Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Names McMaster New National Security Adviser; Dueling Protests Overshadow Town Hall Meeting; How Trump's Travel Ban Hits Syrian Doctor in the U.S.; Holder to Lead Uber Sexual Harassment Investigation; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 21, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: National Security Council that McMaster will now head up.

DAVID ROHDE, NATIONAL SECURITY INVESTIGATION EDITOR, REUTERS: 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 --

HARLOW: Right.

ROHDE: He was in the Navy, we've heard of Bannon, but he's not spent time on the ground dealing with these insurgencies, trying to counter extremist movements. So that is the question. In the end the president makes the decision who will he listen to?

HARLOW: Yes.

ROHDE: Is it going to be McMaster?

HARLOW: So some of the reporting that CNN has around why General Harward -- Admiral Harward turned down the offer from the president last week on this is because he didn't think he could bring in his own team. But now here's what the president's chief of staff Reince Priebus is saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And the president has said very clearly that the new NSA director will have total and complete say over the makeup of the NSC and all of the components of the NSC. And there is no demand made by President Trump on any candidate for NSA director at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: How important do you think that is for McMaster to know that he can bring in his own team?

ROHDE: I think it's critical. I think the decision by Admiral Harward not take the job maybe gave McMaster more leverage. So one of the first things to watch is who he brings in and does he change some of the people that were brought in by General Flynn. HARLOW: Let's listen to something that General McMaster did say. He

did this video with the Army about developing talent. Here is the general in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: You know, oftentimes we can confuse activity with progress if we're not thinking critically about what we're doing. So you want -- you need officers who can think, really, about those first order questions. How they relate to what we're doing. Who can kind of frame problems from the outside and look at it critically. And those officers have to be able to thrive in our Army and we have to encourage that kind of thinking. And we -- you know, we have to be able to tolerate a certain degree of, you know, irreverence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Tolerate irreverence. What do you make of that?

ROHDE: Well, that's what McMaster is famous for. It held him back in his promotions because he did question his superiors. Another area where he differs with the president is he doesn't support this idea of simply building many more ships and spending money that that will automatically lead to military strength. He wants a small dynamic force and officers who think independently, not just spending more money.

HARLOW: What about the book he wrote that a lot are pointing to as being very telling of his thinking, "Dereliction of Duty," about the Vietnam War and a look back at what he deems are failures by military leadership not to fully inform the president, especially President Lyndon Johnson, about the successes and the failures of the Vietnam War?

ROHDE: Yes, the book was widely praised, and it criticized generals for not pushing back on President Johnson and warning that certain tactics in Vietnam weren't going to work.

Look, it's a great choice, but, you know, it depends on who President Trump listens to. Let's give President Trump credit for choosing McMaster. He will speak his mind and let's see, you know, what happens now in this Trump White House and again who the president listens to.

HARLOW: Now you've got a lot of people speaking their mind. The president, McMaster, Steve Bannon. Now they're all going to work together.

David Rohde, nice to have you on. Thank you.

ROHDE: Thank you.

HARLOW: Republican lawmakers across the country holding town halls, getting quite a lot of feedback. An earful from their constituents. And this is what they're hearing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Down with Trump. Down with Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Coming up, we're going to be joined by someone who is helping get these angry constituents to their town halls. Not just Democrats, but Republicans as well. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:38:03] UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: This is what democracy looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Build that wall. Build that wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That is what greeted Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia last night at his town hall event. The protests continued inside the auditorium.

This is part of what Republican lawmakers and some Democrats across the country have been facing for weeks as they go to their home districts. They are facing a wave of this.

Let's talk about it now with one of the organizers helping folks go to these local town hall events. Jimmy Dahman is with us, he is the founder of the Town Hall Project.

And I should note, you were a field organizer for the Clinton campaign in Iowa and Ohio. It's nice to have you on.

JAMES DAHMAN, FOUNDER, TOWN HALL PROJECT: Thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here.

HARLOW: So let's get to this. You know, some -- and by the way, you started this effort about three weeks ago. You've got about 100 volunteers. And you list on your site Republican and Democratic town hall events. Some Republicans are arguing that these protests are Astroturf, their words, or phony. They're organized by Democratic activists rather than just, you know, regular citizens who are going, and that some of these protesters are paid.

Let's listen to what White House press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier this month about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you sense -- instead of being organic disruption, do you sense that there's an organized pushback and people are being paid to protest? SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Absolutely. I mean,

protesting has become a profession now. They have every right to do that. Don't get me wrong. But I think that we need to call it what it is. It's not these organic uprisings that we've seen through the last several decades that, you know, the Tea Party was a very organic movement. This has become a very paid Astroturf type movement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Is your movement a paid movement? Do you know protesters being paid? Are you guys paying those folks to go?

DAHMAN: We are not paying any protesters. I have not heard of any protesters being paid. And if that's the case, I don't know why 1,000 people were in Oregon for a Ron Wyden town hall. It seems like not the best use of resources.

[10:35:03] I think this is something that's happening across the country, blue states, red states. Every district does an energy and enthusiasm for civic engagement like we have never seen and it's all organic and happening at the grassroots level.

HARLOW: Right. But as you know, many would argue, where was this engagement for Hillary Clinton during the campaign?

DAHMAN: So I think, you know, Monday morning quarterback a lot of things, but we're here now, and there's more people involved in the process than we've ever seen.

HARLOW: Yes.

DAHMAN: So trying to give them a constructive outlet to start that dialogue with their representatives.

HARLOW: So let me read you what Republican consultant Doug Hye wrote in his op-ed piece on CNN.com. He said, "Democrats who've criticized the 2009 and 2010 Tea Party protests missed the point and lost their House majority. Democrats were caught flat-footed." Is he right?

DAHMAN: So I don't want to speak to what happened then. I think there's, you know, some similarities and that there's just a ton of energy and enthusiasm. And today and these are things that have happened throughout our country's history and the town halls have been a staple of American democracy since the founding of our country. So I think, you know, Republicans are being a little bit surprised by some of the crowds at their districts but it's also happening in Democratic town halls as well.

HARLOW: No. It certainly is. Let me get your sense on how far you and fellow Democrats you think are willing to go because one thing that made the Tea Party arguably so successful in its mission, some people didn't like the tactics but was it obstructionism? Right? Was being willing to have the government shut down. Was being, you know, willing to primary people in their own party. Are you and those in your group on this willing to primary some of those Democrats who are running if they work with this administration, if they support some of the president's moves because there are some proposals from the president, like a big infrastructure spending bill, that a lot of Democrats can get on board with.

DAHMAN: So we're not taking sides on any policy issues or primaries or anything like that. We're just -- encouraging people to engage in the process and empower them to use their voices and you know, like I said, we have this -- we have events from both parties pushing everyone to go and be a part of the process. And I think that's a step in civic engagement. We've seen protests and marches and now people are wanting to get involved locally in their communities and we think that this is the next step to maybe running for office or volunteering on campaigns or midterms. Historically turnout is low. So just voting in general.

HARLOW: So what's the lesson learned from 2020 for you guys?

DAHMAN: So I think 2020 still a ways away. When people are active, when people are paying attention, when people care this much about the policies that are being discussed in Washington, I think it's good for the nation, I think it's good for the country that people are having these conversations and that representatives are having to listen to the people that voted them in and that are effectively their bosses.

HARLOW: And that pay their salaries.

DAHMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: Jimmy Dahman, thank you. Nice to have you on this morning.

DAHMAN: Thank you so much. Yes. Absolutely. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. I do want to mention a programming note here, tomorrow night on CNN, a big debate hosted by our Dana Bash and Chris Cuomo. Who will lead the Democratic Party in the era of President Trump? The Democratic leadership debate is ahead tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern only right here on CNN.

Coming up for us, the Trump administration expected to release a new tweaked travel ban this week. And it's putting some visa holders on edge.

Coming up, you will hear a story only told here on CNN. You're going to hear from a doctor, a Syrian doctor in the United States who is not a citizen, is treating these patients in rural South Dakota and afraid that if he leaves the country, he won't be able to come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have relied on non-U.S. physicians to meet the need of our growing and aging population. It's the only way we can provide a workforce of a sufficient size to meet those needs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:48:34] HARLOW: This week, any day now, the White House set to release a new executive order on travel from seven Muslim majority countries to the United States. This after that original travel ban was held up by the courts.

So big question right now is what will it mean for people from those countries who are living and working in the U.S. right now? Like Syrian doctor Alaa al Nofal. He's in this country on a special J-1 visa waiver that allows 1500 physicians to come from overseas each year to this country to temporarily work in underserved parts of the country.

Our Christine Romans has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR, ALAA AL NOFAL, SYRIAN PEDIATRIC ENDOCRINOLOGIST: South Dakota is considered an underserved area where there's a shortage of physicians, so that's why international physicians are welcome here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's winter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

AL NOFAL: I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. I went to medical school back home in Damascus, graduated in 2008, and came to continue my education here in the United States.

ROMANS: Today, Dr. Alaa al Nofal is a pediatric endocrinologist at the castle inspired Sanford Children's Hospital and Medical Clinic serving patients from North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

AL NOFAL: All right, young lady. So I have patients who travel hundreds of miles to come see me. There are many patients who I travel to go see.

CINDY MORRISON, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, SANFORD HEALTH: We also use airplanes to get physicians out in those rural communities when the distance is significant.

[10:50:06] ROMANS: But there's one place al Nofal is hesitant to fly to -- out of the U.S. to see relatives. President Trump's executive order bars citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, including Syria, from entering into the United States. With that order in legal limbo, al Nofal is afraid he may be forced to leave his patients behind if he travels abroad and can't get back into the United States.

That's because he's not a U.S. citizen. Al Nofal is here on a special J-1 visa waiver, a specific but important program that allows about 1500 international physicians each year to temporarily work in underserved areas of the country.

MORRISON: He is significant to this part of the country because he treats a lot of children who have type I diabetes. And he is one of only five full-time pediatric endocrinologists in North Dakota and South Dakota. AL NOFAL: Does that make sense? Questions for me?

What they did not consider is that this executive order is not going to affect just people of the seven countries, it's going to also affect people in the United States. People in rural America.

ROMANS: In a comment to CNN Money, the State Department said, exceptions to the travel and visa ban could be issued on a case-by- case basis if it is in the national interest, but they did not specify if a doctor shortage in a rural area would be considered.

AL NOFAL: And that's what worries us. Because we don't know what's going to happen in a year and a half or two years from now. If things don't work out, we might need to move outside the United States.

ALYSSA AL NOFAL, ALAA'S WIFE: For our family, it really disappoints me that this was done because it's teaching my son that people from these countries are threats. I don't want him growing up thinking that people from Syria, that his family, are threats because they're not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Jordan Malter, producing, Christine Romans reporting. Thank you both very much.

Still to come for us, allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at Silicon Valley giant Uber. So now the company is tapping a former attorney general to lead this investigation.

Laurie Segall will join me next on that.

And big picture, is this a rampant problem across Silicon Valley? That's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:56:34] HARLOW: Waves across Silicon Valley. Now former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder being tapped to lead this investigation in the company.

Susan Fowler, a former engineer there, published these allegations this week in a lengthy blog post saying that during her first few weeks at Uber, well, her manager propositioned her and then she went to human resources and they refused to do anything.

Our tech correspondent Laurie Segall is with me now.

This is not getting I think enough headlines right now but it is all that Silicon Valley is talking about. Talk about what Uber is facing here and why they brought in Eric Holder.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH CORRESPONDENT: These are really serious allegations. This is woman who said she was propositioned who was very specific in saying what exactly went wrong. She went to HR. Not only did they not do anything, they said she should transfer teams. And then eventually she's almost punished for continuing to say something. She said other people have felt this exact same way.

So she wrote this really detailed account that has very specific wrongdoings in there. So the company is forced, obviously, to play their hand, to say -- you know, to react. You have Travis Kalanick, the CEO, tweeting, "We're going to take this very seriously." He put out a memo I think we have a little bit of it, which he said, you know, this workplace will be defined by justice. We want people -- we want this to be a good culture for women.

HARLOW: Right.

SEGALL: He went on to say that he's looking at this as an opportunity to define what justice is in the workplace. Because, Poppy, if you look at this post, this woman didn't see justice when she went to say something isn't going right here.

HARLOW: And I should note, Uber has been facing a lot of backlash for this.

SEGALL: Yes.

HARLOW: Also the BoycottUber hashtag, forcing the CEO to step off one of the president's advisory boards because of some of the things that President Trump has done and what he said about the president. But big picture here beyond Uber. I mean, you cover Silicon Valley inside and out. You're working on a whole big series right now about it.

SEGALL: Yes.

HARLOW: How rampant is this stuff in Silicon Valley?

SEGALL: You know, I guess what's disheartening about this is this story didn't surprise me. Right? How many times have I been on talking about an engineer, a woman who was harassed because there are two Silicon Valleys. There's a Silicon Valley we see where it's innovation and it's Ameritocracy. If you are smart, you can get ahead. The sky is the limit.

Then there's another Silicon Valley. The Silicon Valley I see where I go out and I talk to women, and everyone has a sexual harassment story. There's a study done called "Elephant in the Valley" last year that got a lot of attention. They asked over 200 women to talk about their experiences.

HARLOW: Yes.

SEGALL: Sixty percent of women in tech reported unwanted sexual advances. 65 of those women, they said they received those advances from a superior. And one in third they felt afraid of their personal safety in the workplace.

HARLOW: One in three?

SEGALL: Yes, you know, that is a really big deal. Especially when you look at Silicon Valley. This is the modern day American dream.

HARLOW: Especially in a land of so much opportunity.

SEGALL: Exactly.

HARLOW: For you, covering this, you have experienced this yourself.

SEGALL: Yes, and I guess it's even personal to me. I remember a big venture capitalist who I had had a meet with to talk start-ups, and which start-ups he's investing in. I started getting weird text messages late at night with him saying the most inappropriate things. And I remember, Poppy, thinking to myself, do I say something?

HARLOW: Yes.

SEGALL: And if I say something, will he tell the star-ups not to talk to me? Do I put this out there publicly?

HARLOW: Do I lose my access?

SEGALL: Do I lose who I am and what makes me good? So I think that's the problem and that's amplified by women who are inside of these companies who maybe don't have as many female managers who are facing that. And that is what this woman faced, and I think that's why you're beginning to see people speak out.

HARLOW: Yes. Good for them -- for her for speaking out, for them for investigating, and putting Eric Holder on it, and for you for sharing your experiences. Thank you, Laurie.

SEGALL: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: We appreciate it. That'll do it for me. I'm Poppy Harlow. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" begins now.