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CNN NEWSROOM

Report: Van Jones Responds To Criticism Of His Trump Praise; Trump Calls For Merit-Based Immigration System; Trump Aides Cite CNN Polls. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 1, 2017 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] VAN JONES: Let me just make a -- it might be a minor point, it might be a major point. Being presidential -- you could be presidential and have terrible policies. Nixon behaved before he got in trouble the first term. He fulfilled the basic functions of being president, he just had terrible policies. I disagreed with Reagan's policies. Donald Trump has terrible policies and he has behaved in a way that is completely un-presidential including most of his speeches, including his inaugural address which is basically, just an amped up rally speech.

So, when I say that he is now behaving in a more presidential way, I am not making a judgment about his policies, his policies are awful. But I think at some point when somebody gets beat up on, rightfully so, behaving in a bizarre childish crazy petulant way, and then they change their behavior, you have got to acknowledge that. You can't just say it doesn't matter how he gives his speech. We have said, you haven't, we have said consistently the substance of the speech is terrible and the way he's doing it is terrible. He's now made an adjustment. I don't understand why pointing out he took a card away from his critics last night is doing disservice to a liberal cause.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, And I don't know that I said it was doing a disservice to the liberal cause. I think my point is we've seen him make a pivot before and that didn't even last 24 hours so I was surprised that you said it. Let's see what he says on twitter today. Is this really going to happen. We don't believe it. No, he can't be disciplined enough to withstand the pivot.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Van, just a find thought to you. Is it in part denial on the part of Democrats to not acknowledge that is really it for him, changing the tone? Because the polls we saw of even moderate Republicans who were thinking they might not be able to get behind Donald Trump, that was to this very issue, that think didn't feel it was about tone. It wasn't necessarily about his policies.

JONES: Yeah. I think that the virus is mutated. I think that he just got a taste of something. Probably people have been telling him if he would tone this down a little bit, he might get a little bit of traction here. He probably like Angela said didn't want to do it. Couldn't do it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I'm not 100 percent sure, but my bet is he starts doing what you just saw over and over. I can see him going into media markets. I see him doing stuff and actually hoping that liberals continue to miss the fact that he's growing in office. He -- I hate to say this. It doesn't make me happy to say this. U wish I could say it, I didn't see what I saw. But I saw a person with the worst ideas in the world getting better at delivering the message and that is very worrisome.

KEILAR: All right. Van Jones, Angela Rye. Thank you very much to both of you. Next, we have some news that Russia accidentally bombed U.S.-backed forces inside Syria. We have details next.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Just into CNN, the top commander says Russia and Syrian aircraft accidentally bombed U.S.-backed forces. I want to bring in pentagon reporter Barbara Starr. Barbara, tell us what happened. How did this happen?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Brianna, this happened in villages in northern Syria. They thought they were fighting in areas where ISIS was. It turns out they had withdrawn and U.S. forces had moved in. When they saw what was happening and they knew that their own backed fighters were in these villages, they got in touch with the Russians on a communications line that they used and got it all sorted out and those aircraft then withdrew. It's perhaps a real signal of how complicated the battlefield is in northern Syria, how many different players are there on the ground in the air and how tough a fight that may be coming as some of those fighters begin to move on Raqqa, Syria, trying to get that city back from ISIS and as they contemplate, new military measures to ramp up. Brianna?

KEILAR: Barbara Starr, thank you so much for that.

Meantime, President Trump wants to change to a merit-based immigration system. To focus on highly employable immigrants. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:40:00] DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our current immigration system costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars a year. Switching away from this current system of lower skilled immigration and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits, it will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families including immigrant families enter the middle class, and they will do it quickly and they will be very, very happy indeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Let's talk about this now with Maria Santana, CNN En Espanol anchor and correspondent and Leyla Santiago in Mexico City. Maria, just explain to us how a merit-based immigration system might work.

MARIA SANTANA, CNN EN ESPANOL ANCHOR: Hi, good afternoon, Brianna. It basically applies another level of scrutiny which determines which immigrants can and cannot come into the country el legally. It gives well educated highly skilled immigrants who can be competitive in the job market. It allows U.S. citizens and others to sponsor family members in the U.S. and does not take into account the finances or education or skill level. That would all change on this plan. In the Trump speech, he said this is outdated and costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars and those coming into the country should be able to support themselves financially and not be a drain on the public resources.

As you can imagine, Brianna, critics did not take well to this speech, President Trump's speech. They say there's no clear evidence of hands-on abuse or social programs any more than Americans do. You know, the President cited a study published by the national society on the fiscal impact. You know, it did find there is a cost associated with immigration, but that this cost only applies to first gen racing immigrants, whereas, second and third generation immigrants actually create billions of dollars of benefit to the U.S. system. And, of course, you know, many wonder whether this is part of Trump's broader nationalist agenda, trying to determine who can come in and who to keep out, Brianna.

Leyla, let's talk about President Trump's plan to build the border wall along the border with Mexico. Let's listen to what Vice President Pence had to say about this this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We're going to build a wall.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who's going to pay for it.

PENCE: We're going to enforce the laws of this country. Well, they are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: What is the reaction there, Leyla, in Mexico City?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, as I've been talking to people today, it's very clear that President Trump last night in his speech did not have to use the word "Mexico" for people to understand they need to pay attention because you talk about that wall as Vice President Pence just did, talk about deportation and deportation in general and they understand it impacts this side of the border. So much so, Brianna, that just in the last two hours, the Mexican President Pena Nieto addressed the relationship between the United Sates and Mexico saying, hey, we are a sovereign nation, we demand respect as we respect others, and we will stand up, protect Mexico's interests. Now, he did not directly address President Trump or vice President pence, but he did talk about the issues. So, it's kind of been like this back-and-forth in speeches where they talk about each other but they don't directly speech to one another. Now, a bit of a different story when it comes to the foreign minister. We reported yesterday he said it's time for an immigration bill. The foreign minister said, hey, if that is true, we welcome it, but it is a wait- and-see. We will believe it when we see it.

KEILAR: All right. Leyla, Maria, thanks to both of you.

Sources tell CNN, that President Trump used a misdirection play when touting his immigration plans during a meeting with news anchors. I'm going to talk to someone who was in that meeting. Jake Tapper joining me next.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer seems to at least temporarily cast aside his disdain for CNN in order to tweet out numbers about President Trump. Last night spacer tweeted in a CNN poll, 78 percent say it was positive. 69 percent say policies will move country in right direction. 69 percent more optimistic. I want to bring in CNN'S Jake Tapper now. He's host of "The Lead." You retweeted this and poked a little fun at it. Tell us your thoughts on it.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, I don't think Sean Spicer has disdain for CNN. Think he has disdain for negative coverage of President Trump or coverage that investigates his administration or coverage that is critical. So, I don't think it's particular to CNN. They have the same issue with "New York Times" and other outlets. It's not about the outlet. It's about whether the coverage upsets him or his boss in any way.

[15:50:00] We know when he says "fake news," he's not actually saying we're reporting anything not true. There's nothing challenging the facts.

Every word has been proven to be correct. The issue is whether or not they like the coverage or not or whether or not they like oversight at all. We've seen the same disdain for the judicial and legislative branches when they try to have oversight. So, my only point was we heard President Trump say one time any negative poll is fake. That was a tweet, I think. Any negative poll is fake. This is a positive poll. It's really quite juvenile when you get down to what actually is being opposed.

KEILAR: Can we get down to immigration and where President Trump stands on this? Because yesterday coming out of a meeting at the white housing you were in attendance. There was this understanding from senior administration officials that President Trump was open to this idea of a compromised immigration bill that would include a pathway to legal status, obviously, something that a lot of Congressional Republicans do not like. They feel like that's tantamount to amnesty and Sara Murray spoke that one thought this was a misdirection play. How do you -- how do you see this? It's very confusing.

TAPPER: I can't get in the head of the senior administration official who told us that President Trump was eager to have some sort of compromised how do you -- how do you see this? It's very confusing.

KEILAR: I can't get in the head of the senior administration official who told us that President Trump was eager to have some sort of compromised immigration bill come on his desk, one that -- on which both sides made compromises and it would be a negotiation. I can't get into his head. If Sara Murray has sources that that senior administration official was lying to us, I would defer to that senior administration official.

TAPPER: Also from Republicans, Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and others with whom we spoke yesterday, there was a response. They're willing to hear what the President has to say and if the President actually wants to solve this problem, that would be great for the country, I guess.

KEILAR: All right, Jake Tapper, thank you so much. We're going to be tuning in to "The Lead" when it starts in just a few minutes.

First moments away from the closing bell, stocks are riding a wave the day after President Trump's address. Does he get credit? That's next.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Engineers are now taking the self-driving car to a whole new level. Here's CNN's Samuel Burke.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: This is the world's first self-driving electric race car called robo-car. When they're out on the track they won't have any drivers, there's no cockpit. All the cars will be exactly the same, same specs. The only difference will be the team behind them and the different algorithms they are creating. What makes this self-driving race car different from the typical race car that has a driver seat?

DENIS SVERDLOV, CEO, ROBORACE: I would say everything. It looks like a plane with wheels and it's super-efficient in terms of aerodynamics and it's super-fast. Professional drivers cannot take the g-force created in these type of cars and it's super powerful so we created a special motor for these cars. It's almost like 500 horsepower per wheel. So, it's a beast. And, so, they he need to find a way to manage this power.

BURKE: When I talk to the people creating self-driving cars they always say it's not to be cool. The real purpose is to try and eliminate car accidents. But one of your prototypes had a car accident recently in Argentina. So, doesn't this defeat the purpose?

SVERDLOV: I think it's opposite. All the teams are learning. When it crashes, you ask why did it happen? There is no risk of life. With this knowledge, you can use on the real world cars. It means our real-world cars will become safer.

BURKE: How much did it cost you?

SVERDLOV: To make? Around 1 million pounds to make this car.

BURKE: A little more than a million dollars. Worth it?

SVERDLOV: Yes, for sure.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: We want to remind you about CNN's original series of The History of Comedy. It's very good. I've been watching it. A Spark of Madness takes a look at the darker side of stand up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: When I was 12 or 13, one of my best friends called me up once, it was like a drug deal at 12. Come over. What, what have you got? You've got to hear this.

JACK PARR, TALK SHOW HOST: Do something with this. Why don't you do something with the stick. Do anything.

JONATHAN WINTERS, COMEDIAN: It was a pretty cast catch. I think we're onto something this time. I'm sorry, Margaret. Try to swim in.

LEWIS: The routines are ridiculously brilliant. It was endless riffing and I'm going, whose brain can do that?

WINTERS: The United Nations now recognizes the delegate from Nyasaland.

MIKE SACKS, AUTHOR: To be as genius as Jonathan Winters, you have to think differently than normal people. He's working within his mind at a very high level and a very fast level. By thinking that way and being that untethered to the rest of us, you can lose your mind more easily.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: Joining me now is Kliph Nesterov, author of "The Comedians -- drunks, thieves, scoundrels and the history of American comedy." Kliph, your book explores this idea of the sad clown paradox, the men and women who make people laugh for a living are often struggling.

KLIPH NESTEROV, AUTHOR OF THE COMEDIANS: Yes, I mean, it's a bit of a cliche the tears of the clown idea, the two masks, comedy and tragedy. It is true, comedians tend to suffer. The you find the most creative comedians are the ones who suffer the most internally. The guys not that creative don't suffer as much. They're not as sensitive. They don't have the mind-set of the artist. Johnathan Winters did and the person he influenced the most was Robin Williams. Tomorrow night on CNN 10:00 p.m. you'll hear the whole inside story of Robin Williams from his close friends and how Johnathan Winters influenced him. We just watched that clip of Johnathan Winters. A lot of people don't realize he quit doing standup comedy, had a nervous breakdown on stage in San Francisco, walked off, was found later in the wharf yelling, was arrested by police, taken to a hospital and put in a psychiatric ward a few months. Even in those days a lot of great and creative comedians were haunted.

KEILAR: It's a struggle that so many people don't know about. Jokes. I want to ask you, I'm sure you thought a lot about this. The role of comedy right now, especially considering the very divided political climate. What do you think in this era that the role of comedy is?

NESTEROFF: Well, I don't think comedy ever becomes more important or less important because of politics. A lot of people want to believe that comedy can be a vehicle for social change and I wish that was true. I hope that's true, but history does not prove it correct. We had all kinds of great comedy during World War II. Jack Benny, "To Be Or Not To Be" which was an anti-Hitler comedy, "The Great Dictator" with Charlie Chaplin, but it didn't prevent World War II or the Holocaust. The Vietnam war was not prevented by the comedy in the late 60s like George Carlin. The 70s, Nixon era. Maybe it would prevent us from being where we are right now. So, hopefully comedy can just balance us and make us happy and distract us for a few moments.

KEILAR: Maybe just reflect the times that we are in. Kliph, thank you so much.

And tomorrow night, take a look for an all-new episode of The History of Comedy, only here on CNN. And "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.