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Interview With Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes; Trump Agrees to One China Policy; Flynn Under Fire; Trump Loses Court Appeal; Trump: New Executive Order on Travel Ban Possible; Republicans Face Angry Backlash at Town Halls. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 10, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The president's national security adviser faces serious new questions about his talks with Russia before Inauguration Day. Was his denial that he discusses sanctions a lie? The vice president is trying to get an answer with his own credibility now on the line.
Major reversal. The president vows to honor the U.S. commitment to a one-China policy after threatening to change course. Did he get anything in return for that big promise to China's president?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, President Trump confirms that a new executive order on his travel ban is possible. CNN has learned that the Trump administration won't immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after the defeat in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals yesterday.
Sources say the White House is considering several alternatives, including writing a new executive order or tweaking the original version.
Tonight, White House insiders are acknowledging growing concern about National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contact with Russia before Mr. Trump became president. Flynn appears to be walking back his insistence that sanctions were not discussed after a "Washington Post" report contradicted his denial.
We're told Vice President Pence is scrambling to get to the bottom of all of this after he vouched for Flynn on national television.
We're also following a reversal by President Trump. He's now promising to uphold the longstanding policy of recognizing Taiwan as part of one China. The president making that commitment in a phone call with China's president, backing away from his threat to review the one China policy, which could have triggered a serious clash with Beijing.
I will talk about that and more with a key Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Jim Himes is standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we bring you full coverage of the day's full stories.
First, we have an exclusive report. CNN has learned new information about the ongoing investigation into allegations raised in a collection of memos created by a former British intelligence agent for political opponents of then candidate Donald Trump.
Evan Perez and Jim Sciutto, they have been working the story for us.
Jim, what have investigators learned?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for the first time, U.S. investigators say that they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent.
CNN was the first to report last month that then president-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the memos prior to the inauguration. Until now, U.S. officials have said none of the content or allegations had been verified, but now multiple current and former U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN that intelligence intercepts of foreign nationals confirmed that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.
We should be clear that CNN has not confirmed the content of the calls or whether any of the content relates to then-candidate Trump. And none of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier.
The corroboration based on interpreted communications has given U.S. intelligence and law enforcement -- quote -- "greater confidence in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier" as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say.
Reached for comment this afternoon, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said -- quote -- "We continue to be disgusted by CNN's fake news reporting."
Spokesman for the FBI, Department of Justice, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all had no comment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Evan, what is it that U.S. investigators have actually corroborated?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when investigators first started to look into the dossier, they were trying to see whether there was any truth to the allegation that Russians were seeking to compromise President Trump.
To start, investigators looked for information they could verify easily to give them a sense of the credibility of the author, who was someone that they already were familiar with as having credible sources. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian
officials and other Russian individuals. So, that was one starting point. One thing the U.S. already has is a collection of foreign call intercepts, so they used that information to seek to verify some of the alleged conversations described in the dossier.
U.S. intelligence officials emphasized that the conversations that they have now verified were solely between foreign nationals, including those in or tied to the Russian government, intercepted during routine intelligence gathering.
But some of the individuals involved in the intercepted communications were already known to the U.S. intelligence community as -- quote -- "heavily involved" in collecting information damaging to Hillary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump.
Now, the sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions, due to the classified nature of the intelligence collection programs -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim, while the sources say there is confirmation of some of the conversations that were happening, there is still a lot that investigators can't verify at least at this time.
SCIUTTO: That's exactly right, Wolf.
And we do want to be very clear here. To begin, as we said earlier, one of the officials stressed to CNN they have not corroborated -- quote -- "the more salacious things" alleged in this dossier.
And I will remind our viewers that CNN has not reported any of those salacious allegations. However, when we first reported the story, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials said they could not verify any parts of the memos. They are now saying they have corroborated some of the communication.
None of the officials we spoke to for this story would comment or confirm that they have proof of any alleged conversations or meetings between Russian officials and U.S. citizens, including associates of then-candidate Trump.
Officials who spoke to CNN for this story cautioned they have everyone reached any final judgment on whether the Russian government has any compromising information about the president. President Trump and his staff, you may remember, have repeatedly dismissed the entire dossier, Wolf, as, in their words, phony.
BLITZER: Evan, I understand the White House has just reached out to you once again.
PEREZ: That's right, Wolf.
Sean Spicer did call us back to emphasize his displeasure with this story. He said -- quote -- "It is about time CNN focused on the success the president has had bringing back jobs, protecting the nation and strengthening relations with Japan and other nations. The president won the election because of his vision and message for the nation" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's what he said to you in that latest statement.
All right, guys, thanks very, very much.
Let's get to the breaking news on the president's travel ban right now with possible changes to the executive order in the works, instead of appealing right now to the United States Supreme Court.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, while nothing has been ruled out, we have learned the White House does not want to immediately appeal the Ninth Circuit Court's decision repudiating his travel ban to the Supreme Court, for fear of losing in a 4-4 split.
President Trump even saying tonight aboard Air Force One he may want to issue a new executive order with new security measures.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I welcome you to the very famous White House.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, as the White House tweaks its now halted controversial executive order and considers whether to issue a new one, President Trump speaking at a joint press conference today at the White House is vowing to not give up the fight.
TRUMP: We will be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country. You will be seeing that some time next week. In addition, we will continue to go through the court process and ultimately I have no doubt that we will win that particular case.
BROWN: Trump's announcement comes in the wake of a strong rebuke from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over his travel bran. Today, he tweeted the decision was -- quote -- "disgraceful," and again sounded the alarm that there is an urgent need for the travel ban to keep the country safe.
TRUMP: And while I have been president, which is just for a very short period of time, I have 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.
BROWN: But the court said the administration failed to present evidence to back up Trump's national security claims, saying -- quote -- "The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States."
Those countries listed in the ban? Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. And the court pushed back against the notion that matters of national security should only be left up to the president, saying -- quote -- "Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree."
Now the Trump administration has to figure out what's next.
ELIZABETH WYDRA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There does seem to be some chaos in the Trump administration over the way that this order was written and how to go forward here.
BROWN: And the president said tonight in honor of the Ninth Circuit Court's decision, he will likely wait until next week to respond with any action -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown reporting, thanks very much.
The president and the first lady, they walked to the back of Air Force One on the flight to West Palm Beach and spoke to reporters. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Are you comfortable?
TRUMP: We will win that battle. The unfortunate part is it takes time. We will win that battle.
But we also have a lot of other options, including just filing a brand-new order. Could very well be. I like to keep you -- I like to surprise you. We need speed for reasons of security. So it could very well be.
TRUMP: Just in honor of the decision, we will perhaps do that. We will see, but on Monday or Tuesday.
TRUMP: We're going to have very, very strong vetting. I called it extreme vetting, and we're going to have very strong security in our country. We're going to have people come into our country that want to be here for good reasons.
TRUMP: I don't know about it. I haven't seen it. What report is that?
QUESTION: "The Washington Post" is reporting that he talked to the ambassador of Russia before you were inaugurated. (OFF-MIKE)
TRUMP: I haven't seen that. I'll look at that.
TRUMP: You better be careful.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was the tape, a little Q&A with reporters aboard Air Force One on the flight from Washington to West Palm beach. The president spending the weekend in at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.
Jeff Zeleny is our senior White House correspondent.
Jeff, it was hard to understand, to hear all the words that the president was saying in responding to the reporters' questions, but you got a verbatim of some of the quotes.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right, Wolf.
Just to set the scene a little bit there, that is on the back of the airplane, as you know well from covering the White Houses past. He was showing his wife, Melania, her first time on Air Force One, around a little bit.
He went from the front of the plane, where his quarters are, to the back there. But he was answering questions again about that executive order. To break down a little bit what he said, he said he is planning indeed on potentially doing a new executive order next week on extreme vetting.
He said this. He said, "We will win that battle, but the problem is statutorily it some takes time. We will win that battle." But he said, it very well might be a need to do a new executive order here because simply challenging the existing one could take time.
So, again, not spelling out any specifics of what he might be doing, but, Wolf, that is what lawyers here at the White House and at the Justice Department are working on throughout the weekend to try and turn his campaign pledge and belief into something that can stand legal challenge.
And that is difficult actually pulling off than simply just speaking about it there. But he was talking about that is his wish. In terms of filing with the Supreme Court, they are still leaving the door open to the possibility down the road of challenging this. But he does want to do something sooner on extreme vetting.
What that is, we may found out again next week. But at the end of the comments there, he said he simply did not know these reports about the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, having conversations with the Russian ambassador about sanctions before they took office.
And, Wolf, that is just simply a little bit difficult to belief, quite frankly, because he is a consumer of news, he reads the newspaper. The White House confirmed it earlier. The White House is concerned about it. But he said there he's not familiar with those reports.
Certainly, he would not be the first president or politician to say, oh, I haven't seen that. But that is something, Wolf, this White House is quite concerned about with Michael Flynn -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they certainly are. All right, Jeff Zeleny reporting.
Let's take a closer look right now at the president's national security adviser. All this new controversy over his contacts with Russia.
Brian Todd has been looking into all of this.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as Jeff just mentioned and as you saw moments ago on Air Force One, President Trump is saying tonight he was not aware of these reports on General Flynn, but said he would look into it.
Michael Flynn is certainly used to being under pressure, but tonight there is genuine palace intrigue surrounding the president's national security adviser. And some veterans of Washington's power battles are telling us, given his litany of indiscretions, General Flynn could now be in some real trouble.
TRUMP: General Mike Flynn.
TODD (voice-over): He's entrusted with advising President Trump on the nation's most dangerous security threats, but tonight internal tensions are growing in the White House surrounding retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the president's national security adviser.
A senior White House adviser telling CNN tonight Vice President Mike Pence is "trying to get to the bottom of whether Flynn lied to him." Pence is troubled, CNN is told, by reports that Flynn may have talked about U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before the inauguration.
Flynn had earlier denied doing that, according to Pence, who repeated that denial on CBS based on his conversations with Flynn. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I can confirm,
having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.
TODD: The Russians are denying sanctions were discussed. Tonight, Flynn is hedging, saying he cannot rule out he spoke to the Russian ambassador about sanctions. If he did, he could have broken the law prohibiting unauthorized citizens from negotiating with other governments about a dispute.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Flynn will probably be called on the carpet somewhere. And the Pence people will demand to know what really happened. I can just tell you this creates real tension inside a White House.
TODD: A climate that Flynn is very familiar with. He was pushed out as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. U.S. officials said it was because of his contentious management style. Flynn now has to work closely with the CIA.
Cedric Leighton once worked under Flynn.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: General Flynn looks at the CIA because it's a civilian agency. He looks at it with a great suspicion.
TODD: While serving as head of U.S. military intelligence in Afghanistan, a Defense Department report shows, Flynn shared classified information from another agency without authorization.
Former government officials tell CNN he shared secrets with Pakistan, and Flynn said he had permission to share the information. No misconduct was found. He was informally reprimanded, but not charged.
Since his firing from the Pentagon intelligence post, senior officers who worked with Flynn described him to CNN as bitter. He's certainly been less filtered about his feelings toward Islam.
MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This is Islamism. And it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised.
TODD: And this tweet a year ago, saying -- quote -- "A fear of Muslims is rational." Just a week before the election, another tweet from Flynn with a link to a completely fabricated story about Hillary Clinton's alleged involvement in sex crimes with minors.
With this pattern of undisciplined behavior, what is Flynn's future in the White House?
GERGEN: If he blatantly lied to the vice president, I think he is going to be in trouble over that. I think there's a very good chance his tenure will be short.
TODD: Tonight, two prominent Democrats in Congress are putting very heavy pressure on General Flynn.
Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, says if Flynn secretly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, he should no longer serve. And Congressman Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is calling for Flynn to be fired regardless -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.
Let's talk about all of the breaking news, the president's travel ban and other issues. Democratic Congressman Jim Himes is joining us. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to this uproar that has developed over the president's national security adviser, Michael Flynn. I don't know if you have been briefed on it, but what's your reaction?
HIMES: Well, it's obviously very troubling, the possibility, and more and more evidence is piling up that suggests, including, by the way, Flynn himself backing off the assertion that he did not discuss sanctions.
But if the Obama administration put sanctions on Russia because they hack our election and literally that day the next president's national security official is on the phone saying, just kidding, don't worry about this, that's a profound -- it's probably a violation of the law, but it's just -- talk about making us look weak and unstrategic in the eyes of our antagonists.
This is what troubles me most. Look, this is an administration, the president, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer are very comfortable going on national television and telling untruths. That happens every day out of this White House. So, I'm not sure that Flynn having a little bit of problem with the truth is necessarily going to disqualify him in the White House.
But if this becomes an ongoing issue and people like me, who sit on the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, Devin Nunes, if we begin to lose faith in the White House's ability to process intelligence and to think smart about national security, the president has a real problem.
BLITZER: Do you think the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, needs to step down?
HIMES: I think that if it turns out that he did what he is alleged to do, that, in and of itself, I agree with Adam Schiff, would be grounds for his dismissal.
If he then went on and lied about and put the vice president in the position knowingly of lying to CBS about it, well, then that's beyond the pale. And, look, let's face it. It's not like -- this is not your Sunday
night call to grandma. Right? This is a call from the next national security adviser to the Russian ambassador. My guess is that this wasn't a case of oh, gosh, I just forgot what came up.
And, so, look, the evidence is not all in. But if he had that conversation and if he then lied about it, of course he needs to go.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the president's proposed travel ban. He just told reporters aboard Air Force One, we will win the battle, talking about his executive order, then said, they were looking at options, including what he called a brand-new order.
Will you support what's being described as a narrowly tailored version of this executive order?
HIMES: Well, I guess what I hope happens is two things.
Number one if you have read the original executive order, even as a nonlawyer, you know that that was a slapdash effort. We know now that it wasn't reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, by the State Department, that people were doing this on the fly.
And so of course it got soundly defeated first by a federal judge and then unanimously by a panel of the Ninth Circuit. This is what happens when you don't do your homework.
What I really hope though happens, Wolf -- and, look, again, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I see the threats in a classified room that are of concern here. And it's not like there are thousands of people who are just waiting as refugees to get into this country as refugees.
It's not like every person who is coming in from Somalia or Iraq is a threat. Of course we can do better in vetting people. Our State Department people work very hard, but no process is perfect.
But, look, the attacks that happened in Europe, those were European nationals, people who can go out to the airport in Paris tonight and show up in New York six hours later. How do we feel about that? How good is that system?
My hope here is that the president begins to stop manufacturing this idea that the threat is just random people who want to get into this country and really starts focusing on what we all know the threats really are.
BLITZER: He cited, the president, what he called tremendous threats to the country right now, and that's why he needs this travel ban in place.
He added these words. And I'm quoting his now: "We need speed for reasons of security."
You're on the Intelligence Committee, you see the intelligence. Is he citing new specific threats?
HIMES: Wolf, he is not being accurate in the nature of the threats that face this country.
He's giving the impression that it's just random visitors and refugees. And, remember, we have not been attacked by refugees. That they're just waiting to get in. The real these -- and here is where you get into a classified realm pretty clearly -- but the real threats look like the kind of things that we saw on 9/11, a couple of dozen of people working for many, many months to put something together.
The shoe bomber, that was a very real threat that, thank God, didn't work. Other threats, these are things that get done by terrorist cells in places like Yemen and elsewhere that take a lot of planning, that fortunately our intelligence community often gets wind of.
But doctors and students and people coming to this country for business and to go to college, that's not where the predominant threats to this country lie.
BLITZER: Congressman, I want you to stay with us. There are more details we need to discuss. We're getting more information. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news.
President Trump confirming that a new executive order is possible to preserve his immigration crackdown after an appeals court refused to reinstate his current proposed travel ban. Sources tell CNN the Trump administration won't immediately file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, but is leaving the door open to a high court challenge later.
We're back with Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, I want to turn to some other critically important foreign policy challenges right now for the president. As you probably now, the Iranian president, Rouhani, said today that any nation that threatens Iran will, in his words, regret it. To that, President Trump responded -- quote -- "He'd better be careful."
This as there are signals from the Trump administration to the European allies that the Trump administration will honor the Iranian nuclear deal, which the president strongly opposed during the campaign.
I want you to respond to that.
HIMES: I certainly wish -- hope beyond hope that maybe the president would not necessarily need to respond, tweet to every perceived slight, to every act of silly aggression. Of course, dictators and people like the leader of Iran are going to
rattle their sabers. That's what they do. The president need not respond.
Again, I just sort of wish he wouldn't rise to the bait. The Iran deal, the question of course is really very interesting. Like so many things, like I'm going to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, like I'm going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, like I'm going to put in a Muslim ban, et cetera, et cetera, all of these things that the president promised now are not happening.
And to somebody like me, much of that is very, very good. Look, whatever you think about the Iran deal -- and of course it was very controversial when it passed. And I say this as a member of the Intelligence Committee. Iran is not working on nuclear weapons for the first time in many, many years.
That doesn't mean we don't like what they do. We don't like their politics. We certainly don't like them testing missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions. But they are no longer building the single most fearsome weapon with which they could pose truly an existential threat.
So, even in this White House, which doesn't much care about facts or truth, or much at all, I think they're sitting back and saying, my gosh, if we tore this thing up and two weeks later the Iranians were spinning centrifuges and building a nuclear weapon, we would look pretty bad.
BLITZER: And, as you know, on another issue, very sensitive issue, the president, President Trump, he met yesterday with Sheldon Adelson over at the White House, Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire from Las Vegas who is a very strong supporter of Israel.
And in the process, the president also granted an interview to a reporter for Sheldon Adelson's newspaper. He owns a newspaper in Israel called "Israel Hayom." And the president took -- he took a pretty hard stance when it comes to Israeli settlements.
Let me read to you the line.
He said, they -- referring to settlements: "They don't help the process. I'm not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace."
You mentioned he's not moving quickly in moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But now he's got a pretty tough statement to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who comes here to Washington next week, saying, those settlements are not helpful.
[18:30:13] HIMES: Well, it has long been U.S. policy that those settlements are not helpful. And again, from the political side of this, I mean, talk about head spinning. I mean, you'll recall I'm old enough to remember a couple of weeks ago when President Obama asked that his ambassador to the United Nations abstain from the resolution in the Security council condemning Israel for their settlement expansion, and Trump's head exploded. You know, this was the worst thing in the world.
But again, there's a huge difference between campaigning and governing, and I think that now that the president is in the Oval Office, he's realizing that, in fact, and as a lot of people believe, those of us who still hope for a two-state solution, that really building a lot more settlements is, exactly as he said, not particularly helpful to the process to finding an agreement.
BLITZER: He sounds pretty different on those sensitive issues today than he did only a few weeks ago. Congressman Jim Himes, thanks very much for joining us.
HIMES: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news ahead. President Trump talks about his next move on his proposed travel ban.
Plus the questions swirling around the president's national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Did he illegally discuss sanctions with Russia before Mr. Trump took office?
[18:36:06] BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, President Trump telling reporters aboard Air Force One just a little while ago he may issue a new executive order on travel. The stay on his previous order was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources tell CNN the administration isn't planning an immediate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court but also isn't ruling it out.
Also breaking, the possibility a larger panel of the appeals court might actually consider the case. CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane De Vogue is joining us now.
So what is the latest, Ariane?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's another unusual turn on the legal battle. One judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wants to see if his other colleagues on the bench are interested in rehearing the case concerning the executive order. When this happens in court, both sides are asked to brief, file briefs on this, and then a larger panel of judges votes.
Keep in mind: this is a very liberal court, so they may not vote to take it up. But it does put the administration in kind of an unusual position, right? Because at the same time, while they're trying to decide what the next steps are with this executive order, they're going to have to take this extra step now and file briefs. So it's really just another unusual turn in this legal drama.
BLITZER: I suspect there will be a lot more of them. Ariane, thanks very much.
Gloria, from the political perspective, what would be more advantageous right now, for the president? To continue to fight in court? He says, "I'll see you in court." Or forget about all of that, throw away the original order and just rewrite a new one?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I just say one thing I never thought I was going to say, after listening to Ariane? I almost feel sorry for the lawyers here, because there's going to be double and triple work.
Look, I think from a political point of view, if you're Donald Trump and you want wins and you want victories, you don't want to risk going to the Supreme Court, getting a 4-4 decision, which effectively means you lose. So there are people inside the White House, I am sure, who are trying to convince him -- and they may have succeeded -- into just narrowing the original executive order, writing it in a way that they now know would be likely to be approved by the courts, and just forgetting the rest of it.
So, you know, try a second time, blame the judges if you want. Say it was political, but then go for another -- go for another win.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: By the way, it's true that Washington state would immediately go back to the district judge and argue that this is -- this is not different enough.
And you know, the -- what was striking about one of the things on the appellate court decision was they said they simply don't have enough information to rule on the constitutional questions. But they did not rule out the idea that this was -- not only was this a constitutional violation, which again, would come up immediately with any kind of revived order.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I mean, look, what I think is going to happen is Donald Trump -- and we saw this happen today a little bit -- is he's going to continue to talk about fighting this and "We'll see you in court." He may eventually just back off of that. We'll never see that happening; you'll see a new order written. I mean, that's likely to happen.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure, but he did in his brief remarks tonight on Air Force One, when he went back to talk to reporters, did suggest that they were in the process of, or at least were about to try to rewrite it and to rework it.
BROWNSTEIN: But both things could be true, right?
BASH: But both things could be true.
BROWNSTEIN: He's going to rewrite and he will still see you in court. Because--
BLITZER: Dana, there's a little confusion from White House officials, because within less than a half an hour, the White House puts out one statement that they're not going to the U.S. Supreme Court.
BLITZER: And then a few minutes later they put out a second statement, saying they're not ruling out going before the U.S. Supreme Court.
BASH: And, you know, again, both things could be true at the same time, depending on who you're talking to at the White House.
But I think that you said something that really gets to the heart of this: winning. I mean, remember? We're going to have so much winning we're going to get sick of winning. Remember hearing that over and over again on the campaign trail? That's what this is about for Donald Trump.
[18:40:03] I mean, it is about keeping campaign promises, and he thinks that -- and it was -- at least a slimmed-down version of his original Muslim ban. I mean, it is.
Now, the question is whether or not winning for him means moving it aside and doing other things that are more palatable to Republicans in Congress, doing things that affect people's daily lives more in terms of their pocket book, which really -- that's why a lot of these voters said that they wanted him -- to take a chance on him. Or whether or not winning is continuing to fight, fight, fight until he finds a way to get this through.
BORGER: Can I just say, Donald Trump's history -- and we all know he's very litigious. He can sue, he can sue, he can sue, and then he settles.
BLITZER: He stops.
BORGER: He settles an awful lot of lawsuits.
BLITZER: He settled the Trump University lawsuit.
BORGER: He did, we will recall.
PRESTON: That was a win on his part, I remember.
BORGER: That was a win.
BLITZER: Cost him $25 million.
PRESTON: That was a win.
BORGER: It's a sort of effective way of settling, in a funny way, where he can still claim victory and settle.
BROWNSTEIN: I think whatever they do, if they try to go forward in any way, they will be back in front of the same judge in Washington, I think. It's inconceivable to me that they could revise this enough that the state of Washington and the state of Minnesota and the 16 other states and the 100 companies that sued in the first place would basically say, "OK, this is good." I think they're going to be back in court and back through this process.
PRESTON: That's why rewriting it is the way to go, though.
BROWNSTEIN: But I'm saying, even if they rewrite it, they will be back in court litigating it again.
BLITZER: Mark, remember, over these past several days, he has said, "We've got to move quickly" because all of these, quote, "bad dudes" are slipping into the United States right now; and Americans' security is at stake.
PRESTON: Right. And he said that several times today. And that might actually be the way he can walk out the back door, you know, and hold his head high, so to speak, and forget about what he said, the bravado of "I'll see you in court," by saying in the end, "This is the most pragmatic thing to do that we have to do. The courts are politicized. And you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go around them, and I'm going to protect you."
BORGER: And, you know, in doing that, what he's doing is he's keeping his base stirred up in support of the executive order. Because by saying there's a lot to be afraid of and this is why we have to do it, that's what he did during the campaign. It worked, and it could work now.
BROWNSTEIN: I guess one of the things: Don't rule out the possibility of deeper into the quagmire. Pulling it back, putting out something new, and finding that enjoined immediately.
BLITZER: And it's interesting. The president keeps saying, you know, he's the president. He's in charge of national security. He can determine who's allowed in, who isn't allowed in.
Here's one line, though, from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision: "There is no president -- precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy." Dana, those are blunt words.
BASH: They are blunt words. And he has -- the CEO president has run head first into the fact that the Founding Fathers were very careful in how they developed this government. And it's not a monarchy. It's not a business that a CEO runs. There are checks and balances, and that is what he is dealing with. And they are focused on what you just read, the Constitution.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by for a moment. There's more breaking news on the president's travel ban and discussions right now on rewriting his executive order in hopes of making a new one stick.
Also town hall chaos. Republican lawmakers shouted down by constituents as anti-Trump anger boils over.
[18:48:06] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. President Trump acknowledging that he may sign a new executive order to revive his travel ban after an appeals court refused to reinstate it. The president is juggling multiple hot button foreign policy issues right now and his change of heart on one of those issues is raising a lot of questions tonight.
Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is joining us.
Michelle, the president spoke to the Chinese president and reversed course.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, you know, sometimes, one sentence can say so much. So, to see this White House readout of that phone call between President Trump and the Chinese president just jump right out at you. Apparently, President Trump does support the "one China" policy and we hear from Europeans that he fully plans to stick with the Iran nuclear deal -- another week of surprises in Trumpian policy.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): President Trump with the Japanese prime minister today facing questions about China, seeming to offer a warning over currency manipulation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be at a level playing field because that's the only way it's fair. That's the only way that you can fairly compete.
KOSINSKI: Yet it comes one day after the stunning statement from the White House, summarizing last night's phone call between President Trump and the Chinese president. President Trump agreed at the request of President Xi to honor our "one China" policy -- a striking about-face who has said plenty to rock that boat.
TRUMP: I don't know why we have to be bound by "one China" policy, unless we have to do with China having to do with other things, including trade.
They break the rules in every way imaginable. China, which has been ripping us off, the greatest abuser in the history of this country.
KOSINSKI: President Xi had not spoken to Trump since Trump took a phone call from Taiwan before the inauguration, an unprecedented breach of protocol in this complex and important relationship.
[18:50:09] The "one China" policy in China's view is the bedrock on which cooperation rests, ensuring that the U.S. views Taiwan as part of China.
TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Given its importance to China, it was inevitable that we would have to back down, and that makes us look weak. Now, I think our partners and allies in the region are reassured that we're not about to go to war, and the relationship with China is stabilized. But they're also asking for not a paper tiger. Make threats and then we back away from it.
KOSINSKI: And now comes word from the European Union after meetings with U.S. officials on the Iran nuclear deal.
FEDERICA MOGHERINI, EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHIEF: I was reassured by what I heard in my meetings on the intention to stick to the full, strict implementation of the agreement, you know, its parts. KOSINSKI: Yet again, this was a key issue on which President Trump run for office.
TRUMP: We can't continue to make deals like that horrible Iran deal.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to rip up the Iran deals.
KOSINSKI: A major shift, away from the rhetoric, reminiscent of President Obama's warning to the new administration.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There are certain things that make for good sound bites but don't always translate into good policy. Reality has a way of asserting itself.
KOSINSKI: It's clear that foreign policy is very much being shaped. There's a new poll out, though, by Gallup that shows that now, only 29 percent of Americans believe that President Trump is respected by other world leaders and only 42 percent now feel that the U.S. is viewed favorably in the world -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Michelle, thank you. Michelle Kosinski reporting.
Just ahead, constituents demand that Republicans in Congress do their job. We're taking a closer look at the angry backlash at town hall events and the parallels to the birth of the Tea Party movement.
[18:56:16] BLITZER: Tonight, some congressional Republicans may still be reeling from an up-close and angry show of anti-Trump resentment at town hall events with their constituents.
Let's bring in our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, we're seeing this backlash, even in some very conservative parts of the country.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. And that's been one of the most jarring aspects of this.
Look, Republicans were very aware, their swing state members were going to face some backlash. But as they try and figure out the answer to the question of, is this just a visceral reaction of Trump administration, or is it something bigger, the last 24 hours has raised a lot of questions.
MATTINGY (voice-over): Outrage erupting, town halls across the nation.
CROWD: Do your job! Do your job! MATTINGLY: Some of the reddish corners of the country are suddenly a
hot bed, in large part, of blue backlash.
Thursday night, it was Utah, where Congressman Jason Chaffetz could barely get a word out before being shouted down.
Issues ranging from his oversight of President Trump to his health care positions.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: If you want me to answer the question, give me more than five seconds to do it, OK?
MATTINGLY: Or Tennessee --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to take away this coverage and have nothing to replace it with.
MATTINGLY: -- where pleas to save the Affordable Care Act were impassioned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't put all my trust in someone saying, we're going to make a plan, but we've had six years and we don't have a plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
MATTINGLY: For Democrats, the initial town hall returns are a jolt of energy for a party still reeling after its November defeat.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: So whatever the failings of our party may be, no institution has done more in terms of more creative ideas, more challenges to the conscience of our country than the Democratic Party.
MATTINGLY: Even as the Democratic Party struggles to find a leader or message, several top Democratic officials say they see the seeds of something big.
It's boots on the ground, officials tell CNN, who up to this point have been leading the way. If this looks familiar, it is.
The top GOP officials aren't certain yet just how big it's gotten.
MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: The Tea Party movement was a true grassroots movement. This will look like a grassroots movement when it starts happening all over the country.
MATTINGLY: Tea Party-driven town hall tornado swept through the country, hitting Democrat after Democrat through out 2009 and 2010.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It needs to be dumped orderly.
MATTINGLY: Eventually leading to the GOP wave that thrust Republicans back into power. It's something that already has GOP lawmakers on edge. The topic of how to protect themselves from the ruckus events coming
up at a closed door meeting in Washington this week, sources say. Included in the presentation, this video of Congressman Tom McLintock being escorted out of a town hall by police.
The message sources say, the backlash is real. But whatever you do, don't do this.
MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, the reason for that is it just didn't look good, politically or kind of personally going forward, but there's still an internal debate inside the party, how do you deal with this kind of backlash if it's real. And the answers are varied. I have talked to some members who say they're going to meet behind closed doors with some of these protesters beforehand, trying to suss things out maybe calming a bit. Others, they're saying they might start to limit or cancel town halls altogether -- a clear recognition, this is something they expect to continue in the months ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Phil, what are you learning? The president still talking about massive voter fraud?
MATTINGLY: Yes, that's exactly right. He had that meeting with congressional officials yesterday, senators, a bipartisan group. And in that meeting, he brought up for the second time in a close door sit-down with U.S. lawmakers, the idea of voter fraud, in this case specifically, New Hampshire. Kelly Ayotte, who's coming in to talk about the Supreme Court nomination, she brought it up. Donald Trump said the only reason he lost New Hampshire, Wolf, is because thousands were bussed in from Massachusetts to give Hillary Clinton the win in that state.
BLITZER: Phil Mattingly reporting. Thanks very much.
That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.