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First White House Briefing Since Terror Attack in New York City: Trump Calls the U.S. a Laughing Stock in Handling Terrorists; Candidate Trump Didn't Dismiss Idea of Putin Meeting. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired November 1, 2017 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- I think that the biggest priority that he has is making sure it does what he's laid out or his priorities in that piece of legislation that's providing tax relief for middle class, that's making it more fair. It's making it more simple. Those are the things that he's mostly focused on. If it's called cut, cut, cut and it includes massive tax cuts like this president is proposing, I think we would be perfectly fine with that name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us if the chair Fed is a man or woman?
SANDERS: No, I cannot tell you that. But I can once again echo that it's not Major Garrett again today. Still consistent on that. Poor Major.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President talks about wanting merit based immigration today and then criticized the diversity visa program. Is he aware that the diversity visa program actually does have a merit base component to it?
SANDERS: Look, there may be a component of it. But the fact that we have a lottery system that randomly decides who gets the greatest opportunity in the world. One of the best things that we have in this country is the fact that everybody wants to be here. And to give that away randomly to have no vetting system, to have no way to determine who comes, why they are here, and if they want to contribute to the society is a problem. And the president strongly supports making sure that the people that come here want to be here for the right reasons. And not to bring harm to our country. And I don't think that's something that any American shouldn't want to support -- Jim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are ranked by their job that they've had. And they have to have minimum education.
SANDERS: Whole idea is they are randomly selected. This isn't --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certain rankings.
SANDERS: It's the lowest level of criteria that any part of our immigration system has is through the lottery system. And so, to try to argue this is a system that thoroughly vets people shows a total lack of understanding for what this process is. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comments since the gentleman yesterday in here
2000, he would come into the country on this program, one of them now apparently has been accused of a terrorist attack. Will they create a problem then in that program?
SANDERS: There may be more. Look all I know is you can't randomly select people and not have them thoroughly vetted. And not have the ability to know whether or not these people want to do good or bad things when they get here. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask people who want to come to this country go through a vetting process to make sure that when they get here they want to contribute to society and not harm the people of this country -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why did the president call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughing stock during his comments.
SANDERS: That's not what he said.
ACOSTA: He said that the system of justice in this country --
SANDERS: He said that process.
He said the process has people calling us a joke and calling us a laughing stock. Look, I think as I told Margaret, he's simply pointing out his frustration of how long that this process takes, how costly this process is. And particularly for someone to be a known terrorist, that process shouldn't move faster. That's the point he's making, that's the frustration he has.
ACOSTA: Other folks have a couple of questions each. Getting back to George Papadopoulos, does the president recall at that March 31st, 2016 meeting of his national security advisory board, Mr. Papadopoulos suggesting the meeting between then candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin? Does he recall that.
SANDERS: No, I don't believe he does -- April.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, two questions. First, Mary Francis Barry former head of the U.S. commission on civil rights says everyone wants vetting, but to stop people from coming because they come from different country is totally wrong. What say you?
SANDERS: Nobody said because they come from a different country. I think that's the whole definition of immigration is they wouldn't be U.S. citizens. We certainly haven't said that immigration as a whole should be outlawed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lottery is specifically for those coming from other nations that you are not favoring right now because you believe there is a possibility of terrorism.
SANDERS: I believe we have a fundamental right to protect the people of this country. And if we see or think that someone is a threat to United States citizens, that we should take every precaution that we can to protect the people of this country. And I don't think most persons would disagree with that. In fact, most Americans do support extreme vetting, and certainly support the protection of the citizens of this country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Second question. Last question. Compromise, issue of compromise, what is the definition of compromise as it relates to slavery and the Civil War?
[15:35:02] SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to get in and relitigate the Civil War. Like I told you yesterday. I think I've addressed the concerns that a lot of people had and the questions that you had. And I'm not going to relitigate history here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still lingering when you left. So, I'm going to ask the question again.
SANDERS: Why don't you ask it in a way that you're apparently accusing me of being.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not accusing. I'm asking the question, Sarah, seriously. The question is does this administration believe, do this president believe slavery was wrong? And before you answer, Mary Francis Barry, historian said in 1860 there was a compromise. The compromise was to have Southern states keep slavery. But the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumner that caused Civil War. And because of the Civil War what happened? The North won.
SANDERS: I think it is disgusting and absurd to suggest that anyone inside of this building would support slavery -- Peter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday from that podium you said all of our leaders have flaws, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Kennedy. What are President Trump's flaws?
SANDERS: Probably that he has to deal with you guys on a daily basis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fairness he doesn't deal with us on a daily basis.
SANDERS: Most every day actually he does.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simple question.
SANDERS: I just gave you one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks Sarah. Two questions for you. What does the future of Guantanamo Bay look like under the Trump administration?
SANDERS: I don't have any announcements or changes or adjustments to policy at this point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On last night can you tell us more about how the president found out about the terror attack in New York City? How he immediately responded? Who we got on the phone with right away? Just trying to get a better understanding where he was at this time, what he was doing and what actions he took following the news?
SANDERS: The President was in the Oval Office when this took place. And he was first briefed by General Kelly shortly after it happened.
I'm going to take one last question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sarah.
SANDERS: Right here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will Preston, will President Trump look for enforcing anti-terror measures with other foreign countries during his visit to Asia? And also, will President Trump call the leaders of Argentine and Belgium to express his condolence?
SANDERS: I believe that arrangements are being made for him to speak with the leaders of those countries. They are working between the two teams to set that up. In terms of looking for conversations around anti-terrorism that will certainly be discussed throughout the trip over the next several days. And as I've said earlier this week, General McMaster will be here tomorrow to discuss the trip in more detail and certainly in more depth for the briefing tomorrow. Thanks so much. And have a good day. We'll let you know later today what time that should be. But both will most likely take place in the afternoon. Thanks, guys.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. So, in this first White House briefing since the terror attack in New York, along the headlines there the White House says that President Trump is not politicizing the attack and not blaming Senator Chuck Schumer for the events leading up to that attack. In defense, the President calling the U.S. justice system a joke. Saying he's frustrated with the process and defends the president's immediate calls for legislation even though he didn't do that after Las Vegas when 500 people were hurt, and 58 people killed. So back with me Dana Bash, Chris Cillizza, Julie Myers Wood. Dana, just to you first. It's hard to see how the President wasn't politicizing this attack with his tweets this morning.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, going after Chuck Schumer the Democratic leader in the Senate who also happens to be the senior Senator from the state of New York where this attack took place, of course it's political. And at this point, you know, both men are being political. And it is unfortunate. Because this was kind of a last bastion of a politics free zone, that temporary even 24 hours after a terror attack where you had people come together on both sides of the aisle, that didn't happen in this case.
But I do think that the response that you heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders about something that you were bringing up earlier in the show, Brooke, about the different --
BALDWIN: The two reactions.
BASH: -- reaction that the President had on legislation particularly, not proposing legislation after Las Vegas. And now, yes, she said this idea of getting away with this lottery program, the special immigration lottery program is something that the President was thinking about before. But, look, at the end of the day let's just get real. He can continue to push that because it is easy politics. Oh, my God this guy came over on this special immigration program, OK, well we're going to get away with it. PS, I'm doing something about this.
[15:40:00] And it was not so cut and dried at all after Las Vegas. Because the man who perpetrated this was not kind of an easy thing to understand other than as the President said his wires were crossed. And he certainly is very, very cautious about going there on anything having to do with gun control, even something like the bump stock issue, which has a lot of bipartisan support.
So, yes, of course, there is politics in the Washington. There is politics in the White House even. And not just this White House but past White Houses in general. Even unfortunately in the wake of tragedy.
BALDWIN: Julia, I want to ask you in a second just about how she was talking about maybe a lack of vetting on this diversity visa program. But Chris, to you. Listening to Jim Acosta's question -- and we were talking about this before. How the president had, you know, called the justice system a joke. And there was Sarah Huckabee Sanders basically defending the President saying that.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT-LARGE: Yes, I mean, it's just frustrating candidly, Brooke to watch this and listening to something like this. Look, the job of the White House press secretary The White House is to defend the president interest and to spin at some level, or I mean that's just the nature of the beast. But Donald Trump said it's a laughing stock. It's a joke. He didn't say people say it's a laughing stock or a joke. You can literally just go become and watch it. You can read a transcript of it. I mean, this is not a debate over what he said. It's very clear what he said. It's like me saying, hey, Brooke, do you went an Apple? And I say, I offered you a banana. You know, it's not --
BALDWIN: We have it. Just in case people haven't heard it, you know, on this --
CILLIZZA: You may have picked up that reference.
BALDWIN: I got that. Apples and bananas. Let me play the sound. In case people haven't heard the president. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. They'll go through court for years. At the end they'll be who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice. Much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it's a laughing stock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: It's a joke. It's a laughing stock.
CILLIZZA: It's right there. This is the point. You can say if you are Sarah Huckabee Sanders or if the president is saying like this particular element of the immigration system is a joke. You can say lots of things. But what you can't say is, well he was saying many people think it's a joke. That's not how it works. And when you are the President of the United States the words you use matter. He called it an animal or wires crossed or laughing stock.
I mean, what continues to amaze me is this administration exaggerates, misstates, and sometimes outright lies about things that are frankly very easily checkable. That's the thing I don't get. I know part of the President's supporters will say just because we are saying it's a fact, your mean to them. It's not. But for the broader American populous, you have to it be able to see that what he said a few hours ago and what Sarah Huckabee Sanders is saying he said is not the same thing.
BALDWIN: Let's get the facts. Julie, this is why we have you. On this diversity visa program, because a lot of people our reading about this, tuning in today and just trying to understand what it is. Right. And so, listening to Sarah Sanders she was painting it almost like some sort of random lottery system. Not an appropriate way to vet people. Is how she put it. How does it work, truly?
JULIE MYERS WOODS, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's pretty clear that our vetting on immigration has not been sufficient. If you think back to San Bernardino we were not doing sufficient vetting relating to social monitoring. Now it's not clear here in this instance that in 2010 the vetting that was done was insufficient. But the diversity visa lottery program has been a program that's been rampant with fraud. And it's not really a merit based program like many other programs and like many other countries have. And so, for a long time, many parts of the U.S. government have pushed to kind of stop this program.
I think it is important to think about what sort of vetting are we doing. Are we really connecting all the dots, not only when someone that is applying to come over here, but once they are here? And that's where I'm concerned is that did the U.S. government focus enough and think enough about his relationships, looking at the social media, really tracking his profile. We need to reverse engineer this and figure it out to try to prevent it again. And the justice system, we need the justice system to do that. Because that's the place that will do it for sure.
[15:45:00] BALDWIN: Yes. And you were making a point before the briefing that, yes, there were issues with this vista program already. Do you think quickly it should be ended?
MYERS: I do. I do. I don't think it really brings to the U.S. the type of people that we want to have come there. It allows us to make the choice. So, I think it's really out lived its purpose. And I think an immigration reform, part of it should be ending that and really focusing more on the types of workers that we need and types of skills that we need to make our country stronger. BALDWIN: And Dana, just on the politics of that, weren't we saying
earlier not only this has been an issue with Republicans, I mean Democrats would support that as well. Yes?
BASH: Likely. Likely. Just like Democrats and Republicans came together to create this, this program, in the first place. You know, obviously there should be questions asked about any program that ended up with somebody in this country who did what he did yesterday. It would be irresponsible not to ask that question. But it seems to me that the broader question is what Julie just asked is, is the vetting process in general strong enough. Is it adequate?
Because I mean, Julie can correct me if I'm wrong, my understanding is no matter how the person is picked, once the person is on his or her way to coming here the vetting process is supposed to be the same across the board. Sarah Huckabee Sanders made it sound like if you are in this lottery program you don't get vetted. I don't imagine that being accurate.
MYERS: That's not right. There certainly is vetting. And in fact, due to accusations of fraud the State Department really increased the vetting back a few years ago on this program. But I think we can recognize across the board that the vetting has been somewhat insufficient, thinking about social media, thinking about other sorts of things. And really again once he's here, what are we doing once he's here, who is he talking with, if were interviewing him, you know, what are we finding out. And I think that's what we need to do. Hopefully we can get someone in there to talk to him and he'll talk to us.
BALDWIN: All right, Julie and Dana and Chris, thank you all so much. And thanks for playing musical chairs with me as well.
More breaking news here on CNN. This acquaintance of the alleged New York attacker speaking out to CNN describing the suspect behavior as aggressive and nervous. Referring to him as troubled soul. These details coming in as we learn new details about the planning, the weapons, the note found near the scene. Investigators say it was straight from the ISIS playbook.
[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: CNN is learning more today about the role of George Papadopoulos. He's a form former Trump campaign aide who lied to the FBI about his contact with Russians during the campaign. A source telling CNN he just attended not just one meeting but actually two meetings as a member of the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos prosed orchestrating a meeting between the candidate and Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
And today, a source tells CNN that then candidate Trump didn't initially dismiss that idea. It was actually then campaign adviser Jeff Sessions who ruled it out. So, with me, CNN political analyst Josh Green. He is a national correspondent for Bloomberg Business Week and the author of "Devil's Bargain" which details the relationship between president Trump and the former strategist Steve Bannon.
Josh Green, so on the note that it was ultimately Sessions who said no to this Trump/Putin meeting, does he sound like the coffee boy, as has been transcribed of described of his role?
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, no, it doesn't. If he's a senior foreign policy adviser. If he's sitting next to Jeff Sessions, the future attorney general at meetings, then clearly, he was somebody who was listened to by the senior staff. I don't think we have any indication on anything that has been released publicly yet that they were taking his advice. That anyone from the campaign did meet with a niece of Putin or whatever the latest charge is. But clearly this is a guy who had access to Trump, to Sessions and to a lot of the principals in the Trump campaign.
BALDWIN: You know Steve Bannon better than most, right? We know about your book. You wrote this piece for "The New Yorker" that Bannon has always encouraged the President to put up a fight against the special counsel, Bob Mueller. And I'm just quoting, I believe the quote was, throw some effing hey makers. Although now the news today that president Trump will not take Bannon's advice. What did you make of that?
GREEN: For now, well, look --
BALDWIN: For now, you say.
GREEN: Back in May, Bannon was deputized by Trump. This is when he's still in the White House. The fly back from Saudi Arabia and set up an outside legal entity because Trump had woken up to the threat that Mueller's investigation posed. And so, Bannon came up with a model based on Bill Clinton's White House that told him, look, we need real lawyers on the outside, outside the White House so they can aggressively confront the prosecutors that we're going to be facing. He brought in Marc Kasowitz, Trump's lawyer, and pretty quickly that operation fell apart.
The lawyers that have replaced them, John Dow, Ty Cobb, have taken a much more conciliatory strategy towards Mueller. And I think that's something that has been and worried. It's premised on the idea that investigators aren't going to find any kind of collusion. But what we can see from Papadopoulos' guilty plea is that at the very least there were attempts at collusion. And so, I think that's something Trump and his legal team need to worry about.
BALDWIN: Josh Green, thank you so much.
[15:55:00] Before I go, let me tell you the reason I am sitting here in Washington, D.C. in the first place. I was just absolutely honored this morning to sit in the Afghan embassy with the former first lady, Laura Bush, who is so generous and the current first lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani. The first ladies are on Capitol Hill today talking to lawmakers about their work as co-chairs of the U.S./Afghan Women's Council. A group helping to return to afghan women the voice they lost really under the Taliban rule. I started our wide-ranging conversation about their work to help empower Afghan women.
BALDWIN: Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Ghani, thank you so much for spending time with me this morning. And first, just Mrs. Bush, you know, we know you are so dedicated to women's issues, but it was especially after 9/11. We remember the radio address and your passion for Afghan women specifically. But for people who don't know, why Afghanistan?
LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Well, after September 11th when the spotlight turned on Afghanistan, American women were shocked, really, at the plight of the life of women in Afghanistan. I mean, at that time women couldn't walk out on the street by themselves. They were not allowed to be educated. Which is really shocking. And what you see when half of a population is left out, like it was then in Afghanistan, is a failed country. And that's what we saw. And, of course, afghan women really have a very, very long history of being strong women and what we've gotten to see since then is Afghan women bloom across Afghanistan.
BALDWIN: As the co-chairs of the U.S./Afghan Women's Council you're in Washington D.C. for a very important reason today. Mrs. Ghani, you know, to you. The U.S./Afghanistan relationship is very important, especially when we talk about empowering women. What is your message to American lawmakers in Washington today?
RULA GHANI, FIRST LADY OF AFGHANISTAN: What I would like to say is that during those now almost 16 years, our women have progressed tremendously in Afghanistan.
GHANI: They're more visible. You start seeing women in government organization. You start seeing them in the private sector. We have now, for example, a Women's Chamber of Commerce. We have many more girls studying. We have them also at the university. So, women are a little bit everywhere. But what is really very important is that it's not just that they're being visible, they're also starting to speak up.
BALDWIN: For women in this country, I'd be remised to not ask about this watershed moment for women in America. The strength of women, and I should also point out men now speaking up. There has been a watershed moment on speaking up against sexual harassment. And you're a mother. You're a mother of two girls. What is your message to women in this country?
BUSH: I don't have a message particularly to my girls. I know how strong Barbara and Jenna are. They respect themselves and they expect respect from the people they associate with, and I think that's what American women should do.
BALDWIN: What about just the reports about your father-in-law, President George H. W. Bush, and he acknowledged, he apologized, do you have any reaction to that? BUSH: Well, I'm just sad that we've come to this. That was something
that was very, very innocent that he's been accused of. But I know he would feel terrible. He would never in any way hurt anybody.
BALDWIN: Your daughters left notes for the Obama girls when you all left the White House, and I'm just curious if you as a -- I mean eight years in the White House, did you as the last Republican administration leave anything for Melania? Have you had any conversations with the current first lady?
BUSH: Sure. I've talked to Melania. I've been back. I had tea with her and saw all the staff. She very nicely had all of the White House staff standing around the oval of the diplomatic reception room, because the people that work there, that's their job always. They're permanent employees. So, I got to say hello to the chef and to the butlers and to the ushers and all the people that work there.
BALDWIN: Any message to Melania in particular that you can share?
BUSH: Oh, I just think she's doing a lovely job. She's a beautiful woman. She's a wonderful representative for the United States.
BALDWIN: Lastly, it's a very different administration than that of you and your husband in eight years. What is it like watching the Trump administration?
BUSH: Well, I wish them the very, very best. I know what it's like to live there. I know how difficult every decision is and what the scrutiny is by everyone that has an opinion. Every single person has an opinion on the people that live there and I'm certainly aware of that. I wish them the very best. And I think that's what every American should wish for the people that live in the White House, since they are our president and our first family.
BALDWIN: The interview went on so much more from there. And I am so looking forward to sharing the stories of the three women sitting behind the first ladies Manija (ph) and Onaba (ph), from Afghanistan. They joined us to share in conversation, share their amazing stories about overcoming odds in this particular country. You know, especially through an education that kept coming up. Education is empowerment for these women and entrepreneurship and working with the first lady to really pay to forward. We're going to have those inspiring stories for you on CNN.com. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in Washington D.C. Thank you so much for being with me. We're going to send it to Jake Tapper. "THE LEAD" starts right now.