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Report: Trump at Prayer Breakfast -- Pray for Arnold; Berkeley Protest Shuts Down Breitbart Editor Speech; Travel Ban Ends Facebook Worker's Family Visits; Time Calls Bannon The Great Manipulator; Putin Blames Increased Fighting on Ukrainian Government. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 2, 2017 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Gentlemen, is the national prayer service the place to comment on TV ratings?

MARK LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. Historically, this has been a kind of ecumenical open apolitical thing as anything can be. It's not time to stroke your own ego and take shots at Arnold Schwarzenegger. On top of that, Mr. Trump, you might want to consider that part of why his ratings went down is because people don't want to be near "The Apprentice" because it is your brand. And people don't like you that much anymore.

So, in addition to it being inappropriate it is also probably not wholly accurate.

BROWN: Well, there is no actual research to back that up. I want to point out, Mark. That is your opinion.

HILL: I said perhaps.

BROWN: I deal in facts. I want to go to go to you, Ben, your reaction in what Mark said?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To say somehow the reason that "The Apprentice" is not doing well is because the guy isn't on the show anymore is pretty ridiculous. I that people don't still understand about Trump is this, Donald Trump is going to talk about a lot of different things and a lot of different places and he is not going to be your traditional President. Traditionally, yes, these are probably things you wouldn't hear at a prayer breakfast but traditionally people didn't think Donald Trump was going to be President.

The only that are shocked by this are people that actually don't understand Donald Trump and why he became the president, and why so many people support him. He was non-traditional. He's not going to continue to be non-traditional, he is not going to everything exactly how Obama or George Bush or Clinton did things in the past. He is going to do it his own way. This is a perfect example of that. People in the audience liked it and laughed about it and obviously thought it was pretty funny.

HILL: I think Ben is missing the point here. The question isn't that people are shocked by it. I'm not saying I can't believe Donald Trump did something inappropriate. I'm saying it is inappropriate and to point it out that he consistently does things that are nontraditional and sometimes inappropriate doesn't change the fact that it's inappropriate, I'm saying it's wrong to do not that it is surprising.

FERGUSON: I don't think there was anything immoral here.

HILL: You don't think we are dealing with morals at a prayer breakfast.

FERGUSON: I don't think there's anything -- listen to what I said, immoral about him having a funny one-liner to entertain people in the crowd. It wasn't like he said something that was inappropriate at a prayer breakfast, this was him being humorous and funny, and again, if you listen to the crowd they thought it was funny and laughed at it.

HILL: I disagree.

BROWN: So, we know you disagree on that, I want to know if you disagree how this was handled on the UC Berkeley campus where this group of so-called anarchists took over to prevent the editor of the Breitbart to speak. This was on the campus that was sort of the birth of free speech. You're reaction, Ben, first?

FERGUSON: You had banners that said people need to die at this event. People need to die. This is the left showing yet again that when they don't get their way they will become extremely angry, they will riot, they will loot a Starbucks, which I don't understand the logic behind that, they're pretty liberal, we saw that when Donald Trump was being inaugurated I was thinking of all places to attack, why would you attack a liberal company?

It's also an issue of free speech, both sides have right to speak, without fear of death, or people hurting you or attacking you or pepper spraying you and for it to happen to be the center point of free speech I think it's embarrassing and liberals need to grow up on college campuses because people are getting hurt now.

[15:35:00] BROWN: Mark, go ahead.

HILL: I think we have to separate the people out there, Berkeley didn't do anything wrong here, they not only support free speech but supported the college Republicans who brought him in to do what? To fund it offer security, they spoke out about the violent protests. I think it's also a bit inaccurate to say this is a problem purely of the left. I think we have intolerance on the left and the right. I travel the college speaking circuit all the time and the right boycotts.

FERGUSON: Do they pepper spray people that want to come to your event, set things on fire, destroy property, flip over barricades? Tell me the last time a bunch of conservatives acted this way because I want love to see the proof behind that.

HILL: Sometimes they burn down mosques.

FERGUSON: Now you're stretching thing. HILL: I'm not stretching things, both sides have extremists and

respond violently with disagreements and there have been right wing riots on campuses as well.

FERGUSON: Where?

HILL: Let me finish, I'm not depending the behavior, not only does the left have violent forms of disagreement.

FERGUSON: That's inaccurate.

BROWN: Mark, where have they done this?

HILL: I think what's even more -- Ben, I'm not trying to avoid your question, the other thing I find troublesome is he is threatening to cut federal funds if it's the institution that's not behind it but spoke out against it.

BROWN: Great as always to have you both on. Thank you, gentlemen.

The top Republican in Congress explains why he's supporting Trump's travel ban and we hear the story of and Iraqi immigrant and Facebook employee who says the ban is tearing his family apart.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: President Trump's controversial travel ban getting support from one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington, that would be House Speaker Paul Ryan who defended this executive order barring people from 7 Muslim majority nations from entering the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know this is not a Muslim ban, if it were I would be against it. We are a tolerant pluralistic country, we are and we will be, it is really important. Religious minorities are being persecuted there's nothing wrong with preferring religious minorities from persecution. Yazidis are being persecuted. Sunnis in Shia countries are being persecuted, Christians are being

persecuted so there's nothing wrong with saying we're going to take into account minority religious persecution with our refugee situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Protests broke out nationwide after the travel ban went into effect last weekend amid chaos and confusion at U.S. airports. Dozens of people were detained and then released. Now the ban is forcing others to make some tough decisions about family trips. CNN's Gary Tuchman spoke to a Facebook employee who says he can't risk visiting his own one mother who lives just 3 hours away from his Seattle home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Murtadha al-Tameemi is 24 years old lives in Seattle and has been living his version of the American Dream.

MURTADHA AL-TAMEEMI, IRAQI WORKING IN THE U.S.: I work for Facebook, I'm a software engineer

TUCHMAN: He is from Iraq. Leaving his family and coming to America when he was 15 after winning a coveted spot in a high school exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He had been here ever since and has a U.S. work visa, but not yet a green card. His two brothers and mother live less than three-hour drive away across the border in Vancouver, Canada and he visits them ever weekend, that is used to visit them every weekend.

So, if you left, under these new rules put out by the Trump administration you would not be allowed back into this country?

AL-TAMEEMI: That's right. It's still unclear what's going to happen. The most recent update is that this thing is going to be for 90 days for now. I could lose my job and lose everything that I have in my life here inner the last ten years.

TUCHMAN: He lost his father and older brother in a suicide bombing in Baghdad when he was 13 years old, his mother and brothers received asylum and permanent resident status in Canada in 2015, but now he can't see them, but we did.

Jaafar is 14, a high school freshman, he loves drama says his brother cannot see his upcoming play.

JAAFAR AL-TAMEEMI: We're a very close family and now we've been separated.

TUCHMAN: His other brother Mujtaba is 23.

MUJTABA AL-TAMEEMI: Last weekend we were talking about going to go skiing, watch movies and things like that and that's the thing we do every time he comes here, we just go together and do things but when he's not here we usually just don't do anything.

TUCHMAN: Now you can't plan anything for the time being.

MUJTABA AL-TAMEEMI: Exactly.

TUCHMAN: It's the first time in his adult life that he's $, lived near his mother and brothers but now all a sudden they are once again out of his reach. The invisible line separating the United States from Canada, symbolizing a very visible anguish.

[15:45:00] MURTADHA AL-TAMEEMI: It is terrifying, I'm scared how long this going to last for and how much this is going to impact me and my family.

TUCHMAN: The weekly drive across the border to see his family has greatly changed his life, made him a much happier man, so if this 90- day ban is expended he says he would have to consider leaving his life in America for his family in Canada.

MURTADHA AL-TAMEEMI: They mean the world for me, they're what's left of my family and that's the most important thing to me.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN Vancouver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Up next, Time Magazine puts President Trump's chief strategist on the cover, the great manipulator. We discuss Steve Bannon's role in the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:50:00] BROWN: The great manipulator, that's the label Time Magazine is giving chief White House strategist Steve Bannon. Even some Republicans objected to Bannon having unbridled access to classified decision making.

Alex, thanks for joining me on. This excerpt from this piece reads quote, "Bannon possesses that dearest of Washington currencies walk in privileges for the oval office and he is the one who has been most successful in focusing Trump on a winning message, while others have tried to change Trump, Bannon has urged him to step on the gas.

He walks into the oval office without a suit and tie, what is it about Bannon that makes Trump trust him so much?

ALEX ALTMAN, TIME MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: I think it dates back to the campaign. Trump trusts Bannon's instincts because Bannon was the one who charted the course steering Trump through some difficult patches. Think it goes beyond that. There is sympatico for a number of reasons,

Bannon is by all accounts an incredibly smart guy, an alpha personality and he is somebody who built a media platform and made a lot of money. And these are all things that Trump respects. As you note in the excerpt that you quoted, one of the things Trump really appreciates is throughout his brief tenure as a politician during the campaign and now in the White House he has been surrounded by people who have tried to reign him in, and put him back on conventional courses, Bannon is somebody who wants to do the opposite. Who wants to unleash Trump, who wants to flip over some tables and I think Trump appreciates that.

BROWN: So, there is this other section that caught my eye, to understand Steve Bannon, you have to understand what happened to his father. What do you mean, tell us more about that?

ALTMAN: That was something that struck me as well in the reporting of the piece. I spoke to a couple people who were close to him and close to his family and I asked them, how does a guy who is an investment banker, a master of the universe, wind up transforming and becoming someone who launches a populist crusade to tear down not only the Democrat party, but the Republicans. Not just political leads, but Wall Street. What they said was the roots of that change they located in 2008. When the financial recession hit, his father who was a blue- collar Kennedy Democrat, who began his career as a telephone lineman and worked his way up into middle management without a college degree, worked hard all his life, wound up getting a pretty big dent in his nest egg. And Bannon watched as his former colleagues on Wall Street, you know, who kind of were running the world's casino and who he blamed for part of the crash managed to basically skate while people like his father really took a big hit to their retirement savings. He felt that was a matter of fundamental unfairness. That is a view shared by at a lot of people across the country.

BROWN: Just quickly, what do you believe his end game is?

ALTMAN: I think that's the million-dollar question and the one that has a lot of Republicans spooked. It's one thing to campaign as a populist outsider, you're going to upend the political structure in Washington. The keys to the car now and where they take the country is really anybody's guess.

BROWN: All right, thank you so much. Alex, I appreciate it. Alex Altman with Time Magazine. Thank you.

Up next on this Thursday, President Trump talks tough with Iran and Australia while his Treasury Department eases some restriction on Russia. The ranking member the Senate intelligence committee Democrat Diane Feinstein speaks to CNN live just minutes away.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Russian President Vladimir Putin is blaming Ukraine for increased fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian armed forces. At a news conference, Putin said Ukraine needs money and is extorting world powers. He said they could, quote, best squeeze that money out of the European Union and U.S. and international financial institutions by portraying itself as a victim of aggression. So far President Trump has been silent on alleged violations to the cease fire agreement this week. Nick Payton Walsh explains what's happening there on the ground.

NICK PAYTON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ukraine's war hasn't stopped for the past months, even years, but we haven't really seen an episode of violence quite like a 24-hour period just a couple of days ago in which monitors recorded about 2 1/2 thousand explosions in just about 24-hour period. This is frankly one of the parts of the front line where violence intermittently escalated. It is hard to know who is firing at who, who started what, it is clear the heavy weapons banned under the cease fire -- yes, there is supposed to be a cease fire there -- were being used. We saw some of that ourselves.

Why is this happening at this particular point? Hard to tell. There are some suggestions perhaps the Ukrainian army themselves are feeling maybe they want to start taking back some of the territory they lost to Russian separatists well over a year ago now, perhaps even two in some areas, or maybe there is a broader Russian game. And it all feeds into emotions about the Trump administration. He's been very clear he'd like a good relationship with Vladimir Putin if it's possible.

Maybe some Ukrainians are nervous and want to change the facts on the ground before that Moscow-Washington meeting is in play, or perhaps to -- there is a sense amongst the Russians they have a new year of opportunity, many analysts think Russia hasn't finished its moves in Ukraine. That perhaps it wants to link up the peninsula of the Crimea in the south with the territories in the east that separatists that it backs control.

A lot of volatility, a lot of explosions, suggestions of 13 dead on the Ukrainian side since Sunday, possibly two or more civilians on the separatist side. Hard to get totally clear facts, but not at all hard to see here. Tempers are frayed. The situation very volatile indeed and all because Donald Trump hasn't really shown his hand when it comes to this. It is fast becoming Europe's longest running conflict. Pam?

BROWN: All right, thanks to Nick Payton Walsh and thank you for spending part of your Thursday with us. I'm Pamela Brown and "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.