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CNN NEWSROOM

Questions over New Travel Ban; Countries Could be Added to Ban; U.S. Deploys Anti-Missile System to South Korea; Spicer Faces On- Camera Briefing. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired March 7, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:32:03] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us.

In just a little bit, the State Department will hold its first briefing since President Trump took office. You can bet they will face questions over the president's new travel ban. This revised order includes six instead of seven Muslim-majority countries. It also excludes Iraq. This is something that Trump insiders were really pushing for.

BERMAN: So the 90 day ban also stats that current visa and green card holders will no longer be excluded from the United States. That is a big change. Also worth noting, language that appeared to show preferential treatment to Christians, that has been removed. But, Homeland Security Chief John Kelly, he's leaving the door open to whether more countries could be added to this list.

I want to bring in CNN's Jessica Schneider for us.

And, Jessica, the Homeland Security chief, he says this is about countries that don't vet well enough.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John, you know, Secretary Kelly saying that this is all about ensuring proper vetting. And that's why he says more countries could be added to that list of six released yesterday. Right now on that list, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Iran and Yemen. Travelers from those countries will be blocked from obtaining visas for about 90 days. Iraq, though, notably, no longer on the list. That removal was the result of intense lobbying at the highest levels of government. In fact, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, even President Trump talking over the past few weeks with the Iraqi prime minister to take that country off the list. The deal is that Iraq will keep U.S. officials updated on their security screening procedures.

So the question is, what happens next? Well, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that more countries could soon appear on the list, but he wouldn't elaborate which ones.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There's a number of them out there. I don't want to speculate. But there's probably 13 or 14 other countries, not all of them Muslim countries, not all of them in the Middle East, that have very questionable vetting procedures that we can rely on. And then if we overlay additional vetting procedures, the chances are those countries - there will be minimum citizens from those countries that visit our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: So Kelly not elaborating there, but stressing it is all about the vetting.

So what is the difference between this travel ban and the first one? Well, here it goes. Legal permanent residents, or green card holders, people who already had valid visas, they won't be affected by this.

So what's taken out of the order? Well, we see that language that indicated preferential treatment from religious minorities, like Christians, that was taken out. Syrian refugees are no longer banned indefinitely. They're now lumped in with that 120-day refugee ban. All of this taking affect in just about a week, on March 16th.

But, you know, John and Poppy, a lot of those groups that we heard from before, they are still vowing to fight this. In particular, the ACLU calling this still an illegal travel ban that they do plan to fight.

Poppy and John.

BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider for us in Washington. Thanks so much.

I want to discuss this more with Democratic member of Congress Nanette Barragan. She's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

[09:35:02] And, congresswoman, you were part of the protest at L.A.X. during the first travel ban in those days when it was in effect. And just overnight you said the new ban is new wrapping paper on the same discriminating plan. But isn't this substantively different? Didn't he back off on Iraq? Didn't he back off on visa and green card holders? Isn't there new language on religious minorities? You know, aren't these the areas that the court was concerned about?

REP. NANETTE BARRAGAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, sure, the court was concerned about some of these areas, but it - at the end of the day, it's the same discriminatory practice. It's the same intent. White House officials have even agreed that it would have very little change and it achieves the same policy outcomes. At the end of the day, this is just a new ban in different wrapping paper.

HARLOW: So on that point, these are six Muslim-majority countries, but the majority of Muslims in the world are not touched by this ban. Indonesia, for example, which has, you know, the most Muslims in the world, not touched by this. And you do have concerns among some at the top levels of securing this country, right? I mean you've got, in 2015, James Clapper saying he cannot, quote, "put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees," saying that's a huge concern. FBI Director James Comey echoed his thoughts that year saying, I can't tell people there's no risk associated with it. So do you argue that there needs to be no more vetting? You know this - no pause at all?

BARRAGAN: No, we actually have very strict standards already that are being untaken before people come into this country. Look, the DHS's own intelligence report last week indicated that you can't just look at somebody's country of origin. And that is not a reliable indicator of credible threat. So you have intelligence reports from the own agency, DHS, that's something on homeland where I sit on the committee, we'll be making sure that we provide that oversight that's so necessary on this president. You have somebody who is governing and saying, I'm going to do whatever I want. Somebody stop me. And that's -

HARLOW: So just to be clear, you don't think this makes Americans one ounce safer, is that right?

BARRAGAN: I don't. Actually, I think it has an opposite effect. This is a recruiting tool that's being given and I think it makes us less safe, not more safe.

BERMAN: You know, the Homeland Security secretary, John Kelly, suggested that more countries could be added to the list. And there any countries that could be added, in your mind, that would make it a better plan?

BARRAGAN: Well, he did repeat that as well in front of the committee. I, off the top of my head, cannot - and I would say that whatever countries they are looking at, I hope they have great evidence that it's going to - make us safer, because we need to see that. I think that is part of the problem here, the lack of transparency, the lack of engaging Congress. I believe that every executive order that this president signs that's impacted by the House Homeland Committee should be coming before the committee.

HARLOW: But - so what about the countries where the four - where the 19 9/11 hijackers came from, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt, for example? Those are still not included in this list. Would you like to see any of those included in - in perhaps not this travel ban, but a legislation that would call for an executive order that would call for more intense vetting?

BARRAGAN: Well, I think that those - looking at those countries would make more sense right now on providing justification on countries that would be included on a ban. But I think before any ban is implemented, we need to take a serious look on, is this going to make us safer? What are the procedures now? And making sure that we have justification for adding on any new countries.

I am concerned that there are countries on this ban right now where this president has financial ties. We don't know what his financial ties are completely because he won't release his taxes. So I think there's a lot of questions that should be answered. And I look forward to hopefully having the secretary come back to our committee to answer more questions.

HARLOW: Congresswoman, we appreciate your time. Please let us know when you do get some more of those answers. Thank you.

BARRAGAN: Great, thank you.

HARLOW: All right, it's going to get heated on Capitol Hill very shortly. Lawmakers set to grill the man who is very important right now, because this is the guy who will likely, if confirmed, evened up leading the investigation into the Russian election alleged hacking. The deputy attorney general's confirmation hearing is just minutes away.

BERMAN: And the United States helping install a new missile defense system in South Korea. Now China very concerned, threatening action against the United States.

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[09:44:06] HARLOW: This morning, China is promising there will be consequences for the United States and for South Korea. This as a missile defense system is unloaded at an American air base on the Korean peninsula.

BERMAN: Yes, the system is built by an American defense contractor. It's designed to shoot down incoming missiles that threaten citizens. China has long been opposed to it. They see it as a threat to their own security. The first pieces of the system, they have now arrived in South Korea. And this development was announced by the U.S. military just a day after North Korea test fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.

Follow the bouncing ball here. There's a lot going on there and a lot of concerns. This as we're getting new pictures that show the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, personally supervising that test of the North Korean missiles. And we're - we're learning those were targeting or at least headed toward American military bases in Japan.

CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon with the details.

A lot going on, Barbara.

[09:45:01] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A lot going on indeed.

Now, it is the North Koreans who say, of course, that they were headed towards American installations in Japan. Those missiles falling into the Sea of Japan a couple of hundred miles off the coastline. Closer than anybody would like. But the U.S. has a number of weapon systems in the region that can quickly determine through radars and intelligence whether any North Korean missile is headed for land and attempt to shoot it down.

That's one of the reasons - on the other side of the screen from me - you see these new systems being unloaded at Osan Air Base in South Korea. This is called the THAAD. It's a U.S. weapons system designed to do just that, detect and destroy incoming short range and medium range ballistic missiles. Everyone in the region knows about this. It is no secret. Everyone out there in front of TV cameras making sure the world sees the message they want them to see.

The Chinese foreign ministry, the least of it, the Chinese have been very opposed to putting this new U.S. system into the region. And even just yesterday, the Chinese foreign ministry issuing a very strong statement about its concerns. Let me read part of that to you. It - saying, "we will firmly take necessary measures to preserve our own security interests and the U.S. and South Korea must bear the potential consequences."

All of this adding to the rhetoric, but everyone keeping a very sharp eye on Kim Jong-un and what he may do next.

John. Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Keep us posted. Thank you very much.

Coming up for us, get ready to watch perhaps the most intense job interview of your life. Moments from now, the man who is next in line, the man who will likely lead the investigation into Russia's election hack, he has to face off with some pretty angry lawmakers. What Democrats want him to promise to do before confirming him, next.

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[09:51:26] BERMAN: All right, we're just getting some new video into CNN. We're re-racking it right now. This is of the first White House tour of the new administration. Normally these public tours are suspended during the change in administration. The first one just took place and they got a special surprise guest. We'll bring that to you the minute that that video is fully ready. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, one thing we have had is some White House briefings on camera, until about a week ago. That's when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stopped doing them.

HARLOW: Right. So he's instead been holding these off-camera gaggles. Basically a small group of reporters around him (INAUDIBLE) cameras. We'll get to that in a moment. Let's look at the first White House tour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Work hard, everybody. Work hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right.

BERMAN: All right, there it was. That was a pretty exciting tour group.

HARLOW: Can we - can we re-rack it and just look at the beginning. And as we do, have you taken your boys yet to the White House?

BERMAN: My boys have not been inside the White House yet. They're planning on going when they turn 35.

HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE).

All right, so let's - I was saying that's pretty astonishing. Notice the woman that is in the portrait right there, right above the president's right shoulder. None other than his - well, his foe in the election, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

BERMAN: I think in this case it's former First Lady Hillary Clinton, her official -

HARLOW: And secretary of state. There you go. You're right, that's her official -

BERMAN: Her official - her official White House portrait, you know, in the White House right there.

HARLOW: And a lot of excited kids.

BERMAN: Very, very excited. Told the kids to work hard.

HARLOW: There you go.

BERMAN: All right, President Trump greeting his very first White House tour.

HARLOW: Brian Stelter is with us on the other story.

On a much more serious note, Brian, as we were just teeing that up, talking about how, you know, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, has not held an on-camera briefing in a week. Tell us why that matters and why it's not just the media complaining.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's all about messaging and, in fact, this video of President Trump coming in right now, his choice to come on camera to surprise people on camera. I think he's trying to get his messaging grade up. Remember last week he said in an interview, he gave himself a "c" for messaging but an "a" for achievement. That "c" for messaging seemed to be probably a critique of his press office and Sean Spicer. Also maybe a critique of himself. So we're seeing the president perhaps try to be more selective, more careful in his messaging. Maybe taking Saturday morning's tweet storm as the - as the exception to that rule.

But what we've seen in the past week, no on-camera briefings from Sean Spicer. Instead, off camera sessions with reporters. This is a way to control the message, to make it about Trump and not about what Spicer is saying from the podium. However, later today, we will see Spicer on camera for a briefing for the first time in eight days. BERMAN: You had a point, and it's interesting, people, you know, may

assume that on-camera briefings have happened since, you know, Thomas Jefferson's press secretary. No, I jest, he didn't have one, but it's not as if - it is not as if these White House briefings -

STELTER: No, it's (INAUDIBLE). Yes.

BERMAN: These White House briefings haven't always been televised.

[09:55:12] STELTER: That's right. This is a relatively new development in the past couple of decades. Now we take it for granted that every day, almost every day we're going to see the White House top spokesman on camera answering questions. The television networks rely on it. It's valuable for sound bites. But Spicer had indicated he was going to pull back on the number of on-camera briefings and have more off- camera. His argument is that you actually get more accomplished and it's more productive when people aren't playing to the cameras. The counterargument is that even the visual of having it on camera is an accountability function for government.

BERMAN: All right, Brian Stelter for us. Brian, thanks very much. We will wait and see Sean Spicer on camera today.

STELTER: Yes.

BERMAN: In the meantime, I've got to tell you, it is an action-packed morning in Washington. Get ready for fireworks on Capitol Hill. Democrats about to stage their biggest fight yet, demanding a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian ties to the Trump campaign. You're looking at live pictures. We'll be right back.

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