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CNN NEWSROOM

N. Korea Test-Fires Missile, First Of Trump's Presidency; Trump Considers "Brand New" Immigration Travel Ban; White House Adviser Doubles Down On Claims On Voter Fraud; Anti-Trump Protesters Stage Marches Across Mexico; Trump To Meet With Leaders Of Canada, Israel; Lawmakers Hold Fiery Town Halls With Constituents; Singer Al Jarreau Dead At 76; 59th Annual Grammy Awards Tonight. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired February 12, 2017 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- from the western part of the country. The missile traveled about 300 miles before crashing into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. This is the first North Korean ballistic missile test of Donald Trump's presidency, taking place just as Trump was hosting Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida. The two appeared in an impromptu press conference last night. Here is the president's full statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: We have a team of reporters and analysts standing by to talk about all of this, this hour. Let's begin with CNN Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott in Washington. So, Elise, Trump was outspoken about North Korea on the campaign trail but that was a pretty short statement coming from the president. Any more expected from the White House?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it was a pretty short and sober statement, and interestingly enough, the president didn't even mention North Korea, the missile test or the U.S. ally in South Korea. So, I suspect a lot of that was, you know, standing shoulder to shoulder with Prime Minister Abe was for the Japanese prime minister's benefit. This morning on the Sunday talk shows, White House Policy Director Stephen Miller talked a little bit about what the U.S. is considering now. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: The message we're sending to the world right now is a message of strength and solidarity, we stand with Japan and we stand with our allies in the region to address the North Korean menace. And the important point is that we're inheriting a situation around the world that is as challenging as any we've seen in our lives.

The situation in North Korea, the situation in Syria, the situation in Yemen, these are complex and difficult challenges, and that's why President Trump is displaying the strength of America to the whole world and it's why we're going to begin a process of rebuilding our depleted defense capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABOTT: And going back to what President Trump had said on the campaign, after the election he was warning North Korea that are, you know, intercontinental ballistic missile wouldn't happen. During the campaign he was talking about reducing defenses for South Korea and japan, even suggesting they should have their own nuclear weapons. And I think what you're seeing now is a real kind of dose of reality for this president, really his first national security test.

This administration came into office very concerned about North Korea, about the threat. In fact, President Obama in his meetings with President-elect Trump was warning about that threat. And so I think this administration has been expecting something like this. They've been discussing policy options, but now this is a real kind of show that campaigning is not the same as the realities of governing and they're going to have to make some tough choices about which way to go next, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And I want to also bring in from Seoul, South Korea, CNN's Matt Rivers. So, Matt, I understand there was a call between South Korea and the National Security Adviser Michael Flynn not too long ago. What was that?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're told by South Korean officials that this call was relatively short, very cordial and it was actually requested by Michael Flynn himself. It was a call that took place between Flynn and his counterpart here in South Korea, the director of national security.

And basically, both men agreed that moving forward the United States and South Korea would explore all possible options in terms of preventing further North Korean provocations as they put it. But in terms of specifics, they didn't really get into that. But it just kind of further goes to what Elise has said here about the United States seeking shoring up some of its historical alliances in this part of the world.

WHITFIELD: Is it expected there will be more missile tests?

RIVERS: I think it's very fair to say there will be for a number of reasons. I think if you looked first at 2016 there were some two dozen such missile tests conducted throughout the year. It is something that Kim Jong-un is clearly very much a proponent of as he ramps up his nuclear weapons program.

But I think further than that, using the Kim Jong-un's words himself -- themselves, actually, on January 1st, New Year's Day address, he said that his regime was in the final stages of preparing a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. That's his ultimate goal, a long range missile that could hit possibly the mainland of the United States.

He said that his regime is in the final stages of that and even though that didn't happen with this particular test that we're talking about right now, most experts that we've spoken to over the last several months will tell you it's really just a matter of when and not if at this point the North Korean regime will gather that technology and it will test it as soon as it possibly can.

WHITFIELD: All right, Matt Rivers, Elise Labott, thank you so much. Let's talk more about this with CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. He is also Senior Editor for the "Atlantic."

[15:05:03] Also with me, International Security Analyst Jim Walsh. Good to see both of you.

So, Jim, you first. You know, Kim Jong-un is often just trying to get attention. You know, what is this missile test saying to you along with the timing, while the Japanese Prime Minister Abe is in the U.S.?

JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, let's start with the second one. First, you're absolutely right to point to the timing. As was pointed out by Matt, these tests happen on a fairly regular basis these days, but it's hard to imagine this didn't have something to do with Prime Minister Abe visiting Mr. Trump. I'm sure he was able to get two for one and whatever media value he has is sort of doubled by timing it now.

Now, to the missile test itself, they're going to continue to do these and Mr. Trump is going to deal with a very difficult. They said -- he even said complicated reality. There aren't a lot of powerful policy tools here that you can force the North Koreans to stop testing. So, that's going to be a challenge going forward. But I am encouraged that this went a little differently than that one might have expected.

The North Koreans did not rush out and say, "We're going to test an ICBM." So they pulled back the reins a little bit and the spokes people in the White House today, they also sort of responded in a more measured way with a little less bluster and a little less, you know, tendency to acting rashly. So both sides ironically are sort of applying it a little -- as a little as she goes to test each other out.

WHITFIELD: So in your view it was wise that President Trump had very little to say?

WALSH: I think so. You know, when you don't have a lot of great options in your hand, it's probably better to say less rather than more. He did the same thing that every president has done under these circumstances. He sought to reassure our allies. That's the best thing you can do.

But, you know, let say he -- there was reference today about building up the military. Well, that's going to take years and years and it's really not going to have an impact on the current problem, which is sort of staring us in the face. So if you don't have a lot of good options, maybe brevity is the order of the day.

WHITFIELD: So, Ron, President Trump did reassure Japan, but he didn't reassure -- or at least verbally, you know, South Korea. Was this a missed opportunity?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICL ANALYST: It was a somewhat strange statement in that way and that it never mentioned North Korea. He didn't' reassure South Korea and kind of add to the question surrounding the National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who is facing a whole other series of questions based on his contacts with Russia during the transition and whether he misled the vice president about the nature of that as well as the country.

So, yes, I mean, I think it was a strange statement, but it is a reflection of, you know, the difficulty. I mean, you see -- this is one thing that is really a bipartisan or none partisan. Every newly elected president comes in saying that he's either going to be tougher or smarter and thus make more progress against intractable problems than his predecessor. And they, you know, they come in and there's a reason why that the predecessor was not able to make more progress.

And one other dynamic here is that there is a point of leverage on North Korea, it is from China. And, you know, we saw President Trump promising a much tougher posture toward China, which he kind of continued even through the transition. But in his conversation with President Xi this week, he did back off his threat to reassess the One China Policy and one reason I think you cannot get into a full scale confrontation with China is because you do need their help in trying to establish any kind of boundaries on North Korea.

WHITFIELD: So, Jim, you know, South Korea's military leaders are still claiming to be analyzing, you know, the data.

WALSH: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Claiming it did appear to be in their view a medium range missile, but there is some concern that they may be getting closer to being able to, you know, fire or come closer to have a missile with a greater range. Is that your concern, too?

WALSH: Well, you know, I'm going to say something weird or different than those people say on this. I'm puzzled by this focus on their getting closer or further away from an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. It seems to me that both understates the threat and overstates it at the same time. It overstates it because in my personal professional assessment, they are a long way off. That's a really tough thing to do. It's not the same thing --

WHITFIELD: When you say long way off as in years, months?

WALSH: Yes, yes. It's year. The other thing about it though is that, you know, also sort of understates the threat because we only focus on a missile that could potentially reach the U.S. homeland. Why do I say that? We have more than 20,000 troops, American troops in South Korea, thousands more in Japan. They are our treaty ally. If they are attacked with a nuclear weapon, we are legally and morally obliged to treat it as if it was an attack upon the United States.

And my gosh, if we had tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers killed in that attack, that would certainly be, you know, we would consider that an attack on the U.S., so that day has already arrived. You know, just because they can't lob a missile all the way over here it doesn't mean that the threat is real and it involves Americans and it involves allies that are, have been foundational to U.S. foreign policy.

[15:10:05] WHITFIELD: And gentlemen, last hour I spoke with former Energy Secretary and Ambassador to the U.N., Bill Richardson and these were his concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL RICHARDSON, (D) FORMER AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So, let's be sure that, one, we reduce our nuclear weapons. Yes, we should modernize them, keep an eye on Russia. That's the main issue that worries me, the too close ties of the Trump administration with Russia. But remember that North Korea, the nuclear agreement with Iran are in your portfolio so watch and get briefed and find the best experts to lead us into strong negotiations with North Korea, which hopefully would reduce or eliminate their nuclear weapons in Iran, so that they keep the nuclear agreement. And with Russia, don't let them forget that they're an important ally when it comes to nuclear weapons, and they have not lived up to their side of the bargain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Ron, in your view, would this be top of mind for this Trump administration?

BROWNSTEIN: Look -- yeah. Look -- I mean like I said, every president has struggled to deal with this and the options are not great in North Korea. The military options don't seem to be there. The negotiation options are limited, whether it require certainly pressure from China.

One thing we never discuss in the U.S. political system is whether ultimately some form of deterrence may have to be the answer with North Korea, some combination of missile defense and deterrence which is essentially what we have relied on against a much bigger threat from Russia for a long period of time.

But, this is a problem that is confounded president after president, because as it often the case in foreign policy, there is not a great option. There's only kind of least unacceptable options.

WHITFIELD: And, Jim, are there deterrence?

WALSH: Well, I think we're actually exercising deterrence right now. In previous tests you will have notice that the U.S. has flown nuclear capable aircraft over the peninsula, you know, and send ships. And I think all the military exercises we do with South Korea and the visit by General Mattis, this is all meant a deterrence signaling to say to North Korea don't cross the line. So I think we're already doing that. I do think that Ron is absolutely right that China is pivotal here. There's no solving this problem unless China is on board and we do have some common interests, not identical interests, but common interests and we need to be able to talk to them so that we can try to get our arms around this problem and it will have to include negotiations. The signals I've received from North Koreans at various times is that they were willing to turn the page on President Obama, and treat Mr. Trump differently, depending on how he treated them.

Now, is that true? You know, I don't know. But there has to be some discussions with the parties at some point or we're just going to keep on doing more of the same old thing over and over again.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jim Walsh, Ron Brownstein, it was good to see you. Thank you so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks Fred.

WALSH: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, and now the story we're following this hour. A new travel ban that could be issued as early as tomorrow, that's according to President Trump. Details on that, next.

But, first, before we go to break, Melissa McCarthy reprising her role as Press Secretary Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Sit down. Sit down. Sit down. All right, first of all, I just like to announce that I'm calm now. And I will remain calm as long as you sons of -- I'm not going to do that, because that's the old spicy, and this is the new spicy. And I have been told --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:03] WHITFIELD: All right, the Trump administration says all options are on the table with the president's proposed travel ban. Athena Jones is traveling with the president who is in Palm Beach, Florida. Athena, we know that one of his top advisers was more than just hinting but really delivering the message that all options are on the table, and they're going to continue moving forward on this travel ban.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That's right. You know, the big question is, what is going to happen next? They're discussing all options. It's very clear that the president believes as he told us on the flight down here on Friday that his administration would ultimately win out on any court battle. But he also made the argument that there is a sense of urgency here because he believes -- he feels that the nation's security is at stake.

And so it's clear that they would like to take some actions rather quickly, sooner rather than later certainly, but just what those actions will be is still being worked out. Let's go ahead and listen to what the President's Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller had to say on "Fox News Sunday," and then we'll talk about it on the other side. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDE CLIP)

MILLER: Right now we are considering and pursuing all options. Those options include seeking an emergency state at the Supreme Court, continuing the appeal with the panel, having an emergency hearing en banc, or going to the trial court in the district level and the trial on merits. They also include as you have mentioned the possibility of new executive actions designed to prevent terrorist infiltration of our country.

But I want to say something very clearly, and this is going to be very disappointing to the people protesting the president and the people in Congress like Senator Schumer who've attacked the president for his lawful and necessary action. The president's powers here are beyond question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And those last couple of lines, Fredricka, are very interesting to talk about. He talked about the president's lawful and necessary action, his powers here are beyond question. So, Stephen Miller is making the case that the president's statutory and constitutional powers allow him to institute this travel ban. That's completely within his powers. He's also sounds like he's making the case that the president's actions are not reviewable because they deal with national security.

And if you remember, during those oral arguments that so many of us listen to before the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that was one of the essential questions whether this idea of whether the president's actions are reviewable. Certainly, the court came down on the side that they are reviewable. Stephen Miller continues to argue that they are not reviewable, essentially, and he made that point over and over again on various Sunday shows this morning. It's not surprising that he should make that point, but it is interesting to point out, because it is at odds with that ruling.

The bottom line here, Fredricka, is that despite what President Trump told us on that flight on Air Force One down here -- coming down here on Friday when he said that, you know, he could file a brand new order as soon as tomorrow or Tuesday. Now, he didn't commit to either of those days. But, it just doesn't look like it's quite as imminent as that that a new order could be coming at.

[15:20:01] It looks as though they're still working on it. But this White House has been full of surprises, and so we'll have to just wait and see what actually happens. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much, in Palm Beach. Appreciate that. All right, let's bring back CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. So, you know, Ron, the Trump administration considering all options on this travel ban, at the same time you're hearing, you know, from Athena where -- that the White House feels that these actions are really not reviewable. Why is this -- the White House running the risk of jeopardizing its credibility in this way?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, I mean, the essence of the American constitutional system of checks and balances is that there is nothing beyond question. Everything can be questioned within the political system. And ultimately, it is for the courts to decide where the lines are in both statutory and constitutional authority. And as Athena alluded to, not only was this issue raised during the oral arguments, but the Ninth Circuit judges explicitly rejected the idea that -- in their decision that the president's actions in this area were not reviewable.

So, I mean, there is no question that the courts ultimately have authority to decide when the president has exceed his own authority. I mean, that's been since, you know, since, you know, John Marshall. So, you know, I think that they are kind of moving into a position that kind of raises a different set of issues then they narrow, than the immediate ones surrounding this executive order.

WHITFIELD: So it almost sounds like there are two messages. Well, Donald Trump tweeted, you know, "See you in court." It also sounds like they're saying they're willing to dismiss what the court is asking, which is an explanation of the motivation behind the court order by saying when he was on Air Force One, "I'm going to have a new executive order and we're likely to see it this week."

BROWNSTEIN: Right. I mean, look, so the problem they've got with staying in court is that a full hearing by the Ninth Circuit which is the most Democratic leaning of the circuits, 2 to 1 Democratic appointees is unlikely to end any differently than this initial decision. And then they face the prospect of reaching a divided 4-4 Supreme Court, not a conceivable even that one of the Republican appointed judges could uphold this decision.

So, the court route is difficult in terms of reversing the stay. And even if you go back and rewrite the executive order, there's no guarantee that the coalition of forces that fought this one in court, the states of Washington and Minnesota, joined by 16 other states, joined by a coalition of 100 leading businesses including Apple, Facebook, Google, pretty much the entire 21st century economy would not go back into court and challenge that, because don't forget, both the district and appellate court questioned the very premise that they had shown, that the administration had shown sufficient evidence that there was a reason for any kind of additional restrictions beyond those in current law on these countries. That there was a national security threat. Presumably, that question would hang over to any kind of scaled back executive order, for example targeted to only those who had not been to the United States previously.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. It seems like it would be creating, get a whole new problem, a whole new fight. BROWNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHITFIELD: So the Trump administration also now doubling down on claims of widespread voter fraud without offering any proof. Take a listen to this exchange on ABC earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLER: This morning on this show is not the venue for me to lay out the evidence, but I can tell you this, voter fraud is a serious problem in this country. You have millions of people who are registered in two states, or who are dead who are registered to vote and you have 14 percent of non-citizens according to academic research, at a minimum, are registered to vote, which is an astonishing statistic.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You can't make -- hold on a second. You just claimed again that there was illegal voting in New Hampshire. People bussed in from the state of Massachusetts. Do you have any evidence --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: I'm saying anybody -- George, go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire with respect to bringing in voters and with respect to --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm asking you as the White House Senior -- hold on a second. I'm asking you as the White House Senior Policy Adviser, the president made a statement saying he was the victim of voter fraud --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: And the president was.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any evidence?

MILLER: If this is an issue that interests you, then we could talk about it more in the future and we now have -- our government is beginning to get stood up. We have the Department of Justice and we have more officials. An issue of voter fraud is something that we're looking at very seriously and very hard. But the reality is, is that we know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country. Nobody disputes that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, it's being disputed a lot. I mean, and calling this once again a serious problem. I mean, bottom line, is this just like a diversionary tactic, again? Or what's going on?

BROWNSTEIN: No. I think it's quite the opposite. First of all, talk to anyone in New Hampshire. Today, Tom Rath, who is the longest serving long time GOP strategist in the state said that these claims are completely unequivocally unfounded. So, you can talk to anybody in New Hampshire. There is simply is no evidence of these charges, but I don't think it's a diversion at all.

I mean, I think that, you know, we -- people started thinking this was kind of the peak of the president that it was -- his pride was hurt that he lost the popular vote. He lost in New Hampshire, so therefore it had to be because of voter fraud.

[15:25:05] In fact, what increasingly seems to be clear is that these claims are being made to pave the way toward potentially further restrictions on voting, tightening voter I.D., other efforts that the Obama administration in many cases went to court to fight as an attempt to constrain the ability of minorities and lower income people to vote. So I think this is far from a diversion. All indications are that they are heading toward "investigation" that will become the predicate for potentially a new round of voter restrictions and I think a battle royal both in state legislatures, in Congress and in the courts.

WHITFIELD: And switching gears now, the U.S. Department of Education sent out a tweet this morning with a quote from W.E.B. DuBois, so I'm pronouncing it DuBois, you know, misspelling is the bottom line of the last name. They followed up, the Department of Education with an apology and yet another typo saying, "Our deepest apologies," but spelling that wrong. Is this just, you know, an error or just a reflection of something else in terms of just not being concise, precise, caring?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, every new administration struggles to get its feet under it. This one is struggling more than most in a lot of different ways from the small, like the tweets that you cite to the large, like Stephen Miller being the architect of an executive order that was at the core of what they have wanted to do on immigration that has run afoul not only of Democratic but of Republican appointed judges.

So, they are clearly struggling to get going. They are making a lot of waves. They are moving forward on a lot of things that they have promised to do, and thrilling many of their supporters. But I would note that today in the Gallup poll his disapproval rating reached 55 percent in 23 days. No other president has reached even 50 percent disapproval in less than 150, usually in like 600 or 700 to get to 50.

There is a lot of evidence that the cart is kind of wobbling here in the early weeks, and that's why you begin to hear these kinds of whispers among Republicans about whether there will be a course correction on some of the staffing, particularly in the White House.

WHITFIELD: Cart is wobbling, a good way to put it. All right, I mean, really wobbling. All right, Ron Brownstein, thank you so much, in Washington.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:31:04] WHITFIELD: All right. Happening right now, thousands of Mexican citizens expressing their frustration with the Trump administration, by holding demonstrations across Mexico, the largest crowd in the capital where protesters are gathering near the city's independent monument. CNN's Leyla Santiago is there in Mexico City and you've got a chance to talk to people as well. What are they saying?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, they've actually just wrapped up, many of them leaving the Angel of Independence, after singing the national anthem together. And not only have I been speaking to Mexicans here who say this is about dignity. This is about respect. It's not about being anti-U.S., it's about being anti- the policies of President Trump.

And I want you to hear -- I managed to meet some women from Los Angeles who came down here on vacation. They heard about this protest, and they, as U.S. citizens wanted to take part to support the Mexicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're from the U.S. and we don't represent our government. We're humans. And we are here to protect the rights of human beings. And everyone here has just been so welcoming to us as Americans. And it's really a privilege to be marching on this side of the wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: And so we saw people of all ages, all walks of life, and these were two protesters -- protests rather who came together that came together here in Mexico City, but we really saw many others in Mexico. I also spoke to a Mexican senator who was here with his family. He said he just came back from Arizona. He's planning this week in introducing a bill to boycott corn. A lot of corn from the U.S. ends up here in Mexico.

So, not only was this a call for unity among Mexicans. Some were also protesting the Mexican government along with President Trump. But, we also started to see people say, "Hey, we want to take action. We want change." And I think you'll probably continue to see that for the weeks to come. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right, Leyla Santiago in Mexico City. Thank you.

All right, the President of the United States has another big week ahead, as more world leaders descend on Washington, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How this Wednesday's meeting could reshape relations between Israel and the U.S., after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:36:30] WHITFIELD: All right, fresh off a weekend visit from Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Donald Trump will welcome two more world leaders from Washington this week. Tomorrow, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with the president at the White House followed by a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

That meeting could further set the tone for U.S.-Israeli relations in a new Trump era. Netanyahu said this morning his main focus in those talks will be discussing Israel's security. CNN's Global Affairs Analyst Aaron David Miller joins me now from Washington. Good to see you, Aaron.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So on the campaign trail, Donald Trump touted himself as Israel's biggest defender. Here's a reminder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There's nobody more pro-Israel than I am. We have to protect Israel.

When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second class citizen will end on day one.

Look, we have to protect Israel. Israel to me is very, very important. We have to protect Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So you've seen a lot of transitions between U.S. presidents and Israel. How is this one different?

DAVID MILLER: I think in two respects. First of all, I don't think there are any transformations in this relationship. I mean, with the exception of Clinton's relationship with Rabin, which was rather remarkable in the historic opportunities for peacemaking during that period.

Most Israeli prime ministers and American presidents end up with a relationship that is both positive and negative. But in this case, you're coming off of eight years of a soap opera, frankly, between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. So this relationship on the personal level has nowhere to go, but up. And I think you'll see a higher degree of coincidence of interest at least in the beginning on both Iran and the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

WHITFIELD: So there's a clear split between, you know, what you see in a possible Trump relationship and an Obama approach. In your op-ed this morning in "Politico" you issued a bit of a warning saying, "Let's be clear, in Trump and Netanyahu we are dealing with two difficult and combustible personalities who, despite their radically different backgrounds, have much in common and that may not be such a good thing." What do you mean?

DAVID MILLER: Well, look, you've got two individuals who are extremely sensitive to criticism, with very brittle egos and both are suspicious, willful and purposeful and I think as a team that would constitute a remarkable sort of duo. But if they ever get into a situation where they're at odds with one another, I think there will be a certain amount of dysfunction.

And the reality, Fred, is, you know, campaigning isn't governing. We're already seeing a Trump administration on any number of issues, settlements in particular not rushing move the embassy, U.S. embassy toward the Jerusalem, moving toward the center. So, I suspect because in the end where you stand is where you sit. And Israel and the U.S. sit very different places, different threat assessments, different assessments of risk that I give it about a year, maybe even less. And I suspect that two of them will be annoying one another to (inaudible).

WHITFIELD: Do you think that changed the dynamic between the two that Donald Trump has changed his pacing on the whole issue of the U.S. embassy moving or even on the Israeli settlements in the west bank?

DAVID MILLER: You know, I think that in part the embassy issue is not a priority for this Israeli prime minister.

[15:40:02] Iran, Iran, Iran, is the priority. And the other reality is it's not but now conventional wisdom in Washington and among analysts. A certain amount of distance and criticism from the Trump administration actually helps the prime minister with his own right wing, because before under Obama, he could point to Obama's tougher policies to restrain those that are to the right of him. Under this president, it appears that there are no constraints or restraints. So, yeah, I think impart -- in a way, Netanyahu might welcome some mild criticisms.

WHITFIELD: And then there's an interesting dynamic here, because as a leading adviser on the Middle Eastern Affairs, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, has a relationship or knows Netanyahu and he will be there. And Jared Kushner knows Netanyahu from back in his, you know, high school days. Do you see this as making an impact in any way?

DAVID MILLER: You know, I wish my father-in-law, I joked the other day, as much confidence in me as Donald Trump seems to have in Jared Kushner, because his assigned him truly mission impossible. But I think the point to pay attention to is for the first time in a long time, the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace is squarely not just centered in the White House. It has presumably been reposited -- deposited into the hands of not only a family member of the president, but someone who is deemed to be one of his closest advisers.

Now, whether any of this is real or serious, what kind of priority the Trump administration accorded this issue, I don't know. But it's going to get some high level attention in large part just because Jared Kushner seems to be in charge of it, at least for now.

WHITFIELD: All right, Aaron David Miller, thank you so much.

MILLER: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Always good to see you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:45:32] WHITFIELD: It's been a week of emotional Town Halls with a lot of passionate pleas to save Affordable Healthcare. CNN's Boris Sanchez has a firsthand look at the fiery meetings across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. GUS BILIRAKIS, (R) FLORIDA: They do. Yes, they do.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tension is running high and emotions boiling over.

BILIRAKIS: My party had virtually no input. No input. Well, OK. So, that's OK. That's OK.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The crowd at the Town Hall in New Port Richey, Florida not holding back, pushing hard against indications from Republicans that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act is looming without a unified plan for a replacement from the GOP.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (in unison): What's your plan? What's your plan?

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Town Halls like this one have been organized across the country by Republican lawmakers to better communicate their positions on health care to constituents. But in the past week, protesters have swarmed to these venues, giving lawmakers in both chambers of Congress an earful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (in unison): Do your job. Do your job. Do your job.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): On Saturday, Representative Gus Bilirakis from Florida's 12th District faced them, too. Some shared deeply personal stories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daughter has a genetic disease called Gitelman syndrome. Now before the ACA, we spent thousands of dollars. We spent tons of time, because she had a preexisting condition, and nobody would touch her. We talked -- they were talking at one point $10,000 for one year's worth of insurance, OK. So now she has the ACA, since 2009 and she is now able to get the medication she needs to save her life.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Others were more forceful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do not get rid of the ACA. You will have so many big problems. It's not funny.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): A handful of Donald Trump supporters also got to voice their concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you need to find out the facts before you start complaining. BILL AKINS, PASCO COUNTY REPUBLICAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: Here's the problem I have with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Number one, there is a provision in there that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel. Yes, they do. Yes, they do. It's in there, folks. You're wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am 77 years old, and I think it's unconscionable for this politician to tell me that at 74 I will be facing death penalties. That's wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I have --

AKINS: You misunderstood me. I'm on your side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're angry with this particular plan, not because of the plan itself, but because who is proposing the plan.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Representative Bilirakis who was reelected in a landslide last year assured constituents that he planned to take their stories back to Washington. The congressman has voted to defund the ACA in the past. A spokesman says he considers it his duty to take input from all of his constituents, though, not all of them believe that he's going to actually change his stance.

DR. PETER RIQUETTI, PHYSICIAN (voice-over): I think hearing personal anecdotes is something that plays well on news bites and sounds like you are invested in the community, but I think in reality it's a show.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): As for the increased interest and public outcries at Town Halls, one Democratic activist says that we should expect more.

IVANA SHEPPARD, LOCAL ACTIVIST: So I don't see that passion and that anxiety and that fear dissipating unless we see some real change.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Boris Sanchez, CNN, Newport Richey, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And these Town Halls are ongoing. They continue to happen this afternoon all the way from California to Rhode Island. We'll monitor and bring you any headlines at what happens. We'll be right back.

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[15:53:39] WHITFIELD: Oh, that is just one of the many unforgettable hits from Al Jarreau. The iconic singer passed away today at the 76. Jarreau had been previously hospitalized for an illness. He was dubbed the "Acrobat of Scat". And he had a gift to mimic just about any instrument. And he won seven Grammy and was nominated more dozens more. If you had the honor of seeing him in concert live as I have many times, what an incredible show and performer.

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards is being held tonight and it's Adele versus Beyonce for three of the biggest awards. CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the red carpet with the stars that already started arriving. Oh, I like the look. That's very electric, Stephanie, taking fashion risks.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I had to switch it up a little bit. It's a little bit different at the Grammy's red carpet, right? You can draw out a little more fun here. And, you know, you're just talking about Al Jarreau passing away today. I was playing his music in the make-up room today. No word yet whether or not the Grammy's are going to switch things up and add him into their in memoriam. But he is a Grammy winner, super talented.

We do know, though, that they are going to also honor George Michael. They're also going to honor Prince as well in their memoriam since we lost both of those great last year. But as you can see, the red carpet is already started here. And the reason it's already started is because they're already handing out awards.

[15:55:04] There are so many categories at the Grammy that they have to start handing out awards about some five hours before the telecast. So, lots of beating, lots of spangling (ph), dresses all ready. And it seems like maybe early out here, but, no, the show is already underway.

And you are right, it's about Beyonce, it's about Adele. If you look at album of the year which is the big price that you're going to see here at the Grammy, you also have Justin Bieber's "Purpose" in there, Drake's "Views" and Sturgill Simpson as well. So that's what you're looking at. We don't know at this point though whether or not Beyonce is going to perform, whether she'll be here. We not -- we got that big announcement about the twins on the way.

WHITFIELD: Right.

ELAM: So people were still waiting to see whether or not Queen Bey is going to show up here, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK, well, it's going to be an electric show beginning with. You have just now set the tone for us, Stephanie.

ELAM: Well, first thing I can tell you is this is one red carpet that is air-conditioned, which usually makes everybody here in L.A. extremely happy. But let me just show you. It is so hot --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Yeah, because you had -- you do have -- you kind of have the Beyonce fan.

ELAM: I do not --

WHITFIELD: Of the hair is going, you know.

ELAM: -- I do not have a Beyonce fan. No one tweet me and say that. I do not have the fan. It's the air conditioning.

WHITFIELD: That is not so weird, OK.

ELAM: So yeah, yeah. Yeah, so there you go. We'll see how it goes for the next five hours.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right, very good. We'll be watching. You look great. Lots of fun. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

All right, the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM begins right after a short break.

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