.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:
VAUSE: Right now the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame. To be specific, Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which has never been used but spells out how a president can be removed from office if he or she is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his or her office.
Many believe the 25th Amendment should be on the table right now because of Donald Trump's recent behavior, his tweets, public statements like the one on Thursday as well as the revelations in the Michael Wolff tell-all book, "Fire and Fury." In fact, according to Wolff, it's even being invoked inside the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": There are many moment in which the 25th Amendment has come up, the 25th Amendment, in which -- which gives the cabinet the ability to remove the president. And they don't say -- they don't say the cabinet is going to remove the president but they do say things like, "This is a little 25th Amendment here."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: This Sunday, in the United States, art will imitate life on the CBS drama, "Madam Secretary," when President Dalton threatens to strike Russia with overwhelming force and ferocity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEA LEONI, ACTOR, "ELIZABETH MCCORD": Mr. President, now I know I don't need to explain why it's dangerous to improvise foreign policy, especially with threats.
KEITH CARRADINE, ACTOR, "CONRAD DALTON": That's right, you don't.
ZELJKO IVANEK, ACTOR, "RUSSELL JACKSON": Just call the Russian foreign minister, cool things down.
"MCCORD": Yes, that will be easy. He just threatened ferocity and might. What the hell?
"JACKSON": I have no idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And to divert a crisis, members of the cabinet start a serious discussion about the 25th Amendment.
For more, David Grae, the executive producer of "Madam Secretary" is here with us in Los Angeles.
David, thank you for coming in.
VAUSE: This all sounds like the plot was ripped from the headlines, law and order style. But you wrote the script back in October so you stole it from the future headlines, which is actually a very clever thing to do.
So what was the atmosphere?
How did you come up with the plotline"
DAVID GRAE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "MADAM SECRETARY": Well, it's basically what we try to do. We try to anticipate what's going to happen.
GRAE: Listen, we sometimes take arcane text from the Constitution or from treaties. For instance, we've done Article V of NATO, of one country's --
VAUSE: Another Donald Trump issue.
GRAE: Yes. But it sounds arcane and certainly Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which has never been invoked, is arcane, it's kind of academic. But it's really dramatic when you put it on its feet.
So this is a story we could have done during the last administration, during any administration. We look for great drama that affects our characters personally. So it's a great dilemma for our character.
What do you do? What does the secretary of state do when the president of the United States is acting in a way that might be --
GRAE: -- detrimental to the country?
What does the National Security Council do?
What does the cabinet do?
VAUSE: It's a great drama which could also be playing out in reality, too. You say this is drama and civics lesson that Amendment 25, Article 4 is academic but now, it's a lot more than just academic.
And I guess you have to explain that this is an amendment that was purposely written to require a very high standard of proof. It's not as easy to enact as a lot of people may be led to believe.
GRAE: Yes. One of the great things about writing on the show is that I get to learn about these things. I didn't know about Section 4. In fact, I didn't know -- and I venture to guess most people watching didn't know -- that the cabinet, the president's cabinet and the vice president are actually a voting body.
The 15 top cabinet members and the vice president, if they vote by simple majority to remove the president, the president is removed and the vice president becomes the acting president, which then needs to be ratified by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.
Again, arcane stuff but, when you put it on its feet and people really have to say, are we going to do this? It's a subtle -- people think it's a coup, it's pretty exciting. It makes for a good drama.
VAUSE: It makes for good drama but are you concerned that there could be some kind of backlash for this (INAUDIBLE) the plotline is just too close to reality, you're a Hollywood liberal elite, you're taking sides on all of this?
GRAE: Well, I would not say I'm a Hollywood liberal elite. I happen to live -- I live in Studio City. But we look at it, the State Department traditionally isn't partisan and shouldn't be. And the show isn't partisan. In fact, we never say Democrat or Republican.
There are people who watch the show who are Republicans, who think it's a Republican administration and vice versa, Democrats. Now it's an independent administration because of what we did in an election (INAUDIBLE) season. But to us, it isn't a partisan issue.
If the President of the United States, this fictional president in this case, is acting in a way that could lead to something dangerous happening in the country, it's an American issue.
VAUSE: What's it like to be the writer of a political drama right now, when this administration, it seems, every day truth is stranger than fiction. Would President Dalton, for example, describe some developing countries as shitholes?
GRAE: He probably wouldn't. However, that's really -- we look at -- we try to look at the world and what's happening in the world and not necessarily what's happening in this administration to look for plotlines.
We did a story about a French election getting hacked by a foreign power. We did an Article 5 episode on NATO, Bulgaria attacked the United States and is going to defend them. So we really -- we're an alternate reality. So in the reality of our show, the current administration never addressed this.
VAUSE: I just want to get to the point where you can't make up stuff better than what's actually coming out of the White House right now. The bar's pretty high for drama.
GRAE: Right. I guess what makes our show I think -- and created by Barbara Hall, what makes it work is that it's not just about the political drama; it's about Madam Secretary, who's also a mom and a wife. She's a boss at work and a human being, an exceptional human being. So it's not just about the politics.
VAUSE: OK, very quickly, Rex Tillerson is the current secretary of state; Madam Secretary, Elizabeth McCord, is played by Tea Leoni. President Dalton, he hates the Russians which is another point of distinction between reality and the show.
And really when you watch it, you do realize that this administration has absolutely zero in common with the current administration.
I'm just wondering, because the show has been on for awhile, did it have more in common with the Obama presidency?
GRAE: We don't really look at it that way. Again, the show isn't partisan and the State Department shouldn't be partisan. We certainly weren't looking for it to be like the Obama administration. The main character, that Tea Leoni plays brilliantly, is a former CIA agent.
So that's sort of the edge of our show, a CIA operative.
VAUSE: "The West Wing" was clearly -- you know, Aaron Sorkin and every liberal's wet dream of what a president and an administration should actually be but never really would ever be, as good as it was.
GRAE: And our show, I like to think, is what most Americans would hope that our politicians are trying to do, just advance the interests and values of the United States.
VAUSE: OK. We'll leave it there. David, thanks for coming in. The show is on Sunday, it's a fantastic series.
GRAE: Thank you, Sunday, CBS, 10 o'clock.
VAUSE: There we go. OK.
SESAY: We will pause here for a very quick break.
Donald Trump's controversial remarks on immigrants of color have the world's attention. Just ahead, what musician will.i.am thought of the president's comments.
SESAY: Hello, everyone.
Musician will.i.am is one of many celebrities in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. He was promoting the new line of headphones his tech company just bought But like so many others, he was also struck by U.S. President Donald Trump's comments about immigrants of color.
Mr. Trump said out loud in a bipartisan meeting, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"
I ask will.i.am for his reaction.
WILL.I.AM, MUSICIAN: I try not to let that kind of stuff influence my emotions. And I just keep my eye on the things that I can do to bring opportunities to those that are left behind.
You never know where the innovation will come from. Maybe it comes from areas in Africa. Maybe it comes from Haiti. As long as we have new skillsets, like robotics, computer science and engineering and you're encouraging kids at an early age, like 9 years old, 20 years from now, when that 9-year old is 29, he or she might be the next Jeff Bezos. You don't know.
I'm happy that I have awesome employees out of Bangor, India, and I'm happy that I go to places like Davos and part of the young global leaders and doing the things I'm doing in the ghetto that I'm from, where we're teaching kids computer science and robotics.
I started off 10 years ago with Dean Cain (ph) and Laurene Powell Jobs with only 65 kids. Since then, all of our kids that joined the program went off to go to school and are now going to school for robotics and engineering and mathematics. And these were low performing kids right here in our country.
Right? There's shithole communities in America that need help and likewise around the world. But I'm an opportunist and my heart is in the right place. So I don't like to get discouraged by division and skepticism without being an agent of change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Will.i.am there, speaking some truth. And you can hear my full interview with will.i.am next hour right here on CNN. And thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Stay tuned for "WORLD SPORT". You're watching CNN.