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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Backs Plan to Curb Legal Immigration; Trump Signs New Sanctions into Law; White House Dismisses NYT Article; Trump White House; Prince Philip Steps Down from Public Duties. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:06] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --

Donald Trump's plan to cut legal immigration in half: people wishing to come to the U.S. would not be required to speak English but it would certainly help.

Plus President Trump calls new sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Russia seriously flawed. Why he signed off on the new penalties anyway.

And after nearly 70 years and tens of thousands of appearances, Britain's Prince Philip is stepping back from public life.

Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Well Donald Trump is backing a plan to slash legal immigration to the U.S. by 50 percent. The proposal would award visas using a point system based on age, education and income potential. Applicants would also get points for a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal.

But the plan is already meeting with stiff resistance.

CNN's Jim Acosta has all the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As the President rolled out a new immigration plan that prioritizes English-speaking people coming in to the U.S., the White House sent one of its top policy advisers Stephen Miller to defend the proposal as all-American.

But Miller bristled when reminded of what the Statue of Liberty has said to generations of immigrants. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

(on camera): Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you're telling them you have to speak English. Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Well, first of all right now, it's a requirement that to be naturalized you had to speak English. And the notion that speaking English wouldn't be part of our immigration systems would be actually very (inaudible) to our goal.

Secondly, I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world. It's a symbol of American liberty lighting the world.

The poem that you're referring to was added later is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty. But more fundamentally --

ACOSTA: It's history --

MILLER: -- more fundamentally --

ACOSTA: You're saying that that does not represent --

MILLER: I'm saying that -- I'm saying that the notion --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: I'm saying the notion of -- I'm saying the notion --

ACOSTA: Stephen -- I'm sorry.

MILLER: No.

ACOSTA: That sounds like --

MILLER: Jim -- let me ask you a question.

ACOSTA: That sounds like some National Park revisionism. Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain or Australia?

MILLER: Jim -- actually, I want to say I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It's actually -- it reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree that in your mind -- no, this is an amazing -- this is an amazing moment.

I just want to say - -

ACOSTA: It looks like you're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country --

MILLER: Jim -- that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish thing you've ever said. And for you to still -- the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong --

ACOSTA (voice over): The President unveiled his immigration plan in front of the cameras.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know the time --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: But when it came to one of the biggest pieces of legislation of his administration, a Russia sanctions bill, Mr. Trump chose to remain behind closed doors.

The President signed the measure passed overwhelmingly in Congress then protested in a statement that this legislation is significantly flawed labeling portions that limit his ability to lift sanctions on Russia as clearly unconstitutional provisions.

The President's response one day after the White House conceded, he weighed in on a misleading statement for his son about a meeting with a Russian attorney struck some Republicans as over the top.

REP. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: I'm kind of shocked. That's such a Trumpian statement. The fact is though is that the legislative branch has a role in this. We're exerting that role.

ACOSTA: The President was forced to swallow the sanctions bill as new questions are being raised about his credibility that boiled down to his overall trustworthiness.

Take what happened on Monday when he bragged that even the President of Mexico was praising his success in slowing unauthorized border crossings.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, the border was a tremendous problem. And now close to 80 percent stoppage and even the President of Mexico called me --

ACOSTA: The problem is the Mexican government says that call didn't happen adding in a statement, "President Enrique Pena Nieto has not been in recent communications via telephone with President Donald Trump.

TRUMP: Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?

ACOSTA: Then there's the President's recent controversial speech to the Boy Scouts that he turned into a political rally. The President told the "Wall Street Journal", I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them and they were very thankful."

But a Boy Scouts official told CNN there was no such call.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On Mexico he was referencing the conversation that they had had at the G-20 summit where they specifically talked about the issues that he referenced.

[00:04:55] In terms of the Boy Scouts, multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership following his speech there that day congratulated him, praised him and offered -- I'm looking -- quite powerful compliments following his speech.

ACOSTA (on camera): As for the President's immigration proposal, top Republicans are already questioning whether it will even go anywhere up on Capitol Hill.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham complained the White House plan could harm his state's agricultural and tourism industries.

Jim Acosta, CNN -- the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, joining me now here in L.A. to talk more about all this. radio host Mo Kelly and CNN political commentator John Phillips. Gentlemen -- welcome. Good to have you with us.

MO KELLY, RADIO HOST: Good to see you.

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

SESAY: Mo -- let's start with you. I want to kick off this conversation by playing some --

KELLY: Sure.

SESAY: -- sound from the President. Take a listen to how he described in part what's wrong with the current immigration system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Among those hit the hardest in recent years have been immigrants and very importantly minority workers competing for jobs against brand new arrivals. And it has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Mo, the President there framing this new immigration proposal as an issue of fairness.

But then there are those who say this is more about identity politics. It is more about driving a wedge between communities. How do you see it?

KELLY: Well, it is transparent (ph). It changes the conversation away from Russia. It is a way to deflect from his views on Russia.

How is it that he's going to be more criticizing of legal immigrants coming into this country as opposed to Russia? Is it Americans in terms of how Russia has treated us? Talk about legal immigrants as if they are a greater threat or a greater problem than Russia and how they treated us.

I think it's very transparent. It is identity politics. The whole idea of hoping or needing to speak English instead of someone who might be coming from Africa or Latin America or South America who may not speak English. It is putting up a theoretical wall as opposed to a physical wall.

SESAY: John -- is this about the base at a time when the legislative agenda has stalled and there's all this pressure with Russia?

PHILLIPS: This is not the number one issue for Donald Trump. This is issue one, two and three. There's one reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It was his position on immigration.

I heard Jim Acosta reference Lindsey Graham and Lindsey Graham's hesitancy to support this type of legislation. Lindsey Graham got 1 percent when he ran for President and had to drop out very early on in the primaries. Donald Trump won.

And I'd point out too that Donald Trump did better among black voters than Mitt Romney, John McCain. He did better among Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Part of that reason -- a huge part of that reason in my opinion was the issue of combating illegal immigration and cutting the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. It may not be a huge number that he got overall but when you're talking about slim margins in states like Michigan and states like Wisconsin and states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, it really means something.

He has to come through with this. There's no other option.

SESAY: Ok.

KELLY: Yes, he does have to come through with this because he's not doing anything else. He's been unsuccessful on every other front.

Yes, it's red meat for the base. Yes, it's what he campaigned on. But at the same time, when you look at his poll numbers and they're in the mid-30s, yes he needs to get something where people will applaud but it's not necessarily going to be a legislative win.

PHILLIPS: It's not just the base though because he won a bunch of Democrats. He won a bunch of people that voted for Obama two times in all of those purple states and the Rust Belt, places like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin --

SESAY: And you think legal immigration was a driving factor --

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

SESAY: -- as opposed to illegal immigration?

PHILLIPS: If you look at the Democrats who represent those states in Congress, they talk a tough game on immigration. They may not necessarily vote the hard line position on it but they certainly talk that way back home.

SESAY: Let me play some more sound from the President as he talks about this new point-based system. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: John -- this focus on being able to speak English and the focus on your education and how advanced it is -- doesn't that challenge the notion of this country's relationship, its historical welcoming of immigrants of all kinds?

PHILLIPS: Not at all because we're a country not a flop house. You can't both be a welfare state and have open border policies. You want people who are going to come here, who are going to assimilate, who are going to become Americans except George Washington who's the father of their country, support themselves.

And right now we have a policy that rewards the exact opposite. I mean --

SESAY: So you're saying people are coming in and they're not becoming Americans. What -- I don't understand.

PHILLIPS: Well, take the Tsarnaev family, for example, in Boston. Two of the brothers ended up bombing the Boston Marathon because they wanted --

[00:10:00] KELLY: And spoke English.

PHILLIPS: -- wanted to do harm to us but the rest of them were losers who were on welfare. That family should have never been allowed in the country.

SESAY: But isn't this country about having the opportunity, letting people in and giving them the chance to get there? I mean you're -- you're making assessments, assumptions before people even get in from a personal piece of paper.

PHILLIPS: This country is about self-reliance, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps -- people who come here, who work hard, who make a living, who follow the rules, who speak English, who assimilate to American society.

KELLY: Where is that written? Where is (inaudible) supposed to assimilate? And a part of assimilation is first coming to the country, maybe learning the language, maybe learning the customs and then finding your place within that place.

PHILLIPS: If you don't have assimilation, you end up like many of the countries in Western Europe and the United States does not want to end up there. That was the reason that Donald Trump won this election.

KELLY: Are you talking about Islam -- because that's the only thing it seems like.

SESAY: Yes. I mean then that's the question.

PHILLIPS: I'm talking about a lot of the riots that we saw in France. I'm talking about a lot of the terrorist attacks that we've seen in England, that we've seen in other western European countries.

SESAY: Do you see that happening --

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: IRA -- that type of terrorism which happened in England? We can't talk about terrorism as if it only was Islamic people in the 21st century.

PHILLIPS: That's where the problem is right now. But I'm talking about --

SESAY: So this is really about Islam --

PHILLIPS: -- the immigrants -- no, no, no.

SESAY: Is that what you're saying?

PHILLIPS: No. For immigrants of all stripes, all of them should be able to support themselves, should assimilate into American society, should follow the rules and I think you should get preference if you speak English -- yes.

SESAY: You don't think that's racist?

PHILLIPS: No, not at all.

KELLY: I didn't know we had a national language here in the United States. Maybe that changed.

SESAY: What about the fact -- you can't step away from the culture, if you will, and what you could argue is racist or not depending on where you stand but what you can't argue with is the data and the economic data that this country needs a growing work force to deliver on that economic growth that the President promised his supporters.

Cutting legal immigration is not taking that in the right direction, according to economists.

PHILLIPS: Well look, economists are largely open borders people and they want cheap labor. Cheap labor cuts people who are at the bottom of the income ladder right now and they get to pay people less.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to pick up the tab. And if cheap labor is coming into the United States to subsidize corporate America then the American taxpayer is going to have to pick up the difference.

And the American taxpayers voted on that subject this November and in the primaries and they said "enough".

SESAY: Mo.

KELLY: I don't know --

SESAY: How do you -- KELLY: I don't know if they voted on that issue specifically. I

remember people were concerned about illegal immigration. I know people were concerned about building a wall to keep people who are illegally coming in to the country. But it's that we want to lump anyone who comes into the country legal or not into the same batch.

PHILLIPS: I've got a quote for you from President Obama.

SESAY: Go ahead. Go ahead.

PHILLIPS: The day after the elections, speaking to "Rolling Stone Magazine". He said it's going to be important for Democrats and immigration rights activists to recognize that for the majority of the American people borders mean something. That was the lesson that he learned from the election on Tuesday, November 8.

That was the clear direction the American people gave Donald Trump and the Congress of the United States. Whether they choose to ignore it is up to them.

SESAY: I don't think the issue is the case of whether or not you modernize the immigration system. As times change I think people believed the systems and processes need to be updated.

I think the question is how it is done and this notion of English and the level of education seem discriminatory and antithetical to America's notions of openness and welcome. I think that's what people are having an issue dealing with.

But I also need to ask you because I want to get to the sanctions issue. How this squares with having a president who hires foreign workers to work on his properties. How does this square with that. I don't -- John.

KELLY: American -- if I could jump here --

SESAY: Mo.

KELLY: -- American business does need to take responsibility if American businesses hiring quote-unquote "unskilled labor", quote- unquote, "who cannot speak English" that is not the fault of the legal immigrant. That's the fault of the American business who is hiring them.

Why are we going to blame the person for accepting the job as opposed to the business which is offering the job?

PHILLIPS: Businesses play by the rules that are written by the Congress and signed by the President. Right now we have a system that is clearly broken and need reform and the American people want that to happen.

It reminds of what the Democrats do with campaign finance reform. They take money from all of these special interests and go to Washington and decry the fact that special interests have influence with elected lawmakers. Well, they can refuse that money. They can say no, I'm not going to take your money. They don't. They want to change the law but they still take the money, well it's legal.

KELLY: I don't understand how conservatives can argue both sides of the issue. They are for capitalism and the free market except when it doesn't work to their benefit.

SESAY: And there we'll leave it on that issue. But I want to talk about the sanctions. I want to talk about the bill that the President signed today which was done behind closed doors. No press, no cameras -- John, no hoopla?

PHILLIPS: Oh since when does the President crave cameras and attention?

[00:14:58] If you judge the President based on the positions that he's taken and the actions that he's taken against Russia, there is absolutely no question that he's taken a more adversarial position to Russia than President Obama.

He bombed Syria. He went to Poland and said we'll bring you back the missile defense system. He pledged our support for NATO and he signed that bill.

SESAY: The pledging to support NATO bit was a little tactic --

PHILLIPS: He did that.

SESAY: Yes.

KELLY: But back in October, the same day as the Billy Bush video came out, President Obama said we -- in effect that we were attacked by Russia that's why he kicked out the diplomats to which President Trump has done nothing to our diplomats being kicked out in Russia.

To say that President Trump has been tougher on Russia is a generous read and I will say almost disingenuous.

SESAY: The President himself made it very clear he was unhappy with this bill and he was grudgingly signing it. Take a listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary and what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President favors tough measures to punish and deter the bad behavior of the rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea. He also sent a clear signal that we won't tolerate interference in our democratic process by Russia.

The bill was improved but Congress has encroached on the power of the presidency and he signed it in the interest of national unity. We've been very clear that we support tough sanctions on all three of those countries. We continue to do so. And that has certainly not changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Have they been clear of their support for tough sanctions -- John.

PHILLIPS: He signed it.

SESAY: Grudgingly.

PHILLIPS: That's the only thing that matters.

SESAY: Well no, signing is not what matters. The question is enforcement. The question is will he seriously look to implement it? That's a whole other matter.

PHILLIPS: I pay my taxes. I may not have a smile on my face when I do it. But I write the check.

KELLY: Rex Tillerson has made it clear that he as a representative of the administration wants to make sure that there's a pathway to improve relations with Russia. They have already attacked us in the cyber sense.

They have not shown themselves as a friend. They tried to harm this republic. Why this administration is so hell bent on trying to be friends with them at least in the short term is beyond me.

First they said we've had no discussions with the Russians and they said well, let's change that. We've had plenty of discussions with plenty of Russians. Then they said well, President Trump had no knowledge about Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with the Russians. Then he said well, actually he did and he weighed in with some fatherly advice.

It is ok to call this administration a liar when it comes to Russia.

SESAY: Before we go -- before I let you go on those strong words, the President himself put out a statement after signing -- he put out two. But I want to read part of the second one. Let's put that part lit up on screen. And John, I would love to get your thoughts here.

The President said this. "Congress could not even negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the executive's flexibility" -- which is his gripe, that it encroaches on presidential executive power -- "this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people and will drive China, Russia and North Korea much closer together."

Bearing in mind that he has less to show on Capitol Hill this talk of being a great deal maker -- is it not wearing thin?

PHILLIPS: Well, give the health care bill time. I still think it's not over yet. He's going to come up with some kind of compromise with Congress and get something through.

But the most important thing for him by far is immigration. He's got to get this immigration proposal through. SESAY: I thought the most important thing for Mr. Trump was repeal- and-replace Obamacare.

PHILLIPS: No, no, no, no. Number one, two and three is immigration.

KELLY: Since when? I mean you have heard anything about immigration prior to today so it will be hard for me to stomach that. This was the --

PHILLIPS: Build the wall was the most common thing that was said besides lock her up.

KELLY: Then he would have led his agenda legislatively with trying to push through this immigration bill as opposed to health care the first, second, third and fourth time which all happened to fail.

PHILLIPS: I'm telling you -- one, two and three -- immigration.

SESAY: All right. All right. You're arithmetic aside, we're going to leave this there.

Gentlemen -- always a pleasure. Mo, John -- thank you.

KELLY: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

SESAY: All right. Quick break here.

Next on NEWSROOM L.A., the "New York Times" says the Trump administration is looking into discrimination against white students in college and university admissions. Now the Justice Department is pushing back calling the report inaccurate.

[00:18:59] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: Hello everyone.

The U.S. Justice Department is knocking a report that it has begun looking into race-based discrimination in college and university admissions. The "New York Times" said this. The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department's civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.

Well, the Trump White House immediately fired back calling the reporting unreliable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: The "New York Times" article is based entirely on uncorroborated inferences from a leaked internal personnel posting in violation of Department of Justice policy. And while the White House does not confirm or deny the existence of potential investigations, the Department of Justice will always review credible allegation of discrimination on the basis of any race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: The Justice Department issued a statement saying the case dates to the Obama era and is not a new initiative. The posting -- I'm reading here, quote, "The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior administration left unresolved."

With us now to bring his legal perspective is criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Austin Dove. Austin -- welcome. Good to have you here.

So once again, I just want to be clear to our viewers that, you know, the White House, the Department of Justice all pushing back on the "New York Times" report saying it is unreliable, worth pointing out the "New York Times" says they stand by their reporting.

Nonetheless that's the official line from the administration. On the face of it though, let's discuss the theory here.

Is there something that can actually be taken on? I mean hasn't it already been settled -- the issue of affirmative action? Wasn't it settled already by the Supreme Court?

AUSTIN DOVE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's been settled most of the time by the Supreme Court. We've got the first cases that's the kind of watershed case back in 1978 was the Bakke decision. Bakke sued the University of California, trying to get into medical school based on -- because he believed that the affirmative action policy was improper.

He actually won part of that lawsuit. The part that had a quota was deemed to be unlawful. But the part that said you can still use race as a factor was upheld.

And the same theory or the same line was upheld and deemed to be lawful more recently just last year in the Fisher versus University of Texas.

SESAY: Yes.

DOVE: So you're right. It's settled in terms of what the Supreme Court has said about it. They've said -- they ruled on this and they said that you can use race as long as it's in a whole list of fashion and not the sort of pre-eminent factor weighted with other criteria in the initial process.

SESAY: I do want to give our viewers the full picture and make it clear that eight states have already banned the use of race in admissions policies according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That would include Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington. They have banned the use of race in admissions policies altogether.

And how that squares with the Supreme Court's position and the fact that it's been settled numerous times in the past.

DOVE: Well, you've seen it. Universities still have the discretion to sort of determine how they want to make their student body up and what they want their population to look like.

So as long as they're using criteria that on the whole, they look t other factors, for example, poverty, individuals with various adverse backgrounds. Those criteria still measure.

Now whether they can sort of put race or as a specific label in that those states would not allow that. But those factors are still coming into play.

We did see a big drop out of some of those states and the sort of diversity pool of students who are admitted. But there are still -- a lot of these universities are because this test -- these cases that you just mentioned or we just discussed met the highest level. That's a compelling state interest.

They have to determine that race was a valid reason among all those reasons that they used. And because we know of the history of race in this country, in fact the very (inaudible) had race as a factor they were deemed to be lawful.

[00:25:05] SESAY: The "New York Times" in that same piece also stated that according to this memo which is where they got the details of this plan, which again, I should make clear, CNN has not seen. According to this memo and the undertaking to dismantle affirmative action would be headed by political appointees and the Department of Justice civil rights division rather than the educational opportunity section which normally handles schools.

What does that say to you if indeed the "New York Times" reporting is correct?

Dove: It says it's consistent with a lot of things about this administration. This administration seeks to sort of micro manage and seems to keep very close the sort of concept of loyalty. And they want individuals who have been there longer who've been trained in another practice. In fact, very much the opposite, looking at issues of race in terms of its sensitivity, in terms of whether any rights have been violated, enforcing those kinds of violations.

This is almost the opposite in a way saying we're going to take this to a different direction and sort of be the, you know, the frontrunner for other types of individuals who are saying, oh no, it's other groups, larger groups who have historically been deemed not in the minorities who are now being disadvantaged. That's the big difference.

And it really is, if you think about consistent with a lot of the agenda Jeff Sessions has said about, you know, Voting Rights Acts and other issues. These fall in line with those same kinds of concepts.

SESAY: And I want to end with more like a theoretical question, if you will, to you. This notion that affirmative action is like -- it's a zero sum game that in its implementation that the right of white people are being denied. I mean where do you stand on this thought process, which is one that a lot of people hold on to and believe?

DOVE: Yes. Well, you know, there's certainly arguments you can make on both sides. But if you look at where we are today -- and this kind of saying keeping within the university context and that's really where a lot of the action -- a lot of the play is.

There are still these schools -- Harvards and Texas (ph) and other schools like this -- they are in the ranking in the best among all universities. These administrators, these deans of these colleges are very, very conscious about the student bias coming in and what's going to go out on the opposite side.

So if you sort of think about your theoretical question about what race plays, it still will necessarily play a role because that drives what's going to happen in the work force on the other side of it.

So you know, other people take the theory that well, it's not really schools that could do it, it should be the marketplace that will do it. Ultimately school was a part of the marketplace as well.

And you have to make decisions that are healthy for the overall student body. I think historically these Supreme Court decisions and more recently have recognized. And so that if you sort of try to in this one stroke move it to a different position, it doesn't really work.

SESAY: Austin Dove -- so great to speak to you. Thank you.

DOVE: Pleasure.

SESAY: Thank you very, very much.

DOVE: You're welcome.

SESAY: Quick break here.

The U.S. is hitting Russia with new sanctions and nearly unanimous, I should say, from Congress. But there's at least one person who isn't happy about it -- the American president. His very reluctant role will be explained when we come back.

[00:28:11] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY (voice-over): You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

SESAY: With me now is Robert English, director of the USC School of International Relations.

Robert, good to see you again.

ROBERT ENGLISH, USC: Thank you. SESAY: Given the president's reluctance to sign this, let's face it, he made it very, very clear. He was unhappy with this whole process.

Do you expect to see the Trump administration seriously implement this new law?

ENGLISH: That's a great question and I think it directs from the Washington, D.C., bubble and this fight -- let's face it. It's more between Donald Trump and the Congress and the political elite than it really is about Russia. Right. It's not so much about seriously changing Russia's behavior because the sanctions haven't worked so far and they probably won't in the future.

But it's about restraining Donald Trump and making a point. But when we ask about, globally, what will the impact really be, how will they be implemented, I'm interested to see -- it might be that the more dynamic, the more complicated relationship is not with Russia but with Western Europe.

That's because Western European companies and countries have a number of serious projects, investments in Russia , chiefly the upcoming North Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that under the strict interpretation oof the sanctions would require President Trump to impose penalties on German companies.

That could be very interesting and a lot more exciting to those of us who follow the politics while Russia stands off to the side.

SESAY: I want to talk to you about Russia's response to the signing. The Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev posted this on Facebook. Let me read some of the statement.

He basically said that it was tantamount to a full-scale trade war. He said the hope of improving our relations with the new U.S. administration has ended. Secondly, aid, the fully-fledged trade war is declared against Russia.

Bellicose rhetoric; do they really think that the chances of a rapprochement, of a reset, are done?

ENGLISH: A number of things come to mind after Medvedev's statement. One is how interesting. In our country, we have Trump and Tillerson saying one thing and we have Vice President Mike Pence pushing a different line.

In Russia, Putin was very restrained. His foreign minister. It was more through sort of regret than anger that we do this, our counter sanctions, right. Medvedev is fiery. Trade war, my goodness.

SESAY: Well, whose voice do we listen to?

ENGLISH: I don't know. We probably listen to Putin. But the very fact that there's the dissenting voice, means they're trying to deliver a secondary message. So what could that message be?

And lets think about it. The message was almost needling Donald Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

ENGLISH: I think the word impotent was used. It was like saying, what kind of autocrat are you?

Our president can do whatever he wants. You're hamstrung by this Congress. What a wimp you are.

Now as Americans, as citizens of a constitutional republic, as Westerners, Europeans, too, what we should be proud when our Congress, when our legislatures step up and perform their constitutional role. Whether they're pushing back against the executive or not.

But in Medvedev's telling it's all about power and manhood. So he's needling Trump directly.

What does that hope to accomplish, right?

Because, after all --

[00:35:00]

ENGLISH: -- Trump is still Russia's friend in this. It's the Congress that's pushing back hard.

Does Medvedev think that somehow this will provoke Trump to not implement the sanctions or somehow undo them?

That seems very unlikely. The Congress voted overwhelmingly. So I don't quite understand the conflicting voices in Russia. It could be that Medvedev was just spouting off.

SESAY: Just venting.

ENGLISH: But it definitely seemed targeted directly at the fragile ego of our President Trump.

SESAY: So I have to ask you, as we assess the fallout -- Medvedev's voice cannot be discounted and we'll see how it plays out.

Are we looking at the possibility of there being a fallout in other areas of potential cooperation between the U.S. and Russia as a result of the signing of this bill?

ENGLISH: There could be if the leaders on both sides were minded to act that way. If Medvedev represents the new current in Russia, that would be a bad sign. Then we can expect more counter sanctions, tit- for-tat and --

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ENGLISH: -- further cooperation in Syria, tentative signs of working seriously toward at least a partial resolution in Ukraine. All that could go by the wayside. I am betting that that's not going to happen, that both sides would

like to halt the sanctions and counter sanctions, the tit-for-tat escalation here. We'll have to have a necessary period of anger, of, you know, of verbal dynamics.

But behind the scenes, there's nothing stopping the State Department and the Russian foreign ministry from having serious working groups, serious discussions.

Can we find common ground for further progress in Syria?

Can we find some steps toward fulfilling the Minsk accords and actually taking a step forward on Eastern Ukraine?

Nothing prevents them from doing that. And in all fairness, in justice to the U.S. Congress, isn't that what they're saying as well?

Pence said it very clearly. Russia has the power to have sanctions relief if they modify behavior and become more cooperative. So if we step back from the Washington bubble and all the anger in D.C. about Donald Trump, there could be progress and this could actually be a positive step.

SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) appreciate the insight and analysis as always. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Up next on NEWSROOM L.A., Britain's Prince Philip retires from public life. We'll look back on his remarkable time in the royal spotlight.

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SESAY: Hello, everyone.

Wednesday marked a special moment for Britain's Prince Philip. The 96-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth officiated at his final engagement before retiring from public life. The Duke of Edinburgh has appeared so at more than 22,000 events since 1952 and that is not counting visits he has made with queen. Our own Nick Glass looks back at Prince Philip's decades of service.

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NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ramrod straight, a man in a --

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GLASS (voice-over): -- raincoat and a traditional bowler hat. From behind, you would have been hard pressed to guess his age -- 96. Or that this, after 70 years, was his final official engagement. As parades go, this was informal. Prince Philip just doing his thing,

raising a smile and a laugh among young and old.

As an ex-navy man, it seemed entirely apt that the parade at Buckingham Palace was by the Royal Marines.

Prince Philip is still affable, still inquisitive, ever more hawk-like in look but, at his great age, his energy is dimming and he's finally retiring.

Who else aside from the queen has done more for the monarchy over such a long time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think in a way it is transitional moment. The queen has been a little bit worried about him at certain times over the last couple of years. I have heard people say that.

And I think that you know, she doesn't want him to get overly tired and so I'm sure there is an element that this is a sensible thing to do.

PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH (from captions): You're now seeing the world's most (INAUDIBLE).

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GLASS (voice-over): Here he was at Lords Cricket Ground in London earlier this summer, wearing the famous egg-and-bacon tie of the MCC and doing what he's done on countless occupations, chatting, this time about old cricket bats and cutting a ribbon.

"Are you ready?" he asked the photographers.

Prince Philip has been around so long, we need to remind ourselves of his glamorous arrival in 1947, a handsome groom of 26, Leftenant Philip Mountbatten of the Royal Navy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God, he was good-looking. (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) ever. And I think he really, truly has been a rock.

GLASS (voice-over): Prince Philip has always been his own man, a thoughtful man, a family man.

PRINCE PHILIP: Like all families, we went through the full range of pleasures and tribulations of bringing up children. I'm naturally somewhat biased but I think our children have done rather well under very difficult and demanding circumstances.

GLASS (voice-over): He could also be combative, livid, in fact, especially with photographers. But more often than not, he saw the funny side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry to hear you're standing down.

PRINCE PHILIP: I can't stand up so much.

GLASS (voice-over): By his own admission, Prince Philip has never been a man to look back much. But this afternoon, he did seem to just for a moment.

It was 70 years there have been a lot of parades, a lot of young men marching past, some of them off to war. As he left the parade ground, the band struck up "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

The palace has issued a retirement photo taken in the garden of Buckingham Palace. Although there will be no more official engagements, Prince Philip is still expected to appear at the queen's side from time to time -- Nick Glass, CNN, in Central London.

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SESAY: Twenty-two thousands solo events. That's a pretty good run.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.

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