Return to Transcripts main page


White House Defends Travel Ban Amid Sharp Protests; U.S. Diplomats Voice Concern Over Travel Ban. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 30, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Travel ban backlash. President Trump's ban on travel from seven mostly Muslim countries is greeted by protests and lawsuits as the White House takes heat from both Democrats and Republicans.

[17:00:21] Diplomatic dissent. Dozens of career foreign service officers disagree with the travel and immigration ban, but the White House says they can, quote, "get with the program or get out." What's the president hearing from world leaders?

Obama's back. The former president is already speaking out and endorsing the protests against the travel ban. A statement says Barack Obama believes, quote, "American values are at stake."

And seat at the table. Concern from both parties over the appointment of President Trump's top political adviser, Steve Bannon, to the National Security Council. The former head of the far-right media group will have a full seat, but attendance is optional for the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the joint chiefs.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: the White House today is playing defense as President Trump's order banning travel to the United States from seven mostly Muslim nations triggers protests, lawsuits and a congressional counterattack.

While demonstrators take to the streets across America, indeed around the world, Democratic lawmakers are about to stage their own protest, but a growing number of Republicans are also criticizing the president's move.

In his first public statement since leaving office, President Obama criticizes the travel order, saying American values are at stake. He says he's heartened by the level of engagement taking place across the country.

And President Trump is taking heat for putting his chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, on the National Security Council. While the alt-right ex-media mogul gets a full seat, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff will be called in only as needed. Senator John McCain calls the move radical, while Obama national

security adviser, Susan Rice, calls it -- and I'm quoting her now -- "stone-cold crazy."

I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

We begin with the extraordinary upheaval following President Trump's ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Our chief justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is with us right now.

Pamela, in the face of protests and lawsuits, what's the White House saying?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight, Wolf, President Trump is defending his executive order banning travel from those seven majority Muslim countries for at least 90 days, an order that prompted an army of lawyers to defend passengers in airports across the country and sparked confusion among officials about how to enforce the ban.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Actually had a very good day yesterday in terms of homeland security. And some day we had to make the move, and we decided to make the move.

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump justifying the implementation of his travel ban, in the face of chaos and confusion at airports across the country. The president tweeting, "If the ban were announced with a one-week notice, the bad would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad dudes out there."

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you wait, you're going to be reacting. And what I think I'm -- I want to be clear on is the president is not going to wait. He's going to make sure he does everything in his power when he can to protect the homeland and its people.

BROWN: CNN has learned Department of Homeland Security officials, including the new secretary, John Kelly, were shut out of the process...

TRUMP: Protection of the nation from foreign terrorists' entry into the United States. Big stuff.

BROWN: ... and weren't briefed on the details until the president was signing the executive order Friday.

SPICER: The people that needed to be kept in the loop were kept in the loop.

BROWN: The last-minute notice sent DHS officials scrambling about what the executive order meant for newly-banned passengers on U.S.- bound planes and green card holders in the seven countries. Two days after the ban was imposed, DHS Secretary John Kelly released

a statement clarifying green card holders will be allowed into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis, absent significant derogatory information.

SPICER: Look at how it worked. When you talk about the 325,000 people, 109 were temporarily inconvenienced for the safety of us all.

BROWN: As Democratic leaders in Congress now jostle to put forward a bill rescinding the sweeping order, civil rights groups are lining up with lawsuits to try to strike it down.

LENA MASU, CAIR NATIONAL LITIGATION DIRECTOR: This is not a Muslim ban simply. It is a Muslim exclusion order.

BROWN: The White House points out that the order itself does not specifically mention Muslims but rather identifying dangerous areas of the world that need more vetting.

[17:05:07] PROF. DAVID MARTIN, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW: The plaintiffs will claim that it is, in effect, a Muslim ban or was motivated by antipathy towards Muslims. The key will be the way in which the courts characterize this order. If it's simply seen as the president exercising his national security authority to implement certain kinds of protective measures, then they're very likely to defer.


BROWN: Federal judges have temporarily barred the deportation of those detained in the U.S. after the executive order. In one case, a California judge ordered an Iranian man be returned to the U.S. after he was deported to Dubai. The government has not challenged the judge's rulings -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Pamela Brown reporting. Thank you.

While Democrats are up in arms and about to stage a protest up on Capitol Hill, the president's travel ban also threatens to drive a wedge between the White House and congressional Republicans.

Let's go to our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju. Manu, the president is getting it from both sides.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Wolf. A growing number of Republicans tonight pushing back on the executive order, saying they were kept out of the loop; and they believe this order is too broad and it would have far-reaching, unintended consequences.

Tonight, Wolf, the question is will those Republicans join Democrats in pushing legislation to reverse the order?


RAJU (voice-over): Tonight, President Donald Trump in a bipartisan firestorm, facing growing criticism over his new executive order preventing immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S.

TRUMP: Big stuff.

RAJU: The order, signed Friday night, says refugees cannot travel to the U.S. for 120 days, keeps out immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations for three months, and effectively suspends the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Angry protests broke out around the world, prompting former President Barack Obama to issue his first statement since leaving office, saying through a spokesman that he "fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith and religion."

At the same time, more and more Republicans called on Trump to reverse a policy they believe is overly broad and poorly executed.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: So Mr. President, the worst thing you can do in winning the war against radical Islam is to declare war on everybody in the faith.

RAJU: Senator Lindsey Graham says the new policy unfairly denied a legal U.S. immigrant with a Ph.D. the right to return to her job after she was visiting her family in Iran.

GRAHAM: The travel ban was poorly written, and she's a victim of it.

RAJU: At the White House Thursday, spokesman Sean Spicer strongly defended the order, saying Trump was taking bold action to keep the country safe.

SPICER: It's a shame that people were inconvenienced, obviously. But at the end of the day, we're talking about a couple hours. I would rather, you know -- I'm sorry that some folks may have had to wait a little while. We're the greatest country on earth. And being able to come to America is a privilege, not a right.

RAJU: And Spicer insisted that key lawmakers were consulted before issuing the executive order.

SPICER: There was staff from appropriate committees and leadership offices that were involved.

RAJU: Yet sources tell CNN that House judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte and homeland security chairman Michael McCaul had no involvement in drafting the executive order.

Some influential Republicans say the Trump administration failed to fully understand the ramifications.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was an extreme vetting program that wasn't properly vetted.

RAJU: Nevada Senator Dean Heller, a Republican facing reelection in a state that Trump lost, tweeting, "I am deeply troubled by the appearance of a religious ban. The use of an overly broad executive order is not the way to strengthen national security."


RAJU: Senate Democrats are pushing legislation to kill the executive order, hoping to win GOP support.

SCHUMER: This executive order -- was mean-spirited and un-American.

RAJU: But Trump remained defiant.

TRUMP: I noticed that 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 a different man.


RAJU: Now, Wolf, any moment from now, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, is going to go to the floor of the Senate and ask for a quick vote on a bill to repeal that executive order. But it's likely that a Republican is going to object to a quick vote, meaning there will be further negotiations to determine when that vote will take place.

[17:10:05] And also in a few moments, Wolf, the Senate expected to break a filibuster to advance the nomination of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. A final confirmation vote could come Wednesday. Big question is how does he come down on the executive order -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It is a big question. All right. Thanks very much. Manu Raju reporting for us.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: You called this order by the president unconstitutional and un-American. Why do you believe that?

JEFFRIES: Well, this country was founded on the principles of religious freedom. That has been embedded in our country from the very beginning. We, of course, have a First Amendment that protects the freedom of religion and prohibits government from establishing any one particular religious faith above and beyond anyone else.

And that's exactly what has taken place here. It's an executive order that, quite simply, is poorly masked as a ban on Muslims from several countries in terms of being able to come into this great United States of America, including, as I witnessed yesterday at John F. Kennedy Airport, permanent legal residents of the United States, who essentially were detained, trying to reenter their own country and reunite with family members. It's shameful, Wolf. BLITZER: It does deal with seven predominantly Muslim countries. But

there are a few dozen other predominantly Muslim countries that are not impacted. And as a result, they insist, the Trump -- the Trump spokespeople, that this is not a, quote, Muslim ban.

JEFFRIES: Well, I think what's interesting is if you actually look at some of those other countries, such as Egypt, for instance, or Saudi Arabia, what they do have in common with the countries that have been left off the list is that those are actually places where the Trump Organization does a significant amount of business.

And so you have to wonder what actually motivated the inclusion of some of these countries on the list and why were others left off? Saudi Arabia, I would note, Wolf, you had 17 of the 9/11 attackers...

BLITZER: Fifteen. Fifteen. Fifteen of the 19.

JEFFRIES: I'm sorry. Fifteen of the 19 attackers come from Saudi Arabia, an overwhelming majority of them from one country, that has continued to be a hot-bed for terrorist activity in terms of fostering sentiments that are harmful to the United States of America. And it's not clear to me or many others why that country was particularly left off, other than raising the question, is it because the Trump Organization does business?

BLITZER: Because there are plenty of other predominantly Muslim countries where there's no business dealings between the Trump Organization and individuals in those countries.

But let me get to what you were doing over the weekend at JFK Airport in New York. You were clearly protesting the president's travel ban. Tell our viewers about some of the interaction you had with families you met there.

JEFFRIES: Well, it was both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. Many of the families there who were waiting for loved ones who were detained unexpectedly, they were caught in the air in many instances when the order came down; and when they landed, often on Saturday morning, instead of being able to reunite with their families, they were detained.

The family members are individuals who believe in the graciousness, the well-being, the spirit of this country, and they maintained that spirit all throughout. While, of course, being troubled about what was happening with those who were detained.

What was shocking to me was the fact that there were several individuals who were legal, permanent residents of the United States who were detained. There were others that were family members. For instance, in one case of an American sergeant from the 82nd Airborne who was stationed in Fort Bragg, his 65-year-old mother who had just lost her husband was detained for more than 30 hours. And in some instances, it appears that she was handcuffed during some period of time.

So there were some unfortunate, un-American things that were taking place at John F. Kennedy Airport as a result of the manner in which this poorly executed, poorly implemented, poorly designed order was set in motion.

BLITZER: You also had a chance at JFK to speak with some customs and border protection agents. Did they know the specifics of what they were enforcing? What was your impression?

JEFFRIES: Well, there was a lot of confusion, both because of the nature in which this executive order was developed and then implemented, in a manner where there was not a significant amount of vetting that took place in advance.

Then of course, with the federal court decisions that took place all across the country, including in Brooklyn, which impacted JFK Airport, those Customs and Border Patrol agents were doing the best that they could under very difficult circumstances, which suggests why, when you make decisions that have such a broad impact on people throughout the country and, in fact, could impact our relationship with other countries across the world, it's got to be done with some due diligence and some care. And that did not take place in this instance.

BLITZER: But can you agree, Congressman, that there is room for improvement in the vetting process?

JEFFRIES: We can always improve the vetting process. But I think there's been no real example that the Trump administration has been able to point to, particularly as it relates to refugees, that have resulted in individuals being let into this country who have then engaged in terrorist activity or criminal behavior.

In fact, the average American is more likely, about 100 times more likely, to be struck by lightning than to be victimized by a refugee who's been let into this country. We've got some serious vetting that already takes place. Maybe there's room for improvement. It didn't call for a dramatic, overly broad, unconstitutional executive order.

BLITZER: As you know, Congressman, the White House pointing to President Obama, who took what they say, similar action back in 2011. The processing of Iraqi visas and refugees slowed down at that point almost to a standstill while the Obama administration implemented tougher vetting procedures, this after two Iraqi refugees were discovered in Kentucky, and apparently, they had been involved in terrorist activity back in Iraq, including planting bombs to kill U.S. soldiers.

So why is what the Trump administration doing now any different than what the Obama administration did in 2011?

JEFFRIES: Well, the manner in which it was developed and implemented, apparently without any consultation with the secretary of homeland security, no consultation with the secretary of defense. There didn't appear to be any significant involvement from career officials at the State Department or the Department of Justice.

The policy that had been put in place by the Obama administration was done thoughtfully, deliberately, and it didn't occur in the context, I would point out, Wolf, of a campaign where Donald Trump clearly stated that he was going to implement a Muslim ban. That was a central tenet of his campaign. And he's had a week in which he's engaged in activities designed to keep his so-called promises that were made over the last 18 months. And in his mind, apparently, this fell within that situation.

BLITZER; Congressman, we're getting word now more substance on some career diplomats at the State Department protesting this new policy. We'll discuss that and more when we come back.


BLITZER: We're talking with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. We'll get back to him momentarily.

But first, President Trump's travel ban has led to chaos abroad, an extraordinary statement of concern from career U.S. diplomats. Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. Elise, what's the diplomatic fallout?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know that career foreign services officers and civil servants serve both Democratic and Republican administrations. But what we have here is really a rare show of opposition to President Trump's visa and refugee policy from a group of U.S. diplomats. What started as dozens is now hundreds.

And CNN has obtained a draft of that memo, this dissent memo. And it warns that not only will this policy not keep the U.S. safe, but it will prevent the U.S. from preventing terrorist attacks.

Let me read some of it. It says, "It will immediately sour relations with these six countries, as well as much of the Muslim world, which sees the ban as religiously motivated. By alienating them, we lose the intelligence and resources needed to fight the root causes of terror abroad before an attack occurs within our borders."

And of course, the diplomats say six countries, because the seventh country, Iran, the U.S. doesn't have relationships with.

That memo goes on to say, in addition to the economic impact from the loss of revenue from travelers and students, it will also increase anti-American sentiment, including those who may be at the tipping point of radicalization, Wolf.

These diplomats say that the U.S. is really better than this and that this policy harkens back to a very dark time in American history. They compare it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Now, there was a very tough response, a reaction to this dissent memo that hasn't even been sent yet by White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SPICER: I think that they should either get with the program or they can go. Hold on. Hold on.

This is -- this is about the safety of America. And there's a reason that the majority of Americans agree with the president. It's because they understand that that's his No. 1 priority, and it's his No. 1 duty, as it should be with any leader, to keep our people and our institutions safe from attack.

I know the president appreciates the people who serve this nation and the public servants, but at some point, if they have a big problem with the policies that he's instituting to keep the country safe, then that's up to them to question whether or not they want to stay or not.


LABOTT: Now, Wolf, these diplomats say that they're really surprised. I've spoken to a lot of them. And they say that the White House clearly doesn't understand what this dissent channel was. It was set up during -- after the Vietnam War for diplomats to voice concerns about major foreign policy issues without fear of retribution, of reprisal. That's exactly what they were doing, just as they did during the Iraq War under President Bush and President Obama's what they called inaction against Syria last year, two policies that both President Trump himself has criticized. And they say, Wolf, that the U.S. will live to regret this decision.

BLITZER: All right. Very interesting indeed. All right. Thanks very much, Elise, for that report.

Let's get back to Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member the Judiciary Committee. Congressman, what's your recommendation? How should the U.S. now, the Trump administration now go about repairing some of these relationships?

[17:25:08] JEFFRIES: Well, I think adapting sort of a "my way or the highway" mentality, as was evidenced by the White House press secretary in terms of his view toward the diplomatic corps, the non- partisan diplomatic corps here in the United States of America, hopefully will not be a sign of the approach that will be taken.

This is a very complicated world that we live in. And in order for us to be successful in the war on terror, we need the cooperation of the overwhelming majority of individuals who are part of the Muslim world.

We've experienced that in New York City. The Muslim community has worked hand in glove with the New York Police Department in terms of dealing with any threats that may emerge as it relates to the safety and security of the people of New York City. There's a similar premise that applies throughout the country and in terms of our interaction with the rest of the world. That's why this executive order was so harmful and so damaging.

And I'm hopeful that the Trump administration will see the error of its ways, rescind it, and to the extent that there is interest in trying to figure out how to improve our safety and security, work in a more thoughtful and deliberative fashion moving forward.

BLITZER: So what's your reaction, though, specifically when you rather the White House press secretary tell these career State Department foreign service officers, these career diplomats, "If you can't get with the program, maybe you should think about going"?

JEFFRIES: Well, there's been a level of arrogance that we've seen in the first ten days of the Trump administration that is shocking, particularly when you consider the fact that Donald Trump didn't win the popular vote. He lost the popular vote. A majority of Americans didn't vote for him. They voted against him.

And you would think that the administration would take an approach that would be embracing of individuals, particularly members of the federal government that they now head and individuals who are part of the foreign service, the best foreign service corps in the country, in the world. And they are speaking out of the best interests of the United States of America. And to be treated with such disdain and disrespect has been par for the course in what we've seen but hopefully will not be the pathway the White House chooses to pursue moving forward.

BLITZER: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, thanks for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, President Trump gives his chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, a seat with his panel of top national security advisers.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, shortly Democratic members of Congress, they'll be marching from the U.S. Capitol to the U.S. Supreme Court to protest President Trump's executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim majority nations.

[17:32:09] Let's bring in our expert analysts. And Phil Mudd, let me start with you. The impact, you believe, of this executive order on America's efforts to fight terrorism.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's about a nice round number, Wolf. I'd give this one a zero. It's not because the president asked the wrong question. There's a fair question to be asked about whether we can improve procedures in the United States. It's about why we took this avenue.

If you look at the countries that are involved, where's Pakistan? Where's Afghanistan? Where's Saudi Arabia? Where's the source of some of the most significant foreign fighter flows that went to fight in Syria? Tunisia, Morocco. What about the attacks in Belgium, France, Germany? We don't care about people in those countries? I don't understand the rationale for how these countries were selected. But one more thing. If you want to do this, Wolf, do what he did with

the Pentagon. Go ask the professionals at homeland security and the bureau. "I want to tighten up immigration. I want to tighten up what we do with illegal aliens in this country. Do you have any recommendations?"

I don't know why we did it this way. And among my friends we see no professional reason why you'd pursue this path.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, what do you think the impact of this ban will be?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely nothing. I mean, every single lethal jihadist attack in the United States since 9/11 had nothing to do with any of these countries. None of the perpetrators came from these countries. None of their families came from these countries. Every lethal act of jihadist terrorism in United States since 9/11 has carried out by an American citizen or legal permanent resident. With one exception, which Phil alluded to, Tashfeen Malik, who killed 14 people in San Bernardino. She's from Pakistan. She was illegally here, but she was married to an American citizen.

So this is a kind of a feel-good set of positions that don't really kind of reflect the actual problem, which is really a domestic terrorism problem. People here in the United States who are legally here, who are American citizens.

BLITZER: She was vetted, but apparently, they never looked at her social media account, because there was evidence that she had some radical views.

BERGEN: Yes. But she -- those social media views were -- she posted them under a different pseudonym. So it wasn't that easy to find them. And that said, you know, clearly, she warranted more attention than she got.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I was talking to a senior national security source who served in the last administration. And this person said to me that these were not counter-terrorism measures that anyone was asking for. If you -- to Phil's point, if you would have gotten a bunch of people in a room and said, "In a perfect world, what would you ask for?" None of this would have been on their list.

BLITZER: Jackie, listen to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham speaking today, reacting to all of this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. President, I'm not trying to start World War III. I'm trying to win the war we're in. We had eight years of Barack Obama, who did not understand how to defeat radical Islam. The only way you're going to win this war is partner with people in the faith. You need Muslims on your side. Your executive order was too broad. You didn't vet it. You didn't

take the time and attention you need to execute something I agree with. And I'm not trying to start a war. I'm trying to win the war we're in. And you're not going to win the war by lumping everybody into a big pot.


BLITZER: This is the first really big test for a lot of Republicans on how they're going to react to the new White House.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We've kind of gotten used to -- not that they're not important -- we've gotten used to Lindsey Graham and John McCain speaking out against Donald Trump.

But the striking thing about this was you heard from Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander from Tennessee. You heard from Tim Scott. You heard from Tom Cotton specifically about the special immigrant visas, which bring Iraqi translators who've helped U.S. troops here.

Lawmakers don't like surprises and they don't like -- particularly don't like surprises that affect them and affects their constituents and affects people that they care about. So this is something that he is going to have to fix or he needs these people on the Hill. And they're not happy right now.

BLITZER: Do you think they appreciate sort of the uproar at the White House, Gloria, that's underway right now?

BORGER: It's very hard to tell, Wolf. In listening to Sean Spicer's press conference today. The word he kept using was "exaggerated." This was all exaggerated. Another word that he kept using was "overblown." "The reaction to this is overblown. Only 109 people were detained. But as a result we have made 324 million people in the United States safer."

That is not what national security officials believe. I think that they are sort of pushing it aside or live in a different universe and say, "You know what? Our supporters" -- I think they're speaking to their supporters and they're saying, "Our supporters, we are doing exactly what we said we were going to do."

The question that I have and others who I'm talking to have is, wouldn't it have been a little better to say, today, "You know, in doing it all over again, maybe we would have handled this a little bit differently, but we're learning from our mistakes. And next time it will be a little bit better organized." But there was none of that.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There's more coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[18:41:47] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts. I want to go back to Phil Mudd. Phil used to be a career official over at the CIA. You worked at the FBI. You're seeing all these career foreign service officers, these diplomats protesting. They're writing part of this petition explaining their opposition to what the president has done. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, reacted today. These federal employees should, quote, "either get with the program, or they can go."

What's your reaction to that?

MUDD: My initial reaction is unprintable. But let me be professional for just a moment here, Wolf. Let me go back a few years. You remember after President Bush flew on the aircraftcarrier, declaring that we had mission accomplished in Iraq, intelligence and national security professionals after that started warning that Iraq was falling apart and it was decaying into insurgency. The White House didn't want to hear that message. It turned out to be an accurate message.

My message for Mr. Spicer is if you don't want to hear -- I don't view the State Department message we're talking about as a protest. It's an effort by professionals to tell the White House, "These are complicated issues. We have a different perspective."

One other message I'd have is personal, Wolf. In the next four years, FBI officers, CIA officers and military officers will take a bullet, as they did for President Bush and President Obama, as a result of decisions that President Trump makes. How about a little respect? That's all we ask here. They will do what you ask as long as you get out of your arrogant chair and show one modicum of courtesy. That's all we want as professionals.

BLITZER: What's your reaction, Peter?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, recall the dissent during the '90s in the Clinton administration. A whole bunch of State Department officials dissented and also resigned. You'll recall a similar official dissent during the Obama administration over the conduct of the Syrian war and the Obama administration's lack of kind of real action on this. We didn't hear from the White House podium during either of those administrations that the State Department officials involved should essentially get another job. So this is very unusual, to make this kind of observation.

BLITZER: This level of protest, this opportunity for career diplomats to protest, that was started back in '71 during the Vietnam War when there was a lot of opposition...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... to what the administration at that time was doing.

We also today, for the first time since leaving office, we heard from President Obama. A spokesman for the president, President Obama, saying "President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy, not just during an election but every day." Very speedy. Only, what, less than two weeks after leaving office, he's already reacting.

BORGER: I spoke with someone today who was very involved in the process that Barack Obama went through before he left office. And thinking about when he would comment and when he would not. He, I was told, would like to have been like George W. Bush, who kept his mouth shut and didn't say anything for years and gave the new president a chance to kind of gain some traction. But he did, in his good-bye speech, leave us with a hint of what he would talk about. And one of those was anything regarding American values, and the so-called ban on religion or so-called Muslim ban, which the administration says this is -- this is not.

And I was told he thought very long and hard about when to weigh in and how to weigh in. He did not want to do it, but he felt that, in the end, given what happened with the immigration executive order, that this was a moment he had to say something.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think, Jackie, we're going to be hearing a lot more from President Obama?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It depends on the issue, as Gloria said. It seems like this is something he was kind of loathe to do. He didn't want to weigh in. But he said in his farewell speech, if he is compelled to, he'll do it.

BLITZER: And he obviously felt compelled, and he spoke out through a spokesman. All right. Guys, thanks very, very much.

Coming up, another White House controversy as President Trump gives his chief political strategist a seat with his panel of top national security aides.


[17:50:15] BLITZER: The White House is defending the move to give President Trump's controversial chief strategist, Steve Bannon, a key role on the National Security Council. President Obama's national security adviser calls the latest NSC reshuffling, and I'm quoting her now, "stone cold crazy." Our Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the Trump White House is firing back at critics of this move. They're saying the administration is growing the National Security Council staff, not downgrading it.

But tonight, the addition of political adviser Steve Bannon to a full seat on the NSC staff is drawing bipartisan fire, especially considering the people who are at least partially being pushed away from a seat at that table.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Tonight, growing concerns from both parties over the appointment of President Trump's top political adviser, Steve Bannon, to a full seat on the National Security Council. Bannon, former head of right-leaning "Breitbart News" Web site, known as a hardline nationalist and opponent of globalism, will have a seat on the council's so-called principals committee. But the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff will not, even though experts say their posts are critical to almost every decision the NSC makes.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history. It's of concern this, quote, "reorganization."

TODD (voice-over): Tony Blinken, who was deputy national security adviser under President Obama, says Bannon's presence on the NSC is risky.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The concern is that decisions on national security and on our foreign policy should be a politics-free zone to the greatest extent possible.

TODD (voice-over): The National Security Council was created after World War II for the President to be able to handle immediate threats facing the country.

I.M. DESTLER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY: It was designed to kind of stabilize presidential policy and constrain the President a little bit so he wouldn't just talk to anybody.

TODD (voice-over): Its core members were the President, Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sometimes other secretaries, like Treasury or Energy, have been added in. The secretaries make up the principals committee.

DESTLER: Now, the National Security Council does not make decisions. The President makes the decisions. He doesn't have to follow their advice.

TODD (voice-over): If President Trump's NSC were shaped like those of previous administrations, the principals committee would have included the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. But under President Trump, the principals committee will not include General Dunford or DNI Coates, except when their specific expertise is called for, and will include Steve Bannon, who spent seven years as a naval officer.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer points out, Barack Obama's political adviser David Axelrod sometimes attended NSC meetings, and said President Trump would benefit from a political adviser's presence.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Having the chief strategist for the President in those meetings, who has a significant military background, to help guide what the President's final analysis is going to be is crucial.


TODD: Now, even though, as Sean Spicer pointed out, political advisers to the President have attended NSC meetings, historians say there has never been a political adviser who has actually had a fulltime seat on the NSC's principals committee as Steve Bannon now does. In fact, during the last Republican administration, President George W. Bush made a point of telling his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, that he could never come to an NSC meeting.

Now, despite our inquiries, Steve Bannon did not comment for the story, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, Sean Spicer announced a move that the White House believes might cover for the absence of the Director of National Intelligence on the NSC, right?

TODD: He did, Wolf. Spicer announced that the CIA Director is now going to be added to the NSC. Traditionally, we're told the CIA Director has usually not been a member of the NSC. The CIA Director has gone to meetings, they do go to meetings, and they advise the council but they are not members of it.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you.

[17:54:10] Coming up, we'll have much more on the breaking news we're following. President Trump's ban on travel from seven mostly Muslim countries is greeted by protests and lawsuits, as the White House takes heat from both Democrats and Republicans.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Travel ban protest. As the global outrage intensifies over President Trump's new executive order, Democratic lawmakers are rallying this hour, demanding an end to what they call a historic injustice.

We're following the demonstrations, the lawsuits, and the fate of Muslim travelers who were detained for hours.

Get with the program. The Trump White House is putting career diplomats on notice that if they don't like the travel ban, they could quit their jobs.

Tonight, the administration's unwavering defense of its immigration crackdown, insisting the President is putting America's security first.

Reengaging. Barely a week after leaving office, President Obama is making his opinion of Mr. Trump's travel ban very clear. We'll take a closer look at his new statement and whether it will have an impact on Democrats or on President Trump. And Mosque attack. Six people are dead as a gunman randomly opened

fire into a crowd of Muslim worshippers. Stand by for new details on this act of terror in Quebec and the possible motive.

[18:00:02] We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.