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Trump Administration to Challenge Court on Suspended Travel Ban; Department of Justice Appeal States That the Two States Don't Have Enough Evidence to Show Travel Ban Is Detrimental to Their Citizens; Iraqis: Travel Ban Ignores Our Service to U.S.; Trump on Putin: "We've Got a Lot of Killers" Too; Refugees on Life After Fleeing War-Torn Syria. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired February 5, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and thanks for joining us in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredricka Whitfield.
We're following some major stories today. The clock is ticking on the legal showdown over President Trump's travel ban. This morning a federal appeals court rejected a request by the government to reinstate the ban. And now both sides have until tomorrow to submit briefs supporting their case before a panel of judges decides what then happens next.
Right now, this is the scenes playing out in airports, those that were briefly barred from entering the country are now being greeted with cheers and hugs, many overcome with emotion after finally being allowed to set foot on U.S. soil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We couldn't believe, you know -- sorry, I'm --
UNINDENTIED FEMALE: I have no problem with the president but I prefer that he didn't give this instruction because we are not terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Meantime, the Trump administration is digging its heels, not deterred by the court's ruling.Both the president and vice president confident that this ban will be reinstated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's simply no question under the constitution and frankly under federal law, that the president of the United States has the authority in the interest of national security to determine who has the right to come into this country and we're going to challenge the judge's order on that basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Let's go now to CNN's Jessica Schneider, she's live outside President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Jessica, a very different response from the White House today.
Yesterday we saw the president tweeting. He's been a little bit quiet today.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Boris. President Trump on a Twitter tirade on Saturday. His tweets ranged from defiant to derogatory. Today, though, so far his Twitter feed has been silent. But, you know, Democrats are raising some serious concerns about President Trump's tweets yesterday, In particular, as it pertains to that federal judge out in Seattle, James Robart, they're worried about Trump specifically deriding that federal judge.
Yesterday President Trump called him a, "So-called judge" also demeaned his, "Ridiculous Ruling." So now two prominent senators are actually speaking out as it pertains to President Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. In fact, Senator Patrick Leahy out of Vermont calls President Trump's hostility toward the law, "Dangerous."
And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer has reiterated those same concerns, saying that when it comes to Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearings, his independence will be front and center at those hearings.
Now, of course, as we look toward the confirmation hearings, there's that big, looming question as to whether or not Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell will, in fact, invoke that nuclear option, making it a majority vote instead of the 60 needed to overcome a democratic filibuster. He talked about it with CNN's Jake Tapper this morning. Here's what Senator McConnell had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I just want to underline this point.You just asserted basically that if Democrats attempt a filibuster, you will change the rules and use the nuclear option, correct?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: No. I haven't said what will happen at that point, I'm confident that we will get 60 votes. Look, this this nominee ought to be treated just like President Clinton and President Obama were treated. In the first term of President Clinton, two Supreme Court nominees, no filibuster. No filibuster. We were in the minority like they are right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHEINDER: And a brand new CNN/ORC poll just out this morning shows that a Majority or actually a plurality of Americans are tilting positive as it comes to that nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court seat. In fact, 49 percent of them saying that the senate should vote to confirm. Those numbers are pretty much on par for when Samuel Alito was nominated back in 2005 and when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated back in 2009.
But of course that question of going nuclear remains, Boris, we did hear President Trump last week tell Mitch McConnell to go nuclear if he has to so we shall see. Boris. SANCHEZ: All right. We will wait and see. Jessica Schneider at Mar- a-Lago, thank you.
Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa joins us now by phone to discuss this and much more. Congressman, we thank you for joining us first of all. I wanted to get your reaction to the court denying this emergency request to resume the travel ban. What do you think?
REP. STEVE KING, (R), IOWA(over the phone): Well, Boris, thanks. I was a bit surprised that on the second round when they had a chance to take a deep breath and read the statute and understand the constitutional authority that exists for the President of the United States that it wasn't just simply a vacation of -- that they didn't just vacate the initial court order as -- I think it was Mike Pence's voice. So I wasn't able (00:05:00) to see the name. He said there's simply no question that the president has this authority.
I absolutely agree.In fact, this is an affront to the United States congress, who writes their laws and all of the laws. And they have granted this authority to the president of the United States. If the president, by directly from statute, whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or any class of aliens would be detrimental, he may put by proclamation and for such period of time as he may deem necessary suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
But that can't be any more clearer. Congress has entrusted this because we know the executive branch is the only branch that can move quickly enough to protect us in time of danger. And it's the president's judgment and discretion that's been granted -- auditory (ph) has been granted to him by Congress, it couldn't be more constitutional.
SANCHEZ: Congressman, just about a year ago, some of President Obama's executive orders were struck down by a judge in Texas and at the time Donald Trump said the courts did the right thing. So what's different in this situation?
KING: Well, I'm just going to say it straight out. Donald Trump was wrong on that from my constitutional perspective. I'm not sure where his counsel came from to take such a position. But I know those cases and I was involved in them. In fact, I organized the very first meeting to litigate the DACA issues that came from Barack Obama.
Barack Obama didn't think they were constitutional. He told us 22 times on video that he didn't have the constitutional authority to do what he did with DACA and yet he decided that he had the power -- the political power, that would overrule the constitution itself which threw us into a conundrum.
But it's clear to me that President Obama granted an amnesty to a huge class of people, people that were defined to come into America before they were 18 years old, however illegally they arrived or stayed and he knew he didn't have the authority. And the courts didn't grant -- and they didn't grant standing to on American citizen or a governor on the same basis that they'd granted standing on in the States of Minnesota and Washington. So this issue that barely has any impact in whatsoever on either one of those states.
SANCHEZ: Now, Representative, I do have to ask you about something else that the president said that is making news. Three fellow Congressmen, specifically three Republican Senators, came out today harshly against Donald Trump's assertion that the United States is morally equivalent to Russia.
He said that our country isn't so innocent when Bill O'Reilly called Vladimir Putin a killer. I want you to listen to what Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and Senator Ben Sasse had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Putin is a former KGB agent. He's a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election. The Russians annexed Crimea invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. No, I don't think there's any equivalency between the way the Russians, they conduct themselves and the way the United States does.
SEN. BEN SASSE, NEB.: I will be honest, I don't know what the president is trying to do with statements like he allegedly has on O'Reilly on the super bowl tonight. So I've only seen little clips of it. There may be a broader context.
But let's be clear. Has the U.S. ever made any mistakes? Of course. Is the U.S. at all like Putin's regime? Not at all. The U.S. affirms freedom of speech. Putin has no friend of freedom of speech. Putin is an enemy of freedom of religion. The U.S. celebrates freedom of religion. Putin is an enemy of the free press. The U.S. celebrates free press. Putin is an enemy of political dissent. The U.S. celebrates political dissent and the right for people to argue free from violence about places where ideas are in conflict. There is no moral equivalency between the United States of America, the greatest freedom-loving nation in the history of the world and the murderous thugs that are in Putin's defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Congressman, I also want to read you a tweet from Marco Rubio earlier today. He wrote, "When has a democratic political activist been poisoned by the GOP or vice versa? We are not the same as Putin.
Congressman, what's your reaction to this? Whose side are you on? Do you believe that Donald Trump is right in his assertion that we're moral alley equivalent to Russia?
KING: I think there's been some overreaction on both sides to that argument. One, when I saw the video of President Trump's response to that question, I thought first the implication and I don't think his words came out very well, were that the orders have come down from the leadership of any country often result in life or death events that result from it.
And the moral equivalency, I agree.There's not a moral equivalency between the United States and Russia. Although (00:10:00) when I listened to one of the senators when he said that Putin is against freedom of religion, he's actually been opening things up for the expansion of, especially the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and I know that I'd helped him politically but there's more freedom of religion there than they're used to be.
And I'm much for the freedom of the press but dissent, I would say (inaudible) those in United States, there was a long time in Russia with a very loud megaphone of dissent against the regime and he's still alive and well. So I think there's something to be heard on either side of this.
But All in all, I wish the president hadn't made that remark because it implies that there's a thought in his mind that there's a moral equivalency between us and Russia. At this point, I'd like to bring them up our standards and say, welcome to the club but it's going to take a lot of years to get that done.
And I would add that it's important that the president do work with Putin in Russia and planning maybe planning together on how we defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
SANCHEZ: Now, I do have to ask if President Trump continues to defend Vladimir Putin, could this ultimately backfire, especially when you have the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, telling the United Nations that the global community has to step in and do more to help Ukraine? Is Trump in danger of alienating not just perhaps his voters but also the people that he hired to be part of his team, his administration?
KING: It sounds to me that the positions that have been taken by the people he's hired to be part of cabinet would be Nikki Haley here, delivering a pretty good foreign policy message.
And I will say the implied contradiction in the statements of President Trump might be where some of the trouble comes from. But he's got good people in place. And Donald Trump has played a complex gambit in the art of the deal. And so I'd say let's see how this comes out.
And with regard to the KGB or now the FSB, when I heard this on tape, it flashed back in my mind, not that long ago, I sat at a table in Russia where it's the numbers two, three and four of the Russian FSB, which were the successor to the KGB, where Putin essentially grew up in politics. And I remember looking into their eyes and asking myself a question, how many people did they have to kill to get this straightened out?
Now, I think there's some bad people over there and they reach worldwide. They have a presence on the streets of the United States that sometimes gives us more intel than we have ourselves. So it's a very, very complex thing. And Trump has access to the best briefings that anyone in the world has right now. So I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and just say the
inflection of his voice and the implication was unfortunate, but I think he's a wiser man on this policy that many of his critics give him credit for.
SANCHEZ: All right, Representative, we do have to ask you one more thing, another bit of news that came from that interview with Bill O'Reilly. Donald Trump again reiterating this claim that the voter fraud situation in this country is a really bad situation. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX ANCHOR: Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things you can't back up factually. And as the president, if you say for example that there are three million illegal aliens who voted and then you don't have the data to back it up, some people are going to say that's irresponsible for a president to say that. Is there any validity to that?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, many people have come out and said I'm right, you know that.
O'REILLY: I know but you've got to have data to back that up.
TRUMP: Let me just tell you when you see illegals, people that are not citizens and they're on the registration rolls -- look, Bill, we can be babies. But you take a look at the registration. You have illegals, you have dead people, you have this. It's really a bad situation. It's really bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, Sir, you've been supportive of the president's claim. At one point you said that there could be roughly 2.4 million illegal votes cast in the last election. A slew of fact checkers have said there's no basis for that claim. Lawmakers in your own party, the speaker of the house, have said that there's zero evidence of this claim.
Today Mitch McConnell said that the federal government should dedicate any money to an investigation into these claims. Is it time for the president of the United States to give conclusive evidence for voter fraud? It's a claim that he's continued making. Is it time for him to present these facts that he says he has?
KING: Well, I don't know if it's time to begin an investigation, he's called for that. And I think he will follow through with that and we will find out what the information is.
Maybe this sounds a little critical of the leadership in the congress but for anyone to say that there's zero evidence, what can that possibly mean? How would they've been able to scan all the information available and come to the conclusion that's completely devoid of any evidence whatsoever? It might be they're not aware of any or they don't want to admit to
any evidence. Now, for me, I have watched this issue intensively. I got focused on it a lot (00:15:00) in the year 2000 when the presidency was decided by the court, ultimately by 537 votes in the State of Florida.
And I scoured everything that I could find, I've spent all of those days leaping into elections and to write Iowa law. And I was in the state senate at the time. I found a lot of fraud and narratives of fraud and people that had investigated fraud that Iyor (ph) Brothers wrote a book on, John Thunders (ph) written a book at least one on it.
And I took the data that was available and the surveys that took place primarily in Virginia and just did a little calculation and came up with what -- it was calculation that produced. It was an NSA (ph) straight out. It was an extrapolation that said what could the scope of this be if what we've seen in the surveys of the people who confessed to being illegals who are voting in the state of Virginia?
If you extrapolate that across the country, given the data that's available, what could be considerably (ph) you talking about? And I came with a number of 2.4 million. I did that well before President Trump made his remarks. In defense of extrapolations, polling is an extrapolation, and TV ratings were extrapolations. There were (inaudible) of extrapolations.
KING: And so I think that's in the zone. Let's go and find out with some more solid data. It's too important to turn a blind eye to it and I've been completely convinced when I've tried to clean up the voter process by law that people who stood against me, their vigor and their frustration and anger was so great, they convinced me that they had a vested interest in voter fraud. So let's find out. I'm all for it. And let's be objective as we go forward.
SANCHEZ: Sure. But just to be clear, Congressman, very quickly. The surveys that you referenced, were those of voter rolls or were those of actual people that said that they voted in the election illegally?
KING: These were surveys of people. As I recall, they were exit polls but people who confessed that they were illegal and they had voted. And they just simply asked them and they told the truth.
And these numbers were shaken down from those who confessed that they were illegal and voted. And I'd be convinced if you take a universe of illegals who voted, not half of them would admit that they were illegal or that they voted. And so, that factor is not factored in as far as I know.
I think we should be a little open-minded about this. It's just impossible to conceive the idea that you would register people under motor/voter, ask them if they want to register to vote. They say yes then we've tightened things up here in Iowa a little bit but it's not been that five-minute (ph) places across the country. And so if they'd say yes, go ahead and register me to vote, they think
that they're legal to vote. If they go to the polls and go, they're encouraged to do so by some of the groups out there. It's hard to believe that there wouldn't be illegals voting in America. And I would make this point to my Iowa secretary of State, who would be right on top of this, I'm sure, but I've made this statement in the past that I could go vote in each of the 99 counties in Iowa.
And at this point, there's nothing they can do about it. That's how we lose. This is the honor system all across America. And there are places where, say, New Mexico, for example, if I were working the voting booths as one of the poll workers and someone walked in and said they were Steve King, I would be compelled to hand them my ballot and I could not challenge them even if they asserted they were me according to the laws of New Mexico. And by the way, that comes from under oath, from the secretary of State of New Mexico before the United States congress.
SANCHEZ: All right, Representative King, calling out the leadership of his own party, saying that they don't really know what they're saying when they say that there's zero evidence out there when it comes to voter fraud. The president did say over a week ago that he would call for an executive order that would investigate fraudulent voting, it has not happened.
Congressman King, we are out of time. Thank you so much for your time on this super bowl Sunday, sir.
KING: Thank you, Boris. I appreciate it.
SANCHEZ: Yes. When we come back, while the president's travel ban is suspended, the fight overturn it altogether is just beginning. We will discuss strategies the White House could pursue to reinstate the controversial executive order.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (00:20:00)
SANCHEZ: Checking and balancing. The backbone of American Government is hard at work today. President Trump's controversial travel ban is suspended for now. An appeals court denied the justice department's request to immediately restore the president's immigration order. A federal judge stopped all enforcement of it late Friday night.
Joining me now to talk more about this is constitutional attorney Page Pate and CNN supreme court reporter Ariane De Vogue. Ariane, let's start with you. Explain this to us further about what exactly each side's legal argument entails.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right. No court so far has ruled squarely on the legal merit, that is, no court has said, yes, this is constitutional or no, it's not. So far we have this one district court judge, he's halted the executive order for now nationwide pending appeal.
But these preliminary filings, they're revealing the broader arguments, right? The opponents say it's unconstitutional. It favors one religion over another. It discriminates based on national origin. It violates the right to travel. Meanwhile, the administration has come back and said, look, these states don't have standing. And the president here has broad authority. That's what's in front of the Ninth Circuit now.That's where we are.
SANCHEZ: All right. Page, to you now. You've read the 30-page intent to appeal by the Department of Justice. They specifically say that these two states don't have enough evidence to show that this travel ban is detrimental to their citizens. What evidence could they then present to challenge that?
PAGE PATE, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: You know, Boris, I think that's the most difficult part of the state's arguments. Before the court ever gets to the constitutional arguments and the real meaty issues in the case, they have to first decide that these states have standing to file the suit, that they have a right to challenge this executive order in court.
Now, like Texas did back when that state challenged President Obama's immigration executive order, they've tried to rely on how it affects their economic interest, their reputation of the institutions, the schools that are in that state, basically tried to grasp some real fuzzy issues to try to focus on a specific harm or legitimate (00:25:00) injury that the state has suffered. But that's going to be tough to do because it's all speculative.
The Trump administration has argued, well, number one, you can't point to a specific dollar amount that you're losing as a result of this executive order. And, number two, your entire standing argument is based on legal permanent residence at being in your state and we've now said that this ban doesn't even apply to them. So I think standing is going to be a challenge for the states.
SANCHEZ: Certainly. Now, we've heard several analysts say that it's highly unlikely that President Trump would disobey this order. But he has called into question the legitimacy of this judge. If he decides not to follow through and a decision is made that the executive order is illegal, where does this put us? What is his ability to maneuver around that? Is there any?
PAGE: Well, at that point, we are truly in a constitutional crisis. I don't think we've ever had a situation where the possible exception of Andrew Jackson when he famously told the Supreme Court, you've made your ruling, now you go and enforce it. We've not seen anything like that in this country.
So I'm hopeful that he will follow the legal order. I mean, what we've seen so far by the administration is they're complying with the District Judge's order. So I'd be very surprised if the administration did not comply with an even higher court's order.
SANCHEZ: All right. So many questions to get to and so little time. Ariane and Page, Thank you so much. We will see you again soon, I'm Sure.
And of course be sure to watch Anderson Cooper tomorrow night at 8:00 pm Eastern. He's going to sit down with Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson, who issued that initial restraining order against the Trump administration's travel ban. We will be right back after this break.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: While an appeals court has temporarily halted President Trump's travel ban, that executive order on immigration is straining relations with Iraq. The travel ban would block citizens from Iraq and six other predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. Many Iraqis feel betrayed and abandoned by the United States after so many joined the U.S. fight against ISIS.
Joining us now to discuss is Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He's a CNN military analyst who once led American forces in Northern Iraq. General, we thank you so much for joining us. First I want to get your reaction to Iraq being included in this travel ban.
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, all of the countries on the travel ban are a little bit concerning to me, Boris, because it was done so quickly, and it was an extension of a ban and some vetting that had already been put in place earlier but in a very haphazard way.
The concerns about Iraq specifically is there are about 2,500 -- I'll say that again -- 2,500 individuals there who are under this special immigration visa holders. These are individuals who work for the U.S. government for longer than a year.
Several of them were either my interpreters or worked for units that were part of the command I led in Iraq and other commands over there. These were young men and sometimes women who would dedicate their lives to U.S. forces over there, who suffered the same kind of dangers and circumstances that U.S. military did.
And as a reward for that, they have this special immigration program. Some of them are also part of the International Organization for Migration, had submitted applications earlier to this. But this is a very extensive and tough program to get into.
About 2,500 of these individuals have been working for anywhere from 18 months to two years to come to the United States, and it all was started in 2014. So many of them were just beginning to travel to the United States after having been approved when this recent ban was put in place.
SANCHEZ: Sir, something you said caught my interest. You said that all of the countries on this ban concern you. One of them, of course, is Iran. And some of your former colleagues, including the secretary of defense, James Mattis, have been outspoken that Iran is the largest sponsor of state terror -- the largest state sponsor of terror in the world. You don't agree with that assessment?
HERTLING: I agree with that assessment that they are certainly a state sponsor of terrorism, and it is a dangerous government in Iran. But the people who come in and out of the country, you know, as an example I work as a hospital full-time, Boris.
Many of our doctors are Iranian, and they still have relatives in Iran. So I don't think it's a good idea to prevent all people from those countries from visiting their relatives, immigrant who's have come here before who have established a pattern of life here.
Students who are pursuing degrees here and looking to stay in the United States. It's a universal ban that affects so many people under so many different circumstances. It's not well thought out.
SANCHEZ: You mentioned some of the interpreters that you worked with in your time serving overseas. The Trump administration has amended its visa ban to allow the families of Iraqi interpreters who served the U.S. government and military forces to come to the United States.
Many others, though, won't be covered. I want you to listen to one of them. It's an Iraqi man who lost two legs after being targeted by terrorists for offering military intelligence to troops in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAR, WORKED WITH AMERICAN TROOPS IN IRAQ (through translator): I have no future in Iraq and my children have no future. If they go back to Fallujah, they'll be under threat. People will say your father is Omar and kill them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now that guy has four children. He just received some visas to come to the United States after waiting for three years. Now all of that is in limbo. Would you say, General, that that man's fear is legitimate and that there are many others like him that the United States should help in exchange for helping our troops?
HERTLING: Yes, certainly. The Special Immigration Visa that I talk about, the SIV program, was specifically for those who worked for the United States. But there's a whole another category of immigration under the international organization for immigration, and those individuals have been waiting.
They've been vetted. They go through the embassies. They get their visas. They have interviews with the charger or the deputy chief admission. So all of them go through a process, which is very long and tedious.
And yes, people in some of these countries who have helped the United States, maybe not have been employed by them, but has helped them are certainly under threat. I saw that after serving three years in combat in Iraq.
[14:35:01]Interesting enough, too, Boris, that it will be fascinating for me to watch this because Secretary Kelly recently, General Kelly, was one was of my counterpart commanders. He was in Western Iraq when I was in Northern Iraq.
And I know the number of people I had working with me, working for me, and supporting me the U.S. intel are probably likely the same amount in Northern Iraq that General Kelly had when he was the commanding general of NMD West in Anbar Province, where this individual you just noted comes from.
SANCHEZ: All right. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you so much for the time. We're taking a quick break and see you in just a bit.
SANCHEZ: We heard it several times on the campaign trail, and now once again, President Trump is expressing his respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a new interview with Fox News, the president even brushed off description of Putin as a murderer. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you respect Putin?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I do respect him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you? Why?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with them. He's a leader of his country. I say it's better to get along with Russia than not. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a killer, though. Putin is a killer.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: There's a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. Why you think our country is so innocent?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Let's discuss. I'm joined by "New York Times" editor and CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin, as well as CNN political commentator, Ben Ferguson. Gentlemen, glad to have you both. Mixed reaction from Republicans this morning over the president's assertions on Putin. Here's just a taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Putin's a former KGB agent. He's a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election. The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. No, I don't think there's any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does. Well, look, I'm not going to critique the president's every utterance, but I do think America is exceptional.
[14:40:10]MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no moral equivalency in what the president was saying. What you have in this new president is someone who is willing to and is, in fact, engaging the world, including Russia, and saying we're can we find common interests that will advance the security of the American people, the peace and prosperity of the world, and he's determined to come at that in a new and renewed way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Josh, first to you. Mitch McConnell slightly distancing himself from Trump's comments but still refusing to all-out criticize the president. It seems like Republicans now have a safe space where they can criticize the president on something, and this issue is it. What do you make of this?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Republicans are in a very tough spot. Donald Trump is upending decades of Republican orthodoxy on what the U.S. stance should be toward Russia and Vladimir Putin specifically, and there's no clear easy answer for them, OK?
Where the rubber meets the road is whether or not they're really going to, if President Trump wants to, let sanctions on Russia go away without some substantial action on Russia's part to either give back Crimea, stop tampering in Ukraine, stop tampering in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe and do all those other things that the sanctions were there to punish them for.
You know, I think that this is going to play out because Democrats and Republicans have strong support for new sanctions on Russia based on the hacking and the interference in our election that are coming up soon, and the president will be put to the test.
Like most presidents, he's starting his administration trying to find if there's a way to work with Russia. That's what Obama did. That's what George W. Bush did. They both failed. There's a reason to think that President Trump is going to fail too. The question is what is he really willing to give up in order to try?
WHITFIELD: Ben, your response seeing, for example, Nikki Haley bash Russia at the United Nations and then listening to this.
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it's a little bit humorous to me how many Democrats criticize President Trump for how blunt he is, how antagonistic he can be even on Twitter, but he seems to be showing a measured response to try to have new footing and start anew with Russia.
And now they're criticizing him for being too kind. The fact is Donald Trump understands, whether it be Crimea, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, how to protect our allies. But also, you don't go in in a verbal war the first day in office.
Now if you don't like the way he talks about him that may be one thing. But there's no indication here that this president is going to somehow go weak on Russia. There's nobody around him, including Nikki Haley and others around him at the White House that have somehow implied that they're going to go weak on Russia. I think he understands that Vladimir Putin is a guy that's going to be there probably throughout his entire presidency. So if you're going to deal with him, why not deal with him in a way that at least maybe gets us the best-case scenario for both countries.
Instead of walking in there and already having a "we don't speak to each other, we negotiate through the media-type mentality," which has not worked for the last 12, 15, 18 years.
ROGIN: I agree with Ben that we shouldn't get overanxious about the language and that Donald Trump should have, as president, the right to see if there's a way to work with Russia. I'm skeptical that he's going to be able to strike a deal that's either in U.S. interest or shows enough to really give Putin what he wants.
I mean, on things like Ukraine, things like Crimea, Putin is really not going to budge. On Syria, I don't really think we have the same interest as Russia. I don't think Russia is committed to fighting the Islamic State.
But I agree with Ben let the president try. That's his prerogative. The problem I think with the statement is that whether or not he intended it, both Democrats and Republicans see that statement as drawing a moral equivalency, and it's offensive.
I can't speak for Donald Trump's intentions, but I know it sounds offensive, and I know that, you know, Putin as someone who is not elected in free and fair elections, who persecutes his opposition, who persecutes journalists and does all sorts of other nefarious things, even the accidental, if we want to give him that suggestion that, you know, basically everybody does this kind of stuff, that's a real optics problem.
SANCHEZ: We are running out of time. Ben, just 10 seconds. Can you tell us if you think Trump is putting the United States at a moral equivalency with Russia? Is that really what he's doing?
FERGUSON: No, I don't think that's what he's doing at all. I think he's trying to make sure that the headline doesn't read, Donald Trump goes after Vladimir Putin because that's exactly what people want. They want this to be some sort of jazzed up -- he's coming after him and they start going back and forth, and they end up never speaking to one another.
And I think he's trying to purposely downplay it for the purpose of actually having a real conversation, seeing if there can be some sort of agreement before we go to that point. Everybody seems to want there to be a war of words between Putin and Donald Trump.
[14:45:01]And he seems to be doing everything he can to not get that war out there in the public so that all of a sudden -- we know Putin's in a situation where if we say anything, he comes back even harder. Then before you know it, no one can negotiate.
SANCHEZ: That was way more than 10 seconds, but we thank you for the perspective. Josh Rogin, Ben Ferguson, thank you. Coming up, the president's travel ban has been put on hold for now, but the order comes after thousands of refugees have already been affected.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wherever they are, from any country they're in, they are suffering, and they have the need, and they have the right to live a good life with dignity.
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SANCHEZ: A federal appeals court has denied an emergency request to resume the president's travel ban. Thousands of people from seven Muslim majority nations were blocked from returning to the United States after that ban went into effect.
CNN's Polo Sandoval got a personal story of some Syrian refugees living in Georgia.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A search for refuge led Hasan and Rania (ph) Mousa from Aleppo, Syria, to an Atlanta suburb. This is where the couple started their new life in the U.S., away from the war zone that was their home. Fighting there forced them into neighboring Turkey.
HASAN MOUSA, SYRIAN REFUGEE (through translator): I didn't stay in Turkey because there's discrimination against Kurds and that forced me to apply asylum in the United States.
SANDOVAL: Months later, Hasan and Rania (ph) reached out to refugee organizations within the United States. They were vetted, and two years after fleeing Syria, admitted in as refugees.
[14:50:13]Today they make a living working in these aisles and in the kitchen of this international market northeast of Atlanta. They are among six Middle Eastern refugees working here. The market's owner, a 22-year-old second-generation American of Jordanian heritage says it's about giving refugees a chance to ease into life in the U.S.
JORDAN A. SATARY, SHOP OWNER: I'm happy and pleased to be able to give them that opportunity to allow them to express all that they want to do and allow them to grow with us. You know, it's my hope that I can help train them and help them, you know, assimilate.
SANDOVAL: Rania says life in America was hard at first, but she's working to overcome language and cultural barriers.
RANIA MOUSA, SYRIAN REFUGEE (through translator): When I first arrived, I was a bit concerned. But after meeting some American friends, they helped me, accepted me, and helped me with the language. Things are better for me now. SANDOVAL: Though the White House executive order remains in legal flux, they hope refugees will still be able to enter the U.S., allowing others to have the same opportunities as them.
HASAN MOUSA (through translator): I did not communicate with anyone here about that ban. Yes, I know about it, but I hope that President Trump will revisit his decision and open the states again for the refugees because the ones who are living as refugees, they are suffering.
Wherever they are, from any country they're in, they are suffering, and they have the need, and they have the right to live a good life with dignity.
SANDOVAL: We found some of that strong reaction not just in the aisles of that grocery store, but also some strong support of lawmakers within Washington and even here in the state of Georgia, including State Senator Michael Williams, who continues with his steadfast support to Donald Trump's travel ban.
Saying, quote, "I absolutely stand behind President Trump's executive order. This is well within the constitutional powers of the president. Democrats and activist judges are playing politics with our national security."
Boris, that debate rages on across the country as that legal fight continues in Washington.
SANCHEZ: It's an extremely emotionally charged story on both sides because you see families like that, and then you hear from Trump supporters who say that this order makes them feel safer. They live in a world where terror is something that they don't want at their front door. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.
Ahead, we are heading to Houston. We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: We're just a few hours away from kickoff in tonight's Super Bowl, so let's get straight out to former Falcon and current CNN sports correspondent, Coy Wire. Coy, how is it going in Houston?
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Boris, it's a beautiful day here in Houston. NRG Stadium behind me. It is almost game time. I wish you were here. Listen, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady were the number one and number two rated passers in the NFL this season, and we are in for quite the treat in Super Bowl 51.
Two of the very best going toe to toe. I was Matt Ryan's teammate for three years. I've met Tom Brady and I can say that they are two of the league's most humble and disciplined players. It's a fascinating story line when you think about how Matt Ryan played his college ball in the heart of Patriot Nation at Boston College.
He looked up to Tom Brady, emulated him, and modeled his game after him. After nine long seasons in the league, Matt can say he now holds something in common with the legend. NFL MVP, and Matt can also do something no other quarterback has done in this game in more than 15 years.
Win both the league MVP and become Super Bowl champ in the same year. Other MVPs are 0-7 during that span. It's a tall task against Tom Brady. Both of those guys describe what this moment means to them.
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MATT RYAN, ATLANTA FALCONS QUARTERBACK: What you dream about as a kid is playing in a game, playing in this game and, you know, winning this game. That's where your thoughts are when you're in your backyard and you're 10 years old and playing with your brothers.
TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: Well, I think it's just special because it's this year. I mean, every year is different. You know, the fact I've been able to do it before just means I've been a part of some really great teams. This team is trying to be one of those really great teams that finishes the job.
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WIRE: All right, so mentally Brady is treating this game as any other opportunity to get a win with his teammates, but emotionally he is feeling it. His family is here. His wife, his daughter wearing a Brady's little lady shirt yesterday at team walk-throughs.
He also got a sandwich kiss from his parents. Brady got choked up earlier in the week when he said his mom didn't attend a single game this season, his dad only one. That isn't normal. Brady said his mom has had health issues the past 18 months, but his parents are here.
They are in full force. Tom Brady looking to do something no other quarterback in NFL history has done, become a Super Bowl champion for a fifth time.
Boris, Super Bowl LI here in Houston, a little surreal for me. Former teammates going out there, hoping to give Atlanta and the people of that city their first ever Super Bowl title. It will be a tough task against the Pats.
SANCHEZ: All right, Coy Wire, thank you. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
I'm Boris Sanchez. Thanks so much for joining me. Fredricka Whitfield is off. We are a nation divided, locked in a legal showdown over President Trump's travel ban. Lawyers for two states and the Justice Department are tangling over this controversial ban, and this morning a federal appeals court rejected a request by the government to reinstate that ban.
Now both sides have until tomorrow to submit briefs supporting their case before a panel of judges decides what happens next. For now, it is a victory for those eager to get into the United States.
SANCHEZ: This is the scene playing out in airports. People briefly barred from entering the country are now being greeted with cheers and hugs. Many of them overcome with emotion after finally being allowed back on American soil.
The Trump administration is undeterred by the court's ruling. Both the president and vice president have insisted that Trump acted within his power as president and that the ban will be reinstated.
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PENCE: There's simply no question under the Constitution and frankly under federal --