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Trump Speaks after African American Museum Tour; New DHS Memos lay out Immigration Crackdown; Trump Picks General for National Security Adviser. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired February 21, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first time. I love this guy. He's a great guy, really a great guy. And he can tell you better than me, but I'll tell you what, we really started something with Ben. We're very, very proud of him. Hopefully, next week he'll get his approval, three or four weeks late. And you're doing better than most, right? But the Democrats, they'll come along. I have no doubt they'll come along. But Ben is going to do a fantastic job in HUD. I have absolutely no doubt he will be one of the great ever in that position.
He grew up in Detroit and had very little. He defied every statistic. He graduated from Yale and he went on to the University of Michigan's medical school. He became a brilliant, totally brilliant neurosurgeon. Saved many lives and helped many, many people. We're going to do great things in our African-American communities together. Ben is going to work with me very, very closely.
And HUD has a meaning far beyond housing. If properly done, it's a meaning that's as big as anything there is. And Ben will be able to find the true meaning, and the true meaning of HUD as its secretary. So I just look forward to that. I look forward to watching that. He'll do things that nobody ever thought of.
I also want to thank Senator Tim Scott for joining us today. A friend of mine. A great, great senator from South Carolina. I like the state of South Carolina. I like all those states where I won by double, double, double digits. You know, those states, but South Carolina was one. And Tim has been fantastic how he represents the people. And they love him.
I also want to profoundly thank Alveda King for being here. And as we saw her uncle's wonderful exhibit and he certainly deserves that. Mrs. King, and by the way, Ms. King, I can tell you this personally because I watch her all the time and she is a tremendous fighter for justice. And so thank you very much. I have been watching you for so long, and you are so incredible. And I want to thank you for all the nice things you say about me. Not everybody says nice things, but she's special.
ALVEDA KING, AMERICAN ACTIVIST: I love you and your family. You're the best. You're great.
TRUMP: Thank you.
KING: Thank you, thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you. Appreciate that.
So with that, we're going to just end this incredible beginning of a morning, but engraved in the wall very nearby, a quote by the reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1955, he told the world, "We are determined to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream." And that's what it's going to be. We're going to bring this country together. Maybe bring some of the world together. But we're going to bring this country together. We have a divided country. It's been divided for many, many years, but we're going to bring it together.
I hope every day of my presidency we will be honoring the determination and work towards a very worthy goal and for Lonnie and David and David and Ben and Alveda and everybody. I just want to -- I just have to say that what they've done here is something that can probably not be duplicated. It was done with love and lots of money, right, Lonnie? Lots of money. We can't avoid that. But it was done with tremendous love and passion and that's why it's so great. So thank you all very much for being here. I appreciate it and congratulations. This is a truly great museum. Thank you.
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POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: There you have the President of the United States delivering remarks in a message of unity calling this a nation divided, a nation that will come together under him. This after touring this morning the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, noting he is the second sitting president after President Obama to visit this.
He's also thanking people there that toured with him, including his HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, his wife Candy there. You also have Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, as well as his daughter, Ivanka Trump.
He addressed the wave of anti-Semitism and the recent attacks across the country saying work must still be done to root out hate, prejudice and evil. He also spoke about the work that he will do with Dr. Ben Carson to help those in inner cities. Those African-American communities in need of help, a promise he made on the campaign trail.
[10:05:03] He also singled out and brought to the podium, Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He brought her. Now, we watch the president walking out there with the group that he's toured with. He did not take any questions.
Let's bring in our panel and talk more about what we just heard from the president. Back with me, Joe Johns at the White House, our Mark Preston is with us. CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, he's a senior editor from "The Atlantic," Jackie Kucinich also joins us, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast" and Bruce LeVell, he was executive director for the president's National Diversity Coalition during the campaign. Nice to have you all on with us. And Mark Preston, let me just go to you first and your thoughts.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Presidential, subdued, pointed out, of course, the contributions that African-Americans have given to this country. Specifically, those who helped lead the fight for equality and equal rights. And you know, as far as the criticism he has come under for not directly addressing the anti-Semitic wave of violence we have seen sweep across this country. He did today. So, a question is, will that be put to rest? So you know, by and large, Donald Trump acted like a president and not somebody who wakes up at 4:00 a.m. and starts firing off tweets to his critics.
HARLOW: Bruce LeVell, to you as a big supporter -- the president, you supported him all through the campaign as well. I just want your take on the comments that we heard from him today juxtaposed with some of the recent things we've seen.
Such as him criticizing civil rights icon, John Lewis, after Lewis called him not a legitimate president, after the fact that you know, he has not met with the Congressional Black Caucus yet. He said the Congressman Elijah Cummings you know, did not want to meet with him for political reasons. Congressman Cummings says that's not the case.
There's been a lot of controversy and back and forth around all of this. How do you square the two? Those things and then what we heard from the president today, standing alongside Alveda King.
BRUCE LEVELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NATIONAL DIVERSITY COALITION FOR TRUMP: That's a long question. Thanks for having me. Well, first of all, the National Diversity Coalition for Trump is still ongoing. I'm still active as executive director. We are the largest diversity coalition in the history of a Republican candidate which is founded by Michael Cohen, who is Trump's right hand person. A Jewish American for Trump, and his - you know survivor -- dad was a holocaust survivor.
So we have a lot of different facets in our coalition across the country. I have over million-plus actively involved. But I just want to put more light back on this historical day. I talked to Alveda King on the phone earlier as I went over here to the studio. And she was very, very emotional, a fact that you know finally there's a Republican president or president that has really touched the nerve and the hearts of the American people as he said in his inauguration speech you know.
You know, it's profound. And to have Dr. Ben Carson being over HUD and all of the things we need to accomplish in our inner cities. February 28th, we're meeting with all the HBC university presidents to talk about the dire needs in some of our HBCU colleges. This is very big. And you know, not to mention, my good friend Omarosa, who has the president's ear on a lot of things that we need to accomplish in the African-American community. So you know, -- my hat's off to this. HARLOW: On that point, how will you - Bruce, hold the president accountable to follow through on those promises he made on the campaign trail, saying things like to inner city African-American communities, largely in front of white audiences though -- at these rallies. He said you're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What do you have to lose? How will you hold him accountable?
LEVELL: -- Well, first of all, the President Trump, the good thing about -- I've been you know, supporting him since 2015 of June, is that what he says is what he backs up. And I think he's proven that as you know -- in this month presidency in the White House. So I am very elated the fact that President Trump did take account that there is these needs in these inner cities.
But you know, it's also fair to say, guys, and everybody on the panel, you know, these particular areas and cities have been under Democrat rule for years. So the question is, yes, what do you have to lose? Give us - you know, give the Trump administration -- President Trump administration, a chance to come in here. We're putting our money where our mouth is. So this is very positive. It's awesome actually.
HARLOW: Jackie Kucinich, he also addressed these anti-Semitic attacks and threats and the wave that we're seeing in this country. We heard him do that just after Hillary Clinton tweeted directly at the president this morning saying "JCC threats, cemetery desecration and online attacks are so troubling and they need to be stopped. Everyone must speak out, starting with @Potus."
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF "THE DAILY BEAST": This was definitely a step in the right direction, certainly. This is the first time he's addressed this directly. But this can't be a one-time thing because -- this has been something that has been growing - for you know, quite a while at this point.
[10:10:00] You know, for example, just last week was when he told a Jewish reporter who is asking about this to sit down. He avoided the question in the past. So this isn't just - you can't just say it once. This is something that if it continues in this country, which it hasn't stopped. He's going to have to continue talking about. In order to reassure Americans who are afraid, frankly, that their president isn't going to speak up with them on such a serious issue.
HARLOW: Ron Brownstein, your thoughts. Because as Bruce is pointing out, you know these are struggles that have persisted for a long time for inner city communities and Bruce makes a point that, look, the president is arguing that Democratic policies -- have not served them. At the same time, you have - you know the nomination and the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who some African- American groups spoke out against because of his past and his track record. How do you think that the president's actions jive with his words?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR EDITOR "THE ATLANTIC": Well, the actions are the key. Lots of opportunity to justify or support what he said he was going to do. First of all, you know he won 8 percent of African-American voters. He made modest inroads among African-American voters. He did better than Republicans did against the first African-American presidential nominee Barack Obama. But overall is 8 percent high for the lowest that any Republican has won in the last 40 years against a Democratic nominee who is not African-American. So his beachhead is rather constrained to begin with.
And I think, as you say, there are lots of opportunities on the policy. The Justice Department under President Obama was a significant force in pressuring for police reform, for example, at the local level, signing a series of consent decrees with local police departments to change practices. Are those going to be revisited? Are we going to see new ones in other areas? Voting rights where Attorney General Sessions has a history. That is going to be an issue as well.
And let's focus right on where Ben Carson is going to be. Under Julian Castro, the Obama administration aggressively promulgated a series of regulations about fair housing, about kind of extending access, trying to break down residential segregation. What is the future of those initiatives? So on a lot of different fronts there will be plenty of opportunities for President Trump to kind of put his actions where his words are, and we will have to see how that unfolds in practice.
HARLOW: So, Mark Preston, one thing that I've heard from - you know, some Trump supporters, namely in African-American Trump supporter in inner city Cleveland who leads a group of inner city residents for the president, right? This is what she did during the campaign. She said to me, "He needs to have an inner city town hall. He needs to come here, see our concerns and address them directly." Not something we've seen yet from the president. Should we expect something akin to that?
PRESTON: You know, I don't think we're going to go as far to see something like that happen. I think one of his biggest weaknesses - Donald Trump's biggest weaknesses, is his inability to take criticism. And I think, time and time again, we've seen Donald Trump get very defensive when challenged about what his personal views are, where his policies are going to lead the country.
And I think going into a situation like that, as we've seen with the last couple of days with Republicans who have gone home to hold town halls themselves. We've only seen a handful that have actually gone out and talked to those who were challenging these Republicans about the policies that are forthcoming. So, I don't necessarily think we're going to see that happen, but you know, to the point of you know actions do mean matter than words, mean more than words, and I do think we should give President Trump a chance to try to do something right now. He said he's going to. Let's see if he actually follows through on it.
HARLOW: And Joe Johns, just to button it up with you at the White House, we didn't know if we were going to hear from the president today, make these remarks. He did make them. He also gave an interview to MSNBC.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And to be honest with you though, this was a perfect venue, the perfect time for the president to step out and say some things that needed to be said, things that were coming to ahead, if you will. So, an opportunity for him to get himself on the record and move in the direction of what he calls unity.
Important, also, I think to point out, that many presidents have been very good at symbolism. This was a symbolic event, but as many have said, the issue is what happens next. And a lot of that has to do with budget priorities and Donald Trump is not the only person who gets to decide. On Capitol Hill, there are a lot of concerns about government spending and reining it in and how that affects minority communities like the community represented at the African-American museum remains an open question, Poppy.
HARLOW: It's an important point. Joe Johns, thank you very much. Mark Preston, Ron Brownstein, Jackie Kucinich, Bruce LeVell, nice to have you all with us. We're going to get a quick break and we'll be right back on the other side.
[10:18:55] HARLOW: This morning we're following two defining moments in U.S. immigration policy. Today, the Department of Homeland Security is issuing these new guidelines. They've just put these memos out, telling law enforcement agencies and I.C.E. around the country, how to crackdown on illegal immigration. We've got some Democrats crying foul here, calling this mass deportation. Those are their concerns. And this comes at the same time as the White House and lawmakers there rework that suspended travel ban on those seven Muslim-majority countries.
We're learning those key changes that are being made are ones to try to get this one this time to stand up to any legal challenges. Of course, we'll remember the last travel ban Executive Order was suspended, held up in the courts. Let's go straight to our justice reporter Laura Jarrett. She's here on both of them. So let's begin, two very different things, two critically important things. Let's begin with these memos coming from DHS. What do we know about what they are telling I.C.E. and law enforcement about how to crackdown an undocumented immigrants?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: So, Poppy, what we're seeing here really represents some monumental shift of immigration policies as compared to under the Obama administration.
[10:20:00] We see here now language laying out in plain detail how we're going to start up process of expedited deportations for undocumented immigrants and giving much more discretion to immigration officers. President Trump recently gave an interview to MSNBC on these new immigration policies. I think we might have some sound, if available to go to.
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TRUMP: We have to have a safe country. We have to let people come in that are going to love the country. This is about love. This building is about love. And we have to have people come in that are going to love the country, not people that are going to harm the country. And I think a lot of people agree with me on that.
So we'll have various things coming out over a period of time. And you'll see them as they come out. And we'll let you know exactly what they are. But we have to let people come in that are going to be positive for our country.
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JARRETT: So as you heard, Poppy, he wants to say we want to let in people who are going to be positive, but these restrictions that we're seeing from the DHS, the Homeland Security guidance is really an expansion of people who are now deportable under the president's Executive Orders. Poppy?
HARLOW: Does it address -- I'm just looking at them here. We've got all them printed out. I haven't read through them because they just crossed but you have. Does it address DACA at all? Children who have been brought into this country as young, -- young children to undocumented parents?
JARRETT: It does. Right off the top it says, at least for now, DACA will stay in place. That's the deferred action that President Obama put in place for the "dreamers." And so, as of right now, that will stay in place. And it's something that Homeland Security at least has been highlighting as something to say, look, for right now, that stays.
HARLOW: And then, finally, very quickly before I let you go. The Executive Order, the new travel ban, if you will, that is being written by the White House right now. They are taking a lot more care and a lot more eyes on it. The White House Counsel's office is writing it. Do we have any sense of - what's the key change going to be to try to get this one to stand up to any court challenges?
JARRETT: Well, one of the things that we know at least from what was previewed over the weekend by Homeland Security is that green card holders, it's safe to assume those legal permanent residents will now be exempted under the new Executive Order. So they will not face the travel ban.
What happens to visa holders like a student visa holder? We don't yet know. But green card holders are safe. We also expect to see a phase- in period. So, whereas before under the old order, there was that just automatic switchover which caused all the chaos in the airports and so, this time we're hearing from Homeland Security. It will be more of a stepped, you know, phased-in process.
HARLOW: All right, Laura Jarrett, great reporting from Washington. Thank you so much.
Coming up next for us, the president makes a big pick, tapping a new national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster known for speaking his mind, known for his candor. What will he do to change the National Security Council as a whole? We're going to talk about all of that straight ahead.
[10:27:19] HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us. John Berman has the week off. Brilliant, outstanding and a force of nature, just some of the phrases being used to describe the president's pick for national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster.
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TRUMP: He's a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience. I watched and read a lot over the last two days. He is highly respected by everybody in the military. And we're very honored to have him.
LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I'd just like to say what a privilege it is to be able to continue serving our nation. I'm grateful to you for that opportunity. And I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people.
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HARLOW: General McMaster already earning bipartisan praise from those who know him. Senator John McCain, who has needless to say, tensed history with the president, describing McMaster as a good pick, "a man of genuine intellect, character and ability."
This general now becomes the first active duty military officer to take this position since General Colin Powell held that under President Reagan. This announcement, of course, comes after the president fired Michael Flynn just a week ago. Let's discuss with CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde, nice to have you on.
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thanks.
HARLOW: You know, for a president who said that he knew a lot more about how to defeat ISIS than the generals. He's got a lot of generals around him. He now has McMaster. He has retired General James Mattis as secretary of Defense. He's got General John Kelly as HHS secretary. He's got General Keith Kellogg as someone who will serve on the National Security Council as chief adviser there. But let's remember what the president said about all of the generals back in November.
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TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me. I would bomb the (INAUDIBLE) out of them.
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HARLOW: All right. So that was November 2015 on the campaign trail. But, look. He's surrounding himself with generals now. What do you make of that?
ROHDE: Well, you could say it's a step forward and again, everyone is praising this choice. But what's interesting about that sound bite to me is this reference to bombing them. That's the opposite of McMaster's philosophy. He was very much about working this legendary for this, about working with local Iraqis, ordering his troops to understand the local culture, to read books about them and to turn local people into allies. That's very different from thinking you can just bomb people into submission.
HARLOW: It is. And then the question becomes sort of whose strategy will win out when you've got the president's right hand Steve Bannon sitting on the National Security Council that McMaster will now head up.
ROHDE: It is. And it's very different because McMaster, you know, he's got on-the- ground experience. And whereas you have other people, Bannon is sort of seen as more of an ideologue. He has not spent -