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Interview With Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton; President Trump Ends Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program; U.S. Braces for Irma, A Monster Category 5 Hurricane; Trump Holds Tax Reform Meeting Amid DACA Firestorm. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Trump said he loved the dreamers. What might he have done if he hated them?

THE LEAD starts right now.

The dream is over. Protests raging outside the White House and Trump Tower. The Trump administration taking away President Obama's temporary protections for close to 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. What did President Obama have to say about it just minutes ago?

It is the strongest hurricane to threaten the U.S. in more than a decade, Hurricane Irma now a Category 5, packing 200-mile-per-hour wind gusts as millions in the U.S. begin to brace for disaster.

Plus, North Korea says the H-bomb it tested was a gift for the United States. As President Trump meets with his national security team, will he try to defuse or dial it up?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

All of those huge stories ahead, but first I want to go to breaking news in our money lead today, stocks taking a thrashing today, as you hear the closing bell ringing, the Dow dropping more than 200 points.


September typically the worst month of the year for the stock market. Tack on the North Korea nuclear threat, the president's tough talk with China on trade, a looming debt ceiling fight, a possible government shutdown, the damage from one monster hurricane and another more powerful one on its way all weighing in when it comes to investors' decisions right now.

Let's add to that today's breaking news, a major decision today from the White House that could impact the economy and, plus, close to one million people in limbo. President Trump has ordered the rescinding of DACA. That stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

It's an Obama era executive order that provided temporary protections from deportation for the so-called dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who qualified for the DACA program.

The program was being challenged in court, with some states arguing that President Obama had overreached his executive authority. Moments ago, former President Obama weighed in, slamming today's decision.

That was quickly followed by a bipartisan Senate proposal, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham calling for a congressional fix by the end of the month.

Protesters also have been holding rallies nationwide, including outside the White House and outside Trump Tower right here in New York.

CNN's Sara Murray starts us off today at the White House.


SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fate of nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants now in the hands of Congress.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The program, known as DACA, that was effectuated under the Obama administration, is being rescinded.

MURRAY: President Trump ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that protected young children from deportation if they were brought here illegally as children. But he left it up to his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to break the news.

SESSIONS: We are people of compassion and we are people of the law. But there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws.

MURRAY: Trump has ultimately vowed to end the program and to protect the so-called dreamers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration.

You have some absolutely incredible kids. I would say mostly. We're going to deal with DACA with heart.

MURRAY: Today, the president issued a written statement saying, "We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion, but through the lawful democratic process."

The decision means the Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new DACA applications as of Tuesday, though applications received by Tuesday will still be processed. DHS will also renew permits for anyone whose status expires by March 5.

The move puts Congress on the clock to act before thousands of DACA recipients begin losing legal status in 2018. And it adds to an already cramped legislative schedule, with upcoming deadlines to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, on top of approving disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey and taking up tax reform.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If they can't, then they should get out of the way and let somebody else take their job that can actually get something done.

MURRAY: On Tuesday, the White House insisted its focus would be on deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records, not dreamers.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: DACA recipients whose average age are in their 20s were not an enforcement priority before and they certainly won't become a priority now.

MURRAY: But Immigrations and Customs Enforcement made clear as recently as June that anyone in the U.S. illegally risked deportation.

THOMAS HOMAN, ACTING U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT DIRECTOR: If you entered this country illegally, you should be concerned that someone is looking for you. You should be concerned because you violated the laws of this country.

MURRAY: The administration's decision today sparked protests across the country. Democrats broadly slammed the move, while Republican responses were mixed. Some panned it, while others welcomed a shot at coming up with a legislative fix.


MURRAY: Now, former President Obama has been relatively quiet since leaving office, but he weighed in on this DACA decision with an impassioned statement.

I'm going to read you just a part of it. It says: "To target these young people is wrong because they have done nothing wrong. It's self-defeating because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military and otherwise contribute to the country we love, and it is cruel."

He went on to call this a political decision, not a legal one -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Joining me now is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who along with nine other state attorneys general, vowed to sue the Trump administration if the DACA program was kept in place.

Attorney General Paxton, thanks so much for joining us.

You have now decided to withdraw this threat of litigation against the Trump administration?


We're pleased with the result. We're grateful that he rescinded this and that now we're under a president that is actually following the Constitution and acting within the scope of his authority. TAPPER: President Obama just weighed with a statement opposing the

action. You won't be surprised to hear that.

I want to get your response to part of it.

He writes -- quote -- "What if our kids' science teacher or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her, to a country she doesn't know or remember with language she may not even speak?" -- unquote.


It is true that, according to a survey, the average DACA recipient was 6-and-a-half when they were brought to this country illegally. They might not know another language or another country.

PAXTON: Well, it's interesting that the president, President Obama, said that, given that he's the one that put this in place and he's the one that said he didn't have the authority to do it.

So, really, we're back to where we're supposed to be. The founders intended our Congress to make those decisions, and so that goes through an elective process. It's on Congress now to deal with this and I'm hopeful that they will deal with it in a responsible, and effective and in a way that benefits America.

TAPPER: What do you think immigration officials in this country should do with the nearly 800,000 dreamers who thus far have been allowed to stay on this two-year renewal basis as long as they meet appropriate qualifications, don't have any felony convictions, et cetera?

PAXTON: Look, my job is to enforce the Constitution, defend our Constitution. It is up to Congress to make decisions about what the right policy is.

Look, I hope they will ultimately make the best decision in the best interests of most Americans. And that's their job. That's what the elective process is all about and I hope they will get to it pretty quick.

TAPPER: But it's not a theoretical question for you, especially being the attorney general of Texas.

As you know, for example, there is a DACA recipient in Texas, Jesus Contreras. He's a paramedic. He spent six days rescuing victims of Hurricane Harvey in his and your home state of Texas. He's a dreamer. He could potentially face deportation from this nation that he's called home since the age of 6. What should happen to Jesus?

PAXTON: So, for the next six months, there is going to be basically no enforcement on any of this until March of 2018. After that, it comes down to a matter of priorities for the administration, but hopefully by then Congress will address the issue and resolve some of the concerns that the Americans might have about this particular issue. TAPPER: But you don't have an opinion one way or the other?

PAXTON: You know, when I was in the legislature, it was my job to have opinions and to propose legislation. My job now is to enforce law and to defend the Constitution. That's what I do. I don't worry about policy. That's up to the policy-makers in Congress.

TAPPER: One thing that many people, including libertarians, find chilling about this decision today is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, that's the agency that oversees DACA, it now has all sorts of personal information about these 800,000 DACA recipients provided when they applied for DACA.

Now, if they meet the criteria, Immigrants and Customs Enforcement officers will be able to use this information to deport the dreamers. Doesn't that strike you as horribly unfair?

PAXTON: Well, I do agree that President Obama put something in place that was a ticking time bomb. And it was a mistake and I think you're seeing the consequences of that now with exactly what you're talking about.

While he may have had good intentions, going around the Constitution, going outside of his constitutional authority and then putting in a program that collects that type of information, obviously, you're seeing the downside of it now.

TAPPER: But you have no issue with that data being used to deport these officials -- to deport these dreamers if ICE deems it necessary?

PAXTON: Look, I don't have anything to do with how they deal with the DACA program.

All I'm saying is that President Obama stepped outside of his constitutional role, and what he did was illegal. He acknowledged it was illegal when he did it. And so all I'm saying is that Congress needs to set the policy and they need to determine how this process goes forward.

TAPPER: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it, sir.

PAXTON: Thank you. Have a great day.

TAPPER: My next guest only knows America as his home. He was brought to the United States when he was only 1-year-old. His thoughts about his own future next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead, the Trump administration announcing today it is gradually the DACA program. Now, at a town hall with Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier this year, I spoke with a dreamer named Victor Erives Jr. about his concerns.


VICTOR ERIVES JR., COLLEGE STUDENT: If DACA is removed, which is a provision I'm under, I will lose my education, which I'm paying for myself. I will lose my occupation as a sign language interpreter, mainly in part because my parents are deaf, and ultimately be sent back to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a place I don't even know.

And I will be separated from my entire family.


TAPPER: And Victor Erives Jr. joins me now.

First things first, Victor. Your reaction to today's announcement by the Trump administration?

ERIVES: Hi, Jake.

So, I will be doing sign language.

Right now, I feel concerned and anxious, because it's a time that's very important for all dreamers right now. So I feel like Congress needs to do something, you know, since it's already been ended. We have six months now, and so this time period is going to be very important for those dreamers.

So, right now, we feel united. I actually -- I feel a lot of support right now with the people, and so right now it's just -- it's very concerning, very concerning.

TAPPER: Your status was renewed under DACA in May, but based on the phase-out, you would not be eligible for renewal in 2019.

Do you hope, are you optimistic that Congress might be able to come up with a legislative solution that will allow you to stay in this country?

ERIVES: I'm feeling realistic right now.

If something happens and I do get deported, right now, I'm in the phase of getting ready. I'm saving up money and just making preparations in case I do get deported, because lack of preparation is not an option right now.

But I'm feeling realistic right now. I feel like the people will united. I think our voices will be heard. And us dreamers are -- we're Americans, just as other people.

[16:15:00] We have the American spirit within us all. And so, you know, we know the USA is our home, and no place... TAPPER: The White House said today that DACA protectees such as

yourself are not priorities for deportation, rather their priority is undocumented immigrans who are involved in criminal activity. Does that give you any reassurance?

ERIVES: Nothing is for sure. Right now, we just -- I feel myself personally that we've been exposed. We have the spotlight on us. Even if we don't break the law, we already broke the law in the eyes of the politicians.

So, I feel, you know, a little concerned. I do feel like maybe we can't really trust what the government says, you know, especially considering today what happened with the president's administration.

TAPPER: The president said in a statement today, quote: I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws. There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will, unquote.

What do you think of this argument that President Obama bypassed how immigration laws are supposed to be made and that's why you and your family are in the fix you're in?

ERIVES: I believe President Obama did the right decision. He was in support of the DREAMers. We all just know America as our only country. So, I feel like he did the right decision, because Congress didn't do anything to help us or put us in a legal status.

So, it's hard -- you know, I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for President Obama. So, I have to give my gratitude to him also, but he had to bypass Congress to allow us to have some type of status. So, I feel like it was necessary. And for it to be removed, I feel like this is the next step. It's very, very critical for Congress right now to take on the next stepping stone and maybe make a permanent solution for this problem.

TAPPER: Victor, what are you going to do if you are eventually sent back to Mexico?

ERIVES: So like I said, I'm preparing for the worst. I have to keep in mind that if I do get deported, I must be ready. I must make amends and create the process, so I cannot be, you know, ignorant of the fact that I can't be deported. I've always kept it in my mind.

I spoke with families -- it would be hard for me because my parents are deaf and they rely on me a lot for every day errands, you know, for interpreting, for accessibility. If I get sent back to Mexico, my parents will be lost. I work as a sign language interpreter, so accessibility for the deaf, you now. So I'm a great tool for just making sure there is equality and spectrum all away around.

TAPPER: All right. Victor Erives Jr., thank you so much. Please stay in touch. We're going to keep on top of your story.

ERIVES: Sure. Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: It is the strongest hurricane to threaten the United States in more than 10 years. It is only getting stronger. Where and when will the category 5 hurricane make landfall? The path of Irma, next.


[16:22:26] TAPPER: And we're back with the national lead.

Hurricane Irma is now a dangerous category 5 hurricane, the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic in 12 years and sought to impact U.S. territories in the next 24 to 36 hours. Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott warned everyone in his state to get ready.

Let's go now to meteorologist Tom Sater. Tom, walk us through why the models cannot yet determine Irma's path.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, Jake, we're still some time away. I mean, even forecasting cloud covering in your neighborhood five days out, you're going to have some differences in what could occur. However, this continues to amaze us because it continues to strengthen. I mean, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 was equal in strength to this.

There's only been one hurricane in Atlantic based in history that was stronger, 1980, and that was Allen. But this system really is going to do some catastrophic damage to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles. That's Anguilla, that's Antigua, Barbuda, making its way now with warnings, in the British/U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. They will see their conditions deteriorate tomorrow afternoon. But we're talking about power knockout, infrastructure damage, no communication, maybe water issues, could devastate these islands.

We haven't seen, like I said, anything like this since Wilma which plowed into Cancun and just about wiped them out. The model showing it moved off to the north.

What do we have here? This is Jose. Could become a hurricane. Let's not worry about Jose right now. It's most likely staying in open waters.

But this is what we're watching. The national hurricane track continues to have it as a catastrophic hurricane. That's category 4 or 5. Now, Jake, this could have some interaction with land, so don't be surprised if one day, it's down to a category 2 or 3 and it's back up.

Most likely, the center will stay over warm waters, but the water is actually warmer. When you get up north of Cuba, in between, of course, Cuba and Florida. So, that's going to be like jet fuel.

Sometime on Saturday, it takes a turn to the right, it turns to the north. Until that turn occurs, we cannot with any certainty let anyone know exactly where we're going to have landfall. But I can show you two models, the European and the U.S. And to put them side by side, the European makes more of a turn in toward Cuba which could help downgrade it somewhat. But again, the U.S. model on the east coast, the European model on the west coast of Florida next weekend -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Meteorologist Tom Sater, thank you so much.

Just moments ago, President Trump addressed reporters before meeting with members of Congress about tax reform at the White House. Let's listen in.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you so much. I'm please to welcome Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the two leaders of our tax-writing committees, Chairman Orrin Hatch and Chairman Kevin Brady, who've been working on tax reform for months with our secretary of the treasury, Steven Mnuchin, and Gary Cohn, our National Economic Council director.

[16:25:14] Since the day I took office, we've added 1.2 million private sector jobs and a lot more than that if you go from the time we actually got elected, November 8. Including 125,000 manufacturing jobs, and we just had another very good month for manufacturing in the jobs. You probably all saw that.

But if we're going to keep this momentum going and allow the economy to truly take off as it should, it is vital that we reduce the crushing tax burden on our companies and on our workers. We pay the highest tax of any country in the world on businesses, and we can't keep doing that. Last week, I repeated my principles for tax reform.

First, we must make the tax code as simple as possible. It's extremely complex, it's not fair and it's extremely hard to understand. So, we want to make it as simple as possible.

Second, we must provide tax relief for middle class workers and families.

Third, we must restore a competitive edge which we've lost. We're doing fine but we lost the competitive edge. You see what's going on all around the world. So we can have real job growth throughout America, we can't be the jobs' magnet of the world if we continue to tax our industries at rates 60 percent higher than companies in other countries. Can't do it.

And finally, we must bring back trillions of dollars that are currently parked overseas. We have, in my opinion, $4 trillion -- $4 trillion. Massive amounts of money that can't come back to our country because of our tax code and because of the rates.

This is more than just tax reform, this is tax cutting, to put it in a very simple term. We're going to cut taxes. We're going to reduce taxes for people, for individuals, for middle income families. We're going to reduce taxes for companies, and those companies are going to produce jobs.

Tax reform that follows these principles will create millions of new jobs and ensure that more products are stamped with the very beautiful letters and words, "Made in the USA". It's time to lower our taxes, bring back our wealth and make America the jobs magnet that it can become, and pretty quickly. It's really, in other words, an expression, I don't know if too many of you have heard it, it's time to make America great again.

Has anybody heard that expression? I don't think so.

So, that's what we're doing. We're making America great again. You see it in the numbers. You see it with jobs. You see it with companies moving back in.

They're moving back in at very, very big numbers. They're coming back into our country and you haven't seen that for a long time. So we're very proud of that.

So we're now going to discuss tax reform and tax cuts, and I appreciate you being here. Thank you, everybody, very much. Thank you.


TRUMP: Well, we have a great heart for the folks we're talking about. A great love for them. And people think in terms of children, but they're really young adults.

I have a love for these people and hopefully, now, Congress will be able to help them and do it properly. And I can tell you in speaking to members of Congress, they want to be able to do something and do it right.

And, really, we have no choice. We have to be able to do something, and I think it's going to work out very well. And long-term, it's going to be the right solution.


TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.


TAPPER: That's President Trump meeting with congressional leaders to talk about tax reform. Obviously, the questions that reporters had for him had to do with his decision to rescind the DACA program, which provided temporary protection from deportation for about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children.

Let's talk more about this with my political panel. But before I bring them in, let me just read again the comments that President Trump just made about these DREAMers.

I have a great heart for these folks. We're talking about a great love of them. People think in terms of children but they're really young adults. I have a love for these people and hopefully now, Congress will be able to help them and do it properly. And I can tell you, speaking to members of Congress, they want to be

able to do something and do it right. And really, we have no choice. We have to be able to do something. I think it's going to work out very well. In the long term, it's going to be the right solution.

Let's bring in my panel.

Kind of odd words considering he just ended their protection, but is President Trump of the belief that he had to do this, that he had to rescind DACA and give it a six-month period before it's over?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: He has become convinced that he had to do something, saying he was ending/rescinding it because of a fear of the lawsuit. And you talk about

TAPPER: From Texas and other states.

HABERMAN: Correct.