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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Yemen to U.S.: No More Ground Missions Without Government Approval; Trump: Terrorism Far Great Threat than People Understand; Trump Defends Travel Ban While Targeting Judges; Chuck Schumer on Senate Floor Comments on Warren Censorship; Trump Blasts Nordstrom after Dropping Ivanka's Clothing Line. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 8, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:32:22] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This just in, first on CNN, the U.S. military is looking to rent space in Trump Tower. The move is intended to allow military personnel to work alongside the president when he's back home in New York City. But that move also comes with a cost. When you're talking about Fifth Avenue real estate, a steep cost. Estimates are that it could run over $1 million a year for the rent. But add to that, maybe more importantly for a lot of folks, new conflict-of-interest concerns this raises, since, of course, Trump Tower is owned by the Trump Organization. The Department of Defense has had to find similar accommodations when it comes to previous presidents, but maybe not in their own real estate. One reason, of course, the need to keep the nuclear football close by. We're watching that closely as we go forward.

Then there's this. Yemen is having some strong words right now for the U.S.: No more ground missions in their country without full approval from the government. This move comes after an operation, of course, last week left this U.S. Navy SEAL William Ryan Owens dead, along with civilians. A senior Yemeni official tells CNN, quote, "We're willing to cooperate with the U.S. on counterterrorism operations but complete cooperation needs coordination from the U.S. side, and that was not the case in the latest Yemen raid."

Let me bring in CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, for some important perspective on all of this and what this really means.

Jim, the Yemeni government kind of condemning the operation and requesting that no more ground operations there against suspected terror groups without this approval. How big of a deal is this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's potentially a big deal. It's not quite a ban. They're not saying no more operations. But they are demanding, in effect, better coordination and approval here.

And keep in mind, these relationships were these partner nations in these countries where you are fighting terror groups, like in this case AQAP, Yemen, et cetera, they are difficult, sometimes delicate relationships, because those U.S. military operations, not particularly popular, often, on their ground, particularly when there are civilian casualties, as in this case. So, you have to manage those relationships.

And when you have something like this, that Yemeni officials tell CNN, went without their approval or coordination. And it's particularly significant in Yemen because this is a place where the U.S. has less of a fixed presence on the ground than it had in the past. The U.S. pulled out of its embassies a couple of years ago. They used to have a base on the ground. Without that, you lose some, not all, but you lose some coordination, some intelligence-gathering capability, et cetera. You have to keep all those pieces in place, particularly when the threat from AQAP is high.

One thing I would mention, Kate, because all this stuff is related, Yemen is on that list of seven countries under this temporary travel ban. A lot of Yemeni officials have visas to the U.S., their family members, et cetera. I can tell you, that's not popular there. And when defense officials and others say -- that have spoken out against the ban, say one reason you will antagonize your partners in the region, this is one of those examples.

[11:35:33] BOLDUAN: Jim, speaking of the ban, the president talked about the ban and the legal case earlier today. But also, he was speaking before a group of -- a sheriffs' association. He had this to say at one point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we will work with you on the front lines to keep America safe from terrorism. Which is what I began this with, terrorism. A tremendous threat. Far greater than people in our country understand. Believe me. I've learned a lot in the last two weeks. And terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: From all the sources that you talk to, Jim, in national security and the intelligence world, do you hear that warning from them, that terrorism is a bigger threat than Americans actually understand?

SCIUTTO: Listen, if the president of the United States is going to deliver that kind of warning in public, then he better, without going into the classified space, back it up to some degree. You'll remember after this travel ban came out, from Trump surrogates, Sean Spicer and others, there were hints that, well, the threat is greater than ever. They hinted that there was some imminent threat which they've backed off of. I've spoken to people in the counterintelligence space who said, no, there is not an incredible specific spike. Listen, it's always a very high level of alert, no question. But there was nothing particular at that time or this time that has raised it from where it was four weeks or three months ago. So, when the president makes a statement like that, to some degree he's really got to back it up. Otherwise -- and you've heard this charge from lawmakers -- otherwise it goes into the realm of fearmongering, right? To this date, I haven't heard from sources inside the counterterror

community of something particular now. We have to hear from the president and the White House what exactly they're talking about, and they have not provided any specifics.

BOLDUAN: This gets to the core of the need or relevance for this type of a travel ban, and how they did it.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: That's why it's also very, very important.

Great to see you, Jim. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Just in, President Trump blasting a company, Nordstrom, we all know very well, in a new tweet after the retailer made moves to drop his daughter Ivanka's label. Is that good parenting? Dad backing up his daughter? Or some strange conflict of interest of a president weighing in on a business deal? Details ahead.

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[11:42:30] TRUMP: If these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court, in terms of respect for the court, they would do what they should be doing. I mean, it's so sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: President Donald Trump right there speaking to a law enforcement association a short time ago, defending his executive order on immigration, of course, while targeting the judges reviewing the case, saying if they respect the court, they should do their jobs, in his view. And in his view, that's to uphold his travel ban.

Joining me now is John Dean, a former White House counsel to President Nixon, one of the men at the center of the Watergate scandal, who eventually helped expose it.

Mr. Dean, thank you so much for your time.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUE COUNSEL: Good morning.

BOLDUAN: You were, of course, White House counsel during the worst political scandal in White House history. How do you see this politically charged court battle playing out?

DEAN: It's fascinating. One thing Richard Nixon would never have done is belittle the court. He might have done it in private but never in public in his entire career. He had great respect for the court.

I don't fully understand what Mr. Trump's philosophy is, that he thinks that by degrading and belittling the court it's somehow going to help him or he's guide the court to get the decision he wants. It's just going to be the opposite.

BOLDUAN: Even when President Nixon, of course, famously said, if the president does it, it isn't illegal?

DEAN: He said that long after he left the office.

BOLDUAN: That's true.

(LAUGHTER)

That's very true.

DEAN: There's an element of truth in that. If the public accepts what a president is doing, a president has tremendous latitude.

BOLDUAN: And of course, as you well know, no president wants to give up their presidential powers. I mean, if this ban is done in the name of national security, targeting countries that President Obama and Congress previously targeted, doesn't President Trump have an argument?

DEAN: Well, you know, he does have an argument. In fact, the immigration laws give him a lot of power. The way he's approached this, the way they rolled out their executive order, has caused most of their problems. In fact, I think he would be very smart to pull it back, get it together, properly run it through the interagency process, and have a strong argument when you go to court, rather than keeping pushing a document that is clearly flawed. It's clear on the face, it's flawed. The arguments before the court acknowledge, well, maybe you'll give a step-back position, asking the court, in essence, to rewrite the executive order.

BOLDUAN: Is this a ban, an immigration order that you could see President Nixon putting in place?

[11:45:11] DEAN: Well, of course, there was hijacking, there wasn't terrorism. Nixon didn't like to use the courts if he didn't have to. And the way this was put out, it was inevitable it would go to court, someone was going to test it. That should have been apparent to the drafters from the outset. That's why I'm surprised at how they staffed it.

BOLDUAN: Many critics of President Trump, I'm sure you've heard this, make comparisons between him and President Nixon. Do you see a likeness between these two men?

DEAN: I do, as a matter of fact. They're both authoritarian personalities. Nixon was much more so behind closed doors. Had his tapes not come out, people probably wouldn't have realized his full personality, because he had a very different public persona. Trump is right out there and doesn't try to be anybody in public that he's not in private. In fact, I hope in private, he's a little bit less authoritarian than he plays in public. So, there is a similarity. Many of the things Trump is doing are rather Nixonian in their style. So, we'll see where this goes.

BOLDUAN: Coming from you, John Dean, that means quite a bit.

(LAUGHTER)

Great to see you, thank you so much for coming in.

DEAN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So President Trump rushing to his daughter's defense, blasting the retailer Nordstrom in a new tweet that just came out. Nordstrom just making moves to drop Ivanka's label from its stores. But is the president stepping into another potential conflict of interest here? Good parenting or bad business? That's ahead.

Plus, hours after being silenced on the Senate floor as she attempted to read a letter from Coretta Scott King, Senator Elizabeth Warren will be joining CNN live. That's coming up.

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[11:50:58] BOLDUAN: Let's take you to Capitol Hill where Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is speaking on the floor, probably weighing in about what happened there last night.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: -- my dear friend, Senator Reid cancerous, and that, quote, "He doesn't care about the safety of our troops," unquote. That was not enforced as a Rule 19 violation. But the reading -- but reading a letter from Coretta Scott King? That was too much? Suggesting that the distinguished majority leader had repeatedly lied to the press, a comment made by a fellow Republican, by the way, that was fine. Reading the letter of a civil rights icon? At least to the other side, unacceptable.

Mr. President, just last week, I heard from a friend on the other side -- I heard a friend on the other side of the aisle, just last week, accused me of engaging in a tear-jerking performance that belonged at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. It was only the second time that week that I had been accused of fake tears on the floor of the Senate. But I didn't run to the floor to invoke Rule 19. But when my friend from Massachusetts read a piece of congressional testimony by Coretta Scott King, she was told to sit down. Why was my friend from Massachusetts cut off when these other much more explicit, much more direct, much nastier attacks were disregarded?

Mr. President, there is a shocking double standard here when it comes to speech, and, unfortunately, it is not constrained by the four walls of this chamber.

While the Senator from Massachusetts has my Republican colleagues up in arms by simply reciting the words of a civil rights leader, my Republican colleagues can hardly summon a note of disapproval for an administration that insults a federal judge, tells the news media to shut up, off handedly threatens a legislator's career, and seems to invent new dimensions of falsehood each and every day. I certainly hope that this anti-free speech attitude is not traveling

down Pennsylvania Avenue to our great chamber, especially --

BOLDUAN: Right there, to the Senator Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer where -- this isn't over. What happened last night, it will continue.

Democrats and Republicans are continuing this conversation, so let's continue the conversation as well.

With me now Amanda Carpenter, CNN political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. Also, Jeff Weaver, former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders' campaign, and is now also the president of Our Revolution, a political advocacy group formed out of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Guys -- Amanda, Chuck Schumer's point right there, this is -- this is what crossed the line, reading the words of Coretta Scott King? You don't have to look too far in the distant past, like July of 2015, where your former boss, Ted Cruz, called Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. The rule wasn't invoked then.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he said he didn't tell the truth. But here's the thing --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: He said it was a simple lie.

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[11:54:48] CARPENTER: Listen, I am for free speech, but it's important to look at what Elizabeth Warren was doing last night. She wasn't just reading this generic letter from a civil rights icon. She was quoting a piece of the letter saying that Jeff Sessions used his awesome power of the office to stop black people from voting. That's a very serious charge. If Elizabeth Warren wants to make that charge herself, she should go out and prove it. But to say I have this letter that says this without having the facts behind you, that's a very wild accusation. She couldn't stand up on the floor and say Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer because I have a letter that says so and I'm entering it into the congressional record. There is somewhat a protected space in the Senate.

Again, I'm pro-free speech. I don't know that I would have invoked Rule 19 here. But to say that Elizabeth Warren was just merely quoting a letter from a civil rights icon doesn't get to the meat of it. She was making a very serious accusation against Senator Sessions on the Senate floor, and that's what she should be asked about.

BOLDUAN: Again, you also say, Amanda, you're not sure you would have invoked this rule.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Yeah, but the onus is on her to say how did he use the offense to block black people from voting. Don't say I have a letter and you're silencing this letter. Go out and prove that case, Senator Warren.

BOLDUAN: Jeff Weaver?

JEFF WEAVER, PRESIDENT, OUR REVOLUTION & FORMER BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Look, Kate, this letter is part the Senate record. It was sent in the 1980s when Sessions was up for a judgeship. It involves conduct that he engaged in before he was a Senator.

Look, this was the same kind of thuggery that you see in the White House. Mitch McConnell in a moment tried to shut down Elizabeth Warren. Her colleagues are now standing on the floor of the Senate and reading the same letter that got her shut down, and they're not shutting them down. He knows that Elizabeth Warren is not standing alone in the Senate chamber, nor is she standing alone out in the world. And millions of Americans, who are grossly offended by this attempt to shut down the free exchange of ideas, in what is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world.

BOLDUAN: No matter where you land on this, both Democrats and Republicans think they're winning because they're speaking to their base on how this all played out last night. I do find it interesting -- I guess that's the word I'll use right now -- that Democrats are reading the same letter right now. And have been reading the same letter, and they didn't invoke the rule. It's a little bit of, come on, guys.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: -- some explaining to do as well.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Amanda. Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Or they said it was scheduling conflicts. All too busy.

Wait, Jeff, I have something good I want to talk about.

WEAVER: OK.

BOLDUAN: Moments ago --

WEAVER: OK, let's do it.

BOLDUAN: -- President Trump, he turned from talking about the travel ban in the courts -- he turned to talking about a clothing retailer. He wrote this on Twitter, guys.

Jeff, just hold on.

"My daughter, Ivanka," he writes, "has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person. Always pushing me to do the right thing. Terrible."

This comes days after the company announced that it was dropping Ivanka Trump's clothing line, citing -- the company cites its declining sales.

I do want to get your reaction on this, Amanda. Ari Fleisher, he wrote this on Twitter. He wrote, "This is something a father would say. It's not the type of thing a president of the United States should say."

What do you think?

CARPENTER: My first thought was. who knew Donald Trump was such a helicopter dad. But the bigger question here is Ivanka Trump is positioning herself as the sort of political operative trying to have everything both ways. There's an obvious ethical question here whether Donald Trump can use his massive platform as president to question business dealings on behalf of his daughter. That's something that they both have to answer for, especially if she wants to have this political role in Washington that she clearly is positioning for.

BOLDUAN: But the Trump family and how close they are, Jeff, is something that people loved during the campaign, and a lot of people cited that -- how successful his children are as a testament to who Donald Trump is. Is there space for him to be just dad?

WEAVER: Well, there is, and that's in the private space. There are many political figures in this country who have very close-knit family relations. Politics is a difficult business. There's a lot of very close families. We see it on both sides of the aisle. This is not something that's Republicans or Democrats.

But I have to tell you, when somebody who has the platform of the president of the United States is now talking about the false election choices of Nordstrom, I think we've gone beyond what's acceptable.

BOLDUAN: Doesn't -- I mean, this might be just one step short of the criticism the Republicans lobbied at Barack Obama so much and the whole picking winners and losers. This is a business making a business decision, Amanda?

CARPENTER: Obviously, he thinks his daughter is a winner.

WEAVER: And I think Nordstrom, I'm sure, can pick out in good place to pick out what fashions they want to have in their store. Believe me.

BOLDUAN: And I know, Jeff, we lean on you all the time for those fashions.

WEAVER: Exactly. And Bernie.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Bernie Sanders, no doubt.

OK. Real quick, we have no time. Both of you are bosses. Took to the stage and debated last night on Obamacare.

Amanda, did Ted Cruz win?

CARPENTER: Yeah, absolutely. For one moment -- and it was actually since Bernie Sanders gave it to him. When Bernie Sanders stood up and told the woman of Fantastic Sams that she should just magically supply health care for her employees, even though she couldn't afford it, I think that showed how out of touch the Democratic Party has become on this issue and why they're no longer trustworthy.

BOLDUAN: One-word answer. Did your boss win?

WEAVER: Bernie Sanders won, clearly. Ted Cruz wants to deny the woman who had M.S. from her Medicaid. He wants to make sure that if you get --

BOLDUAN: We'll leave it there.

WEAVER: -- sick the insurance companies don't have to take you on. He's terrible.

BOLDUAN: All right. The debate over Obamacare is so far from over. We're going to leave it there.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Great to see you both. Thank you so much.

WEAVER: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for joining us AT THIS HOUR.