Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Evan McMullin Responds to Trump Tweet on Leaks, Russia; Trump Calls on Conservative Media to Avoid Tough Questions; Possible Deportation of Dreamer Sparks Lawsuit, Protests. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 15, 2017 - 14:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:31:53] DONALD TRUMP, PRSEIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It's criminal action, a Criminal Act. And it's been going on a really long time, before me. But now it's really going on. And people are trying to cover up for a very terrible that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.

I think it's very, very unfair what's happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated. And the documents and papers that were illegally -- I stress that -- illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump today blaming the resignation of his national security advisor squarely on intelligence leaks and the unfair media. Now, one of President Trump's former campaign rivals is with me. Evan McMullin ran as an Independent. He's also former CIA officer. Today, McMullin tweeted in response to the president's tweet, "The classified information is illegally given out by intelligence like candy, so the real scandal isn't that the president of the United States appears to have been co-opted by America's greatest adversary."

Just some back and forth on the Twitters.

Evan, nice to see you. Thanks for being here.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA AGENT & FORMER INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nice to see you. Thanks.

BALDWIN: Listening to the president said today, which is a direct contrast to what Sean Spicer said yesterday, the reason why Flynn is out because of this erosion of trust. Trump says he's a great guy and it was the media. Care to respond?

MCMULLIN: The administration continues to avoid responding to the fundamental issue which is the Trump campaign, the Trump team has had ongoing contact with the Russian officials, according to "The New York Times," Russian intelligence officials. This is the underlying issue. Every week, we hear more and more information about Trump and Trump team ties to Russia, we see Trump acting on behalf of Russia.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: they're in constant communication during the campaign with aides, according to CNN reporting as well, which wasn't asked in the briefing.

MCMULLIN: Unfortunately, it wasn't. I know it's hard -- lots to cover, but opportunities to ask Donald Trump's information or response to these issues is limited. But the point is we have an American president who ran a campaign that was assisted by a foreign adversary, our greatest foreign adversary. And during that period, his team had constant contact with Russian officials, according to "The New York Times," with Russian intelligence officers. I cannot stress how much this is -- how uncommon and how concerning this is. When you're running a campaign, especially a presidential campaign, the last thing you want to do, as a candidate or the candidate's team, is have contact with a foreign adversary.

BALDWIN: But the fact that we know so much because of these leaks and these sources, from our reporting or the "Washington Post" or wherever else. Your former CIA, why are they so leaky?

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: What are their concerns?

[14:35:01] MCMULLIN: I'll tell you they're concerns are, that Donald Trump poses a threat to the country, because what they see in terms of his relationship with Vladimir Putin and of his team to other Russian intelligence officers. These people are deeply committed to our security. They risk their lives routinely for it overseas. They see something happening with our president and they have seen it playing out overtime that truly concerns them. So, while leaking in illegal, their first responsibility is to the oath they take when they first start their service that requires them to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

BALDWIN: Listen, I'm all for transparency. If something nefarious is going on, it should be reported and there should be ramifications. But to the president's point, with these leaks, do you give the president leeway and say that's correct, there's been too many leaks?

MCMULLIN: Leaks are illegal. And he can make the complaint, and so it does have a certain validity. But again, intelligence officials are caught between the oath they take when they start their service, which says, they'll defends, the Constitution from domestic and foreign enemies. So, they see risk. They see a security threat coming from the White House and they're responding to that.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Are any of these people you're talking to concerned about the president getting information?

MCMULLIN: Yes, they are. They are concerned about Donald Trump, how Trump will hand classified information.

BALDWIN: They are?

MCMULLILN: Yeah. But one point I want to make, Donald Trump can complain about the leaks and we can talk about the leaks and whether that ethical decision -- you're caught between the law, on one hand, and your oath on the other. That's a discussion we can have. And Donald Trump can make his complaints. But that should not overshadow the underlying issue here, which is we have a significant foreign adversary trying to undermine our democracy, influence the election on behalf of the now president, who during the campaign, had constant contact with Russian officials and Russian intelligence officers. This is alarming. It's hard to understand how alarming that is.

BALDWIN: To so many points, from members of Congress on both sides, we should add, want to know what did he know, when did he know it. We should also have transparency, not motivations, and much more substance to formulate a better opinion.

MCMULLIN: Sure.

BALDWIN: Again, the ramifications as a result. The issue with the chaos in the White House, I'm paraphrasing some folks in D.C. John McCain has generally said there's no one in charge. Leon Panetta, most nervous he's been in his life about the future of Washington. And the head of the Special Ops commander saying, "The government is in turmoil now and this cannot be because we're a nation at war. "

Is the government functioning appropriately, Evan?

MCMULLIN: I think it's clear that the administration is not functioning appropriately. That's impacting how the departments and agencies in the executive branch function or not. Yes, I hate to say this, but I do believe that we've entered into a period of governance instability in the United States.

BALDWIN: Instability?

MCMULLIN: Yes. You could parse the word, perhaps use another word for it. But look, Vladimir Putin wants to destabilize our country and other democracies, as he's done in Europe. And now he's succeeding in doing in the United States. This is the danger. This is why we don't align ourselves with foreign adversaries trying to influence our elections, overtly and covertly. This is what happens.

BALDWIN: The defense secretary, General Mattis, just made some news, saying an ultimatum to NATO, saying the U.S. will, quote, "moderate its commitment unless NATO increases defense spending." What's your reaction to that?

MCMULLIN: General Mattis -- and he is somebody I have a lot of respect for. He's a world-class leader and a patriot. It sounds like he's responding to President Trump's direction on that. NATO is important to our national security. And to global peace, it is absolutely critical. Donald Trump has made an effort to undermine I think the strength of NATO to the benefits of Vladimir Putin. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Should we modify our commitment?

MCMULLIN: I don't think we should. I think our NATO partners should increase their commitment to NATO.

BALDWIN: You do?

MCMULLIN: Many of them haven't, but there's way to make that point and to negotiate their fulfillment of their responsibilities without making a public ultimatum that ends up weakening our own alliance and weakening our national security. So why would we do. And that is part of Trump's folly. Unfortunately, that's Donald Trump and his team, with all due respect to General Mattis, who I respect deeply.

BALDWIN: Evan McMullin --

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: -- thank you for swinging by. I really appreciate it.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

[14:40:00] BALDWIN: Next, Donald Trump avoiding tough questions by only calling on conservative outlets again today. How much longer can he keep up this strategy with the media?

And an undocumented Dreamer who was arrested by ICE. Why was he being targeted, according to his lawyer. And might he be deported as early as Friday? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The president is pointing fingers at the media for Michael Flynn's resignation, while refusing to answer questions about the very scandal that brought him down, or the news of the day CNN uncovered, the fact that Trump aides on the campaign trail were in constant communication with Russia. That wasn't addressed. The president, once again, only taking questions from conservative news outlets. This is the recent track record. Today he called on the Christian Broadcasting Network and townhall.com. They did not ask him to confirm or deny essentially the story of the day.

Let's talk to Dan Abrams, the founder of Mediaite and a legal analyst for ABC News.

Thanks for swinging back by.

My colleague, Jim Acosta, either sitting front row in a press briefing daily in the East Room shouting this question to the president about the news of the day, he's in a fix.

[14:45:57] DAN ABRAMS, MEDIAITE & LEGAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Two things, the Trump team is saying this to the media. That's number one. Number two is, of course, he doesn't want to deal with the really tough questions. Now that's not to suggest these conservative outlets aren't going to ask him tough questions, some will. But you can't hide from the mainstream media. I think the Trump team is underestimating the influence of the mainstream media. Their position has been --

BALDWIN: This is strategic from the White House, let's be clear.

ABRAMS: I think this is Steve Bannon and Trump basically saying the mainstream media doesn't matter. We're going to keep talking about the fake this and the fake that, and we don't really care what they say. OK, that's fine. We're not going to call on them in press conferences, you can say that all you want. But look what happened to Mr. Flynn. That was because of the media coverage. It doesn't mean that the media coverage got him out. It means you can't avoid the mainstream reporting of the media. Why? They are reporting these stories out. You can't call them fake all you want but the bottom line is they got the evidence in a lot of these cases --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Hang on. Are you telling me -- President Trump stood up there and said General Flynn is a wonderful man -- I'm paraphrasing - he's a great guy and it was the fake media who treated him like this.

ABRAMS: That means the media fired Flynn. He did.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: And 24 hours earlier, it was Sean Spicer who said it was an erosion of trust.

ABRAMS: Who made the decision. OK, he resigned.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: The president.

ABRAMS: Exactly. So, he's making it sound like the media got rid of Flynn. No, they exposed facts surrounding Flynn. As a result, there were consequences. And again, I will say they underestimate the media at their own peril.

BALDWIN: They're trying to undermine the media.

ABRAMS: Yes.

BALDWIN: Do you think it's working?

ABRAMS: Yeah, it works a little. I think it works some. Are they effectively getting people to question the media? Yeah. I don't think that's not a bad thing, to question the media. Do they have a percentage of people who will never trust mainstream media? Yes. Do I think that number has increased as a result of Trump? Probably, not. BALDWIN: What about leaks. We played the sound byte where then- Candidate Trump said I love WikiLeaks. I love leaks.

ABRAMS: Look, look, at this, you should read this.

BALDWIN: But now --

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: They're criminals.

BALDWIN: Yeah, they're criminals. Illegal leaks.

ABRAMS: This goes back --

BALDWIN: Can he have it both ways?

ABRAMS: Of course, he can. Political figures have it both ways all the time.

But people, coming back to the media, journalists hate hypocrisy. They like to point out inconsistencies. If you're going to name call, which the media does like, at least back it up with facts, don't just name call. That's not politics. That's journalism today. Ad I think people are confusing this idea that, well, people are after Trump. They're after Trump for a lot of reasons. Does the media like Donald Trump? Of course, not. Why? Because he insults them all the time. So, the media isn't going to like him but that doesn't mean they can't report on him fairly. The problem for Trump is you can continue to attack and continue to undermine, but you are going to pay a price in the end. We've had -- look what happened with Gary Hart. Remember Gary Hart? He said, follow me around, follow me around and see what happens. And the media followed him around. And the media is going to follow Donald Trump and this administration around, not like Gary Hart, but they'll following them in terms of what they do. If they don't pay close attention and care more about what the mainstream media is doing, they're going to find themselves in bigger trouble.

BALDWIN: This is week four.

ABRAMS: I know, right?

BALDWIN: Week four.

ABRAMS: And it's great for sites like Mediaite.

BALDWIN: Blowing up. Blowing up.

ABRAMS: It is, so.

BALDWIN: Dan, thank you for coming by, as always.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

[14:50:04] BALDWIN: Up next, the first undocumented immigrant protected in the U.S. under Obama's Dream Act, detained and arrested by ICE. What he targeted unfairly? Is he a member of a gang as ICE says? We'll talk to his lawyer and get the facts straight, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: President Trump's new immigration policy setting off more protests and a federal lawsuit in Seattle, because Daniel Ramirez, the first Dreamer arrested by ICE. He was authorized to stay in the U.S. under the DACA Act. It allows children to stay in the U.S., work or school, if their parents brought them here illegally. His parents brought him here at seven years of age, but he was just arrested and detained last Friday during a raid that initially targeted his father. Immigration officials say he's a self-confessed gang member. His attorney says he was forced to say that in his confession, and now they are demanding that he be released.

Attorney Mark Rosenbaum from Ramirez's legal team is with me right now.

Mark, thanks for joining me.

MARK ROSENBAUM, ATTORNEY FOR DANIEL RAMIREZ: Nice to talk with you.

BALDWIN: Tell me what happened during the raid. Why did ICE show up in the first place?

ROSENBAUM: Our understanding is Friday morning, around 9:00 a.m., outside Seattle, four or five ICE officers came to arrest the father of Ramirez. They had a specific target, a warrant, and specific information about the father and, in fact, affected an arrest, but that was the only focus of the enforcement activity that is Daniel's father.

BALDWIN: So the father and then Daniel himself?

ROSENBAUM: Daniel was inside the residence. And our understanding what happened next, the father said, I've got two sons, they have both got authorized work permits, I want to let them know where I'm going. So, they went at that point into the house to let the father let the sons know what was going on. ICE saw Daniel there. They said to Daniel, give us your name, give us your date of birth, tell us where you were born. He answered all the questions. He then said he had a permiso, and they didn't listen to that, and brought him down for questioning.

BALDWIN: Now he's sitting in this detention facility awaiting his hearing later this week.

ROSENBAUM: He been DACA authorized. He's been DACA authorized twice.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Which is why the case is getting the attention it has.

ROSENBAUM: That's right.

BALDWIN: Let me come back to that. ICE is saying that your client is a self-professed gang member, that's ICE, which is why they say he was detained. What is your side of the story?

ROSENBAUM: That doesn't make any sense, does it? There's no criminal record attached to Daniel, ICE has access to every criminal data base, every gang data base in the universe. We have checked those data bases. Daniel is not part of those data bases. Equally, even more significantly, he's been authorized twice to be a DACA beneficiary. That's not a simple process. That's a process by which the individual gives up everything in his or her life, becomes an open book to the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security in particular. A specific part of that criteria is, do you have any criminal record, criminal attachments, or gang affiliations or gang attachments. If there's anything close to a suspicion --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Then he wouldn't get the authorization.

ROSENBAUM: Not even close. But was twice authorized as recently as 2016.

In addition, if he was really a self-professed gang member, wouldn't you search the house, look for gang paraphernalia, wouldn't you call local law enforcement and say we've got a serious problem, a possible gang member, you need to check this out. We have said to the federal government, to a USA assistant attorney, as recently as yesterday afternoon, if you have any evidence, any evidence whatsoever, that supports the claim that he is a gang member, come forward with it, let us know what it is. And the response I got, when I made that statement, was I'm not aware of any such evidence.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Let me move on.

ROSENBAUM: OK.

BALDWIN: Let me move on because I only have so much time and I want to get to this very important question. So, he has this hearing on Friday. Are you worried he will be deported on Friday?

ROSENBAUM: Absolutely not.

BALDWIN: Why not?

ROSENBAUM: Because we have filed a lawsuit saying that this is unconstitutional. And we're going to -- if the government doesn't acknowledge a mistake was made in this case, we'll take this and fight this as long and as hard as necessary, supported by Dreamers across the country, supported by all sorts of individuals, who believe, when the executive branch makes a promise, when they say that DACA means, after we have subjected to you to rigorous scrutiny, you can work, be in the military, work, pay taxes, that's a solemn promise. That's the hallmark of a government of integrity. And we're here to enforce that representation.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: Let's stay in contact Friday and find out exactly what happens to your point on Daniel Ramirez.

Mark Rosenbaum, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

ROSENBAUM: Thanks for talking with us.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Here we go. Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Breaking news from Capitol Hill. Top Senate Republicans urging the White House to withdraw Andy Puzder's nomination for Labor secretary. Take a look at this, by a Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren. She says that if Puzder can't stand the heat, he should get --