Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Fires Acting Attorney General for "Betrayal"; Trump Brings in Giuliani for Cybersecurity; European Council: Trump Poses Threat to Europe. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 31, 2017 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And moments ago, we heard Sean Spicer responding to multiple questions on the White House statement which reads, quote, "Yates has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce the legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States."

Here was Sean Spicer's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Because it's the department's job, it to execute -- I mean, they're the Department of Justice. And if you have a legally executed order and the attorney general says, I'm not going to execute it, that truly, that clearly is a betrayal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let me bring in Timothy Heaphy, former U.S. attorney for the western district of Virginia.

Tim, welcome. Nice to see you.

TIMOTHY HEAPHY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA: Thanks, Brooke. Good to be here.

BALDWIN: I understand you know Yates and you know Boente well. But let me first ask about how Sean Spicer repeatedly characterized Sally Yates' actions, using the words betrayal and defiant, how do you see it?

HEAPHY: Using words like betrayal and defiance suggests that she's their lawyer, and that's just not the way the attorney general functions. She doesn't represent this administration. She represents the cause of justice. She represents the rule of law. And that's frankly, what I think the acting attorney general did yesterday. She stood up for what she believed is the rule of law and ordered her prosecutors that report to her for this limited period of time not to defend a law that she believes is unconstitutional. That's faithful for her obligation to uphold the rule of law.

BALDWIN: Given that explanation, why is it now the acting A.G., Dana Boente, disagrees?

HEAPHY: I think they went down the list and found something that would agree with their interpretation of the law. Four federal judges have already said there's at least a chance on the merits that this law is unconstitutional. And this will play out in the courts.

But, again, the key point is that the attorney general -- it doesn't enforce anything. The attorney general defends the constitutionality or legality of executive orders and she did not believe she could send people to court to defend something that was unconstitutional. That's consistent with her historical independence and her judgment about who her client is.

BALDWIN: In this discussion, Sean Spicer was asked, well, will this be a serious demarcation line if he has somebody in the administration that doesn't believe in, in their sense, this is not justice and will not follow through upholding something he enacts, what sort of benchmark does this set for others in the administration?

HEAPHY: I think the benchmark is you do what's legal but not what's not legal. It's extremely rare that the president signs an executive order or Congress passes a statute that has dubious constitutionality. This is an unusual circumstance in which the attorney general, whose client is the broader cause of justice, stepped up and said we cannot defend this law. That doesn't happen often. I don't think this is a line of demarcation that's going to set a precedent for career employees throughout the department to refuse to do their jobs. This is an unusual circumstance.

BALDWIN: In this conversation about Sally Yates and what she's done, and her firing, has conjured up the Watergate era, President Nixon and his Saturday Night Massacre. This is when the former president was under investigation in that scandal and fired the special prosecutor handling the case. So, our legal analyst at CNN, Paul Callan, wrote this op-ed for CNN referring to Yates' firing as the Monday night Massacre, Tim. Let me read it: "The attorney general is, after, the president's lawyer who is sworn duty is to defend the president and government of the United States. Ms. Yates suggests that she owes a superior duty to defend the Constitution of the United States and that the sacred principals of the document are being trashed by Mr. Trump."

You hit on this before. Why you feel like Sally Yates did what she did, but is this about the Constitution or defending the president?

HEAPHY: This is about the Constitution. This is, again, about fidelity to the rule of law.

With all due respect to Mr. Callen, I don't agree that the attorney general is not the president's lawyer. Certainly, appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, can be removed at the discretion of the president, as we saw last night. But her responsibility is to do what she believes the Constitution compels, to do what is right, to do what is fair, to do what is just. And if the president wants her to do something not in her view fair, right and just, it's frankly her obligation to say no. And that's, again, that's what occurred last night. BALDWIN: Tim, I got more news that's crossed. Let me ask you about

this.

More action against President Trump's immigration policy. The New York attorney general here is now joining this lawsuit against this executive order, calling it unconstitutional, this travel ban, calling it unlawful and fundamentally unamerican. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he will press the Department of Homeland Security to provide a full list of those still detained and allow them access to legal service providers.

Do all these lawsuits have legs?

[14:35:21] HEAPHY: I think they absolutely have legs. It's very early. And part of the problem is this was issued so hastily, without a reasonable analysis, that it's unclear what the target is. But, yes, I think these lawsuits -- we've already seen, again, several federal judges issue at least a temporary pause in the enforcement of the order.

And one of the findings was is there's a likelihood of success on the merits when the cases are litigated. So, I'm not surprise to hear about Attorney General Schneiderman and other officials. I think there will be a number of plaintiffs, with the help of an army of lawyers that are exercised about this, coming forward. And this, ultimately, will be a decision for federal judges, maybe even the Supreme Court to make.

BALDWIN: Tim Heaphy, thank you.

HEAPHY: My pleasure, Brooke. Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: You've got it.

Coming up next, did Trump's pick for secretary of education left some of her written responses to Senate questionnaires ahead of her confirmation hearings? Betsy DeVos is facing questions about that. We have her story.

Also, has Donald Trump changed the global perception of the United States just in his first 11 days in office? We'll discuss that as well. Stay here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:40:]DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you everybody for being here. We appreciate it.

Today, I'm convening this meeting to follow through on my promise to secure crucial infrastructure and the networks that we've been talking about over the period of time and the federal government against cyber threats. I will hold my cabinet secretaries and agency heads accountable, totally accountable for the cybersecurity of their organization, of which we probably don't have as much, certainly not as much as we should have. We must defend and protect federal networks and data. We operate these networks on behalf of the American people and they are very important and very sacred.

We will empower these agencies to modernize their I.T. systems for better security and other reasons. We will protect our critical infrastructure such as power plants and electrical grids. The electrical grid problem is a problem but we will have it solved relatively soon.

We must work with the private sector, which is way ahead of government in this case, to ensure that owners and operators of critical infrastructure have the support they need from the federal government to defend against cyber threats.

Now, I think a pretty good example of this was, despite spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, more money than we did, the Democratic National Committee was hacked successfully, very successfully and terribly, frankly. And the Republican National Committee was not hacked, meaning it was hacked but they failed. It was reported, I believe, by Reince and other people that it was hacked. But we had a very strong defense system against hacking. So, despite spending a lot less money than the Democrats, and in all fairness, winning -- people don't say that -- we spent less money and we won. That's good. Isn't that a good thing, right, when you can spend less and win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: But we were also very successful in our defense against hacking.

We are going to make sure that cybersecurity is central to both our military and ships, planes and tanks built by great Americans for our great American military. And our military will become stronger and stronger as we go along.

I just met with General Mattis and he's doing a great job. We're really happy with him and everybody.

You probably saw General Kelly. He was spectacular today on his press conference. And we appreciate everything he said.

With that, I want to introduce Rudy Giuliani. And he's going to be working with Jared Kushner and Tom Bossick (ph), who are also here. And Rudy is an expert on cybersecurity. It's a very important for him and what he does.

And maybe I'll ask Rudy to say a few words.

Thanks, Rudy.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, thank -- thank you very much, Mr. President.

First, congratulate is what a historic administration, I've never seen so much done in so short a period of time than ever. I was part of the Reagan administration. Used to sit in this room every Thursday. And I remember how fast they got off to a start, and you're about three times ahead of them. I don't remember Roosevelts' 1000 days.

(LAUGHTER)

I think you may be ahead of them. And doing it without a cabinet, with three or four members.

TRUMP: It would help if the Democrats would move on that. So, we'll see.

(LAUGHTER)

GIULIANI: So congratulations.

And what you have been doing is keeping your promises. One of your promises was to shore up our country, because one of the dangers we face, national security and crime, is cybersecurity. And a large part is made up of the private sector. And the private sector is wide open to hacking and sometimes, by hacking the private sector, you can get into government. So, we can't do this separately. And you were wise enough to decide that we should have a council where we can bring in the private sector. They can explain to you the problems they have. They can explain to the administration the solutions they have, which in some cases, may be better than the government's. And, in some cases, may not be as good as governments. Plus, we can search around the world, including countries like Israel, and places where they're doing a lot of the advanced cybersecurity analysis, and we can look for long-term solutions.

[14:45:23] So here you're addressing not only a national security problem, but you're addressing the fastest-growing form of crime in America, which is cyber theft. It's growing faster than any other crime.

And finally, speaking out on this and holding regular meetings on it you are using the pulpit of the presidency to get the private sector to wake up. Some of the private sector has awakened to the fact that they have to do more about cybersecurity, but part it hasn't. And as president, you're in a unique position to get the private sector to realize that they have to pitch in and help the government.

And I'll work very closely with Jared and with Tom and Sebastian Gorker (ph), and all the people you have working on this, and we'll take our priorities from you.

What first we want to do is look at the grid, we'll bring in all the private grid and solution companies. And if you want to look at financial institutions, we'll look at financial institutions. You want to look at hospitals, we'll bring the hospitals. But we'll let you set the priorities so we can have a very close working relationship.

And, again, congratulations on your fulfilling another one of your campaign promises.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Rudy. I appreciate it. I know you're going to do a great job.

He formed the committee and we're going to go into great detail, we'll have it up and running, and we'll be doing something very special in many ways.

I want to thank you to Senator Coats.

Thank you very much for being here, Senate.

Do you have anything you want to say about cyber?

SEN. DAN COATS, (R), INDIANA: Clearly, it's really the top priority. because of the impact it can have. My job, if confirmed -- I'm not confirmed yet.

TRUMP: I have a feeling you will make it.

COATS: Well, I hope so.

(LAUGHTER)

My job is to make sure the intelligence community provides every bit of intelligence they can so that the policies can be affected are the right policies to deal with this. I think this is an enormous challenge but one that is a significant threat to our country and something that needs to be -- we have to get after this right away.

TRUMP: Well, I want to thank you for you service and everything you have done, even over the last week. Your knowledge is amazing and everybody has great respect. So, thank you very much.

We thought he was going to leave after many years in the Senate, and I called him and asked about going longer. And we really do appreciate it. Thank you very much.

And, Admiral, thank you very much, Mike, for being here.

Would you anything else to say about cyber?

ADM MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Other than, as Mr. Giuliani said, I think the key here is going to be the partnerships between the private sector and the government. Our ability to bring together the capabilities of both, that's the sweet spot.

TRUMP: John Kelly just gave a very long news conference and a very, very good one and effective one. And while he's warmed up --

(LAUGHTER)

-- might as well go for another one minute or two minutes.

GEN. JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I had a lot of things to say about cyber, but I think I'll run at the feet of the wise men here.

TRUMP: And it has a lot to do with border, and really if you think about it, a lot to do with what you're doing.

Well, thank you all very much. We're going to have a meeting and get it going.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are you going to get them through?

(CROSSTALK)

GIULIANI: General Keith Alexander --

TRUMP: Hold on, one second. Just one second.

GIULIANI: General Keith Alexander is probably the one who knows most about cybersecurity of anyone that I know. And he, I hope, will play a very big role in this.

(CROSSTALK)

GIULIANI: This man is a tremendous resource.

TRUMP: Thank you. That's great.

Thank you, General. That's very nice.

We'll see you in a little while. We'll be announcing a Supreme Court justice, who I think everybody is going to be very, very impressed with. So, we'll see you at about 8:00.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Democrat's guy didn't get through, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They say it got stolen.

BALDWIN: All right. So, we just wanted to linger on that. The president, who you couldn't see, who you couldn't see, just the back of his head, and his good friend, former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, who was speaking there.

Phil Mattingly, let me bring you in as I'm talking about this.

There was this roundtable on cybersecurity. And he was seated next to Jared Kushner and John Kelly, the DHS secretary.

But tell us the role that Rudy Giuliani has on cyber here?

[14:49:57] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPODNENT: Utility man is the best way to put it. The jack of all trades, if you will. We all thought and we all heard and we had all been told that Giuliani would have a much more prominent role in the Trump administration, probably be up on Capitol Hill trying to get confirmed, like others nominees, and that didn't work out. And so, he's been brought him on for cybersecurity. And through his firm, he has a lot of experience.

But what's most interesting is you look around the table and see the expertise that's going to be needed to move on anything large like cybersecurity. This isn't much different than the Obama administration. They pushed for legislation on Capitol Hill. And you heard one comment, not sure who said it, who said the sweet spot is the agreement and the willingness to work between the government and the private sector. If Rudy Giuliani can figure out to bridge that gap, there's no secret how big of an issue this is. We saw it through the campaign but also the private sector -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Rudy Giuliani, the utility man, other cyber experts weighing in. He's expected to sign the executive order on cybersecurity.

Phil Mattingly, our utility man, thank you very much as well.

Speaking of John Kelly, the White House insists the controversial travel ban is not a ban at all, although the president used that term himself. My next guest says the ban is poisonous. Why? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:55:] BALDWIN: The Trump administration now poses a threat to Europe. That's according to the head of the European Council, Donald Tuck, citing worrying declarations from the Trump administration. A lot of the global outrage centering about whether the immigration ban is a threat to religious liberty, something the head of the Homeland Security Department denied moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: This is not, I repeat, not a ban of Muslims. The mission is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, our values. And religious liberty is one of our most fundamental and treasured values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Joining me now is Fawaz Gerges, the author of "ISIS, A History," and chairman of Middle East studies at the London School of Economics.

Fawaz, always a pleasure to have you on.

And if I may just begin, you heard General Kelly say this is not a ban. We heard Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, earlier, correcting reporters, saying this is not a travel ban, not a Muslim ban, though both he and Donald Trump has referred to it as a let ban. What is your thought on it?

FAWAZ GERGES, CHAIRMAN, MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & AUTHOR: With all due respect to General Kelly, I'm shocked and saddened that a respectable general like Kelly would try to spin the president's basic goal. He has made it very clear he wants a Muslim ban. Giuliani, one of the closest advisors, made it very clear he told them to find ways to bring about the ban.

The ban does not make any sense, the way the ban is perceived all over the world, in the heart of Europe and the east, it's a ban that basically targets Muslims, it undermines America in the international system.

Brooke, you don't have to be a specialist on the relationship between the United States and ISIS or al Qaeda to tell President Trump that it's ineffective. It will do more damage than good to American security. It's counterproductive because it provides a massive propaganda boost to al Qaeda and ISIS. At the end of the day, there's basically no security. It's really lose-lose for America. And it's a disservice for the American idea to, basically, respect for other people and other religions, not including just Muslims but all religions.

BALDWIN: The Trump administration and Sean Spicer reiterating the fact that it is not a ban. He said specifically that these seven countries were identified by the Obama administration and said we're simply vetting them. To your point about ISIS, how does doing this add to ISIS and al Qaeda's propaganda machine?

&: Brooke, in very simple terms, the ban is the greatest recruitment tool, not just for ISIS but also for al Qaeda. Think of what the ban does? It shifts the debate. What's happening in Iraq, Syria and Libya and other places, this is a war within Islam. It's about the Muslim world. What Donald Trump has done or tried to do is to take ownership of this particular war, to shift the debate from being a war within Islam to being a part of a clash of civilization between Islam and the West. That's exactly what ISIS and al Qaeda has been trying to do for the last 20 years or so. They are telling Muslims it's a war between the Muslim world and the West, it's a clash of civilizations. By lumping -- the president of the United States, the greatest power in the world, by lumping Muslims, who number over one billion persons, with Islamic radicalism -- again, he uses --