Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Slams Immigrants from 'Shithole Countries'. Aired 7- 7:30a ET
Aired January 12, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to bring value to the United States of America, and you say no because they're from a shithole because of the color of their skin?
[07:00:12] JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The whole point is it should be on merit-based system. This is getting twisted around.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: This is not a coincidence. This is a pattern of behavior.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: This is just beneath the presidency. He doesn't quite get what it is that really makes America great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truer words have never been said. This is what people say around their kitchen table.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the staff talking about? He's talking about appealing to his base on a racist comment?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president triggering chaos on the Hill by contradicting his own position on the FISA bill.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't any contradiction or confusion in that.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The country would benefit if the president were watching cartoons in the morning instead of something else.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off. John Berman joins me. We've already had quite an hour.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. No bleeping here.
CAMEROTA: Yes, right. Here we go.
Vulgar, racially-charged comments made by the president of the United States in the Oval Office are sending shockwaves around the world. A source tells CNN that, in a meeting with a handful of senators, President Trump slammed immigrants from "blank-hole countries," referring to people from Africa, Haiti and El Salvador. The president then suggested the U.S. should bring in more people from countries like Norway. The White House has not denied that the president made those profane remarks.
BERMAN: Yes, on the contrary, they seemed proud. So, are Republican leaders proud? It's now 7 a.m. on the East Coast, and nothing from Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Nothing. Did that mean they're OK with it? "Shithole countries"? Will they once again smile and note that the president just says salty things. But this is not salty. It's racist. And on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, it's a heck of a time to be silent about racist things.
This is how the president's hometown paper is handling the comments this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(NEWSPAPER WITH HEADING: "S**T FOR BRAINS")
BERMAN: This is "The New York Daily News." Let that sink in for just a moment right now.
Let's go to the White House. Our Joe Johns there this morning. Good morning, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Not denying it here. The White House is counting on the president's base to embrace these comments, confident that they will, even though the remarks through the immigration talks into a tailspin, especially because the president was responding to a professional that would have created more protections for immigrants from Hispanic and black countries.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump deriding immigrants from Haiti and some nations in Africa, asking the group of lawmakers, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here," before suggesting that the U.S. should accept more immigrants from countries like Norway.
A person familiar with the meeting tells CNN that a frustrated Mr. Trump then went further, saying, "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out."
The White House not denying the president's racially-charged remarks, insisting that Mr. Trump "is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation."
A White House official downplaying the controversy, telling CNN that staffers predict that the president's comments will resonate with Trump's base. just like his attacks on NFL players kneeling for the national anthem.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get that son of a bitch off the field.
JOHNS: The offensive remarks coming weeks after "The New York Times" reported that Mr. Trump made similar comments at a different Oval Office meeting last summer, claiming that all Haitians have AIDS and that once Nigerians have seen the U.S., they will never go back to their huts.
The White House adamantly denied this reporting, and on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump had a starkly different message for Haitians in Miami when he was courting their vote.
TRUMP: I will be your champion.
JOHNS: The president's "shithole" comment just the latest in a pattern of racially-charged remarks.
TRUMP: I would like to have him show his birth certificate.
They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.
You also had people they were very fine on both sides.
JOHNS: Still, Mr. Trump has repeatedly insisted that he is not a racist.
TRUMP: I am the least racist person that you have ever met. I am the least racist person.
JOHNS: But on Capitol Hill, bipartisan condemnation.
REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), NEW YORK: Attacking people based on their race, where they come from, their gender is just unacceptable. And I think the White House is facing a moral freefall.
JOHNS: Republican Congresswoman Nia Love, whose parents are from Haiti, demanding an apology, asserting that the president's comments are "divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation's values."
The only African-American Republican senator, Tim Scott, calling the remarks disappointing. But the majority of congressional Republicans and GOP leadership keeping quiet.
JOHNS: And the president is up this morning and tweeting about the DACA deal that he was presented that he rejected that is, in some ways, the source of all this latest controversy.
Here's the tweet: "The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican senators and congressmen was a big step backwards," he writes. "Wall was not properly funded. Chain and lottery were made worse, and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime -- " and presumably the rest of that is something like high-crime nations. Haven't seen the rest of it, however.
Back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. Thank you very much for all of that reporting. Joining us now are CNN political analysts David Gregory and April Ryan.
April, listen, as Joe pointed out, this isn't the first time that we've heard the president say something racist. But it is still stunning. It's stunning every time that you hear it.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, stunning. But the problem is, there are people who listen to this. You know, a lot of people are going by feelings and what have you. And I asked around to Republican leaders. Former RNC chair Michael Steele a couple of weeks ago, said to me that this is a White House that is very concerned with the browning of this nation. They want to control the browning of this nation. This is what the former RNC chair, Michael Steele, African-American, said to me.
I mean, I've talked to so many different people. Last night, my phones were blowing up and text messages were coming in. I heard from presidents of historically black colleges and universities, talking about the fact that they have a large contingent of international students that come to their schools to learn and obtain degrees to be functioning, working citizens, global citizens, if not U.S. citizens.
I've talked to politicians. People are very upset with this. This is not normal, and it should not sit well with people.
And I also talked -- Alisyn, this is the biggest piece. People like to say the word "racist." Some people say, no, it's not racist. But I asked for the definition of what a racist is from the NAACP, Hilary Shelton from the NAACP, last night. He said when you have racial prejudice and power that come together, racial prejudice and power that come together, it begs the question, did the president make a racial statement yesterday?
BERMAN: You know, Alisyn, you said this is stunning. And while I agree with you on every front, I think it's not stunning. I mean, this fits a pattern. We have heard these statements--
CAMEROTA: I know. This is why it is not surprising and shocking at the same time.
BERMAN: I think it may be stunning that it's not stunning.
RYAN: You heard it on the campaign trail, really.
CAMEROTA: I know. It's not surprising --
RYAN: You heard it on the campaign trail.
CAMEROTA: But hearing it in the Oval Office is a shock to the system. BERMAN: You want to know what's stunning to me, David Gregory, is that it's now 7:07 a.m. and we have not heard from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. It is stunning to me that they do not weigh in here. It is stunning to me that Nia Love puts out a statement where she calls for an apology, which isn't really as strong as you can go. Tim Scott puts out a statement saying he's disappointed, which is great. It's not as great as you can go.
But the Republican leadership says nothing. Either they agree with it or they're scared to weigh in.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the pattern is they hang back, and they focus on whatever the business is at hand. In this case, it's trying to get an immigration bill and a solution for DREAMers. So, you know, this is a president who claims he wants to make America great while really using language and acting in a way that brings out the very worst of America. A classic nationalist in that sense.
So what he did is utter things that are so ignorant on their face. Particularly stunning for a president of the United States who would have those views, let alone then say them, because the contrary evidence is right in front of him.
And on top of that ignorance and the offensiveness of it, it also then gets in the way of everything he says he wants to do.
So what are we to believe? I mean, the president the day before talks about pursuing an immigration bill of love, and now he's talking about, you know, s-hole countries and keeping people out. Not truly understanding who we are as a people. Not understanding how well immigrants from around the world assimilate into this country and make it so strong. And that he's got plenty of employees in his properties who are immigrants, as well.
So the ignorance is stunning. But the damage is just piling up. Someone who cancels a trip to Great Britain out of a sense of pique or worrying about protests in the street. This is now the collection in this new year of a president who continues on a really bad path.
CAMEROTA: Yes, and April, listen, there's this -- Bill Kristol sent out a tweet about -- just echoing what David just said. Bill Kristol, a well-known conservative voice, of course.
[07:10:00] Here's what he said -- I don't know why this makes me so emotional, but it does. "Two weeks ago, a 26-year-old soldier raced repeatedly into a burning Bronx apartment building, saving four people before he died in the flames. His name was Private Emmanuel Mensah, and he immigrated from Ghana, a country Donald Trump apparently thinks produces very subpar immigrants."
I -- I don't know why the president doesn't know that.
RYAN: Here's a couple of things, Alisyn. And you have me emotional because of your emotion. And trying to report without getting emotional. You have a president. And this -- the onus is on those who -- in this country who voted for him or didn't vote. And I think back to something Maya Angelou said. When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.
The African-American community was screaming when he kept saying "Make America Great Again." That was code? When was America great? What time period were you talking about?
And then you have a president who could not get it right when it came to issues of Charlottesville. And then he's going to change the narrative from the NFL players about taking the knee. It was about police-involved shootings. It wasn't about the flag.
RYAN: It wasn't about the soldiers. And it wasn't about this country. It was about changing the dynamic to stop what's been going on for hundreds of years. You have a president who today -- and this is the irony -- today will will celebrate MLK Day at the White House.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean it just adds to all of the emotion. And it adds to the horror.
RYAN: Right. And but listen to this. Then also today is the eighth anniversary of that deadly earthquake in Haiti.
RYAN: But you also have a president who can't get the name of Tanzania right. He calls it "Tan-ZANE-ia." He continues to do that.
Africa, and we have to really look at the facts. We've had presidents, from Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, to George W. Bush who really tried to work with Africa.
RYAN: He's basically saying Africa and Haiti don't exist. And Africa is very important. And I'm going to say this, and there's a big reason why. And he needs to focus on Africa and not look at them as a loser country.
Africa has issues of terrorism in countries that are not democratically ruled. But you also have a greatness in Africa. Mineral rich. I mean, Africa, it has oil there. We could work with them. China is working with them, building infrastructure.
CAMEROTA: The continent of Africa. For sure.
RYAN: That's what I'm saying. And you can not -- so this president doesn't understand. It's not just a racial issue. He doesn't understand the issue of diplomacy, what Africa and Haiti bring and El Salvador bring to the global community and to the United States of America.
BERMAN: Look, he's tweeting this morning, we should say. He's defending his immigration stance right now. You know, I think one of the reasons this is so emotional is because this gets to what America is about. Right? And what --
CAMEROTA: And we don't want somebody like this in the country? We don't want somebody who ran into the burning building in the country? I mean, that's just heartbreaking.
BERMAN: You don't want people who suffer. You don't want people who come from places where things are bad. You only want --
CAMEROTA: You also don't want people who aren't blonde and blue-eyed. You want just Norwegians.
BERMAN: You only, apparently --
CAMEROTA: That's what I man. You don't want people who are not blonde and blue-eyed. You want just Norwegians.
BERMAN: You know, and David, that's where this transcends the debate about immigration to a debate about America. And people in America right now need to look inwards and figure out how they feel about what is being said.
GREGORY: Look, the president's disapproval is so high, because he's made himself such a narrow-thinking and narrow-governing political figure who is not expanding his base and is not really reflective of America. He's reflective of a strain of populism in this country that did result in his election.
And from Charlottesville to these comments, a pattern of -- of hateful ignorance that only bolster a record of racist attitudes that he brought into the campaign and that predate his time even thinking about politics.
So this is the pattern that's clear. And what you've got now is congressional leadership that continues to be afraid of poking the bear.
BERMAN: They're complicit. They are complicit in this.
GREGORY: They are -- they are afraid to -- to do anything that will get in the way of their business or they hold their nose and keep at it. The difficulty the president has should be obvious, which is he's going to negotiate with Democrats at all, they're going to want to know that there's something of good faith.
And not just publicity stunts and this kind of erratic behavior. And somebody is going to take a stand. And it's most likely going to be the Democrats in this case.
CAMEROTA: Guys, thank you very much for having this really important conversation.
[07:15:07] I feel a little lame for getting emotional. But if Phil Mudd, that tough guy from the CIA, who can snap a man's neck with his bare hands, if he can get emotional and teary, as he was about all of this, then I guess it's -- it's all free game for all of us.
David Gregory --
RYAN: Alisyn, it's your humanity. It's your humanity. It's your humanity. And that is appreciated.
CAMEROTA: Thank you, April. I really appreciate that. And I appreciate you and everything that you have said in this conversation. Listen, I'm just very grateful we can all have this conversation about the importance of this today. David Gregory--
BERMAN: David Gregory didn't weigh in there. He had nothing nice to say about what you said.
CAMEROTA: Yes, he did. I feel it from David Gregory.
The president's vulgar comments come as lawmakers discuss protections that are ending for more than 200,000 people from El Salvador. These immigrants came to the U.S. after this devastating earthquake, and now they must leave in the next 18 months. The situation on the ground hasn't changed.
CNN's Patrick Oppmann is live in the capital of El Salvador with reaction there. What is that, Patrick?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just been something of a bombshell here. Last night El Salvador's foreign minister called on the White House to clarify these comments, to either confirm or deny that President Trump actually said this.
When I've asked people on the street what they think, they're really taken aback. They just say that it's "racista," that it's racist of a U.S. president to say this.
This is a country that has such a close, intimate relationship with the United States. You have over 200,000 Salvadorans who are under this temporary protected status, now might have to come home. They send a lot of money back here. It's vital aid.
But they, as well, provide services, Salvadorans tell us, in the U.S. They do those jobs that Americans sometimes don't want to go: a lot of construction, agricultural jobs. So they feel that they are necessary to the American economy.
And when you drive around El Salvador, it's something unlike anywhere else I've seen a lot in America. You see a lot of American flags. The United States is very, very popular here, because just about everybody has family in the U.S.
Last night the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador tweeted out that she loves El Salvador, that it's a beautiful country, and that they are committed to the relationship. Obviously, her job and, frankly, the job of diplomats around the world, U.S. diplomats, has gotten a lot tougher today because of these comments -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Patrick Oppmann for us in El Salvador. Patrick, thank you so much. These racist comments have the president engulfed in a new
controversy. Now some people are asking, "Should we have known this all along?" We'll debate next.
[07:21:46] BERMAN: All right. It was during a meeting with lawmakers that President Trump openly asked, why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? He was talking about the countries of El Salvador, Haiti, and apparently, all the countries in Africa. The president said he would much rather have people from Norway. Ask yourself, what is the difference there?
This is not the first time that the president has made racially- charged comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would like to have him show his birth certificate. And can I be honest with you? I hope he can.
They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.
We're building a wall. He's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings.
If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably -- maybe he wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.
We had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.
Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. The question a lot of people are asking, although a lot of people think they have the answer, is "Is the president a racist?
Joining us now is CNN political commentator Jason Miller and Ana Navarro. Guys, you know I've known you both for a long, long time. I know there are strong feelings about this, to the extent that I can, I'm going to let you guys talk. Let's see how it goes.
Ana, first to you. Your reaction to what we've heard the last day?
NAVARRO: I can't even believe that you're asking the question if, you know, President Donald J. Racist is a person who's a bigot and is in the White House. Of course he is.
When a person shows you who they are, believe them the first time. He has shown us throughout his life. He showed us throughout his campaign. He has shown us throughout his time as president. He is not going to change. A 71-year-old racist is not going to see Jesus and come to a different conclusion and a different heart at this stage in life. This is who he is.
And it's up to the rest of us in America to say that that is not who America is.
The reason I'm so pissed off about this, John, is because I live in Miami. Miami is a vibrant city that has been built by people who come from shitholes. People like me, people like the Haitians who are working in our restaurants, who work in our hospitals, who are taking care of our children of our elderly, who are doctors and lawyers and vibrant parts of this community.
And today the message they need to hear is that we are with them, that they are part of this community, they are part of this country, and they are what makes America great already.
MILLER: J.B., you know, I love you, but I thought that intro coming into this segment was just completely ridiculous. I mean, what we are here to talk about is the fact that President Trump is trying to get a deal done on DACA. He's trying to get a deal done on comprehensive immigration reform --
BERMAN: Jason, with all due respect, that may be what you're here to talk about. OK? But the president --
MILLER: But John --
BERMAN: -- said something that a lot of people reacted to.
MILLER: He said -- so let's talk about what he said. He was supposed to have a meeting yesterday where these lawmakers were going to come in and talk about merit-based immigration reform. And they came -- came to him with something that had a whole bunch of carveouts.
[07:25:04] He doesn't want carveouts for folks from specific countries, whether it be the U.K., whether it be Norway, whether it be Japan, whether it be Haiti, whether it be El Salvador. He doesn't want carveouts by country. He wants a merit-based immigration system, plain and simple.
And the fact that these folks came to him with a plan that's -- that isn't acceptable, in his mind, obviously he was fired up. So there was salty language back and forth on either side. And so he referred to some of the places in the world might be s-holes. Well, guess what? There are a lot of s-hole countries all around the world.
BERMAN: He only mentioned ones that had black and brown people. You know, when he --
MILLER: But his point was he said, "Why did you bring me something that has carveouts and why are you trying -- and especially if we're going to go and have carveouts, why do you bring me something where we have tens of thousands of people that are coming on a TPS who -- at the economic level, if they're even lucky, have the shirt on their back?" The whole point is it should be at an individual basis.
BERMAN: Jason, every time he says something racist, right, every time he says something like this or he says that there are people on both sides of Charlottesville where people were chanting "Jews will not replace us," every time we get an answer, "That's -- that's not what he means."
MILLER: This has nothing to do about Charlottesville.
BERMAN: It does, because there's a pattern of statements here.
MILLER: No it doesn't, John.
BERMAN: It absolutely does, Jason. Because we have heard from the president who he thinks about these issues that deal with race and deal with other. And consistently, he says things like this. And we are told by people close to the White House, "Well, that's not what he meant."
MILLER: So here's where we -- here's where we disagree, John. So the president, because I've had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with him. He believes that the U.S. is the best country in the history of this world. There is a reason why people want to go from El Salvador and Haiti to the U.S. No one is clamoring to go from the U.S. back to El Salvador or back to Haiti. The reason why everyone wants to come here is this place is so great.
But in order to make sure that we keep the U.S. great, we can't have everyone from the world come in at the same time. I mean, that's just not realistic.
BERMAN: Just -- just people from Norway. Just people from Norway. Go ahead.
MILLER: He wants to have --
BERMAN: Ana, go ahead.
MILLER: He wants to have an individual-based, merit-based system similar to what we have in Canada. And, I mean, that's what this -- this whole thing was about. Also, he said -- also, he said Asia. That conveniently got left out of -- about places that have high education levels.
But, again, it's about the individual. So it doesn't matter if they're from, you know, Nigeria, or Haiti, or El Salvador. Or anywhere.
BERMAN: I get your point.
NAVARRO: Of course it matters.
BERMAN: It does seem to matter to the president. But Ana, go ahead. NAVARRO: Listen, the reason that this country is great and the reason
that people want to come here is because this country has been built decade after decade from the very start by people fleeing political persecution, by people fleeing shitholes. A lot of the people who built this country came from shitholes in Africa, and they were shackled to the bowels of ships and then whipped and beaten and auctioned off like property.
A lot of the people who came from shitholes are buried in Arlington. Maybe Donald Trump, when he was busy dodging the draft four times to not go to Vietnam, instead of talking about shitholes and instead of being a public shameless racist, should take a walk outside the walls of the White House and go see the names that are imprinted on the Vietnam Wall and see how many people from there come from shitholes or descend from people that come from shitholes.
So that is who's built this country. That is who today is working just steps away from where I am. That is who's working at Doral, at the gaudy, gold lame hotels that he has here in Florida. They are overrepresented in some of our largest industries.
It is why my congresswoman, Congresswoman -- Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, went on TV here yesterday and said he is a racist, and these comments should be condemnable.
It is why even Rick Scott, who is, you know, Donald Trump's "Mini Me, the governor of Florida, distanced himself from these comments yesterday. Because even Republicans realize just how foolish they look, looking into a camera and trying to pretend that this was not about black versus white. That this was not about European versus others. You know --
MILLER: Then why is it -- then why is it that President Trump --
NAVARRO: -- what Haiti and Africa have in common? They are black? They are poor black people.
MILLER: -- is the one who's actually trying to get a deal done on DACA? OK, I mean, look, it at a certain point here --
NAVARRO: Well, you know what? He had been trying --
MILLER: You're trying to go right to is a personal attack on President Trump.
BERMAN: Ana -- Ana, let Jason speak.
Jason, go ahead.
NAVARRO: Jason --
MILLER: And you have no argument. The fact that he's going to get a deal done on DACA. That he's trying to get a comprehensive immigration reform done in a way that Obama couldn't, in a way that Bush couldn't. But you know what? President Trump is going to get that done. BERMAN: Hang on, guys.
MILLER: The political left is going immediately to the personal attacks.
BERMAN: One second, one second, one second. Because we just heard from the president. Ana -- Ana, wait.
NAVARRO: this isn't about you and me, OK?
BERMAN: We just heard from the president.
NAVARRO: This isn't about you and me. You can't even sit there and watch the president's own words without calling John Berman and NEW DAY ridiculous. Because you don't even have the face to be able to look at his own words. This program isn't putting words in his mouth. They're quoting him. That's him on video.
MILLER: Ana, you're melting.
NAVARRO: Those are his words.
MILLER: You're melting, Ana.
NAVARRO: He has been a racist his entire life. Oh, no, I'm not melting. I'm not a snowflake. You know what I am? I am an American.
MILLER: It's not even spring time and you're melting.
NAVARRO: -- who votes.
BERMAN: Guys -- Jason, Ana, hang on one second. Hang on one second, Ana. The president just --
NAVARRO: And you do not offend me, Jason. I don't say that you look like a buffoon, trying to make sense of what this man is saying. This is about Donald Trump being a racist. I don't care what you say.