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Interview with Amy Klobuchar on Trump's Travel Ban, Chuck Schumer, Supreme Court; Former Iraqi Ambassador to U.S. Calls Trump's Travel Ban "a Betrayal"; Trump Say Travel Ban Not about Religion but Will Give Priority to Christians. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 30, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: First, I want your reaction to something the president just said a few moments ago about your Senate leader, Chuck Schumer. President Trump basically said he was faking it when he got emotional over the weekend and seemed to be close to tears. Do you think Senator Schumer was faking it?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D), MINNESOTA: No. Senator Schumer has a lot of passion and is emotional about the people he represents. New York is home to the Statue of Liberty. I think many of you have seen the photos this weekend that people posted with tears coming down the statue, because America has always been a home for refugees. And Chuck and I, myself, are meeting with our Somali communities over the weekend. We have two little girls waiting for their sister to come, and they do not know, the mom, if this child is going to be able to join them because they're in a refugee status. I started to cry myself when I heard their story. These are real stories of real people. With one stroke of the pen, lives were changed. And that is how this works. This is no longer a campaign where you can just throw out things on Twitter. These are real people's lives. And this is about governing. And it's a whole different thing.

I thought Rob Portman maybe said it best, about how this worked over the weekend when he said, "This was a vetting rule but it wasn't vetted. When that happens, lives are ruined."

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, one point. You know federal law very, very well. You don't like the executive order, no question, but the president does have -- and it's the nature of our country is governed. When you talk about governing, he has the broad authority to -- on foreign policy, whom should be allowed into this country, the job of national security and protecting our borders. You go back to the 1952 law, John cited earlier in the show, it said he has this power. You agree with that, right?

KLOBUCHAR: Kate, what we do know is that the other thing the founding fathers said here is that Congress is a check and balance, that we are an equal branch of government. And you now have Republicans, foreign relations experts, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, on the Republican side, who will say this is making us less safe, that this is not a smart thing to do. And in fact, that's why Senator Feinstein is putting together, this bill today, to repeal this order. We have had a lot of involvement in policies involving immigration and refugees in the past. And I think this is the moment for Congress to step up. When you have chaos, no matter if you voted for Donald Trump or not, when there is chaos out there because of one executive order, yes, we have the power to do something about it, not to mention the courts, if that is the route that's taken.

BERMAN: One of the things the White House has said is they have to do this without announcing it a week in advance, because if they had come out and said, we're going to ban people from these countries one week from now, potentially bad actors would have a chance to get, they'd try to rush in before the deadline. How do you respond with that?

KLOBUCHAR: Look what we're dealing with here. We're dealing with student visa holders. We're dealing with people who work at major companies. We're dealing with people who had green cards, who were at funerals of loved ones. Basically, no, I don't buy that. You can make changes to technology and improve our security and do all kinds of things without shutting down our entire refugee program.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, on another topic, just as it is coming up right now, Senator, the president has announced this morning he's going to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court to fill the Supreme Court vacancy tomorrow, tomorrow night. Are you in the camp -- there's the short list as we know it right now. Are you --


KLOBUCHAR: Are you going to ask if I'm on the short list, Kate?

BOLDUAN: No. Are you on the short list?


KLOBUCHAR: Just continue to ask, please.

BOLDUAN: Are you in the camp of blocking this nominee, holding that seat open, if you do not like the pick?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I'm in the camp that believes we have to use the Senate rules that have been in existence for a long, long time. That is that for the Supreme Court, unlike the nominees before us today for the cabinet, has always been held to a 60-vote threshold. And that is what I believe. There's been no change to those rules. So, that means you need 60 Senators. So, that pushes us, the Senate, toward getting candidates for a job, nominees for a job that would have more broad support.

And do I believe we should have hearings? Yes. Does that mean I'm going to vote for this nominee? I don't even know who it is. I could well vote against the nominee. I want to know who they are.

Mostly, I think it's very important that we keep in place the Senate rule that will ensure that you just can't have one party pushing through a nominee to the highest court of the land.

BERMAN: Would you be willing to fight as hard as the Republicans did last year to keep Merrick Garland off the bench? KLOBUCHAR: I think one thing you see the Democrats saying is, with

our constitutional duty to advise and consent, is we should go forward with a hearing so we can examine a nominee. They wouldn't even listen to the nominee. I think that will be a difference.

But one thing I will tell you is that, to a tee, we believe you should have the 60-vote threshold and that's in the rules of the Senate.

[11:35:08] BOLDUAN: Senator Klobuchar, on the short list breaking news for Supreme Court.

KLOBUCHAR: There you go.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Senate.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right, they are on the front lines in the battle against ISIS but, as of right now, they are banned from entering the United States. But one former Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. is calling the travel ban a betrayal. He joins us, live.

BOLDUAN: Plus, President Trump says the travel ban is not about religion, but he also says he will give priority to refugees of one religion over another. How do you square that? That's ahead.



[11:39:58] SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: Lumping Iraq with Iran? Right now, we have several thousand Americans who are fighting in Iraq against ISIS, alongside Iraqi military men and women. The battle of Mosul has taken an enormous toll on the Iraqi military. Is Iraq the same as Iran is? Of course, not. I think the effect will probably in some areas give ISIS some more propaganda.


BERMAN: Senator John McCain speaking out against the president's executive order banning visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq. Senator McCain says it will hurt in the fight against ISIS.

And just this morning, the Iraqi government said it is astonished by the ban and voted to act reciprocally with the United States.

BOLDUAN: Lukman Faily was the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, between 2013 and 2016. He joins us now from Baghdad.

Ambassador, thank you for joining us.

You had -- it's our understanding you had been planning to come to the United States but, after this executive order, you were under the impression you could no longer come. Where do things stand for you?

LUKMAN FAILY, FORMER IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: I mean, since I left the government back in June, I've been here four times. I've been to Washington four times talking to friends and others during the election and everything else. I was there until last week. I've been invited to come to a conference on the fight against ISIS in mid-March by my friends in U.S. institutions. I checked yesterday with the embassy here in Baghdad, U.S. embassy. I was told I'm included in the ban. The irony is I also hold a British passport and I was told, even under that, because I am an Iraqi, I cannot come to the United States of America.

BERMAN: So you've spent years as the ambassador to the United States but now you've been told you can't even go to the United States. You know, first, I guess, how does that make you feel, and second --


FAILY: Well, I'm not adviser.

BERMAN: Go ahead.

FAILY: It reflects to me some chaotic situation in Washington. It's reflecting the chaotic situation in Washington. As an Iraqi, there is a betrayal, because it tells us that we are, according to this law, potential terrorists until proven otherwise. While we're having this common fight together, while we have the soldiers' blood spilled together in the fight against ISIS. To us, as Iraqis, it doesn't make sense. Geopolitically, it conveys the wrong message to ISIS and others to tell them that this indiscriminate act is propaganda tools for them. So, to me, it doesn't make sense. And I can't really understand the reasons behind it.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, John McCain shares that view, that he believes that this move will serve, at least in some areas, as more propaganda for ISIS and may hurt the ongoing fight right now to retake Mosul from ISIS fighters. Do you think this travel ban impacts that fight specifically in Mosul?

FAILY: I don't think so. I think the governments here are mature to deal with this as they know this is an immediate threat to all relations, global and regional security. So, I think we will deal with it in separate ways.

However, I think the Senator and others are right. Over the last 24 hours, I have received letters and e-mails from senior military people, in service and retired, and they say this does not represent their views towards Iraq. So, to me, I think there is a lot of discussion, heated discussion in Washington. But the key issue is, I think U.S. influence will be reduced by this. Certainly, the relationship with Iraqis and the Iraqi government will not be strengthened by this act.

BERMAN: Ambassador Lukman Faily, calling it a betrayal.

Thank you for being with us, sir. BOLDUAN: Thank you, Ambassador.

President Trump says, yes. His answer was yes, he will give priority to helping Christian Syrian refugees over others. Why is President Trump then saying his travel ban has nothing to do with religion? Details on that, ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, the White House claims that President Obama implemented a six-month ban against Iraqis in 2011. Is that really the case? Details ahead.


[11:45:17] BOLDUAN: More now on President Trump's travel ban. He insists it is not a Muslim ban. But listen to what he told the Christian Broadcasting Network over the weekend.


DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Because it related to persecuted Christians, do you see them as kind of a priority here?



BRODY: You do?

TRUMP: Yes. They've been horribly treated. Do you know, if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, very -- at least very, very tough to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim, you could come in. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So, we are going to help them.


BERMAN: We want to talk about this with David Brody, of the Christian Broadcasting Network, who just did that interview with the president. Also, joining us is CNN political commentator and former governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm; and former Navy SEAL and chairman of the George Washington Leadership Foundation, Carl Higbie.

David, let me start with you.

You've spoken to President Trump, then candidate-Trump, over the last several months about this issue. This is something he said he felt strongly about.

BRODY: Right. I wasn't surprised at all when he said those comments to me, John, on Friday morning when we did that interview. Look, this is my tenth interview with him, nine during the campaign and one as a sitting president. And I'll tell you what, he has talked about this, talked about what's been going on in Syria with Christians. So, sure, I mean, this has been on his mind for a long time. It didn't surprise me at all that he didn't change his mind at all and make Christians the, quote, "priority." I know that has ruffled quite a few feathers, to say the least. But it's something -- here is a shock, Donald Trump is not going to back down on what he's told me for the last year and a half.

[11:49:54] BOLDUAN: It is and has been pointed out, at least in 2016, as you know, from Pew Research, there were basically, essentially, equal numbers of refugees, Muslim refugees and Christian refugees, that came in to the United States. A lot of folks have been pointing that out.

As you mentioned, David, a lot of -- this has been a view that you have discussed with him often in your interviews. Do you think the fact, in this new interview, that you just sat down with him, in the context of him signing this executive order, do you think this view over the weekend fed into the view that this was, in part, a Muslim ban?

BRODY: No. A couple of things to think about here. First of all, yeah, of course, words matter. I knew, the minute he said it, he would get a lot of pushback and a lot of criticism, and a lot of what we saw over the weekend, and it's Monday. I knew that would be happening. It would be coming. But let's also remember something about Donald Trump. One thing I've known about him -- and I've known him seven years or so -- this guy wants to solve problems. And he doesn't really care - that's why he's a Trumpublican -- he is not a Republican and he's not a Democrat. He is somewhere in-between everything, even an outsider. Therefore, if he wants to solve problems, this is the way he looks at it. He is not looking at it as a Muslim ban or Muslims versus Christians. The reality is, if Christians were going around in Christian majority countries chopping off the heads of Muslims, let's say, for example, then there would be some sort of ban as it relates to those countries, a Christian majority country.


BRODY: So this is not about Christian or Muslim. This is really more about solving a problem. I think that's the way he sees it, at least.

BERMAN: Some critics say Muslims are also chopping off the heads of Muslims, also. There are Muslim victims here.


BRODY: Right. Absolutely right.

Carl Higbie --

BOLDUAN: More so the victims of ISIS than Christians.

BERMAN: -- former Ambassador to the United States --


BERMAN: -- from Iraq, just told us, Carl, it feels like this is a betrayal. He is trying to get in the United States, he can't get in. Lukman Faily, he says he feels like he is being labelled a terrorist until proven innocent.

CARL HIGBIE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He is trying to bring -- Donald Trump is trying to bring protection to the United States of America. And, look --


HIGBIE: What I get is this is a broad sweeping thing. Fortunately, the wording in there says, "Secretaries of state and Homeland Security may, on a case by case basis, when the national interest issues visas and other immigration benefits to nationalist countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked." So, the Democrats can go on and help us instead of continuing to delay, get a secretary of state, and then we can start issuing these case-by-case visas and things like that.

Look, that guy is obviously not a threat to the United States of America. I'm OK with him coming in. I'm sure Donald Trump is, too.

But right now, we need to broad-sweeping ban to make America safe, and then we start to dial it back and make exceptions. I guarantee you - and this is not a ban. This is a temporary 120-day installment where we block them for 120 days. I guarantee within the 120 days, they're going to start loosening travel bans and start loosening immigration and things like that during that time while they can figure out --

BOLDUAN: Shouldn't it have been figured out before it happened? Shouldn't this conversation have happened with the leaders of DHS and Customs and Border Patrol to know if Lukman Faily can come in because, right now, he is being told he cannot?

HIGBIE: Maybe he should get on this thing when we declare the - obviously, the secretary of state. Get on that bandwagon. We'll find out how these guys come in. We'll start vetting these people properly, which he has obviously vetted, because he is an ambassador, but here's the issue, is you can't write a law with a million exceptions right off the bat. You want to do something bold right now that would protect American borders and American citizens.

BERMAN: Governor?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He wants to do something bold that violates the U.S. Constitution. He wants to do something bold that is a ban on Muslims. His words on that radio show, to Rudy Giuliani's words on --


BERMAN: It's not a ban against Muslims.


BERMAN: It's seven nation that is are Muslim majority.

GRANHOLM: But if you look at the disproportionate impact, which is how the Constitution is evaluated, who is impacted, it is going to be Muslims. You know who also sees it as a Muslim ban? The Muslim world.

You say that Donald Trump wants to make us safe. Donald Trump is making us less safe. Donald Trump is targeting -- having us be targeted. If you look at the jihadi web sites, they are celebrating.

HIGBIE: We are already being targeted, Governor.

GRANHOLM: We are not, though. That's the problem. He picks these seven --

HIGBIE: I would argue differently.

GRANHOLM: No, no. He picks these seven countries and there's not anybody from --

HIGBIE: No, no, Obama picked these seven countries.


HIGBIE: He did.

GRANHOLM: Well, the seven countries have been picked, but Obama didn't ban people from those seven countries.

HIGBIE: He banned them from Iraq in 201.

GRANHOLM: Because there was a specific -

BOLDUAN: It wasn't an actual firm ban.


GRANHOLM: And there was a specific incident.


GRANHOLM: For six months, because there was an incident. Here there has been no incident. This is what the problems is.

It is a broad-based violation of the Constitution without any precipitating action and not directed at any problem.

HIGBIE: I would argue -- are you asserting that people, non-citizens of the United States of America, are entitled to our constitutional rights?

GRANHOLM: Yes, they are.

HIGBIE: You're sure about that?


HIGBIE: I would argue that is completely false.

GRANHOLM: I'm a lawyer. I was a constitutional specialist in law school. The Constitution applies to all persons within our boundaries, whether they are immigrants or not where.

HIGBIE: But they're not in our boundaries right now. They're coming here.

GRANHOLM: I'm talking about when they're here. It absolutely applies.


HIGBIE: But we're not talking about people who are here. We're talking about people coming here.

GRANHOLM: When the -- the Constitution applies to people who get here, you're right. And it applies to people who have a property interest, which may be a visa, it may be a green card. But the Constitution does apply within our boundaries to the people who are here. That means --


[11:55:17] HIGBIE: We're talking about people --


BOLDUAN: Hold on.

David Brody --


BERMAN: David, it's going to have to be quick. You have 20 seconds.

BRODY: Well, no, just to echo the point about the religious test, the governor said that there was no religious test or there should be no religious test in the Constitution. Absolutely. But not when it comes to immigration from people coming from overseas. That's actually having nothing to do with exactly that. You know, Donald Trump and the folks in the White House understand that.


BOLDUAN: But you are also on the religious test, though, we're -- the religious test, that's where you are hearing the biggest pushback from Republicans, though, that we do not believe in a religious test in this country. We heard that from Paul Ryan and Lamar Alexander. The president has a problem with his own party right now.

Thanks, guys.


BERMAN: All right, guys, appreciate you being with us.

Democrats, they are now saying they are going to fight this travel ban. They're going to present a law in the Senate right now. Will anyone jump on board? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)