Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Dismisses Outcry Over Travel Ban; Iraq: U.S. Should Reconsider "Wrong" Decision; U.S. Diplomats Pen "Dissent" Memo over Travel Ban; Trump Signs Executive Order. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired January 30, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:19] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. Donald Trump lashing out a critic for this newly signed travel ban and taking particular aim at Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer became choked with emotion yesterday as he condemned the travel ban as un-American. Here is what President Trump said about that, moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears. I'm going to ask him who is his acting coach. Because I know him very well, I don't see him as a crier. If he is, he's different man. There's about a 5 percent chance that it was real. But I think they were fake tears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: President Trump dismissing the weekend protests that bubbled up across the country, saying the ban targets Muslims and is unconstitutional. Several judges have blocked part of that ban and Democrats are hoping for a Senate vote today to repeal it. Also, new this morning, the president says he has decided who he will nominate for the U.S. Supreme Court. He will reveal his pick tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We're covering all of these latest developments for you this morning. Let's begin at the White House though with CNN's Athena Jones. Good morning.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Those -- Executive Orders the president is expected to sign will have to deal with reducing regulations, another campaign promise. But as for the travel ban, the White House continues to defend its actions as necessary. And they are insisting that this ban has been implemented seamlessly without causing any widespread disruption. Here is what chief of staff Reince Priebus had to say about it on "Meet the Press." Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The fact of the matter is 325,000 people from foreign countries came into the United States yesterday and 109 people were detained for further questioning. Most of those people were moved out. We've got a couple dozen more that remain.
And I would suspect as long as they're not awful people that they will move through before another half a day today. And, perhaps, some of these people should be detained further. And if there are folks that shouldn't be in this country, they're going to be detained. And so, apologize for nothing here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So, the White House saying there is nothing to apologize for. One update on those comments, the Department of Homeland Security said late last night that no one from that initial group that was affected by this ban remains detained, everyone has either been released into the U.S. or put back on planes to go back home.
But the president's moves coming under a lot of fire including from members of his own party. There is a Congressman from Texas, for instance, Will Hurd, who is a former undercover CIA officer, who says that there are nearly 10,000 Americans serving in these seven countries whether in the military or diplomatic, et cetera. They now have targets on their backs because of the increased tension.
We saw a joint statement put out by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain and the senator of South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, also a Republican, saying that this is something that that is going to be a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. McCain adding that it gives ISIS more areas of propaganda. And now, you have the Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, saying that he's going to try to bring a bill -- to get this ban repealed. Here's more on what he had to say on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: This will make us less safe. John McCain is exactly right. It will encourage lone wolves here in America. -- They have created most of the terrorism. The biggest problems we've had with terrorism are not from these countries. This evening, I will ask for a vote on the floor of the Senate to repeal this. Senator Feinstein has very carefully thought out legislation to repeal this. I hope Mitch McConnell allows that vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And we're hearing from my colleague, Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, there's not a lot of expectation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will allow for that vote. But it's clear that members of Congress who oppose this are not going to remain silent on this. We'll still be watching in the afternoon when that takes place over on the Senate. Carol?
COSTELLO: I am sure you will, Athena Jones reporting live from the White House this morning.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry says they were astonished by Trump's Executive Order. Saying in a statement, they are allies with the United States in the fight against ISIS and "It is necessary that the new American administration reconsider this wrong decision."
Will there be repercussions, joining me live from Baghdad to talk about that, CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman. Hi, Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. Well, in fact, we've seen that the Iraqi parliament has accepted the recommendations of its Foreign Affairs Committee. And they have voted in a majority to take reciprocal action against the United States.
[10:05:00] They are calling upon the U.N., the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic States to take action as a result of this executive decision. And they're also calling upon the U.S. Congress and the new administration to rescind that order.
Now of course, let's keep in mind, Iraq was one of those seven countries affected by this temporary travel ban. However, the parliamentary vote is nonbinding. It's up to the Iraqi government to make a decision on this. And of course, there are thousands of American troops and others in this country supporting Iraq's effort to crush ISIS.
Now, I was actually at the airport waiting in line to get my visa when this vote passed. The Iraqi officials at the airport didn't say I was not allowed in. They did express a bit of astonishment that the United States would take this kind of decision against -- they consider -- Iraq considers itself to be an ally of the United States in the war on terrorism. So, they asked me, why are we paying the price for the fact that we're fighting side by side with the Americans against ISIS. Carol?
COSTELLO: Fascinating, Ben Wedeman, reporting live from Baghdad. So, let's talk about this. With me now is Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and Chris Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Welcome, gentlemen.
CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Thank you.
COSTELLO: Mark, I want to start with you. You just heard what Ben Wedeman said. There are 5,000 American troops in Iraq right now. They're fighting alongside the Iraqi military in an advisory role to defeat ISIS. What do you suppose the Iraqis who are fighting alongside American service members, how are they taking this temporary travel ban?
MARK KRIKORIAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: I have no idea. But Iraq wasn't on that list --
COSTELLO: You just heard what Ben Wedeman says, we have somewhat of an idea.
KRIKORIAN: It wasn't that -- Iraq is not on that list because the Trump White House made it up. The Congress passed and President Obama signed and the State Department implemented a list of countries of concern, seven countries of concern. And Iraq was one of them. Iraq is working with us and welcomes us to fight ISIS with them because it's in their interests. But there's a distinction between that and movement of people from Iraq to the United States. Remember, this is - not a permanent ban.
COSTELLO: So, I guess what I'm trying to get at -
KRIKORIAN: This is a 90-day pause.
COSTELLO: I understand that, Mark. What I'm trying to get at is what message does that send to these Iraqis who are fighting ISIS and are being advised by American service members.
KRIKORIAN: The message is that there are plenty of people with Iraqi nationality who want to commit terrorist acts in the United States and in Iraq. So, the very people --
COSTELLO: What evidence do you have of that? I mean, has an Iraqi come over and gotten into our country and committed any terrorist act?
KRIKORIAN: One of ISIS's most active areas is western Iraq, along with Eastern Syria. And those people in western Iraq that are soldiers are fighting our people with Iraqi nationality. And so, the issue is how to set up a system that distinguishes people with Iraqi nationality that we do want to let in from those whom we don't want to let in. And the point of this is -
COSTELLO: OK. I get it. I want to bring in --
KRIKORIAN: -- a three month gap to figure it out.
COSTELLO: I get it. I want to bring in the ambassador -- to find out what he thinks of this, because he's been in those circles and, you know, you've been part of the war on terror in both Iraq wars. -- What message do you think it sends to the Iraqi military?
HILL: First of all, on the narrower point about whether Iraq or Syria or Yemen or these other states on the list have internal governance such that you can rely on their internal governance for vetting. I mean, there is a problem there, no question. But I don't think it's fair to say the U.S. has been letting in people from places like Yemen without doing its own vetting. So, I think to some extent that problem is very much exaggerated in terms of the people who are applying to enter the United States.
And then on the broader point, as you suggest, Carol, I think we're sending a terrible message. Iraqis are fighting ISIS, whether they have their own interests in it, which they obviously do, or not. They are fighting alongside the United States as allies in the fight against a group that is dedicated to our destruction. And so, I think on the broader point, we are sending a very negative message there.
And I think the problem with this all is you have the impression that this is a very rapid effort to go through campaign promises. Understandably, the public always feels that campaign promises are inadequately addressed once the candidate gets into office. So, this is obviously an effort to counter that.
But I think in the process, it's been chaotic. And you know chaos in these kinds of circumstances is not helpful. And frankly, as John McCain and others have been saying lately, it's not going to be helpful in the fight against terrorism.
[10:10:04] COSTELLO: And Mark, there was a certain amount of chaos. American corporations who employ green card holders were confused, the Iraqis who helped Americans during the war, they were not exempted from the order. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the Defense Department, were not briefed on what was about to happen. So, why didn't Mr. Trump just wait a bit, would a couple of days have really made a difference?
KRIKORIAN: There are a couple of issues here. I mean, I have no -- I am not privy to the internal considerations in the White House. But there are a couple of issues. One is there's going to be a certain amount of confusion, period. Because we have to do something like this, you have to basically pull the trigger and do it, you can't give a week's warning to everybody, that OK, now we're going to have tighter rules. You've got seven days to do whatever you want. --
COSTELLO: So, you're saying if they had made an announcement, then like dozens of terrorists would have flooded into the United States and our country would have been in danger? Is that what you're saying?
KRIKORIAN: I don't know if it would have been dozens, that's sort of a silly way of describing it. But it clearly, would have communicated that we're going to have new rules and you can get in under the old rules. But the other issue is there was a certain amount of confusion that might have been avoided, maybe. This is a kind of bare bones campaign that turned into a bare bones administration.
So probably, putting together the communications, the messaging, talking points, all of that, would have been done better if they had - you know if there was a smoother operation. But when you have what amounts to a kind of an independent in the White House, because he didn't have a Republican government in the waiting or a Democrat government in waiting to put into place, you're going to end up with some kind of confusion like this. That's different from the substance of the decision. Which is hit the pause button so we can --
COSTELLO: But isn't Mr. Trump a great businessman, isn't he used to putting out fires and when he comes up with plans he wants to implement, doesn't he dot all the i's and cross the t's?
KRIKORIAN: I have no idea. But this is the kind of thing that is not the full policy. In other words, this isn't about dotting the i's and crossing the t's. This is about starting the process, which will end up that way. You have to start at somewhere and that's what this is. This is a kickoff of a review of the policy, not the actual policy itself.
COSTELLO: So, Ambassador, had Mr. Trump given a warning, would it have put our country in danger? HILL: You know, I don't think it's so much a question of a warning. I think it's the question of whether you are prepared to announce this. And it's clear that they were not prepared. They left a lot of issues unaddressed. And they failed to sort of anticipate the unintended consequences of it all.
Look, our parents all told us that at an early age you only have one chance to create a first impression. And this first impression of the Trump administration throughout the world is a very negative one now. I mean, there are demonstrations everywhere. There's heightened anti- Americanism everywhere. This is not making our country safer nor is it, I think, helpful to our being the custodian of world peace and of leading the world.
So, I think there's a real problem here. And I think the president is going to have to dig out from under it. Now, he tried to blame the Democrats for not moving fast enough on some of these nominations. Frankly, some of these nominations were late in being sent up to the Hill. So, there's work to be done there. I understand the desire to fill campaign promises quickly. But when you announce something, you better have your ducks in order. There need to be a lot of people consulted. It's pretty clear that the groundwork was not done.
COSTELLO: All right. I have to leave it there, Ambassador Christopher Hill, Mark Krikorian, thanks to both of you. All right, we have new video of President Trump in signing an Executive Order -- it's coming in. It's going to be feeding in momentarily. So, I'm going to take a break.
Also, still to come in the NEWSROOM, we'll talk about the Democratic reaction to all of this. I'll be right back.
[10:18:06] COSTELLO: A showdown may be brewing inside the State Department over Trump's controversial travel ban. CNN has obtained a draft memo from dozens of career diplomats who say the Executive Order will not keep the U.S. safe, but instead, hurt the fight against terrorism. Let's get right to CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. Tell us more, Elise.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, you know this Executive Order has been - it really voicing a lot of concern among career diplomats, Foreign Service Officers, who are arguing that not only will it not keep America safe but it will really cause a global backlash, alienate important allies in the war on terror. And also, create a lot of anti-American sentiment against the United States at a very critical time in the world, Carol.
Now, these diplomats are using what they call the "Dissent Channel." This was set up during the Vietnam War for diplomats to voice alternative ways to stop foreign policy without fear of retribution. You remember, last year, about 50 diplomats circulated a memo voicing opposition to U.S. inaction in Syria. And now, since this order by President Trump has been instituted, these diplomats have been circulating a draft talking about that not only will this not keep America safe, it will immediately sour relations by alienating important allies in the war on terror.
And Carol, it says that this calls back to one of the -- darkest times in American history, comparing it to when the U.S. detained Japanese- Americans during the post-World War II period. So, saying that this order does not comply with the Oath of Office that these diplomats instituted. So, what they're going to do with this memo, we do not know. But they are considering it, sending it to the State Department leadership, and the name of list senior officials, careers, Foreign Service Officers continues to grow. Carol?
[10:20:04] COSTELLO: And are some of these diplomats currently working?
LABOTT: That's right. This is a channel for State Department employees, career, Foreign Service Officers to voice their opposition to foreign policy, to provide the leadership with an alternative view. And these are sitting Foreign Service Officers and career diplomats with a lot of concern about the new president's policy. Carol?
COSTELLO: Interesting, Elise Labott, reporting live for us. Thank you so much.
Democratic lawmakers are expected to protest too today after a weekend where thousands poured out to airports across the country, voicing outrage over President Trump's travel ban. Out among them, my next guest, Representative Gregory Meeks from New York who promised to help relieve those detained. He's there, right there in the brown hat. And Becca Heller is with me too, who is part of the legal team representing two Iraqi men who were blocked from entering the United States on Saturday. One of those men, Hamid Darweesh, is seen right there.
All right, so Representative Meeks, Becca Hiller, thank you so much for joining me. So, Congressman, I just want to get your reaction to these career diplomats who are soon going to release this memo condemning this travel ban, this temporary travel ban
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Well, I think again, you're going to hear more and more Americans and individuals who we have put in place to make sure that we have diplomacy around the world. They know what works, what doesn't work. And they're asking for help. And they are taking their jobs at risk because knowing how the current president --
COSTELLO: Do you think their jobs will be at risk if they speak out?
MEEKS: Listen, this current president, the way that he just tries to go after individuals and denies things, who knows? So, I take my hat off to them for standing up. I hope some of my Republican colleagues begin to do this. Because what they have to do to put country before party and if you recall, many of them criticized President Trump for the same policies that he's putting in place now, through the whole Republican -
COSTELLO: 16 have come forward -- MEEKS: That's exactly right. No one agree -
COSTELLO: I want to quickly ask you, before I get to you, Becca. Donald Trump, he held a press conference, because he was meeting with small business leaders. He said that Senator Chuck Schumer, who became emotional over the weekend talking about this temporary travel ban, he said those were crocodile tears. Those were fake tears. This is all for political posturing.
MEEKS: There is no political posturing. If you are a true American, if you are looking and seeing what is taking place in this country right now, those individuals who were denied access to the airport, I was at the airport on last Saturday, and I saw the feeling of individuals. So many American veterans who had their parents not allowed to come in.
You have to feel heartfelt, you know, because you don't want to be misinterpreted, you don't want the president's decisions that goes with this ban to be misinterpreted that it is all Americans. And so, it makes you feel passionate about it. And that's why those people out there were passionate, because they don't want the world to think that they think like this president does.
COSTELLO: So, Becca, I see you nodding. And you rushed to the aid of these two Iraqi men. Why?
BECCA HELLER, DIRECTOR INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE ASSISTANCE PROJECT: My organization, the International Refugee Assistance Project, had actually been representing these two men for several years. Both of them were at risk of being killed because their families worked for the United States. There was a backlash against them.
Congress created a program to protect our allies who are in danger because of their work with us. We had been helping them navigate that program. Both had been approved but didn't have travel dates yet. So, as soon as we heard that this was coming down, we said get on a plane, get here as soon as we can. --
COSTELLO: And you absolutely did. I'm going to interrupt you for just a second because the president is signing another Executive Order. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In terms of regulation, we spoke to small business owners. And they're great people. They've been representative of the community, the small business community. If you have a regulation you want, number one, we're not going to approve it because it's already been approved probably in 17 different forms. But if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation. So, if there's a new regulation, they have to knock out two. But it goes far beyond that.
We're cutting regulations massively for small business and for large business. But they're different. But for small business, and that's what this is about today. This will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen. There will be regulation, there will be control, but it will be a normalized control where you can open your business and expand your business very easily. And that's what our country has been all about.
Should I sign it?
That's great. That's a big one.
[10:25:00] Do you have anything to say to the press, anybody? Anybody have anything to say to the press? (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just thank you for doing this, because small business has just been buried in a tidal wave of red tape. To break that will really change the world for us. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: All right, you heard small business owners with Donald Trump really liking what he did today. I wish I knew exactly what that Executive Order said, but I don't. But from my understanding at the moment, for every new regulation passed, two regulations will be required to be cut. And that is excluding the military. So, Congressman, your reaction to that? Is that a good idea, for every new regulation, two have to be cut?
MEEKS: It seems irrational to me. You're not looking at fact. You're not looking at what - how one affects the other. What revenue extremes it may be affecting or not. It just seems to me, completely, again, irrational. Something that's not completely thought out, something that he probably has not had consultation with anybody, even probably anyone within his administration, less so members of Congress. So, it seems to me he's continuing with his authoritarian traits that he seems to like. --
COSTELLO: Well, he would say, he's keeping his campaign promises. I don't want to get further into this, because as I said, I don't know much about it right now. But I do want to go back to the temporary travel ban, because Becca, you brought up something quite interesting. You said, like -- the Trump camp is saying nobody is detained any longer, everyone's been freed. You're hearing something different.
HELLER: There are people detained right now at at least four different airports. We have thousands of lawyers who have showed up of their own accord because we called them. It's a movement really sustaining itself, trying to help the refugees and green card holders and others who are being detained. --
COSTELLO: Where specifically are they being held, do you know?
HELLER: I imagine in a lot of places, I know specifically San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and JFK. Also, I believe D.C. and I'm sure there are others.
COSTELLO: So, there are lawyers right now donating their time trying to get these people - HELLER: They're filing what's called a Habeas Corpus petition, which literally translates to "produce the body." You cannot hold this person back in this -- for no reason.
COSTELLO: OK. So, you'll continue your work and Congressman thank you so much for being with me today. I do appreciate it.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, attorneys are gearing up for a legal fight over President Trump's travel ban. Could the battle go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court?