Return to Transcripts main page


Rescue Mission Underway For U.S. Service Members; FBI Tracked "Fake News" Believed To Be From Russia On Election Day; Trump On 17- Day "Working Vacation" At His New Jersey Golf Club; Former Mexican President: We Will Not Pay For Wall. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 5, 2017 - 08:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news this morning, a search and rescue mission happening right now for U.S. service members off the coast of Australia. The Marine Corps said that there was an incident with an Osprey, a plane that can carry up to 22 troops. Although at this moment, we don't know how many were on board that aircraft.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Very good to clarify as Marines say boats and planes are searching for service members right now. On the phone with us, CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Barbara, I want to go to you first. What are you learning about this incident?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Good morning. The Marine Corps in the last hour issuing its initial public statement confirming what they're calling an active search and rescue operation ongoing off the east coast of Australia.

They had been there for a military exercise with the Australians. They are searching for members who were on board this MV-22. This is an aircraft that can take off vertically, like a helicopter and then continue to fly on like a regular airplane.

So, it's a real workhorse for the Marines. They use it at sea, going on and off ships, they use it in combat zones like Iraq and Syria. Our understanding is this operation is training off the east coast of Australia.

The mishap occurred when the aircraft was attempting or beginning to attempt a landing back aboard ship. We are told by the Marines that small boats are in the water looking, aircraft are in the water.

And they are -- there is some initial indication, we want to be very cautious, because it's not officially all the details are not confirmed. There's some initial indication that some of those on board already have been rescued. But at this hour, this active search and rescue operation for U.S. Marines involved in this mishap during training off the east coast of Australia continues -- Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, we've got Colonel Francona with us as well. So, again, we're hearing from Barbara the initial indication is some have been rescued but still waiting for confirmation there.

I think we actually have video of an Osprey MV-22, it's not the specific video of the specific aircraft, but it's just one that looks like it. We'll get it up in a moment. Colonel Francona, you've heard Barbara's reporting. Your primary questions first off the top what you want to know.

LT. COLONEL RICK FRANCONA (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST (via telephone): If this aircraft had this incident while it was attempting a landing, it would be near other U.S. facilities, other U.S. personnel. So that's a good thing.

So, we'll probably get some indication very quickly what happened and also the status of the members, the Marines that were on board that helicopter, hopefully that search and rescue will be successful since they were very close.

This aircraft has a very controversial history, although most of the bugs, or all of the bugs had been worked out. As Barbara said this is a workhorse for both the Marine Corps and the Air Force.

It's used mostly in the air force for special operations, search and rescue and the Marines use it for virtually all of their missions. So, the aircraft sees a lot of us. It has had some accidents in the past, but this is a pretty cutting-edge technology aircraft.

As Barbara said it's a tilt rotor, so it takes off as a helicopter, and then the engines actually move into a vertical position where it flies like an aircraft. It's a very tricky aircraft to fly. The Marines have been flying it now since 2007.

And they use it daily, in almost all of their operations. So, I think we should wait and see what the actual cause was. You know, they -- they're conducting operations and they're simulating combat. So, these are very, very difficult conditions for these persons to operate.

PAUL: All right. Lt. Colonel Rick Francona, thank you for your expertise. Barbara Starr, we appreciate it. Again, here is a picture of that Osprey that is being used. That is not the specific Osprey that has been involved in this incident. That is just a picture of one that is similar.

Just to give you an indication of what they're dealing with there as they continue the search and rescue there in Queensland. Thank you both so much. We'll continue obviously as we get more information to keep you informed because this obviously a very fluid situation and things could be changing rapidly with it. [08:05:10] Also, now, a CNN exclusive report, sources tell us dozens of FBI analysts monitored social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter, and they did so on election day tracking suspected spread of fake news.

Believed to be peddled by Russia in an effort to harm Hillary Clinton during that election, but they risk freedom of speech protections in process of doing so here.

BLACKWELL: Also for the first time, the special counsel is asking the White House to turn over documents related to the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Bob Mueller is looking into potential secret payments made to Flynn that maybe he took from a foreign government while part of the Trump campaign.

PAUL: Flynn was fired amid revelations that he discussed U.S. sanctions with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak the month before Donald Trump took office. Kislyak is now defending those conversations saying there were, quote, "no secrets with Flynn," adding he did not discuss sanctions with anyone.

BLACKWELL: And Attorney General Jeff Sessions promising to shutdown leaks to the media in part by targeting reporters.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance the press' role with protecting our national security.


BLACKWELL: And we've learned the Justice Department is reviewing policies on potentially handing out subpoenas to journalists, and that's prompting some questions about taking legal action.

PAUL: FBI, cyber, and counterintelligence analysts were, quote, "right on the edge of constitutional legality," when they monitored those Facebook and Twitter accounts we just spoke of for suspected Russia propaganda.

Pamela Brown is here with CNN's exclusive reporting on this.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Victor and Christi. Our team has learned that some FBI counterintelligence agents spent election day huddled in a war room, looking for fake news.

And what they could see was negative stories posted about Hillary Clinton. Some having to do with her health that were fake stories generated from accounts with suspected Russian links. This is according to multiple sources we've spoken with.

In fact, the FBI agents could see how the fake news was impacting the conversation online. Now the idea of monitoring for fake news was certainly uncomfortable and somewhat new territory for the FBI. As one official told me, quote, "We were right on the edge of constitutionality" because of, of course, First Amendment protections. But it was something they believe they needed to do because it was important and better understanding how fake news played into this.

What role it had and whether or not anyone in the Trump campaign, in the Trump world, worked with the Russians in this disinformation campaign. Amid all of this, we've learned there was constant coordination between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, as well as DNI, holding conference calls every three hours with the team in the White House to discuss any possible problems.

At that time though, during these conference calls, the big focus was, of course, this notion that the vote could be tampered with, the machines could be tampered with by hackers.

And while the FBI says that didn't happen, there is still this open question of whether the disinformation campaign by the Russians, according to the intelligence community, impacted the outcome of the election. It is something we frankly may never really know -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Pamela, thank you very much. This morning, President Trump is waking up at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. He's on what the White House calls a working vacation for two and a half weeks.

CNN White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins is in New Jersey. So Kaitlan, what will the president be doing? What are his plans in Bedminster?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that's a great question. It's day one of his 17-day vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, he'll be there for essentially the next two weeks while the west wing undergoes some renovations back in D.C.

Now as you've said the White House is billing this as a working vacation because this was the same president when he was a private citizen regularly criticized Barack Obama for taking too many vacations for too long and playing too much golf.

And before he was in office, he said he would not be the kind of president who would take vacations. Now all of this is going on as the president is voicing support for his national security adviser who came under fire in some conservative circles this week.

The president issued this statement overnight, saying, "General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I'm grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country."

Now as you know, Victor, McMaster came under fire in conservative circles this week for two things. One was the dismissal of Ezra Cohen Watnick, this intelligence aide, who was on the National Security Council and brought in by Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, who was let go earlier this year. [08:10:05] And secondly, because a letter came out this week where McMaster had extended Susan Rice's security clearance. Susan Rice is Barack Obama's national security adviser, who has been accused of mishandling classified information that pertains to these Trump associates and some said that McMaster was going too easy on her.

But the White House said that he issued these letters to all former national security advisers so they could participate in discussions with the current administration for issues that arose when they were in office -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kaitlan Collins for us there in New Jersey. Thank you.

L: I want to bring in Josh Rogin, CNN political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Post," Tom Fuentes, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, and Page Pate, CNN legal and constitutional attorney.

I want to start with the FBI monitoring fake news on election day. As we understand it, they said it was uncomfortable territory for the FBI, and that we were right on the edge of constitutional legality. We were monitoring news. Page Pate, how close to the edge were they from a legal standpoint?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Christi, based on what's been reported I don't think they were that close to violating the First Amendment. Once you put information out in the public domain, social media, Twitter, you're sending messages on Facebook, that information is being broadcast to the public.

So, there's nothing illegal about the FBI sitting and reading that information, monitoring that information. But if they try to get involved in at least trying to overhear or trying to monitor communications between individuals, like direct messages on Twitter, e-mail communications, that's problematic, unless they have a warrant. But sitting and listening, I think that's constitutionally OK.

PAUL: Tom Fuentes, would you had been uncomfortable with those duties?

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I would not have, Christi, and I think that this is just so much hyperbole. You have, as just mentioned, these broadcasts were being done in the public domains.

Social media is a public media and there's no constitutional privacy when you put something on your Twitter or Facebook, or any other social media. You're putting that out there. It's in the public domain.

That's no different if FBI agents were sitting at home watching CNN or other cable news or local news, and monitoring news broadcasts that way or going on internet accounts and looking at that.

So, as long as they're not monitoring somebody with an expectation of privacy like your personal e-mails or text messages to another person, there's no protection of that, this is in the public domain.

PAUL: So, Josh, is fake news as it's called considered to be free speech?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what we're dealing with here was a coordinated, directed foreign adversary, foreign government intelligence operation, an information operation. A propaganda campaign that was masking as real media, OK?

That's a bit little different, OK? And the FBI has the responsibility to track that stuff and they should be tracking that stuff. What's so amazing and shocking and sort of disturbing about the reporting here is that they didn't have a handle on it.

They didn't know what they were dealing with. They didn't know what the Russians were going to do on election night if they were going to do something. They didn't know what tricks they had up their sleeve.

As we see President Trump, you know, going around the country calling the idea that Russia interfered in the election, fake news, concocted (inaudible) election by the Democrats to explain their loss.

When we look at reporting like this, we see that that's simply not true because these were serious professionals tracking a serious foreign threat before the election. And quietly, they weren't trying to make fake news. They were trying to stop it.

PAUL: Tom, how confident are you that there will be through all of this some sort of determination as to whether that fake news did impact the result of this election in 2016?

FUENTES: Well, I think we have enough experts that can say, you know, whether the needle moved based on any of the news that was put out there. Whatever was done on election day, no matter what the Russians were trying to do is really too little too late, if they didn't tamper with the voting machines.

Then it was only what will they were putting out in the media which may have been true or not true, fake, disinformation, all of the above. That how many people had already cast their ballots weeks in advance. How many absentee ballots were over and wasn't going to be rescinded.

How much were people going to change their vote on that or even monitoring the fake news outlets. So, I think whatever the FBI was doing and Homeland Security was doing on election day would be to me too little, too late.

Even if the Russians were trying to put this massive amount of fake news on the airwaves and out on social media, I don't know what they could have done with it and how would that have affected the election anyway or how would they be sure that it did or didn't.

PAUL: All right. Page --

ROGIN: That's all true, but I would just say this wasn't the entirety of the FBI effort. They've been tracking this for months. There's been reports on this Russian intelligence for months, And the Russians have been doing it for months, OK.

So, we'll never know exactly what influence it has, when someone is spilling water in the barrel and the water spills over, nobody knows whose water spills over, but it did spill over, OK? Trump did win.

Whether this was the deciding factor or not, this is a problem and it's something that the U.S. government have to tackle now. We have to also admit that it happened and let's see about how we prevent the Russians from doing this in 2018.

PAUL: Well, and the question is how long has it happened at the end the day. I mean, yes, we know it happened in 2016, but when you go back even farther, how long has this been going on is part of the question.

Page, I wanted to ask you as I shift here a little bit to Special Counsel Mueller, he is now asking the White House for General Michael Flynn's -- his documents here.

And we're hearing from Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak this morning, who said that when he spoke with Michael Flynn, they spoke about the simplest things in a transparent manner, with no secrets.

He just said this morning in an interview with state broadcaster Russian 24. What do you think Mueller is searching for specifically in these documents, and how likely will he get everything?

PATE: Well, Christi, I think this investigation started, really, with Michael Flynn. So, I know the special counsel's office has been focused on all of his transactions, not just with the Russians, but with the Turkish government and representatives of Turkish business as well.

The issue here is not going to be whether misleading statements were made on the proper financial forms and whether or not Mr. Flynn failed to register as a foreign agent. We know that he did.

The question is, did he intend to do that, trying to mislead the government. Did he make a false statement, a material false statement with the intent to mislead? And that's the focus, I think, of the special counsel's investigation as far as it relates to Michael Flynn.

I'd like to go back to that fake news issue about whether or not it had an impact on the election. To me, what's critically important is not the impact, but whether there was any coordination with the Trump campaign.

It's hard to believe that the Russians knew exactly where to target this fake news without some advice. And if the Trump campaign gave any advice to the Russians about how to do this, then you have the possibility of illegal collusion with the Russian government.

So, I don't know eventually whether this information will make its way into the special counsel's office. But that is a possibility that if that news was out there, whether it had an impact or not, it still could lead to illegal conduct in a criminal investigation.

PAUL: All right. I only have a couple of seconds --

FUENTES: Christi, if I could make a real quick comment.

PAUL: Yes.

FUENTES: The Russians knew more about our election process before this campaign and will always know more than anybody in the Trump campaign knew. They had no clue. They were not politicians. They were just starting, really amateurs.

The Russians are experts in the U.S. election process. They would have needed no guidance. I'm not saying they didn't collude or didn't try to interfere, I'm just saying they didn't need guidance from anybody in the Trump campaign or in the Clinton campaign for that matter, they know what they're doing.

ROGIN: And the Trump couldn't even collude with itself, right?

PAUL: Josh Rogin, Tom Fuentes, Page Pate, good conversation. We appreciate your insights as always. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Vacation time. President Trump on vacation. Congress is starting their summer break. And there are still, as they go into this break, questions about legislation, accomplishments. Will the president be able to deliver on his pledges to build a wall? Repeal and replace Obamacare? We're going to speak with a Republican congressman about that in just a moment.

PAUL: Also, a Northwestern University professor and an Oxford University employee have been arrested after a manhunt that led them to California for the alleged murder of a Chicago cosmetologist. Details in a moment on how police track down these suspects.



BLACKWELL: It's 23 minutes after the hour now. The president is at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, starting a two and a half-week vacation. Congress is headed to break as well.

And as they head to break, still the unfinished business of repealing and replacing Obamacare, but the vice president told the group last night, this ain't over. Watch.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow conservatives, let me be clear, this ain't over. This ain't over by a long shot. And President Trump are absolutely committed to keep our promise to the American people. We were not elected to save Obamacare. We were elected to repeal and replace it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining me now, Republican Congressman Francis Rooney from Florida. Congressman, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: Certainly, thanks for coming on. So, the movement in the House is with this problem solvers caucus trying to fix Obamacare. Mitch McConnell said it's time for them to move on to tax reform. How will Republicans fulfill that promise to repeal and replace, in this environment, considering the context?

ROONEY: Well, first of all, the House of Representatives has done its part, we passed the AHCA which is a good conservative view of how to bring free enterprise patient-centric care back into the market for non-group insurance, and to reform Medicaid and turn it back to the states. I do not understand why it's so hard to do what we've been telling the American people we wanted to do for eight years.

BLACKWELL: So, I spoke with some of the candidates for Jeff Sessions former seat in Alabama this week, and two of them, Moore Brooks and Judge Roy Moore said that it's time for Mitch McConnell to go.

And they believe that this inability to repeal Obamacare, they are not so much into a replacement, is part of the justification. Do you believe that Mitch McConnell, if he didn't hold to this promise, to push for repeal of Obamacare should go?

[08:25:02] ROONEY: Well, it wouldn't be my place to comment on the majority leader of the Senate. But I do think the American people expect better than what they've been getting from all of us, in terms of repealing and replacing Obamacare. I'm proud of my colleagues in the House and I wish the Senate would be able to focus on accomplishing what they've been telling the people they were going to do.

BLACKWELL: Could you get behind this effort to make some fixes, instead of a repeal?

ROONEY: I think we need to repeal it. I think we told the American people we wanted to repeal it. They voted us in to repeal it. We need to repeal it.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's move on to another policy issue here. After the week of the president's January call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto this week, you told my colleagues this about the president's promise to build a wall and that Mexico would pay for it. Let's watch together.


ROONEY: I don't think anyone during the campaign seriously thought that Mexico would pay for that wall even though we all desperately believe the wall is a metaphor for border security.


BLACKWELL: Nobody believed Mexico would pay. The wall was a metaphor. Do you believe the crowds at President Trump's rallies believed when they were shouting build that wall, they were supporting a metaphor, instead of a traditional brick and mortar, cement wall?

ROONEY: Well, there's an element in the border, where the wall -- brick and mortar wall is appropriate. There are also elements that need to be brought to bear on policing the border like technology.

What I said during the campaign, and those very people you're talking about I think understood, that we need to combine a wall with technology and we need to do all that we can do to secure the border.

There are areas where the Rio Grande, west of Brownsville is very narrow, that might support a wall better in places where it's wide. There's places where those private property, which don't lend itself to a wall right on the river, but lends itself to a wall where.

And then across the land border through New Mexico and Arizona it lends itself to a wall all the way across.

BLACKWELL: True. And you know, what you're offering to this conversation is nuance, but we didn't hear that from the president. In fact, let's remind people of what the president said. We've heard you say that this was a metaphor. Here's what the president said the wall would be.


TRUMP: It's going to be a real wall. It's going to be a high wall. It's going to be beautiful --

It's going be made of hardened concrete and rebar and we're going to set them in nice heavy foundations.

In order to get the wall started, Mexico will pay for the wall.

On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall -- and Mexico will pay for the wall.

I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.


BLACKWELL: And you know what, let's follow this up with your own promise to voters, when you ran for the seat you currently hold. You're in the construction business. You appeared in your own ad with a safety vest and a construction helmet there, a hat. Here's what you said about the wall.


ROONEY: I'm Francis Rooney, I work in the construction industry, so I know a thing or two about building walls. In Congress, I'll fight to build a big one on our southern border.


BLACKWELL: So, this is metaphor talk just an excuse to get the wall started in the first six months?

ROONEY: No, I think first of all, like I said, there are areas where a big wall will be part of the solution. There are also areas where we need something different than a wall, where we need a wall that's removed a bit from the Rio Grande.

But the metaphor part is there's a broad-based feeling of frustration and insecurity all across our country over what's happened with terrorism and people crossing our border. And our broken visa system that half the people came in legally and overstayed that we need to fix.

That's what I mean about the metaphor is a small wall for big problem, border security and individual security.

BLACKWELL: The president also has said before the inauguration and since the inauguration that Mexico will pay for the wall. Do you believe that?

ROONEY: No, I don't think Mexico will pay for the wall. I think he was maybe speaking in a campaign hyperbole or whatever, but I don't think Mexico will pay for the wall.

BLACKWELL: He was speaking -- could you repeat that? He was speaking in what?

ROONEY: It could be just campaign words, you know.

BLACKWELL: But campaign words are the basis for which -- on which voters selected Donald Trump. So, are we now supposed to dismiss the promise that Mexico will pay for the wall? That's why potentially some people voted for him?

ROONEY: Well, I don't think if they voted for him because of who was going to pay for it or they voted for it because they wanted to see our border strengthened and bring security back to the American people. That's where I get back to the broader metaphor idea.

BLACKWELL: OK. Let's move on to another policy issue here quickly. The president supports a plan to cut legal immigration in half by the end of the decade, end of this term. In your district, Florida 19th, there is a construction labor shortage right now in the middle of a construction boom. Now Pew finds that 1 in 8 construction workers is a lawful immigrant. 1 in 5 and is also a farm laborer in the country is also a lawful immigrant. Is this reduction and prioritization of high-skilled workers really best for your district?

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I think the idea in Senator Cotton's bill of shifting the concept of immigration from family to skilled is a good idea. Now when you get into exactly the formula and the type of skills that we need, I think we have to have employer input, because they're the people that are hiring the workers.

But we have a broad-based problem with our workforce in America now. Part of it is the kind of immigrants that come in. And I'm all for ending chain immigration and going for skills. Part of it is the thing that you mentioned that we have a drastic need for a quad- skilled people. They got career and technical education. We need welders, carpenters, cement finishers.


BLACKWELL: But also some of the people who work on --

ROONEY: All of this country. Computer programmers.

BLACKWELL: -- these tomato farms in collier county in Calla County and Lee County that you represent, they don't have skills that match what you've just listed there. And those farms need --

ROONEY: Yes. I'm getting to that part, too.

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

ROONEY: After we talked about high school, and I did introduce a bill to reform h-1b program to make sure it is strictly high-skilled people, then we move in to talking about applied skilled people which are the traditional working America jobs that we still need to do in the era of globalization and technology. Then you move on to the low- skilled jobs and we don't have enough people to do them either. Our people in our district are crying for more H-2as.


ROONEY: To bring in temporary agricultural workers. We can't get the oranges picked without them.

BLACKWELL: All right. Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida. Good to have you on NEW DAY.

ROONEY: Thank you very much.


PAUL: Well, a nationwide manhunt for a college professor and another university employee is over this morning. Both are now in custody facing charges in what police call a savage murder. We'll tell you how they were captured.

BLACKWELL: Plus the NAACP is warning minority travels of what they call looming dangers in the state of Missouri. What prompted them to issue its first state-wide travel advisory?


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[08:36:36] BLACKWELL: Several U.S. servicemen have been pulled from the waters off the coast of Australia, as a search and rescue mission happens there right now. The Marine Corps says it started with an incident which its calling a mishap with an MV-22 osprey.

PAUL: That's the plane that can also hover like a helicopter. It does have a troubled history but it is also referred to as a workhorse, highly used in the military. They say the osprey was trying to land on a ship and something went wrong at that point. The Marine said boats and planes are still working to rescue more service members from the water.

What you're looking at on your screen is a picture of that kind of craft, the MV-22 osprey. That is not the one that they are -- that is involved in this incident. But we're working to get more information on this breaking news. We'll get that to you as soon as more details become available, of course.

BLACKWELL: All right. We've got new details in another breaking story this morning. A Northwestern University professor and an Oxford University employee in custody in California. Police across the country searched for Wyndham Lathem and Andrew Warren, and this morning, they have surrendered.

PAUL: They are suspects in the stabbing death of a Chicago cosmetologist Trenton Cornell-Duranleau. He was found dead last week with multiple stab wounds at Lathem, Chicago, Apartment. Now on the day of his death one of the suspects into this public library here. This is in Chicago. And made a $1,000 cash donation in the victim's name. Police are not talking about a possible motive in this case just yet.

BLACKWELL: Now a CNN exclusive. The FBI monitored Facebook and Twitter on Election Day, tracking a suspected Russian fake news campaign, pushing Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories. Analysts identified specific social media user accounts. They were based overseas. But this was uncomfortable territory for the FBI, they say. Considering that they risked freedom of speech protections in the process.

PAUL: The special counsel in the Russia probe is asking the White House for critical information related to ousted National Security adviser Michael Flynn. "The New York Times" reporting Robert Mueller is looking into secret payments Flynn might have taken from a foreign government while part of the Trump campaign.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is promising to shut down leaks by targeting reporters. Sessions is now reviewing policies in the department for handing out subpoenas to journalists, and that's prompting questions that if he's considering taking legal action to stop attacks on the president.

PAUL: Well, the NAACP has issued its first ever travel warning for an entire state. Advising minority travelers headed to Missouri to use, quote, "extreme caution." Why is this happening? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:43:33] BLACKWELL: The NAACP sent out a warning to minorities traveling through the state of Missouri. And here is a portion of it. They're warning African-American travelers, visitors and Missourians to pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable race-based incidents occurring statewide.

They say -- of course as we went there to use extreme caution. Now the statewide advisory is the first for the NAACP and comes after Missouri passed a law that would make it harder for employees to sue businesses for discrimination.

The governor there calls the bill commonsense reform. The state's NAACP branch says that it's a Jim Crow bill.

All of this coming after the president's new immigration proposal which would grant immigrants visas based on a point system. A move some say is discriminatory. We'll try to have time left to talk about that as well. But let's start with Missouri.

And joining us now, CNN contributor and former president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell Brooks, and CNN political commentator Paris Dennard.

Gentlemen, good morning.



BLACKWELL: So let's first start with this new law that the governor signed, SB-43, that in order to sue for discrimination, Paris, one must prove that the race, gender, religion, any other classified group was not just a contributing factor but now a motivating factor and other limitations and requirements as well. Why was this change necessary?

DENNARD: Listen, I don't know why the change was necessary in the state of Missouri.

[08:45:05] As I understand it, other states have similar laws on the books already that pertain to employment issues. And so there is precedent for it. But what I think is unfortunate is now the NAACP, or NAACP, has -- is acting like a pseudo State Department or travel agency, which is well beyond the means of what they are expected to be doing as a civil rights organization.

I'd like to agree with the woman who is the president of the St. Lewis County NAACP who said that, you know, she may not agree with the law itself, but she thinks that this ban is going to actually hurt the very people that the NAACP is designed to protect.

So innocent workers and people who are in the hospitality industry and people who are dependent upon tourists and people coming to the state and the city of St. Lewis, for example, to have a life.

BROOKS: Well, their businesses, they're still working.

DENNARD: Yes, I think it's unfortunate.

BLACKWELL: Let's point out that other nongovernmental agencies and organizations have issued travel warnings before. The ACLU to name one has issued warnings before and advisories as well.

Cornell, to you, this law as Paris pointed out there, matches the Title 7 of Civil Rights Act of 1964. Let's put that up. An unlawful employment practice is established when the complaining party demonstrates that race, color, religion, sex or national origin was a motivating factor for any employment practice. So what's wrong with making this mirror the federal statute?

BROOKS: Let's be clear. First of all, state laws don't necessarily have to match Title 7. Point one. Point two, the law was sponsored by a legislator whose own business was being sued. Point one. Point two, the law also caps the amount of damages victims of discrimination are able to get. So in other words, it's harder to make a case of discrimination and it's harder to be made whole after you've been discriminated against.

This law has been passed in a state with a long ugly history of discrimination. We recall that Michael Brown lost his life in Ferguson. We recall a young man by the name of Toy Sanford who ran out of gas, ended up in a jail cell, held for 96 hours without being arrested and who died there.

This is also a state in which the students at the University of Missouri have been subjected to ugly racial slurs and bigotry. The point being here is that the NAACP state confidence issued this travel advisory out of concern for the citizens of the state. In the same way that the State Department being concerned about American citizens travel ago broad, the NAACP state confidence and the national NAACP being concerned about citizens traveling within Missouri.

DENNARD: Victor --


BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

DENNARD: If the NAACP was so concerned about people traveling at the states they would issue travel advisories for people in their own headquarter in Baltimore, Maryland. They would issue travel advisories for the people in --


BLACKWELL: Let me finish. Let him finish.

DENNARD: They would issue travel advisories for people traveling in Chicago, Illinois. If you're going to talk about the whole history of things that had been, quote-unquote, discriminatory or bad for African-Americans which I am not denying. My point is simply this. When you have the Church of God in Christ

the largest Pentecostal organization with 60 million members in the U.S. and economic impact in St. Louis in 2016 estimated for $30 million. 40,000 people coming into that city every year. You're going to tell them stay away?

This policy, this ban, it's horrible.

BLACKWELL: Well, how about --

DENNARD: Because it directly impacts its people who they actually need to serve.

BLACKWELL: But the people in Missouri are not the only people being discriminated against in the country. Why specifically the state? And if you could talk to this as well, it expires on August 28th. I mean, that's the date that the law goes into effect. Why would that be the expiration date? Is this just publicity?

DENNARD: A political stunt.

BROOKS: No, let's be very clear about this. This is not a publicity stunt. This is a civil rights measure based on widely known facts. The fact of the matter is, in the state of Missouri, African-American citizens are 75 percent more likely to be detained by the police than their white counterparts. Those are facts. The racial disparities with respect to policing in the state are well-known facts.

The NAACP state conference and the national NAACP took this step to provide a measure of protection for citizens traveling within the state.

[08:50:03] It is not an economic boycott. Let's focus on the facts. It is a travel advisory. In other words, making people aware of the unjust and unsafe civil rights conditions within the state of Missouri.


DENNARD: Well, issue a travel advisory for Baltimore, issue a travel advisory for Chicago.

BLACKWELL: Hold on, let me ask you this question, Cornell. It's a travel advisory -- considering your former role with the NAACP, it's a travel advisory that ends in three weeks. What is expected to happen that's going to be dramatically different once the law takes effect that the NAACP has these quarrels with, that you would end it at the end of the month?

BROOKS: Well, first of all, the travel advisory was issued in response to the passage of the law. It is a first step, not necessarily the last step. That's the first point here. The second point here is, this travel advisory goes to the civil rights conditions within the state of Missouri.

As a nation's oldest civil rights organization, we're concerned about the conditions on the ground in Missouri. And here's what we've not heard. We've not heard anyone contest the lack of safety for the citizens in the state of Missouri in terms of policing. We've not heard that. And so, the point being here, the NAACP took a critical first step. It's not necessarily the last step.

BLACKWELL: It's important to point out that those stats that you reported, I think we have them, we can put them on the screen, actually came from the attorney general in Missouri.

BROOKS: That's right.

BLACKWELL: From the 2016 report. Not from the NAACP. So this is the state acknowledging their own issues as it relates to the disparities between African-Americans and their white counterparts with being stopped and searched.

Paris, last word goes to you.

DENNARD: Nobody denies the fact that there are obviously some serious issues going on with our brothers and sisters in the state of Missouri. Especially St. Louis. That's a fact. But for the NAACP to not also focus on other cities like Baltimore, like Chicago, or different states is just disingenuous.

This looks like a political stunt. If you have a problem with the bill, there are other ways of going after the bill without punishing the very people that you're sworn to protect.

BLITZER: We got to wrap it there. Paris Dennard, Cornell Brooks, good conversation.

BROOKS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

DENNARD: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Quick break. We'll be back.


[08:55:35] PAUL: Well, several U.S. service members have been pulled from the water off the coast of Australia this morning as a search and rescue mission is ongoing there right now.

BLACKWELL: Australia's Defense minister has called Defense Secretary James Mattis to offer support.

The Marine Corps says this started with an incident. They're calling this a mishap with the MV-22, the Osprey.

PAUL: It was apparently trying to land on a ship. And that's when something happened. You see on the right side of your screen there. That is an Osprey, not the one involved in this incident but one like it. It is a plane that can also hover like a helicopter you see there. It has had troubled history but it's most recently become classified as a workhorse for the Marines.

We're working to get more information on this breaking news. Obviously, we'll bring that to you as soon as we've learn more.

BLACKWELL: All right. That's it for us this hour. We'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of NEWSROOM.

PAUL: Don't go anywhere. "SMERCONISH" is with you right after the break. Stay close.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.