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Travel Ban Order Coming; Trump Protests Underway; Trump Tweets about Press. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired February 20, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- what he calls a tighter, more streamlined version of the first executive order. That first order was put on hold by U.S. courts. We'll have details ahead in a live report. Stand by for that.
We're also updating you on the search for a new national security advisor to replace Michael Flynn who served for three weeks. The president interviewed several candidates at his Mar-a-Lago resort over the weekend.
At a news conference in Brussels, the vice president, Mike Pence, was asked about Flynn's resignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was disappointed to learn that this -- the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate. But we honor General Flynn's long service to the United States of America, and I fully support the president's decision to ask for his resignation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The vice president tried to reassure European allies of the U.S. commitment to NATO. He also pledged that the U.S. will hold Russia accountable for its actions in Crimea and elsewhere.
Back to the travel ban replacement, though, right now. We're now learning some of the details about what is likely to be in the new draft order.
Our Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is joining us. Evan, what can you tell us about the new order?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we anticipate that the key changes here are going to essentially try to make this bulletproof for litigation because they know they're going -- there are going to be legal challenges that will go before the courts trying to undo this new executive order.
And so, that's one of the things they're trying to do with the reference that Vice President Pence and John Kelly have been making about streamlined order. And one of the key parts of it is exempting green cardholders. These are legal permanent residents who are affected by the original ban before they managed to relax some of those restrictions. And we're told that that's going to be a key part of the new order which is to make sure that those people are not affected because they have legal rights, even though they're not U.S. citizens.
Secondly, the second part of the order we expect to change it has to do with how the administration deals with visa holders who are en route. People who are already in the air rather than comparing to people who are not yet flying to the United States, people who are not yet traveling to the United States.
We expect that there's going to be some clarification to make sure that people who are in it the air are not affected. That was a huge problem that prompted chaos that happened when the first executive order was released.
And, obviously, that raises new questions here for the administration because what's to say that people who have visas who have not yet traveled to the United States, why are they being treated differently from those who are already in the air?
So, we'll see what the language is, the final language is on this. We expect, Wolf, that this could happen in the coming next few days later this week.
BLITZER: But the travel ban will still focus in on those seven mostly Muslim majority countries that were mentioned in the first ill-fated executive order, right?
PEREZ: Right, exactly. That's a key part of what they're trying to keep which is the seven countries, which the administration says they find defensible. They think it's legally defensible because it goes back to some orders that were -- that were issued by the Obama administration, although those were not as restrictive as this executive order that was put in place a couple of weeks ago.
BLITZER: And will there still be an indefinite suspension of any refugees coming to the United States from Syria?
PEREZ: That is part of what is still being worked on, Wolf. We don't know exactly how they're going to treat people from Syria. We expect that they will be covered, whether all of Syria or whether there are parts that are under control of Islamic state, whether that -- whether there's differentiation from those people.
And how they deal with religious minorities. That's another Part of this executive order that we expect is going to have to be changed, simply because that was one of the legal challenges which is to make sure that people who are Muslims are now being treated differently from people who are Christians.
And one of the interests that the administration has right now is to make sure that people don't say that this is a Muslim ban. That it is really security-based, as what they describe it. BLITZER: Evan Perez, we'll stand by for those details. The new
executive order could come as early as this week.
Another important item on the president's agenda is finding a new national security advisor in the White House. The president is looking to replace Michael Flynn who was forced to resign.
Our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is joining us now from the White House. Jeff, earlier today, we heard Vice President Pence express disappointment that Flynn gave him inaccurate information. He says he supported the president's decision to ask for Flynn's resignation.
So, how is all of this playing out inside the Trump administration right now because the president needs a new national security advisor?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He does, indeed, Wolf, and that is one of the top orders of business this week. In addition to the executive order on immigration that Evan was just talking about, one of the other chief items of business this week is filling that position of national security advisor. So important in any administration, certainly in this one.
[13:05:09] And this is a pick that is the president's own. It does not require Senate confirmation at all.
So, the president was meeting with some finalists over the weekend at his vacation in Florida. He may meet with others today. But I am told there is not a frontrunner here, Wolf.
But we do have a list of about four people being considered. Let's take a look at some of those -- some of those names right now. One is Keith Kellogg. He is the acting director of the NSA. He is one of the people being considered. One is former ambassador John Bolton. One is Army Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, who is the superintendent of the West Point Academy. And, finally, Army Strategist Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster.
So, Wolf, these are four people that the president and his top advisors are talking to. But, again, this is not a final list. We are told by advisors that he might be interviewing other people. But, of course, this is someone who is replacing Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign last week.
But a key question hanging over all of this, Wolf, is will one of these replacements have the ability to put their own advisors and their own team in place? That is one of the questions here. The White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said over the weekend that they would.
But, again, that is one of the, sort of, top questions hanging over these positions as well as others throughout this government that is it still not entirely formed that can you put your own people in place? It's a question that is -- the president has not entirely answered, yet, Wolf. BLITZER: I know that the new national security advisor would have
final say in bringing in new people onto the National Security Council staff. But what about those that have already been brought in by Mike Flynn, the ousted national security advisor? Will he -- will the new national security advisor be forced to keep all of those people who have been brought in or can he get rid of some of them if he wants?
ZELENY: Again, an essential question of this, Wolf. And one is the deputy national security advisor, K. T. McFarland. She was brought in. She was general Flynn's deputy. She is still here presiding over this.
But one of the things that any new national security advisor would want or most would want is the ability to bring in their own people here. So, that is one of the issues here, when you have a key replacement like this just, you know, a month into the presidency. This marks the beginning of the second month of the presidency, so very unusual to be replacing someone so fast.
So, again, that is one of the questions. Will they be able to bring in their entire full set of advisors -- Wolf.
BLITZER: An important issue, indeed. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks very much.
The vice president, Mike Pence, meanwhile, continuing his trip through Europe today. His first foreign trip since taking office. Visiting NATO's headquarters in Belgium just a little while ago, he addressed the reporters. And he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: I think it's a demonstration of President Trump's leadership that, before taking office, he was speaking about. The fact that the United States provides more than 70 percent of the cost of NATO today, and we are -- we are committed to continue to do our part. But the time has come for our NATO allies to step forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We want to bring Jens Stoltenberg. He's the secretary general of NATO. He's joining us from Brussels right now. Mr. Secretary General, thanks very much for joining us.
JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRTARY GENERAL, NATO: Thank you for inviting me.
BLITZER: You were with the vice president when he said that the U.S. commitment to NATO is firm. Were you reassured by those words?
STOLTENBERG: Absolutely. The calls says it's a very consistent message. I have heard from President Trump in two phone calls, from the vice president today in Brussels, but also in Munich on Saturday and in meetings with the Secretary Mattis, Secretary Kelly, and phone calls with Secretary Tillerson.
And the message from all of them is that United States is strongly committed to the trans-Atlantic alliance, to NATO, and will continue to support not only in words but also in deeds. Because we see that the United States is now increasing their military presence in Europe in renewed forces and more equipment.
BLITZER: But I want to remind you, Secretary General, what President Trump has said about NATO recently. Let me play some clips.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense. And if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.
I'm a NATO fan but if many of the countries in NATO, many of the countries that we protect, many of these countries are very rich countries. They're not paying their bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:10:06] BLITZER: Strong words from the president of the United States. We also heard the vice president say he expects to see results by the end of this year.
Here's the problem, as you know, Secretary General. Only five of the 28 NATO allies, they pay two percent of their GDP for defense, and that is unacceptable to the president of the United States. What are you going to do about that?
STOLTENBERG: I agree with the president of the United States, Donald Trump, that we have unfair burden sharing in NATO today. And that's exactly why we, in 2014, agreed to do something with it, to stop the cuts in defense spending across Europe and Canada. And then, gradually increase and then move towards the two percent target, spending two percent of GDP on defense within a decade.
The good news is that we have started to move. In 2015, we stopped the cuts in defense spending across Europe and Canada. And last year, 2016, we had a significant increase of 3.8 percent in real terms or 10 billion U.S. dollars which is a significant increase of defense spending across Europe.
I'm not saying that everything is OK. We have -- still have a very long way to go. But we have turned a corner and started to move in the right direction.
Just last week, Romania announced that they will now meet the two percent target this year, and I expect the countries, like India and Latvia, to be at two percent next year.
So, we have started to move. And I welcome the strong message, firm message, from President Trump on the importance of a continued increase of defense spending across Europe.
BLITZER: But what happens -- what happens if they don't? You heard the vice president, Mike Pence, say the patience of the American people will not endure forever. What happens, for example, if rich countries, like France, Germany, Italy, Canada, if those countries don't step up and meet that two percent threshold?
STOLTENBERG: So, my focus is on what can we do to make sure that we succeed? What can we do to make sure that we continue and keep up the momentum, continue to increase defense spending? And I'm not focusing, actually, on what will happen if we don't succeed because I think the only focus now should be to increase defense spending.
And we are -- it is quite encouraging to see that defense spending has started to increase. The picture is still mixed but it's much better than it was just a year ago. And we have a long way to go but we are moving in the right direction.
We have got a very clear and firm and fair message from the United States. Europeans cannot expect that United States will commit to the defense of Europe if they don't commit more to defense of Europe themselves. But they are doing exactly that and my focus is to make sure that that continues to happen.
BLITZER: Yes. Just to be precise, the U.S. spends 3.61 percent of its GDP on defense, and these other countries, a lot of them in NATO, barely one percent, if that, one and a half percent. So, that's a -- that's a problem.
Secretary General, there's a unilateral cease-fire in Ukraine that's supposedly starting today. The Russians say it's an opening to pulling out heavier artillery. How important is this a development? Do you believe the Russians will honor this?
STOLTENBERG: Are think it's too early to say. We have seen many cease-fires before not been respected but, hopefully, we can have a cease-fire in place now that it can be respected.
The important thing is to make sure that we have the mechanisms in place to make sure that the cease-fire is respected and that we see the withdrawal of heavy weapons. And the most important thing is to -- is to make sure that the international service, the observers from the OSE, are allowed free access, safe access, to make sure that the cease-fire is fully implemented.
BLITZER: Secretary General, you heard our report that the president may roll out what's being described as a streamlined version of the U.S. travel ban as early as this week. The new version expected to exclude green cardholders.
What is your reaction, as the NATO secretary general, to this travel ban that is now being considered and is expected to be released later this week? That, for all practical purposes, puts a hold on those seven Muslim majority countries sending refugees to the United States, at least for the time being, and Syria indefinitely?
STOLTENBERG: This is a very important issue. But it's not NATO mandated to have any opinions about migration policies or refugees' policies.
[13:15:06] Our task is to work with all the allies to make sure that we have strong collective defense and that we work together in addressing challenges like terrorism. And there NATO has stepped up its efforts. We are in Afghanistan, making sure that Afghanistan doesn't become a safe haven for international terrorists again, and we are stepping up our support for the international U.S.-led coalition fighting Daesh or ISIL in Iraq and Syria. So that's our focus. When it comes to national migration policies, I will (INAUDIBLE) that debate.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jens Stoltenberg is the NATO secretary- general.
Secretary-general, thanks very much for joining us.
And we're following breaking news right now out of the United Nations where the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, has died. We're getting details just coming in on the sudden death of the 64-year-old veteran diplomat. He had been Russia's ambassador to the United Nations since 2006. We're going to bring you more on this developing story as more information comes in. Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador of the United Nations, has died.
Still ahead, as the search for a national security advisor heats up, we're going to have a former member of the Trump transition team join us to see what she thinks about the president's choices out there. There you see her, Congresswoman Marcia Blackburn. She's standing by live. We'll discuss that and a whole lot more with her.
Plus, we're keeping a close eye on protests happening across the country right now. Take a look at live pictures coming in from Chicago. Demonstrators hitting the streets against the Trump administration. We'll have updates throughout this hour.
[13:20:55] BLITZER: All right, take a look at this. We're getting some live pictures coming in from New York City, Chicago. It's President's Day here in the United States. Protesters are turning out across the country for what is being called not my President's Day rallies. Some significant numbers of anti-Trump protesters expected in several cities around the country. We'll update you on the latest. Stand by for that.
The protests, by the way, are a sign of the growing concern over many of President Trump's new policies. Let's discuss this with our next guest. Republican Congresswoman Marcia Blackburn of Tennessee is joining us. She was also the Trump transition team's vice chair.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. MARCIA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Sure. Good to be with you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Let me - let me quickly get your reaction to these various protests happening around the country right now. When you see some of the pictures, what is your reaction on this President's Day? We're seeing these anti-Trump protesters emerge.
BLACKBURN: Well, what we know is that we're celebrating every president that has served our nation who has stepped up and has offered themselves for service. So I would hope that they would celebrate all of our presidents and what they have contributed. And i - you know, it's free speech if they want to peaceably assemble, that is a right that they have. When it begins to cost extra for cities and counties or is a burden, then, you know, they need to work with those entities. And I haven't seen any of the protests today, I've been out working. So -
BLITZER: You've got - you've got your hands full. All right, let's talk a little bit about free speech while I have you. A sensitive issue.
BLITZER: The president recently tweeted that the news media here in the United States, the press is the, quote, "enemy of the American people." I want you to listen to what some Republican senators, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, had to say about those words from the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I'm afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The backbone of democracy is a free press and an independent judiciary, and they're worth fighting and dying for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Congresswoman, do you agree with the president that the elements of the mainstream media here in the United States are the enemy of the American people?
BLACKBURN: I think that many times the opinion based journalism where individuals are putting their opinion into what they're reporting is what frustrates a lot of people, Wolf. Now, you and I can have -
BLITZER: But does - but let me interrupt - congresswoman, let me interrupt for a second. But even if people in the press are expressing opinions, whether on the left or the right, way-out opinions, does that make them enemies of the American people?
BLACKBURN: I think that what it does is to cause people to have to look for different sources for getting their information. And we see a lot of people, whether it's from the left or the right, who say, I just want somebody to report the news. That's why they end up watching C-SPAN. But I do think it's important for us to have a press that is a free and open press. We know that they're not always going to agree with us. You and I can have great debates and remain cordial, but have different opinions on things.
And, Wolf, I think that that's an important aspect that we preserve for the people to have access to.
BLITZER: Well, I'm not - I don't disagree with you, congresswoman. I'm just wondering, the language, the words that the president uttered about the media being the enemy of the American people, those are strong words and I - I assume you're - you don't want to be associated with words like that, do you?
BLACKBURN: What I want to do is make certain that I do my best. And the president is going to have his opinions. I'm going to agree with him many times. There are times I'm not going to agree with him. But I think it is important that news be reported factually. I think it is important that reporters and anchors be well informed. And I think it is part of my responsibility to also make certain that when I give information, that I have properly sourced that information and then individuals can make up their own mind as to where they are on an issue.
[13:25:38] I would be uncomfortable thinking someone was always with me or either always against me. And I think that in this era of protests and in this era of opinions on the air, what we have to realize, our nation has been very well served by a robust two-party system that allows for a solid and respectful debate on the issues that are before us. I hope that in this time of unrest that we don't lose that or that we don't lose sight of that.
BLITZER: No, I - noting that you said any of us could disagree with. We all want a robust, free press where a lot of ideas are out there. We want it to be factual.
BLITZER: We want it to be well-sourced and all of that. The only - the only question I've been hitting you with is these words from the president, which are so disturbing, enemy of the American people, and I don't hear you saying - you disagree with them, but I don't hear you saying that he went too far, way too far. These are dangerous words.
BLACKBURN: I - I - and I would not say he - he went too far. It would not be my choice of words. It would not be how I would have expressed frustration with the press. I do understand that there are so many people that feel like they only get opinions from certain news programs or certain anchors or certain networks, and they seek out sources and shows, Wolf, that are going to allow them to have a little bit of give and take. Somebody who will help them think through issues and where they are on things because we've got a lot of issues on the plate. We're trying to deal with tax reform. We're trying to deal with Obamacare, which is imploding as we speak.
We have the president, who is still trying to get his cabinet filled out. We're a month into this administration and the Senate still has not filled out that cabinet. So it is important that we do continue that debate. And I think also it's important that we have those that are on the other side in the Senate that will not be obstructionists, but will move forward in good faith and allow this president to get his cabinet in place so that both chambers, the House and the Senate, can work with the administration to do our job. BLITZER: The beauty of a free press, the beauty of our democracy is
that there are a lot of views out there -
BLACKBURN: That's right.
BLITZER: And people are able to express those views and not necessarily be branded as a result of that, whether on the left or the right -
BLACKBURN: That's right.
BLITZER: Enemies of the American people.
All right, congresswoman, we're going to continue these conversations down the road. Marcia Blackburn joining us. Thanks very much.
BLACKBURN: Good to be with you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Still to come, the president facing a big week ahead, promising a new executive order on immigration. We're going to discuss what the stakes are for this young administration.