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Trump Tours the Border Wall Prototypes; Trumps Personal Aide Fired Amid Financial Crimes Investigation; Kellyanne Conway Took Pricey Private Flights. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 13, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Put together with excess material and it worked 95 percent and that wall they could get over very easily. These walls they can't. For the people who say no wall if you didn't have walls over here you wouldn't even have a country. You wouldn't even have a country.

And by the way the state of California is begging us to build walls in certain areas. They don't tell you that. We said, no, we won't do it until we build the whole wall. But there are certain areas as you know where they are really wanting us to build a wall. Because the people are complaining. People are pouring in, so they don't talk about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a preference?

TRUMP: Well, I do have a preference, the problem is you have to have see through. You have to know what's on the other side of the wall. A preference is something like that the problem is you don't know what's on the other side of the wall. You could be two feet way from a criminal cartel and you don't even know they're there. Now we have equipment to take care of that, x-ray equipment, et cetera.

But if you are on that side of the wall, that is the hardest wall to scale, it's got a lot of assets, but the problem is tell them, what do you think of the importance of see-through?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I have a see-through wall, sir, I know what's approaching the border before it approaches. We have great partners in Mexico with law enforcement on that side. I can call them for assistance. I don't get the opportunity to get ahead of a threat if I can't see the approach.

TRUMP: And what's the danger of not having the see through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The steel metal fence behind us, we learn from that, in fact in the 90s we went in and actually cut in ports where we could see on the south side. We found smugglers were using the fence to hide behind, and they were either rocking our agents or they would acquire large groups of people and narcotics and they would just rush across the border quickly.

TRUMP: Now, if you just have a pure fence. Now that's a fence, a very sturdy fence. But coming up I noticed the first thing I noticed, look how many holes are in that fence. [15:35:00] Now they fix the holes. But it doesn't look very good. They just patch it with more fence. If you take a look at the fence, and it's a very powerful fence. Not doing the trick. Because they cut holes in it and then they're patching holes all the time. I'm just looking. You have hundreds of holes cut in and patched. So, the fence is not strong enough. It's not the right idea.

But for those people if you don't have a wall system we're not going to have a country. There is a lot of problems in Mexico. They have a lot of problems over there. They have the cartels, and the cartels we're fighting the cartels. And we are fighting them hard. Nobody ever fought them like we fought them. We fight them hard. But the fact is if you don't have a wall system, it would be bedlam I imagine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very hard to control with just personnel, sir. It's a combination of all of the above.

TRUMP: So, we're looking at the walls where you have some -- really some see-through capability. If you don't have some see through it's a problem. So, we will Take a look up here.

BALDWIN: All right, let's roll with this. We can stay on the pictures, maybe, maybe not. My next guest served as Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE under President Obama. He is also the former acting General Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, he is John Sandweg.

Thank you so much, John, for being with me. We were just trying to listen in as best we could to what the president was discussing, holes in fences, want a see-through wall. I hear your after. Tell me why you're laughing.

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: Oh well, listen, I saw a number of faces that I recognized their standing with the president. I will tell you this. In all my time at DHS working with the border patrol extensively I never heard we need a wall. Mobile technology can allow us to detect intrusions, absolutely. But a wall, not at all, no.

There are parts especially where he is standing, where there's triple layer fencing. Now there are certain areas where that's necessary, but the reality is that a lot of that was already built. Again, including some of the people standing with him right now, I never heard them say they needed a wall.

BALDWIN: So, John, they're looking at eight different prototypes there. I hear you saying the wall isn't necessary. You heard the president saying we wouldn't even have a country without a border wall. People can take issue with that. What's the best option?

SANDWEG: Well look, I think you heard the chief say it himself, it's a mixture of all three. Where their standing there is a lot of what we call fixed infrastructure. There is a triple layer fencing. In places like Tijuana-San Diego, were in the early 90s you saw hordes of people running across the border. You absolutely need fixed infrastructure there. But all those areas where you need that, where strategically it makes have already been fenced in a long time ago.

So, what you need now is mobile technology, technology that allows to you detect the intrusions and then can be moved as the threat moves. It's very hard to explain. It's not a static threat, it's not like there are certain spots there in San Diego. For instance, San Diego in the 90s was incredibly crazy and wild. In hundreds of thousands of arrests there. Today it's very quiet. The threats shifted to Rio Grande Valley. As research officers their throat is going to shift again. So, you want to have technology you can move along the border and be able to meet the threat.

BALDWIN: I know this is a campaign promise from the president. I want to know about pennies, nickels and dimes. What's the price tag of this kind of thing and how long would it take to even build this?

SANDWEG: Years. It's going to take years. There is going to be extensive litigation. And the price tag is going to be billions of dollars. And I think that's the thing that is most disappointing to me is that I know what the Border Patrol wants and needs just from having spent so much time with them. The cost of what they want, the technology that they need comes at a fraction of the cost of this wall and could be deployed a lot more quickly than can this border wall.

You're going to face extensive litigation. You have to buy property. You're going to have to seize property from individuals. It is a long and cumbersome and difficult process to build the wall. And that's billions of dollars that could be dedicated to other aspects of border security.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much, John, for weighing. Let's go back to Jim Acosta, our chief White House correspondent, who covers the president each and every day. I can see the thought bubbles of Americans watching, it's everything from one end of the spectrum which is, is this seriously going to happen to, hell, yes, build a wall. And I'm just wondering, I mean, do we even know who would pay for it? How is this going to work?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think those are very important questions, Brooke. We were just down at the wall earlier this morning and talked to a woman from California whose mother is also from southern California, but Mexican-American.

[15:40:00] They were expressing how completely hurt by the fact that the president is building this wall. As the one woman was saying we should be building bridges not walls. In her mind, where was the love? That was essentially the message she had for the president. And so, there are dollars and cents issues here, Brooke. But there are also issues of the message that is being sent to the Latino community across this country.

And the message that is being received is not one of love. It's one of hate and the president simply wants to wall off part of the country from another part of the world that he doesn't want coming in to the United States. Putting all that aside, the conversation we had with this woman and her mother aside, the president you just heard a few moments ago talking about constructing the wall down there. There were officials on Air Force One talking to reporters about this project. One of those officials said to reporters, how could we afford not to build the wall when you consider all the crime, all the drugs coming into this country? They're continuing this portrayal that just about every immigrant coming into the United States south of the border is bringing crime and drugs almost exactly what the president was saying when he first launched his campaign for president in June of 2015. They've not gotten off that talking point.

Brooke, the reason why that official is making that comment, saying how can we afford not to build the wall, the wall is going to for itself, is the very clear fact that they're not going to make Mexico pay for this wall. As you know, Brooke, we heard that time and again throughout the campaign. Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Well now the administration has switched to a new talking point, which is how could the American people not pay for the construction of the wall, considering all the problems coming into this country?

And so, you have the White House, you have the president, you have top officials almost on a weekly or, you know, monthly basis coming up with new talking points to try to sell this project to the American people. It's no surprise, just like the gentleman you heard from just a few moments ago, why there is sort of a raised eyebrow and some skepticism about this project. While the president wants this wall and a lot in his base want this wall, it is something that a lot of people can't figure out.

And coming back to this point I was mentioning earlier about this woman and her mother done at the border earlier this morning, there is a feeling just among a huge and growing part of United States, huge and growing community in the United States that it just sends the wrong message of exclusion to people at a time when this country is becoming more multicultural, not less. Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jim, thank you for all of that. And of course, Jim is standing by. Were going to hear from the president a little later today speaking to Marines here in San Diego. Scott Jennings, just close us out, the photo op with the president like we were talking about earlier, campaign promise fulfilled. This is like his dream photo-op.

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO GEORGE W. BUSH: It is a dream for him to get this process rolling. But what we now have to do if you're the president and you're the White House, you have to convince Congress to do this with you. And you've got to get the money. It's an expensive thing to do. Right now, Congress has been unwilling to do that. Obviously, there was some hope that --

BALDWIN: I'm so sorry, Scott, let's listen in to the president for a second.

TRUMP: But at least it stops 90 percent, 95 percent. When we put up the real wall we're going to stop 99 percent. Maybe more than that. This is what it is now with a not very good wall. But here it is before and the people just pouring across. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the sections where we have double

fencing. Actually, triple fencing. You have a wall here. Again, it's outdated materials. But it proves the concept. But, sir, the economic driver of this outlet mall built after we re-established law and order in San Diego sector and right behind that are 500 brand new homes where people have felt so safe near the border that they moved back in. That's only because the U.S. Border Patrol re-established law and order.

TRUMP: They re-established law and order in San Diego when they put up a wall. It's not a superior wall. It's an inferior wall but it's a wall. And you actually used the term re-established law and order.


TRUMP: You hear it folks, say what you want. This is life. These are the facts of life. That's incredible. That's incredible. And a part of San Diego needs a wall. They want a wall very desperately. They're willing to do anything to get it. I said no, approve the whole wall, California, approve the whole wall.

We're not going to do the little pieces that you want. Approve the whole wall. You know the section I'm talking about. OK, folks. Thank you. You get it?

Excuse me? I mean, we're looking very much at the wall with some see- through capability on the other side and solid concrete on top or steel and concrete on top.

[15:45:00] The round piece that you see up here or you see more clearly back there, the larger it is, the better it is. It's hard to get over the top. It's really a deterrent from getting over the top. Who would think? But getting over the top is easy. These are like professional mountain climbers, incredible climbers. They can't climb some of these walls. Some of them they can.

Those are the walls we're not using. We've determined -- you guys have done a fantastic job. We've determined what to do. This way when we build were not saying, oh gee, I wish we did it a different way. But if you didn't have it you would have a tremendous problem. Even the walls they have now, they're not holding out. They're not holding up. They're small but really great compared to what they had before. Stopped about 95 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I just point out, we're showing pictures of the United States of course too. But there has been an equal benefit, it's in Tijuana, it's in Mexico that you don't have all that activity hanging out on the south side of the fence either. It has improved a border on both sides.

TRUMP: OK, folks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you say to criticism from Governor Brown that this money would be better spent elsewhere?

TRUMP: I think Governor Brown has done a terrible job running the state of California. They have the highest taxes in the United States. The place is totally out of control. You have sanctuary cities where you have criminals living in the sanctuary city and the Mayor of Oakland goes out and notifies when ICE is going in to pick them up. And many of them were criminals with criminal records and very dangerous people. You would say dangerous people.

And, you know, I think the governor is doing a terrible job running a state of California. Hey, I have property in California, I will say. I don't speak too much about my property anymore, but I have great property in California. The taxes are way, way out of whack. And people are going to start to move pretty soon. If you don't have safety -- meaning if you don't have that kind of wall, the drugs are pouring through in California.

Can't do it. The governor of California, nice guy. Knew him a long time ago. He has not done a good job. And the taxes are double and triple what they should be. Everybody who lives in California knows it. Thank you very much, everybody.

BALDWIN: John Sandweg, I've got to bring you back in. ICE, DHS. When you hear the president say that the Mexicans are professional mountain climbers, what?

SANDWEG: I think what was more disturbing to me is this notion that somehow a wall will stop drugs from coming in this country. I've been right not that far away from where the president is standing in a drug tunnel that we seized and stopped. The went about 2 miles long and was fully ventilated, it even had a rail system inside. Drugs are not coming in, cocaine and heroin are not being seized between ports of entry. Meaning people crossing the border at land are very rarely are they bringing in cocaine and heroin. Where we see it is coming through the legal ports of entry, through cars, through the air, even through the ocean, up on the beaches, all the way to Los Angeles. We are seeing boats coming forth bringing in drugs and people, smuggling them into the United States. So, I think my concern would be spending billions of dollars building a wall through deserted stretches of desert where there is very little traffic. And when that money could be better spent elsewhere.

BALDWIN: OK, John, thank you so much. Scott and Jim and everyone weighing in on this tour of the border. Coming up next, Rex Tillerson not the only person the president fired today. The president's long- time personal aide escorted out of the White House this week, as we're learning. He is actually under investigation for serious financial crimes. We'll take you to the White House coming up.


BALDWIN: There's another White House firing to tell you about today and I'm not talking about Rex Tillerson. I'm talking about President Trump's long time personal aide John McEntee. According to sources he was fired and then escorted from the West Wing Monday. McEntee was reportedly pushed out because he is being investigated for serious financial crimes.

So Kaitlan Collins has the scoop, she's our CNN White House reporter, also with us CNN contributor Walter Shaub, he is the former director of the Office of Government Ethics. So Kaitlan first to you just on the reporting. What exactly is he being investigated for and why is he landing out of the White House and over at the campaign?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Brooke. This is John McEntee, he is someone who was a near constant presence in this West Wing. Certainly not as big of a name as Rex Tillerson but he did have a crucial role here in the White House. He has been fired and escorted off the grounds yesterday. And we have now learned today, CNN has learned the Department of Homeland Security is investigating him for what we are told are serious financial crimes.

We are told these alleged crimes had nothing to do with President Trump himself. But to give you a sense of who John McEntee was in this West Wing. He was almost always by the president's side. Almost always accompanied him besides the White House doctor on almost every single trip the president took, and he was even slated to go with him to California today.

[15:55:00] Just to give you a sense of how often he was by President Trump's side. And now this sudden departure. It shocked to White House staff, actually. It was first reported there was just something with his background check, but we are now learning that he is being investigated. Something much more serious than that. Though there's still not a lot of clarity surrounding exactly what he was being investigated for here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Walter Shaub, can help us understand that. When you hear the words serious financial crimes, what does that even mean?

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: That's really troubling and it is hard to know what it means. It can mean almost anything. The security clearance process has a number of guidelines that you have to evaluate. Two of them involve financial considerations and criminal activity. So, we kind of hit both of those items. What's interesting, as Kaitlan mentioned, that the investigation here is being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. It is the FBI that does your background checks. So, this is clearly completely different than just a background investigation.

BALDWIN: Do you give the White House credit for taking security clearance issue head on?

SHAUB: I wish I could. But this is in some ways predictable. Because we just recently learned that they had carried, what, 130 people on interim clearances. And there is some sense that maybe some of the reason you're carrying all these people on interim clearances is because you're reluctant to deny clearances, if it is going to make the president's son-in-law look bad that he can't get a fully adjudicated clearance.

So just like with the Rob Porter situation, this is sort of a problem of their own making. This McEntee has been in the White House a very long time for whatever this problem is.

BALDWIN: Speaking of problems of your own making. Let's talk about Kellyanne Conway. This is someone who you filed a complaint against some months ago. She's in the news because she was on board some of those expensive private flights along with former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. I think I read tens of thousands and that's what prompted price to resign. Hearing about her and doing this, this is after we talked last about violating the Hatch Act. And hawking Ivanka's stuff from the White House briefing room. Thoughts on Kellyanne?

SHAUB: It's very strange. The fact that she was on these planes with Tom Price was known at the time Tom Price was fired. I thought that was curious that they had nothing to say about her. This last week she was also found guilty of two different Hatch Act violations by the agency charged with investigating those and the Hatch Act is essentially an ethics rule that says you can't use government authority or title or government resources to help a partisan candidate in their election.

BALDWIN: At the time of the Alabama special election.

SHAUB: That's right. So, this is her third ethics violation. Because she also famously told America to go buy Ivanka's stuff. And when I was the head of the Office of Government Ethics, we took a look at that and recommended they take some action and they were completely uninterested. The fact they're now uninterested in these two violations found by the agency that investigates Hatch Act violations is particularly startling.

Because that agency is headed by a recent Trump appointee who really did a good thing and showed some bravery and doing the right thing, showing that she violated it. Six months ago, they were saying good things about him and trying to get him confirmed. Now they're ignoring him. So, it seems that Kellyanne Conway can do anything she wants in this government.

BALDWIN: Weathering the storm from the beginning, Kellyanne Conway. Walter Shaub nice to see you in person. Thank you so much for this.

Breaking news today, President Trump just talked to the British prime minister about the poisoning of that former Russian spy and his daughter. This is happening as we're now learning of another Russian who was found dead in his home in London. This man, a known Putin critic. What we know about him coming up.


BALDWIN: Here's the news out of London this afternoon. This Russian exile, a critic of Putin's, has been found dead in his home. This comes after the diplomatic storm between Moscow and the U.K. over this attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter. Theresa May, the British prime minister, has spoken out blaming the Kremlin for the nerve agent attack. President Trump says he believes the U.K. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper is next.