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Trump Talks New Steps for Safety; Flynn's Russia Talks; Pence Troubled by Flynn; U.S. Committed to Iran Nuke Deal; Trump Changes Ton on China Policy; Republican Backlash at Town Halls. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 10, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


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[14:00:15] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me on this Friday.

It's a busy Friday. We've got some breaking news because we just heard moments ago, President Trump gave his first on camera counter punch to his biggest blow of this administration thus far since taking office some three weeks ago now. You know the story, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously not to reinstate the president's temporary ban of citizens and refuges from these seven Muslim majority nations. Here now the president speaking at this joint news conference with the Japanese prime minister.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to keep our country safe. We are going to do whatever is necessary to keep our country safe. We had a decision which we think we'll be very successful with. It shouldn't have taken this much time because safety is a primary reason - one of the reasons I'm standing here today is the security of our country. The voters felt that I would give it the best security. So we'll be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country. You'll be seeing that sometime next week. In addition, we will continue to go through the court process and ultimately I have no doubt that we'll win that particular case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: You hear that, new steps next week. So there's that. We'll talk about that.

But that's not the only issue. Putting the White House on defense, "The Washington Post" cites nine current and former officials who all say National Security Adviser Michael Flynn spoke about sanctions with the Russian ambassador, an assertion Flynn had denied multiple times. Did he misspeak? Did he lie, especially to Sean Spicer and to the vice president? We'll dig into that in just a moment here.

Let kick things off there at the White House. CNN's Jeff Zeleny was in the East Room. He's now outside.

And so, Jeff, to me the headline, hearing the president say, there will be new steps that they can take to keep the country safe next week. What does that mean?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Brooke, that is the headline out of that news conference there you just saw. And these new steps, I'm told, are still being worked out. There is one school of thought here at the White House and inside the Justice Department of redoing or writing a new, if you will, executive order on immigration. You know, it was two weeks ago tonight that the president signed that, you know, and created such an uproar here and around the globe. So there is one school of thought to just do a new executive order.

But there is another school of thought to challenge this directly, as the president has sort of suggested. But he did not show his hand there at all in the news conference and said, of course, nothing will be coming up this afternoon. But he did talk about the threats that are facing the country that he says he knows and he knows alone since taking office three weeks ago. Let's listen.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've learned tremendous things that you could only learn frankly if you were in a certain position, namely president. And there are tremendous threats to our country. We will not allow that to happen, I can tell you that right now, we will not allow that to happen. So we'll be going forward and we'll be doing things to continue to make our country safe. It will happen rapidly and we will not allow people into our country who are looking to do harm to our people. We will allow lots of people into our country that will love our people and do good for our country. It's always going to be that way, at least during my administration, I can tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So, Brooke, the president there taking a measured tone, but not saying specifically at all what he intends to do. The White House Counsel's Office, I'm told, and other lawyers throughout the government, are assessing this. But, boy, what a difference in his tone. There was no attack on the judicial branch at all in the press conference there. So that certainly is a difference in language there.

But, Brooke, I was also struck by just being in the East Room of the White House. So this was his second meeting with a foreign leader here following the meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Of course that was done in English. This was - translation involved. And it was clear to all of us in the room that the president was unable to hear what - or understand, rather, what the prime minister was saying. He didn't have his ear piece in for translating. The vice president didn't either until sort of the questioning began. So just a - a little bit of behind the scenes detail there of something that obviously the president's still getting used to, these meeting with foreign leaders.

But, boy, he's going to spend a lot of time with the prime minister. He'll be flying to Florida with him in the next hour. He'll be playing golf all weekend long. Brooke.

BALDWIN: It's a good note about the ear piece. I saw him pop it in but, you're right, it wasn't off the top.

ZELENY: Right.

BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny, thank you, my friend, at the White House.

[14:05:04] So let's first begin with the headline that Jeff so perfectly laid out here. I have Eugene Kontorovich with me, a professor at Northwestern University Law School, and an expert on constitutional and international law.

So, professor, welcome.

And, listen, you just heard the headline out of that joint news conference from the president essentially saying in a more or less nebulous way, you know, there will be new steps taken next week. How do you respond to that notion?

EUGENE KONTOROVICH, LAW PROFESSOR, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW : I mean those new steps could be anything. They could revise the executive order somewhat and say that the case basically starts over. That new step could be asking for immediate review by the Supreme Court, which is not usually granted in the early stages of cases. But it's unclear what they have planned. But -

BALDWIN: How - explain to me, if I may, just on your first point in terms of rewriting. We saw how the Ninth ruled. Would that be not a waste of time or would they just rewrite parts?

KONTOROVICH: Well, the Ninth Circuit didn't answer lots of questions and they assumed lots of things. One of the stranger things they said is that the executive hasn't proven that there has been any actually risk of terrorism from any of these countries. That's extremely strange because the president usually doesn't have to prove anything to establish immigration policy. Congress gives him broad discretion to do it and he doesn't have to satisfy any independent standard. But he could, for example, make clear various parts of the orders. He could make explicit findings about the risk of terrorism from these countries.

And indeed these seven countries were selected because they were on a list of countries that have serious problems with their stability and that are torn by violence. A list that was created by President Obama. And if that's made clear, that could occasion a different judicial review.

BALDWIN: Professor, you also wrote today that you actually found it out of line, the fact that those judges could use some of candidate Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail. Why did you think it was out of line?

KONTOROVICH: It's not just out of line, it's absolutely unprecedented and extremely dangerous. When you look at the legality of a law or an executive order, you look at what the thing actually does or says. Now sometimes you can actually look at the circumstances of the legislative history, the process behind what it was made. But what they're really looking at is the psychology of the president. And what they're essentially saying is a measure that could be completely lawful if it was taken by President Obama, for example, President Trump is simply not authorized to make. And that risks basically disbarring the chief executive from controlling large parts of immigration policy.

BALDWIN: OK, we did hear the question, you know, essentially that the White House administration, back on the notion of rewriting, and they did say that nothing's off the table.

Professor, thank you so much.

KONTOROVICH: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: The other major headline today - thank you - National Security Adviser Michael Flynn now changing his story in the face of these allegations that he discussed - which was improperly discussed - sanctions against Russia with Russia's ambassador to the United States. The FBI is looking into this. Which these conversations took place before Trump was inaugurated. Flynn had denied reports that he talked to Russia shortly after new sanctions were leveled against Russia in December, talking about specifically the sanctions, but now says he's actually not quite sure, you know, what it was that they talked about.

So let's clear this up. Michelle Kosinski is joining me, CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent.

You know, and the timing here is all very important, Michelle, because, you know, not only did - did they say sanctions weren't discussed, this is what was relayed to us, the public, from both the vice president and from the White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer. And the vice president, in particular, is troubled upon learning this.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean there is a lot to clean up here. I don't know at this point that anybody can. But now we're hearing from the White House saying, you know, there is a problem here. We see them walking back step by step those repeated denials that this was discussed with the Russian ambassador. Not only denials by Flynn himself, but also by the vice president. Listen.

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MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.

JOHN DICKERSON, HOST, CBS' "FACE THE NATION": So did they ever have a conversation about sanctions ever on those days or any other day?

PENCE: They did not have a discussion, contemporaneous with U.S. action. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI: It's unfortunate. And President Trump just had a press conference with only two questions from the American side because he was with the Japanese prime minister. This subject didn't come up. So he couldn't be asked directly about this, what he knew about it, what exactly happened. But we're hearing from White House aides who are saying the vice president was speaking, when he denied that this conversation had taken place, because he was hearing from National Security Adviser Flynn. National Security Adviser Flynn's people are saying, well, he doesn't recall having that conversation but he can't be certain now that he didn't have that conversation. I mean that's a big difference.

[14:10:13] BALDWIN: Right.

KOSINSKI: So it speaks to, was he having this conversation at all when he shouldn't have, what is the policy of this administration towards Russian sanctions? If they are considering lifting some sanctions, why would they be? And what does the FBI know, because they in the intelligence community have been looking into these conversations with the Russians in their investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We're talking to "The Washington Post" intelligence reporter who blew this story wide open next hour.

Michelle, thank you. And, indeed, you are right, it's one thing to say didn't talk about. It's another to say you don't recall.

David Chalian, you're up next, our CNN political director, just to go through everything Michelle just laid out.

And, to me, let's just put Flynn aside for a second. The big - the big angle is the vice president, that he is troubled by this.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes.

BALDWIN: That he may have been misled or even lied to, if all of this is all true. Straight up, how longer is Flynn at the White House, David?

CHALIAN: I mean I don't know if you saw right at the beginning as the administration officials were taking their seats in that press conference with Prime Minister Abe today -

BALDWIN: He was right there.

CHALIAN: They were in - both in the front row and there was a little quick exchange between Pence and Flynn there as the very top as they were getting settled. But you're right to note this, that this really does come down to Mike Pence's credibility. And that is not something Mike Pence plays with very often. The guy really has developed a brand to try to be a straight shooter as best he can. And Flynn now, obviously, still to this moment, let me check my watch, 2:11 p.m. or so, has the confidence of the president. But you are right, I don't know how long that will last if indeed Pence's operation is clearly worked up about this, think they were totally mislead. Flynn is going to have to come out and address this because, as you noted, he changed his story. So that alone would have to be addressed.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: But when you have your vice president of the United States sort of as your validator out there, you're going to have to try and make that a more palatable situation for him.

BALDWIN: Yes. The FBI is investigating. We have already heard from Congressman Schiff, for example, saying Flynn should be out of a job. I imagine this is something we will be hearing over an over from Democrats.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt. In fact, Jim Macina (ph), who was Barack Obama's campaign manager in the re-elect and served as the deputy White House chief of staff in the Obama administration early on tweeted that if it was him, he would have walked down to Flynn's office and said, you can either resign or you'll be fired by 5:00 p.m. today. I don't know that that's what will happen inside this White House, but you're right, Democrats are certainly making hay of it.

BALDWIN: Yes. David, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, two sudden about faces from President Trump. The first on China. The second on the Iran nuclear deal. Hear what he is now saying after some pretty tough rhetoric.

Also ahead, Kellyanne Conway now apologizing for turning the Briefing Room into the home shopping network. So why is the president apparently upset with Sean Spicer?

And, town halls gone wild. Why constituents are screaming down Republicans back home.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut the hell up (INAUDIBLE)! Shut the hell up!

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[14:17:18] BALDWIN: Welcome back to breaking news here on CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

An E.U. leader announcing just a short time ago that the U.S. is committed to the, quote, "full implementation" of the Iran nuclear deal. This despite the president slamming the deal over and over during the campaign and as recent as last week.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nuclear deal is disaster. This is going to lead to nuclear proliferation all over.

That horrible, disgusting, absolutely incompetent deal with Iran where they get $150 billion.

Look at the deal with Iran. It's a disgrace. It's a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Joining me now, Clarissa Ward, our CNN senior international correspondent there in London.

And, Clarissa, I mean one week ago the president had put Iran on notice. What changed? Was it Rex Tillerson?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think the real question is did anything change or are we just going to have to get used to the fact that words and actions are very different things when it comes to the Trump administration's foreign policy. I mean we heard from the E.U. foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, she says that she sat down with National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, who has been very, very bombastic and anti-Iran in his various statements that he has made. She also sat down with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a number of other lawmakers as well and she came out of it, as you said, with a strong impression that the U.S. is very much committed to the implementation of this Iran nuclear deal.

And this after, exactly as you just played that tape, we have heard so much rhetoric coming from President Trump about how it's the worst deal in history, about how Iran has been put on notice because of their testing of a ballistic missile, about sanctions being levied against Iran. President Trump has said that the Trump administration will not be as nice to Iran or as kind I think was the word he used as the Obama administration. So there's clearly, as I said, this kind of disparity between actions and words. And I do think this is a theme we're seeing emerging in foreign policy, this sort of bombastic rhetoric that we hear from President Trump and then the more moderate, pragmatic, rail (ph) politique (ph) that we see playing out behind the scenes, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Same - file this next - you know, thee China issue, One China, right, and his phone call with the president of China. We remember one of his first phone calls was with Taiwan and this is a total -- same sort of thing, to your point, you know, words, actions?

WARD: Yes, it's another u-turn, or it looks like a u-turn. You know, just a few months ago we were hearing from then President-elect Trump that why would we uphold the One China policy without extracting certain kind of economic concessions from China. And now we're hearing a different story. He's calling the president. He is saying that the U.S. will in fact observe the One China policy. And of course this is being well received in China. A spokesman for the foreign affairs ministry said that they were pleased with the phone call. That it had been a very cordial tone throughout the phone call.

[14:20:29] But I certainly also think it's fair to say that nobody in the Chinese government feels very comfortable or trusting of President Trump and I think more widely speaking there's something of a conflicted attitude towards this. On the one hand, of course, it's a relief to hearing these words coming from the president. A confrontation between the world's two biggest super powers potentially averted. On the other hand, there's concern perhaps that his makes President Trump look weak because he says one thing and does another. So does he become a sort of paper tiger. And I think a lot of people want to know here, what prompted the pivot.

BALDWIN: Right.

WARD: And, in fact, Xinhau (ph), which is the Chinese state news agency, they actually posted a survey on Twitter where they suggested possible reasons for this u-turn. And they were kind of having fun with it. Among the suggestions that they offered, they said maybe blackmailing didn't work or maybe there was pressure from within the U.S., or maybe it was Ivanka and Arabella making a comment, because, of course, Ivanka and her daughter, Arabella, went to a Chinese new year's party at the embassy, the Chinese embassy, last week in Washington. So the Chinese also having a little bit of fun with it but it does raises this question again about the disparity between actions and words, Brooke.

BALDWIN: It does. And on major issues like Iran or China, you know, it just - it - you have to look at what he says through this lens of, he's saying this one extreme thing. Does he follow through that way or does that position change?

Clarissa Ward, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

Coming up next here, this fury of just raw emotions erupting at a number of Republican town halls. Have you seen this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut the hell up (INAUDIBLE)! Shut the hell up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to have that coverage. I am an overweight person. Yes, that's a problem that I have. I have to have coverage in order to make sure that I don't die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Americans are fired up. You know one comparison, is this like the flashback to 2009? We'll talk with two people who were at one of these town halls, asked tough questions to their congresswoman. Were they satisfied with her answers? We'll ask.

Also, just in, the Mexican government issues warnings to Mexicans living here in the United States. We'll tell you about the incident that has them pretty concerned, next.

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[14:27:10] BALDWIN: Absolutely stunning moments playing out in town halls across the United States where impassioned Americans are confronting their lawmakers face-to-face. For example, in Utah, police estimate about 1,000 protesters packed into an auditorium near Salt Lake City shouting questions and even booing at times Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, particularly as he stood up there on that stage and defended President Trump.

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REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: So President Trump -

CROWD: (INAUDIBLE). Do not talk. Do not talk.

CHAFFETZ: The Oversight Committee was founded in 1814. The whole -

CROWD: (INAUDIBLE).

CHAFFETZ: And I do love Mike Pence. I think he's a great person.

Hold on, I'm trying to answer her question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: In Tennessee, about 100 of Congresswoman Diane Black's constituents made emotional pleas for Obamacare and demanding accountability.

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JESSI BOHON, ATTENDED REP. DIANE BLACK'S TOWN HALL: The ACA mandate requires everybody to have insurance because the healthy people pull up the sick people, right? And as a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is to pull up the unfortunate, OK. So the individual mandate, that's what it does, the healthy people pull up the sick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

BOHON: If we take those people and we put them in high risk insurance pools, they're costlier and they get - there's less coverage for them. That's the way it's been in the past and that's the way it will be again. So we are effectively punishing our sickest people.

MIKE CARLSON, ATTENDED REP. DIANE BLACK'S TOWN HALL: I have to have coverage in order to make sure that I don't die. There are people who have cancer that have that coverage that have to have that coverage to make sure that they don't die. And you want to take away their coverage and have nothing to replace it with?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I have those two voices standing by with me. Mike Carlson, who you just saw, and Jessi Bohon are with me now. Mike's on the phone.

So, thank you so much to both of you.

And, Jessi, I see you, so I'm going begin with you. It's just so nice to talk to Americans, you know, not just, you know, politicians, but someone like you. And let me just ask, you know, such an impassioned, honest plea from you. Were you satisfied with the congresswoman's response?

BOHON: No, I - she didn't answer my essential question at all, which is, how are high risk insurance pools for our nation's sickest better than ACA.

BALDWIN: You didn't get a response?

BOHON: No, it was not addressed. No.

BALDWIN: Mike, you're upset.

CARLSON (via telephone): Yes.

[14:30:00] BALDWIN: Tell me why.

CARLSON: Well, it - it has to - it stems a lot from the problem that Ms. Bohon had, which was they didn't answer any questions and they don't have any answers