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Trump Admin Looks to Cut TSA, Coast Guard to Fund Border Security; Duncan Hunter Against Coast Guard Cuts; Demonstrations on International Women's Day; John Dean Talks Trump's Wiretapping Allegations. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:33] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's immigration crackdown isn't going to be cheap. He, of course, wants the wall on the southern border, along the southern border. He also wants to put more money into border security in general. How will he pay for this? Congressional sources are saying at least, in part, President Trump's budget proposal will cut more than a billion dollars from the U.S. Coast Guard. That's where the money could come from.

CNN's aviation and regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, has been looking into this and the details.

Rene, what more do we know?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the Trump administration could be making -- we're talking about major cuts here -- to the United States Coast Guard as well as the TSA. That's according to two congressional sources. Both agencies, as you know, critical to Homeland Security.

Sources tell CNN the office of management and budget proposed a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard's $9 billion operating budget. Now, Coast Guard's duties include protecting our maritime borders. Over the past five years the agency removed some 630 metric tons of cocaine. Government data also shows in fiscal year 2016, the Coast Guard intercepted more than 6300 undocumented migrants. The agency also, as you know, secures the waterways near Mar-a-Lago in Florida when the president visits. One former Coast Guard commander tells CNN the cuts would actually hurt, not help, Trump's immigration and national security agenda.

And then there's TSA. That agency, as you know, tasked with keeping terrorists and bombs off planes. They could see a $500 million reduction. That agency, as you know, has been plagued by long lines and frustrated travelers in the past because it didn't have the funding that it needed.

It is important to point out that these are just proposed cuts. We don't know yet what the final budget will look like. But it is some insight into the administration's plans for these agencies.

We did reach out to OMB and they told CNN in a statement that this was a budget blueprint and the blueprint for the actual budget will be released in mid-March so they didn't want to comment.

But there is some skepticism on Capitol Hill whether such cuts to Coast Guard would actually happen since it has such an important security role.

BOLDUAN: Talk about skepticism, maybe not that the cuts will happen but that they will help anything.

Let's talk about that right now.

Thank you, Rene. I really appreciate it.

MARSH: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Joining me now is Republican Congressman from California, Duncan Hunter.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: You've written about this. You call the idea of cuts to the Coast Guard budget appalling. Your team even called it a joke. Why?

[11:35:12] HUNTER: Because the entire operating budget of the U.S. Coast Guard is $9 billion. Let's put that in perspective. A Department of Defense contract that was just awarded for electronic health records was just awarded for $9 billion. So that's the terms, when we talk about the Coast Guard budget. It's a shoestring budget. And you have President Trump talking about national security, criminal networks. That's what the Coast Guard does, literally. And number three, the Coast Guard is a U.S. military branch. We don't think of it that way, but that's what it is. So how can the president talk about the Coast Guard being a military branch, talk about stopping illegal immigration, illegal drugs, and criminal Narco networks, and then say we're going to cut the military and cut the Coast Guard? It just doesn't make sense.

The way that you stop bad things from happening here is not directly on the border necessarily. You've got to push out. It's called defense in depth. You've got to push out beyond our borders into South America, into Central America, and see what's out there to stop it there so it doesn't come into the U.S. That's what the Coast Guard does. This is nonsensical to me.

BOLDUAN: Nonsensical.

An important note for all of our viewers, Congressman, you were one of the earliest and most fervent supporters of the president on Capitol Hill during the election all the way through.


HUNTER: And I still am.

BOLDUAN: And you still are, sitting right next to the president when he had you all to the White House after the inauguration. Have you talked to the president about this yet?

HUNTER: No, we haven't talked to him about this yet. We want facetime with him on this as soon as possible, because this directly, once again, contradicts what he's talking about. This contradicts his statements that he made here in front of Congress two weeks ago. So he and OMB need to be on the same page. The president needs to put his people into OMB so they can direct them to do what the president says, not just what they want to do.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, when you think about, as you lay it out, what his goal is, how to get his goal and how you say this completely just contradicts directly what his goal is, how could this proposal come from President Trump's administration?

HUNTER: Because I think it came from OMB without any input from the president's policy people. That's my only guess on this, that it came from OMB without any input whatsoever from the president.

BOLDUAN: If this proposal remains in the budget when it is laid out later this month, will the president still have your support?

HUNTER: Yes, he will have my support, because this is not going to pass Congress, number one. OMB can do all the crazy stuff that they want to. Congress isn't going to cut the first line of defense for national security, illegal immigration and drugs, and criminal networks. Congress is totally going to disregard OMB's suggestions if they're nonsensical like this one is. That just makes OMB irrelevant.

BOLDUAN: I mean, but the president has his own OMB director, handpicked by the president. The director of OMB is handpicked by him. How can they not be working not no concert with each other?

HUNTER: Once again, I don't think this administration has their policy people directly from the president and his team in the White House reviewing what OMB is doing yet. That could be the only explanation I have for this, is that President Trump's people are not looking at what OMB is doing at this point. Whether they haven't been appointed, haven't been hired, or there's nobody to oversee them from the administration. That's the only answer that I have.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, real quick, while I have you, since it is the huge issue on the Hill right now, where are you on the current Obamacare repeal and replace bill?

HUNTER: I'm not sure yet. I want to see a full repeal. And I don't like -- there's no way to mess around the edges on this. We probably need a full repeal. And that's not what we have right now. I'm still looking at it. Not going to say one way or the other right now.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Duncan Hunter, please come back on, we really appreciate it. Thank you.

HUNTER: Thank you.

[11:39:20] BOLDUAN: Protests around the globe. Live pictures right now as women rally for many reasons, some against President Trump. Other rallies, other protests are protesting for equal pay. And much more detail on this coming up.

Plus, the word wars over President Trump's wiretap claims. Trump says this is akin to Watergate. We'll talk to a key player in Watergate. That's coming up.


BOLDUAN: It is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate and honor the contributions of women around the country, around the world, and also promote equality. On this Women's Day, some demonstrators are raising awareness of equality in the workplace. Earlier, President Trump tweeted his support for women in the United States and around the world but some of the demonstrations today are aimed directly at him and his policies.

Athena Jones is in Washington where one of those demonstrations and marches is taking place.

Athena, what's going on there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. This march just under way, we're almost to the White House. This is one of several demonstrations, as you mentioned, around the world marking International Women's Day.

This particular gathering was organized by 40 organizations from the U.S. and around the world. They're here to protest the Mexico City policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule. That is a rule that the president, President Trump, reinstated in his first days in office. That rule says that any organization around the world that gets U.S. funding, U.S. dollars, aid of any sort, cannot provide abortions, cannot refer women for abortions, cannot even mention abortions as part of their family planning. So that is why you have this group out here making -- carrying signs, "Stop the Global Gag Rule," chants like, "When abortion rights are under attack, what do we do, stand up, fight back." They're headed to the White House where they'll have several speakers over the next hour or so -- Kate?

[11:45:35] BOLDUAN: Athena, thanks so much. I know it's loud so I'll let you go. You have protests around the country and rallies around the world as well.

Athena, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, President Trump invoking Nixon and Watergate in his claim that President Obama ordered a wiretap on his phone. Coming up, a man who was at the center of Watergate. What does he think about the president's allegations? That's next.


BOLDUAN: Former President Obama might be irked and exasperated about President Trump's wiretap claim, a claim that President Trump has yet to offer any evidence to back up. But the White House has no plans to dial it back. In case you have been asleep for the last four days, here is the tweet in question: "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy."

Joining me now is someone who knows a little bit about Nixon and Watergate, former White House counsel to President Nixon, John Dean.

John, it's great to have you back.


BOLDUAN: So you have, of course, as we have said before, a well- documented history with a president and wiretaps. What did you think, John, when you saw this explosive allegation coming from President Trump against President Obama?

DEAN: Well, my first reaction was how low will President Trump go rather than him saying how low will Obama go? I know as a fact that it is very difficult today, and no presidents really do it, order wiretaps out of the White House. There are two routes they can go. One is a criminal proceeding, the other is a foreign proceeding, and they're both cumbersome today. This is all post-Watergate. It's also post-1972 when the Supreme Court ruled that national security wiretaps were illegal. And that's what really resulted in the FISA law. So it was just - clearly, the man could have picked up the telephone, the president could have picked up the telephone and said, did my predecessor wiretap me, and gotten a definitive answer. He didn't do that.

BOLDUAN: I do find it fascinating how often -- and it's been more than once -- that President Trump himself invokes the Nixon era and Watergate when he talks about what's happening today. Why do you think that is?

DEAN: He seems to be a man, speaking about Trump, who projects on to others what is falling on him. We saw it during the campaign. One that jumped to mind was when Hillary Rodham Clinton called him Putin's puppet, he turned around and called Hillary's Putin's puppet, something like a 7-year-old might. He does this on a larger scale. And I think he sees the Watergate-type atmosphere descending on his White House, so he is now turning around and charging it against Obama to try to deflect attention off of himself. That's the only explanation I can see.

BOLDUAN: John, since you have been in the inner circle of a White House, I have to ask you -- I keep kind of harping on this when people say that we kind of wonder should we take this president seriously or literally? I and many others have argued you should take them both seriously and literally. When it comes to these tweets, that is what a lot of -- you heard from the House Intelligence Committee chairman, is that he is a political neophyte and sometimes you guys, the media, take him literally and suggesting that we shouldn't. Do you think a president should be taken seriously and literally, or otherwise?

DEAN: At this point, it's very early in his presidency. The only safe route is take him both literally and -- really, you can't totally ignore these charges he is making. You have to look at them. He is clearly playing the press. He did this when he was in New York with the tabloids, where he carrot-and-sticked them until he got them in line. I think he is going to bring the Washington press corps into line the way he did the New York tabloids. I think he's somewhat frustrated that he really can't do everything he wants to do and make them behave the way he would like them to behave.

BOLDUAN: You were counsel to a president, to President Nixon. You went through Watergate. How would you counsel this president, John, in the middle of these explosive claims and what you say is kind of a Watergate era that he could be facing?

DEAN: I would certain what he's doing with his relationships with the federal bureaucracy, in general, with the intelligence community, in particular, is build enemies, and this is not a smart thing to do. Doing the same thing with the media. There's going to be a time when he needs to be believed, when he needs to have all the support he can find, and he has done nothing, Kate, to try to bring that kind of cooperation and support that this army of people who are there to serve him are ready to provide. Civil servants are not terribly partisan people, and for him to cause war with them is just to me silly.

[11:55:09] BOLDUAN: And Democrats, John, they see this latest claim, this allegation coming from the president, they see it as another reason, in their view, to bring in a special prosecutor to hand the investigation into Russia and ties with Trump -- and Trump associates. Republicans at the very least they say it's too soon. Some of them say absolutely not. What do you think?

DEAN: I think if Trump had nothing to hide, he would be smart to tell his deputy attorney general, when he gets through the confirmation, or even pass the word during the confirmation, and have him pledge to get an independent counsel in there, a special counsel, a say we're going to cooperate fully, we're going to end all this nonsense. But I'm not sure he is a man who can do that.

BOLDUAN: We'll see as time passes or what could tip that scale.

John Dean, it's always great to have you. Thank you.

DEAN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We're going to be right back to our breaking news. Right now, Republicans are set for battle among themselves on Capitol Hill when it comes to their plans to replace Obamacare. We'll go live to Capitol Hill where members are working through the bill as we speak.