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INSIDE POLITICS

Replacement Travel Ban; Trump Talks Russia Hoax; Puerto Rico Amid Devastation. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Some breaking news unfolding this hour. President Trump's signature travel ban expires on Sunday. We're learning some new details on some major changes.

First, the special council, now Congress. Facebook turns over thousands of 2016 campaign ads traced back to Russia and it promises tighter scrutiny in future elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, high-stakes and high-drama for the president today. He backs the establishment candidate in an Alabama Senate race pitting him in direct conflict with conservatives like Sarah Palin and the former White House aide, Steven Bannon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA: (INAUDIBLE) is a historic weekend in Alabama. The president of the United States will take time out from his schedule, with all the things going on in the world today, to come to Huntsville.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And Turks and Caicos is Hurricane Maria's target today as a stunned and flattened Puerto Rico begins a long path to recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: I think today is the most important day when it comes to the response. Today is all about life saving, establishing emergency power for the infrastructure, such as hospitals. We're also going to be doing some life flights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's begin the hour with the breaking news on the so-called travel ban as the White House prepares to unveil new restrictions on who can and who can't come into the United States. The original travel ban, you'll remember, one of the most controversial early endeavors of the Trump presidency. That travel ban barred people from six majority Muslim countries from entering the United States. That ban expires Sunday.

And with the deadline approaching, the president now considering new restrictions to make some of the security measures zeroing in on foreigners indefinite. A source reported by "The Wall Street Journal," these new restrictions may expand the number of countries impacted by the prohibitions on travel. Something the president said he wanted just last week. On Twitter the president saying this, the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific. He went on to say, but, stupidly, that would not be politically correct.

With us to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of "Blomberg Politics," Olivier Knox of "Yahoo News," Michael Warren of "The Weekly Standard," and CNN's MJ Lee.

We all remember the beginning of this. This was the first big action of the administration. They were not prepared to roll it out. So they had process chaos. Then they had legal chaos in the courts. Are they ready to get it right this time?

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG: I think they're going to try. And I think John Kelly, for him, that's personally important for this not to become a spectacle and for this to become something that's enforceable and not challenged heavily in court for this to be a manage of security management rather than politics. But we'll see. And I think we'll know more by later this afternoon. But the president has foreshadowed some of this himself, you know, publicly by saying that it should be tougher and broader than it has been so far.

KING: It was seven countries. Then Iraq convinced the United States to drop them. So it was six majority Muslim countries. That led to challenges in course that it was a religion test. The administration lost a lot of those decisions. Actually then won some as it moved on about its power to do certain things. Is it a different approach this time?

OLIVIER KNOX, "YAHOO NEWS": Well, as your intro noted, may, could, considering, possibly, might. What it appears from the early reporting that they're changing from, you know, an artificial time deal to conditions on the ground on this ban. It looks like extreme vetting is being translated into actual measures.

There are questions about which countries have already adapted biometric passports, for example, and other measures like that meant to bolster security of air travel and prevent terrorists from coming to the United States. So it looks like, from the early reporting, they have changed it to be more about these kinds of security conditions than the identity of the country itself.

KING: Right. And that's an important point for the legal standpoint in the sense that you -- critics were able to go back to what the president said during the campaign when he himself called it initially a Muslim ban and saying, despite what you're now saying in, you know, official document, that's what you meant and that's what -- and thy had success in that regard by making it about this country does not have the proper vetting procedures, this country does not have the proper visa issuing procedures. You're making it about safety and not about individuals.

MICHAEL WARREN, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Right. And we're saying broader in terms of the number of countries, but the reporting suggests again, more specific in terms of what exactly they're looking for in terms of the individual people who might be coming over or these vetting procedures.

Remember, what was the travel ban initially supposed to do? It was supposed to be a stop gap until the administration could develop its own extreme vetting. It sounds like that's what they're doing and it may not be that extreme anymore either. It may just sort of be what you might expect the federal government to do to make sure bad people aren't getting in.

[12:05:17] I do agree that this is -- this was initially -- remember, when John Kelly was DHS secretary, and all the chaos that came out of implementing this, he, I think, has a vested interest in making sure this is done correctly.

KING: Right. This was done on a weekend, largely out of the White House operation. Steve Bannon was still around in those days. Steven Miller as well. General Kelly, then Secretary Kelly, took one for the team saying, of course he had been looped in. Of course. But everybody's reporting knew that that was not the case.

WARREN: Right.

KING: Now he's the chief of staff. So, as you know, he has firsthand experience of being on the receiving end of the implementation of all of this. He also was part of defending -- his agency was part of defending it in court and (INAUDIBLE). The question now is, of course, you know, of course, one would assume they've learned their lessons, both from a legal standpoint of how you craft it, how you -- the language in it. And now they also do have eight months of experience, which gives them I think a better case to make against the people who said, we can hold you to Muslim ban. We can hold you to what you said in the campaign. They've now been in government for eight months, which, I think, from a legal standpoint, gives them stronger standing to say, forget the campaign. But I think it's as safe as we're all sitting around this table, this is going to end up in court.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. And I think Trump's allies probably could have done without the distractions that came with the first rollout that was really not successful. Trump himself got a lot of heat for how he handled that. And it just kind of created this image of a president who kind of wasn't ready to announce something so big and so consequential without having really thought through, how is this going to be implemented.

And, of course, as you said, Margaret, John Kelly's role in this, we can't really under estimate because, remember, Trump's sort of attraction to Kelly and, you know, the appeal that he sees in him has a lot to do with his past work in this specific area.

TALEV: You know, I'd also throw in that President Trump just got back from -- or has just finished spending several days at the U.N. General Assembly. They spent a lot of time meeting with leaders from other countries in a way that looked different than Candidate Trump, where he understands the purpose of leverage and relationships with other countries to get to your big goals, like maybe North Korea or Iran. So when you're talk about travel bans that affect movement, temporary immigration, visas, the ability to be with family, you have a vested interest in doing it in a way that works OK for the leaders of those countries that may -- you may need to have partnerships with and that doesn't offend them. I also think that's part of what the administration is -- has an interest in getting right this time.

KING: Right.

KNOX: And the early reporting suggests that they used the possibility of a travel ban from certain countries to compel those countries to take certain steps.

KING: Right.

KNOX: Whether they were travel-related or I think one of the big fights they've been having is countries refusing to take back their citizens that the administration want to deport. And I'm wondering whether some of the countries that got off the more expanded list got off that list by saying fine, fine, fine, we will actually take these people back.

TALEV: We will do it. Yes.

KING: Yes, you see in the reporting in "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal," who are out in front of this story, CNN confirm much of this, you see 17 nations, to your point, originally flagged. And those nations given a heads-up saying, look, as it now stands, if we did this today, you would -- travel would be restricted from your country because you're not up to snuff on security standards and now we'll see what the number is in the end or how it works through. But a number of those nations, since then, have rushed to comply.

Let's listen here. This is the president. We've known this is coming because of the deadline coming up. This is the national security adviser on TV Sunday explaining how the administration's trying to go from travel ban version one, which became version two and three, through the court test to the next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: If you can't screen people effectively to know who's coming into your country, then you shouldn't allow people from that country to travel. So what the travel ban is, is a first step. A first step in better screening, better sharing of information, to encourage governments to meet the requirements that we have to -- so that it allows us to protect our own people. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABC'S "THIS WEEK": Will we see a new one?

MCMASTER: Well, this is something that we're looking at is how to protect the American people better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And on that last point, it was a big controversy. There was a challenge in court. There were those who said the president's trying to pose an unconstitutional religious test, that he was anti-Muslim.

But on General McMaster's point, the president -- if -- had they not blown the process, done it so badly, the president's on pretty safe political ground, well beyond his own base, on the idea that I'm the president of the United States, it's my number one job is to keep America safe. The safety issue.

They didn't explain it well. They certainly legally didn't write it well. But in terms of, I'm doing this, there will be -- there will be some outrage around the world. There will be some outrage and no question court challenges. But from a political standpoint, for much of the country, yes, they'll want to see the details. Yes, they'll want the president and the administration to make the case. But when a president says I'm doing this to keep the country safe, it generally gets pretty broad latitude.

WARREN: Yes, I think so. And that's -- and that's where we are right now. I mean this is not the presidency that it was, you know, eight months ago when it seemed there were -- there was a lot of freewheeling going around in the White House. Again, to mention it again, but General Kelly has sort of changed the way things operate, you know, literally down to what the president sees in front of him, how the paper flow goes in the West Wing. I think that's made a big difference and it's helped the president in sort of stumbling into a policy that again will have a lot of support.

[12:10:22] TALEV: Although don't forget where he'll be tonight, at a rally in Alabama promoting his choice of a Senate candidate. And we have seen time and time again kind of a duality of rhetoric or parallel rhetoric when it's from an official podium talking about U.S. policy. Carefully script. Maybe Kelly and McMaster have told him, you know, the wording that they would prefer. And then there's rally talk. So if the new travel restrictions are addressed at the rally tonight, it may sound different than in the official rollout.

KING: I am assuming part of the conversation with the president today is that rally talk can and will be used against you in a court of law. That if you go beyond -- I'm saying this laughing, but it's a very important case for the president. That if you -- as you said Muslim ban during the campaign, that was effectively used against the president in court. It will be very interesting to make that point because, remember, this is not only a test of whether they get the process right and whether they get the legal writing -- crafting of it right. And then their explanation to the American people and to countries around the world. Explain it right. It's, how do they react when challenged. Because let's go back in time. The president did not take it kindly when the courts told him, you are wrong, sir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries. The order he blocked was a watered down version of the first order that was also blocked by another judge and should have never been blocked to start with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That sort of video illustration of your point about rally Trump.

Now, he didn't -- he didn't -- a lot of people don't like it when he bashes judges in public, but at least he didn't say anything that could be used against him in court.

But we do -- have seen his emotions in the past when this happens. I think that's part of the test here, not only from a legal standpoint but from a political standpoint. How do they roll it out and communicate?

KNOX: Yes, it was the religious test that really screwed everything up.

KING: Right.

KNOX: Right, because if you -- if you went before the American people and said, look, every country needs to adopt a biometric passport. They need to agree to share more information about the passengers coming into our country. We need to have better liaisons with their law enforcement, national security apparatus. I don't know that you'd get as much push back as you would. The religious test is what really screwed it up.

KING: Well, and we'll see how it goes. Again, we're getting new details as this plays out. We'll bring it to you throughout the day and throughout the week.

And up next, though, Facebook says it will give Congress data on thousands of ads bought by Russian-linked accounts ahead of last year's elections.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:56] KING: Welcome back.

The Russia hoax, whatever that means, is back on the president's Twitter feed today, just as the very real Russia meddling investigation takes a remarkable new turn. Facebook now says it's giving congressional investigators the ads it sold to Russian-linked accounts during the 2016 election, handing over thousands of advertisements and promising a complex plan to deal with election interference around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity. Facebook's mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are democratic values and we're proud of them. I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That's not what we stand for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Facebook already provided the ads and what it knows about how they were targeted in key states and how the accounts link back to Russia to the special counsel investigation. It's a giant piece of the meddling puzzle. And investigators want to know if the Russians got any improper help with that targeting.

The president, as he has at other big moments in the investigation he wishes would go away, is throwing social media shade. This morning, this tweet, the Russia hoax continues. Now its ads on Facebook.

The ads are no hoax. Facebook surrendering them proves that. The investigation's no hoax. The special counsel's sweeping request for White House documents is just one piece of that proof. Maybe by hoax the president means he doesn't think the ads really came from Russia, or that they really swayed voters. We can't read his mind and his staff won't or can't explain his tweets. But the president has a clear pattern of playing down Russia's involvement and of casting the investigation as a waste of time. It can make things a bit awkward for other administration officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: This administration and the entire government has been clear that Russia meddled in the campaigns in the election. That is inappropriate, OK? Absolutely inappropriate. No one takes issue with that whatsoever.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": The president does.

NAUERT: Oh, it -- no one takes issue with that whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But Alisyn's right, the president does. The president does.

It's an interesting subplot of this. It's part of the political strategy on the president's part. But that he would come out this morning when all this is happening. Number one, he knows more than we do about exactly what Bob Mueller has requested inside the White House. I'm always curious when the president starts attacking the investigation or is raising questions about it. But there's also been this -- this is a remarkable development by Facebook being forced to be -- I'm going to call it transparent. We don't' have the ads. The public can't see the ads. But being forced to cooperate and turn them over.

Why hoax? Are we still debating who won the popular vote and the legitimacy of the Trump presidency? Can we move on? LEE: Well, and every time the president calls it a hoax or downplays the significance of Russia's involvement at a time when everyone around him, members of Congress, the U.S. intelligence community, they've all decided that clearly there was a link there and there were actions taken during the election. You know, he ends up coming off as being defensive, and that's a position that his lawyers, his advisers don't want him to be in, both for legal reasons and political reasons.

And I think we saw this actually play out a little bit earlier this week at the U.N. too. It was remarkable. You know, you think about how many times and to what length President Obama went to in his speeches, in his most recent speeches to talk about Russia and the various challenges related to the country. The president barely talked about the country at all, again, at a time when one of the biggest headlines this country is facing right now is Russia's meddling in the last election. That was maybe not surprising, but pretty remarkable.

[12:20:24] WARREN: I think there's this, on the left -- on some on the left there's this kind of fantastical belief that if they can just prove that Russia influences the election, that somehow Hillary Clinton will magically become president and everything that's happened the last eight months will disappear. That's fantastical (ph).

KING: Not happening. Yes, it's beyond fantastical.

WARREN: Exactly. I think the president sort of has the mirror or the reverse image of that idea, which is that sort of any giving of credence to the idea that Russia may have influenced the election, even on a small level or even a significant level, somehow makes his election invalid or validates, you know, the idea that he won. And I think that he's unable sort of, even with all of these other people in his administration basically saying, yes, it happened, he's sort of unable to give that up. And that's political, as well as a legal problem.

KING: The Kremlin is a global -- Russia's a global super power. We can debate the strength of its economy or this or that. But the Kremlin spokesman, Demitry Peskov, says, we don't know how to place an ad on Facebook. We've never done this and the Russian side has never been involved in it.

TALEV: We didn't even know how to use Facebook.

KING: So case closed, right?

TALEV: What is this Facebook?

KNOX: Right, like, congratulations on being the only people in the universe who don't know how to, you know, post something on Facebook.

TALEV: My grandmother (INAUDIBLE).

KNOX: Yes, I mean, we're going to hear a lot in the coming days is the expression Russian entities, because the way this gets -- this gets on Facebook isn't Mr. Peskov calling up Mark Zuckerberg and saying, I'd really like to place an ad buy with you guys. It goes through a number of different outlets that are connected to the Kremlin. And that's how it gets on Facebook. But it's not --

KING: I just -- I just want to show our viewers before we go to break, somebody who's central to all this, a public figure, the former FBI director James Comey was supposed to give a speech, a conversation, (INAUDIBLE) at Howard University today. I think we can show it. Let's show a little bit of flavor of what greeted Mr. Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: We shall not, we shall not be moved.

JIM COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: And I love the enthusiasm of the young folk. I just wish they would understand what a conversation is. A conversation is where you speak and I listen, and then I speak and you listen, and we go back and forth and back and forth. And at the end of a conversation -- at the end of a conversation, we're both (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: An interesting moment today from Mr. Comey. We don't see him in public very often. So democracy at work I guess you could say.

We've got to take a break here, but when we come back, no power, flooding and a desperate effort to reach trapped residents. Puerto Rico now dealing with a new painful reality as Hurricane Maria rages on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:27:04] KING: Welcome back.

Hurricane Maria still pounding Puerto Rico with rain, days after the eye of the storm hit the island. The power's still out across the entire territory, meaning desperate pleas for help aren't always getting through. The mayor of San Juan got quite emotional earlier today telling CNN about an SOS text she received.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: I got an SOS from that elderly orphanage and it was a text like from a horror movie. It said, if anyone can hear us, please, we are stuck here. We can't get out. And we have no power. And we have very little water left. So we got there just in time.

It was a very touching moment. If I can save one life, that would be good enough. But I have too many to save, so.

(EVAC)

KING: Puerto Rico's governor says at least 13 people have died there as a result of Hurricane Maria. Seven hundred others have been rescued since Wednesday, including a woman and two children plucked by the Coast Guard, you see it right there, from a capsized vessel near Viequez. Another man aboard the ship did not survive. CNN's Leyla Santiago has been reporting on Hurricane Maria all week

from Puerto Rico. She joins us live now, just west of San Juan.

Leyla, what's the latest?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, I am in Catano right now. And this is an area where yesterday we watched as rescue crews were trying to get to people that were in flooded areas. And just take a look around me at the devastation in this lot. I'll point out, this roof right here comes directly from that blue building directly behind me. And as we found this, we also found Jose Ortega (ph). This is his roof that came from that building.

Jose -- I'm going to ask him just what it feels to see this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

SANTIAGO: He says he's sad. He said this entire roof is right here.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

I'm asking what he'll do next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

SANTIAGO: He says he's just got to wait. Move forward. He keeps saying it's sad because this storm was very, very strong.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

I'm asking him why does he find it hard to find the words to describe this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

SANTIAGO: This is the first time on this island since he's lived here that he's seen something like this. And he was actually telling me that he left his home and stayed at a shelter just down the road because he knew that there was devastation on the way.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). [12:29:58] And this is what rescue teams are having to deal with at this hour. The government is trying to figure out how they will allocate some of the resources that are now coming in at the San Juan Airport. They expect to see resources coming in from the