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Senator Confirms Trump's 'Vile and Racists' Comments; House Dems Plan Censure Resolution on Trump Remarks. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 12, 2018 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Racist, vile and vulgar. President Trump under fire amid new confirmation that he called some African nations -- and I'll use the word "s-holes" -- in a rant against immigrants. A Democratic senator who was in the room suggests Mr. Trump's denial is a blatant, blatant lie.

[17:00:28] "Are you a racist?" In a stunning turn of events, President Trump is asked by reporters if he's racist after his vile and vulgar slurs against immigrants from some African nations.

He "loves" it. In what a White House official calls a victory lap, sources say the president spent the night phoning aides and friends to find out how his comments were playing. One source says the president loves the controversy.

Getting physical. Amid a swirl of questions about his mental fitness and seemingly unhealthy lifestyle, President Trump undergoes his first medical exam since taking office. Will he get a clean bill of health?

And terror drones. Russia says its bases in Syria were attacked by swarms of unmanned aerial drones armed with explosives. If terrorists now have these cheap, small and hard-to-detect weapons, how vulnerable are Americans targets overseas and at home?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. After setting off a huge controversy with comments about immigrants widely condemned as racist. And facing new questions about his mental fitness, President Trump has just been through his first medical exam since taking office. We're waiting for a statement from his physician.

The president is now on his way to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. He leaves behind a mess.

At a White House immigration meeting, the president rejected a bipartisan deal on the DREAMers and used vile and vulgar language, disparaging Haitians and smearing some African nations with a disgusting slur. The president today issued a weak denial. And two conservative allies, strangely, say they don't recall the slur, but Democratic Senator Dick Durbin says he heard it, calling the comments hate-filled, vile and racist.

And Republican senator Lindsey Graham says he confronted the president when he heard his ugly words.

In fact, sources say the president spent the night asking people how his remarks were playing, and one says the president, quote, "loves" the controversy.

Even as the president today paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., the shockwaves are spreading. A Haitian-American Republican congresswoman is demanding an apology from the president. A GOP senator calls the president's language "repulsive."

Haiti's government on this, the anniversary of a catastrophic earthquake, calls the president's words "abhorrent," and a United Nations official calls the president's remarks racist.

I'll speak with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin with the truly extraordinary firestorm triggered by the president's remarks on immigration widely condemned as racist.

Let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the more we learn about this today, the worse it seems to get.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It does get worse and worse, Wolf. President Trump declined to answer any questions today about his ugly, racially-charged comments. Instead he offered a vague denial on Twitter. But a top Democrat who heard the remarks, as you said, says Mr. Trump is not telling the truth.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we gather in the White House to honor the memory of a great American hero, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

ACOSTA: It was a moment filled with sad irony. On the same day the president signed a proclamation honoring civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Mr. Trump was dodging questions about his own racially- charged rhetoric.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you a racist?

ACOSTA: The president is running away from comments he made to a bipartisan group of lawmakers on immigration. On the subject of immigrants coming from Africa, the president said, "Why are we having people from all these shithole countries come here," wondering whether more people could come from Norway. Later, Mr. Trump questioned the need to protect Haitian immigrants from deportation, saying, "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out."

MLK's nephew, Isaac Newton Farris Jr., told CNN the president talked to him privately about the controversy.

ISAAC NEWTON FARRIS JR., NEPHEW OF REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: The president just simply said to me that "I'm not the guy that is being described in the media.

ACOSTA (on camera): Do you believe him?

FARRIS: I think -- I don't think that President Trump is a racist in the traditional sense as we know in this country. I think President Trump is racially ignorant or racially uninformed, but I don't think that he's a racist in the traditional sense.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president tried to deny he made the remarks, tweeting, "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians. Never said, 'Take them out.' Made up by Dems. And the language used by me at the meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made, a big setback."

[17:05:08] Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was at the meeting, says the president is not telling the truth.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist. And he said, "Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?" And then he went on, and he started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure. That's when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from shitholes.

ACOSTA: Two other Republican senators, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who were also at the meeting, issued a joint statement, saying, "We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically."

But GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who was also there, all but confirmed the remarks, saying in a statement, "Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness."

The president has a long history of making racially-insensitive remarks. From his comments on Mexican immigrants--

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs; they're bringing crime. They're rapists; and some, I assume, are good people.

ACOSTA: -- to his defense of white supremacist protesters--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a people--

ACOSTA: -- in Charlottesville last year.

TRUMP: You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people. On both sides.

ACOSTA: The president's latest comments raised questions about past White House denials that its immigration policy is racially motivated.

(on camera): You're trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you've ever said. ACOSTA (voice-over: Now, lawmakers from both parties worry the

president's remarks could jeopardize talks to reform the nation's immigration system.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I read those comments later last night. So the first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.


ACOSTA: Now earlier today, the president underwent a physical exam over at Walter Reed. The White House is expected to release a statement on the president's checkup and hold a briefing on Mr. Trump's health next week. But across Washington and much of the world, there is less concern about an update on the president's health and more about the condition of his soul -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The fallout continues and escalates. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.

The president's remarks certainly have left many, many lawmakers stunned and outraged. Let's go to our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, what's the impact all this is having on members up there?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, many members up here on Capitol Hill are deeply disturbed by these comments made by President Trump, and some are even making formal moves to reprimand him.

The Congressional Black Caucus chairman, Cedric Richmond, says that he will prepare a censure resolution for next week, which basically would amount to a formal statement of disapproval against President Trump.

But meantime, beyond the initial reactions and condemnations of lawmakers against those statements, the undercurrent of all of this is that Congress is in the middle of a very complicated situation, and this just potentially complicates it even further. They're right in the middle of these delicate negotiations over DACA, over immigration protections for DREAMers, and that that that makes it even more delicate.

You had one Republican senator, Susan Collins, today saying rather bluntly it could hurt efforts for a bipartisan agreement, and that is a sentiment shared up here on Capitol Hill by many congressional aides, that feeling or sentiment that this potentially pours more fuel to the fire of a situation that was already very politically charged.

BLITZER: Sunlen, this is also happening as Congress careens toward another very, very serious deadline, right?

SERFATY: That's right. They have just one week, until January 19, to solve the government shutdown idea. The fact that they've got to get a government spending bill passed in just one week. Democrats here, they're under an extreme amount of pressure from their

base, from their members, from many outside groups that want to make sure that they tie DACA and those extensions for DREAMers, protections for DREAMers with the government funding bill.

Now, we heard Speaker of the House Paul Ryan today say very clearly that Republicans will not attach DACA to the spending bill, but it's unclear how he would be able to get the votes for that within his own party and very unclear where DACA negotiations go next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Sunlen, thanks very much. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Describe your initial reaction, if you can, when you first learned that the president of the United States made these racist, inflammatory remarks about people from African countries.

JEFFRIES: Well, I was deeply saddened for our country and for what it means to have a commander in chief who would conduct himself, once again, in such an irresponsible way. But unfortunately, Wolf, I was not surprised. This a man who, throughout his entire adult life, has never hesitated to fan the flames of racial hatred in order to advance his own petty political, personal or professional objects.

We know that for five years he perpetuated the racist lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States of America, as part of a malicious effort to delegitimize the nation's first black president. He then rode that racist lie into the White House.

He plays political footsie with people like David Duke. He provided aid and comfort to neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the aftermath of Charlottesville. He continues to embrace the alt-right, even though he's in the middle of a fake cat fight with Steve Bannon.

And so it's not surprising that this president would make such racially-charged remarks in the Oval Office, but it's sad for our nation.

BLITZER: House Democrats, your colleagues, say they will seek a formal resolution, a censure resolution against the president over these most recent comments. Do you support that effort?

JEFFRIES: I absolutely support that effort. I was pleased to see that Congressman Cedric Richmond, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, would be leading that effort.

I'm just hopeful, Wolf, that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will finally decide to put decency ahead of partisanship, to put love for country ahead of their love for this president and realize we're a separate but co-equal branch of government. We don't work for Donald Trump. We work for the American people.

And the American people want to see a country that moves together, embraces the gorgeous mosaic that is America. Out of many, one. E pluribus unum. Is something that the president is obviously unfamiliar with.

Hopefully the United States House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, will embrace the notion that we're better off together and will denounce these vile statements by President Donald Trump as soon as we get back next week.

BLITZER: Do you think you have the votes to pass such a censure resolution?

JEFFRIES: Well, that's not clear. One thing that is clear is that we should hear from some of the Republican House members who were in that Oval Office meeting. In particular, Wolf, the No. 2 House Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was in that meeting. What does he have to say about the vile and racist nature of Donald Trump's remarks? Is he troubled at all that the nation's commander in chief, the leader of the free world, would characterize people from Haiti and Africa in such an ignorant fashion?

And by the way, Wolf, this is another example of the fact that this president operates in a fact-free zone. Immigrants from Africa are amongst some of the most educated in the world. They have contributed in a mighty way to city after city across the United States of America, including in my own congressional district. It'd be nice if the president once in a while would actually pay attention to the reality on the ground.

BLITZER: And Haitians have contributed a great deal, as well.

I'll just tell you, two Republican senators who were in the meeting, they issued a statement referring to Senator Durbin's comments, the accusations levelled by Senator Durmin [SIC] about -- Durbin about these racist comments. They said, "We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically." That was Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue of Georgia.

You want to react to that: "We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically"?

JEFFRIES: It kind of sounds like Jeff Sessions. I mean, let's think about this, Wolf. You're in the Oval Office with members of the United States Senate and members of the United States House of Representatives. With the president of the United States of America. Talking about an incredibly important issue around the DREAMers and perhaps taking steps toward comprehensive immigration reform.

He either used a racially inflammatory curse word to describe people from Africa and/or Haiti, or he didn't. But to say less than 24 hours that you do not recall whether the president said those words or not is an incredible copout.

I would think that those two United States senators should step up, one way or the other, and either agree with the president, who said he didn't say those things, or acknowledge that he made a terrible mistake, at minimum, demand that he apologize, and figure out how we can move forward, if at all possible from this moment.

BLITZER: In contrast to those senators, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, he all but confirmed what Senator Durbin was saying. Lindsey Graham said, "Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I've always believed that America is an idea not defined by its people but by its ideals."

Strong words from Lindsey Graham. So I assume you're pleased to hear what he said.

[17:15:05] JEFFRIES: Well, Lindsey Graham, I think, has been a straight shooter throughout his time in the United States Congress, and that would be consistent with his tenure so far.

It's also important to note, Wolf, that Lindsey Graham apparently had a conversation with Senator Tim Scott, who has indicated that based on his communication with Lindsey Graham, the president's words, as being described in the public domain, were accurate. And that is just a terrible thing for this nation.

We have to decide as a country that we are better than this, and it's going to require people on the left, on the right, progressives and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, to speak up, to stand up and to denounce this vileness coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

BLITZER: As you know, the president did honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oval Office today. He was joined by Dr. King's nephew, Isaac Newton Farris Jr., who later told CNN he doesn't think the president is racist, just, quote, "racially ignorant and racially uninformed." What do you think of that analysis?

JEFFRIES: Well, I mean, I think clearly, the president has engaged in behavior that would be consistent with being, at minimum, a racial arsonist, fanning the flames of hatred to advance his own agenda, certainly on the campaign trail and increasingly as the president of the United States of America.

I can understand why there's a reluctance amongst many Americans, including members of Congress, to characterize the president as a stone-cold racist, because you just don't want to conclude that the person leading our nation, who was put in the office by maybe around 60 million Americans, is such an individual.

But it's going to be harder and harder for many of us not to draw the conclusion that he may, in fact, be a bigot if this type of behavior continues. I'm hopeful he'll learn from this moment and will dramatically change course.

BLITZER: So you're not ready yet to label him a stone-cold racist?

JEFFRIES: No, my view is that my job, as a member of the House of Representatives, is to continue to lay out the facts as it relates to not just his behavior as president or his behavior on the campaign trail, but to point things out like in the 1970s, you had the Trump Organization sued by the Nixon Justice Department for racial discrimination against black and Latino housing applicants.

And even in the 1980s, it was Donald Trump who led the lynch mob against the Central Park Five, black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully charged, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.

The record continues to add up. He is the president of the United States of America. He needs to change course, but it's going to become increasingly difficult, Wolf, for us not to draw a troubling conclusion about who he is as an individual.

BLITZER: Congressman, stand by. There's more we need to discuss. I've got to take a quick break. We'll resume our conversation right after this.


[17:22:25] BLITZER: Our breaking news. There is growing outrage right now around the country, indeed around the world, over President Trump's comments about immigration, widely seen as racist.

We're back with Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, at least some in the White House actually believe this will resonate, what the president said, with his base. One official even told CNN this was a victory lap for the president. What's your reaction?

JEFFRIES: Well, it seems like the White House is acknowledging that at least some portion of their base are filled with racist individuals.

Now, I've long since concluded that not every American who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, but every racist in America voted for Donald Trump. So clearly, there is a segment of the population that the White House is now acknowledging. They count amongst their base who would be the only individuals in the United States of America who could somehow be pleased with these remarks.

Let me add, Wolf, I am pleased to see that Mia Love, who is a Republican member of Congress from Utah, also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has denounced these remarks, is calling for an apology.

I'm proud that I represent one of the largest Haitian-American communities in the country in Brooklyn. They are hard-working, entrepreneurial, community-centered, spiritually-grounded individuals; and the president should be ashamed of himself. I'm glad that Mia Love has stepped up.

BLITZER: Yes, Mia Love, Representative from Utah, a Republican, as you point out. She's a Haitian-American, as well. So these words are very, very powerful for her, for your community in New York, indeed for so many people out there.

Congressman, thanks once again for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, growing fallout from the president's remarks on immigration, confirmed by a U.S. senator who calls them vile and racist.

And Russia says its bases in Syria were attacked by swarms of unmanned aerial drones armed with explosives. These weapons are cheap, small and hard to detect. How credible are American targets overseas or right here at home?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:29:22] BLITZER: Our breaking news. The president is on his way to Florida after undergoing a medical checkup, leaving behind the growing firestorm over a slur of immigrants from some African nations. New reactions to the president's remarks surfacing almost every hour, coming from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

Let's bring in our political specialists to discuss. And April Ryan, let me begin with you. You were there at the White House. You were one of the pool reporters who went in when the president was having the statement honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As he left the room, you and your colleagues started shouting questions. One of your questions was, "Mr. President, are you a racist?" He didn't answer anyone, any of those shouted questions. But tell us about that moment.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wolf, it was a very hard moment. You know, tomorrow will be 21 years for me at the White House. You know, I remember starting, you were there, we were there together when I started at the White House. I've never heard a question like that asked of the president of the United States. But with what was said or alleged to have been said and many members of Congress are now confirming this, the question was looming.

And I had asked the NAACP what is the definition of a racist? And they said when racial prejudice and power meet, and that begs the question. So, today, you know, understanding that this was a momentous day for this proclamation, and naming the Martin Luther King national site to a historic park, having the president speak about that and talk about the day of service for Martin Luther King Day, and then Dr. Ben Carson speaking, and then the nephew of Dr. King. It was hard but the question had to be asked. I mean, it was such irony there. You had a celebration for a man of peace who wanted inclusion, who wanted first-class citizenship for this nation, and then I had to ask a United States president, are you a racist? Would you apologize for those statements? It's a sad day and it's hard. I mean, this is not anything to jump for joy about. BLITZER: Yes, I know, it was difficult for you to even raise those

issues, raise those questions with the president of the United States. Abby, you're one of our White House correspondents. There's a history now for this president of racially charged comments. Let me put some of them up on the screen. That President Obama was not born in the United States. Some Mexican immigrants are rapists. Calls for a shutdown of Muslims entering the United States attacks on a U.S. judge of Mexican heritage. Very fine people among the White supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Uses the term, Pocahontas. New York Times reported quoting him as saying, the White House denies it is, Nigerians will never go back to their huts, same with Haitian immigrants. Supposedly the president said all have AIDS, the White House denies that. And just the other day, yesterday, this comment about African countries. So, there is a history here.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is a history, and there is a pattern. And every time that an incident like this happens, the White House struggles to find a way to justify what was said or done. And in this case, you know, I think what's important to note, that the chain of events over the last 24 hours. Last night, when this story broke, the White House put out a statement that did not address the underlying claim of what the president said; they didn't deny it, and they could have denied it. And the president's statement this morning on Twitter was very specific to Haiti. He said I didn't say anything bad about Haiti.

But, again, the underlying conduct is not something that this White House denies. And I think on that list -- a lot of people say that the most important thing to know about this president is how he entered on to the political scene, and it was with the very first thing on that list, which was denying that Barack Obama was born in the United States. It is a very important fact about his political history, about how he came to be on the political scene, and it's something that he took years to remotely rollback. And that is what a lot of African-Americans in this country still believe to be the sort of cardinal, you know, racist comment of the Trump political -- of his political career.


DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And even some of the president's closest allies privately, some of them have come on CNN and other places and tried to not necessarily defend but tried to explain and justify. Privately, though, I am not hearing that at all. I mean, I talked to one person who's known the president for a very, very long time today who is outraged, and disgusted, and very upset, saying that this is top of all of the list of things, maybe the most consequential with regard with what it means for America, and then just in terms of the global geopolitical situation of how unbelievably bad it is for the American presidency and for the American spirit, despite, you know, the fact that this person has a close relationship with the president.

BLITZER: People all over the world are watching right now as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We know the president's been calling around trying to sort of gauge responses to this. And I was told by somebody who spoke with the president that he loves this. And that he thinks this will work for him, and that, you know, this source said to me, you know, this is a person who likes to take things up to the edge and prove to everybody that he doesn't fall over and fall off that cliff, and he does this time and time again. And that this friend said to him, no, this isn't good for you. This is a huge mistake; you're going to alienate constituencies. It's not good for the office of the presidency. You're even going to alienate business. But the president did not -- clearly, did not want to hear this, and this person also said: what makes matters worse is that there's no one inside the White House really pulling him back, because according to this source, General Kelly, the Chief of Staff, is in a kind of let Trump be Trump mode.

[17:35:42] PHILLIP: I think it's also important to note the difference between, I think, how a lot of people perceived the president's most controversial comments over in the campaign. As president now, the comments and his actions are finally starting to meet. I think that's one of the reasons why this is so troubling for people. It's not just --

BASH: Right, it was about --

PHILLIP: -- what he was saying, it was what he wanted to do. Exactly, about making policy. He has the ability to do that, and that's what makes it so --

RYAN: Wolf.

BLITZER: Go ahead, April.

RYAN: Yes. Wolf, I think Abby is right, but moving beyond this, people are upset. And I talked to one African-American influencer this evening, and she said to me -- she said, you know, she's a child and a product of the '60s. The next step is action. And, you know, we saw a little bit of that after Charlottesville, but she says it's about organizing, coming together and activate. And she said, the way that you do this is like what they used to do in the '60s, you know, an economic impact, where, you know, if the president wants to say -- she said, yes, you know, it's one thing to say -- ask if he's a racist and that's OK. But the next thing is, you know since this continues to happen there needs to be something to change the dynamic, some kind of leverage.

And this influencer said, what needs to happen, and it's kind of -- she made me laugh with it, but it's real. She said, what people need to do, Black and Brown people need to do is pick up the phone and start calling the airlines, and saying book me a ticket to "s-hole". And if they say, we don't have that -- look again. And the influencer said, you also need to call the telephone company -- tie up the lines, and call the telephone company talking about I need to have my international phone plan include "s-hole". I mean, they're -- there is talk now about what to do to change the dynamic of this because the president's talking about his base, but there is a large portion of America who does not accept this kind of thing, and they're now thinking about what can be done because we now have to go off to Twitter and move into action to change this dynamic.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We're getting amazing, extraordinary reaction, not only from around the country but, indeed, from around the world. That, right after a quick break.


[17:42:33] BLITZER: We've got some breaking news. The African Union Mission to the United States has just issued a lengthy statement condemning the president's remarks. Let me read two sentences: "The African Union Mission wishes to express its infuriation, disappointment, and outrage over the unfortunate comment made by Mr. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, which remarks dishonor the celebrated American creed and respect for diversity and human dignity. The African Union Mission condemns the comments in the strongest terms and demands a retraction of the comment as well as an apology to not only the Africans but all people of African descent around the globe." Gloria, this is an angry -- this represents, you know, dozens of countries in Africa, and they are outraged right now.

BORGER: Well, you know, we've seen today that the ambassador in Botswana had been summoned. I mean, you have a president creating an international incident here with a lot of ramifications. I mean, you know, we are -- presidents have gone -- in recent decades, have gone out of their ways to establish good relationships around the world, including Africa, and this is a president now who is in the process of undoing everything that has been done. And, you know, you have the Congressional Black Caucus talking about censuring the president of the United States. So, I think that you know, what can I -- what can I add to that? That I can say that doesn't surprise me.

BASH: But that -- but it is important to note and to underscore the fact that this isn't just something that is -- that makes people in this country, that people who are the president's -- the citizens of this country upset. This has real, real ramifications around the world.

BORGER: It does.

BASH: Not to mention the idea that, you know, if you are somebody in a far-flung place who already has anti-American tendencies and was looking for an excuse to be radicalized and you hear the president of the United States, that he said something like this, I mean, this is also a national security issue.

BLITZER: You know, Abby, does the president not understand the contribution that African immigrants have made to this country? You go to hospitals, you see doctors, and see nurses; you go to universities. Africans have made an amazing contribution to the United States.

PHILLIP: Well, clearly, clearly not. I mean, I think this is a -- one of the perplexing things about this comment was that it was made based on a false assumption that immigrants from Africa or from places like Haiti or from wherever don't contribute more than immigrants from places that are predominantly White like Norway. It actually does not -- is not backed up by any fact, and I think the White House would struggle to find data points that back up that ridiculous notion.

And you've seen people like Marco Rubio in a tweet storm today talking about the enormous contributions that Haitian Americans make to his state of Florida. Look, the president is the owner of a company that has resorts in Florida, in South Florida where a lot of his employees are immigrants. These are people who are in this country working very hard, and there is no -- there is no evidence given, really ever, when kind of these blanket statements are made based on whether the countries seem prosperous enough to produce --

BLITZER: And, April, he seemed to contrast -- no more immigrants from Africa with let's get some more immigrants from Norway.

RYAN: Right. I mean, White versus Black. I mean, you can't dance around that. But what I will say is, this White House seems to get this issue wrong, and there is collateral damage, as it was said before. I talked to some of the presidents of historically Black colleges and universities, they are very upset. And one of the reasons is because they have an international component of students that come from Africa and the Caribbean and they're now going back to their student body to assure them that they're safe, and everything is fine, and we welcome them. And once again, just like with the NFL, when the president got into that taking the knee stand, they lost money.

The HBCUs that are still trying to survive after meeting with the president last year, they're still trying to financially make sure that they're stable. This could impact their dollars and students. And they -- like, you know, I talked to the president of Tennessee State University, Dr. Glinda Glover, and she says, 10 percent of her student body come from Africa, international students. And she says they come to study engineering, medicine, all sorts of programs that really would propel them to be active and prosperous and in the society versus being what people may want to think, what they feel versus the fact.

[17:47:31] BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's more news, including alarm right now over a high-tech attack weapon, using a swarm of drones carrying explosives. Is the U.S. Prepared if terrorists try a similar attack here?


[17:52:27] BLITZER: Tonight, there are very alarming new questions about a high-tech attack using a swarm of drones carrying explosives. Russia blames ISIS for the weekend attack which targeted its military bases in Syria. Among the unanswered questions: where did ISIS get the drones? And could such an attack happen right here in the United States? CNN's Brian Todd has been looking for answers. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just hours ago, the Russian military announced it had killed several militants in Syria and destroyed a stockpile of drones. This is a video of the Russian air strike. We're told tonight, this is a new terrorist tactic that U.S. security officials are very well attuned to this threat and are scrambling to address it. The potential for swarms of potentially dozens of armed drones to attack at one-time large crowded venues like the upcoming Super Bowl is now a huge concern in the American homeland, following the two attacks at two Russian bases in Syria.


TODD: These drones displayed by the Russian defense ministry appear to have small bombs on them. The Russians claim swarms of these unmanned vehicles, 13 drones in all, attacked two of their bases in Syria in recent days. They blame ISIS for the attacks. Russian officials say no one was injured and that their anti-aircraft units brought down the drones. Tonight, experts are concerned about the possibility of swarming drone attacks on American targets.

CAITLIN HARRINGTON LEE, DRONE EXPERT, RAND CORPORATION: They are small and relatively hard to detect. The radar is not looking for something flying, typically, as low as a drone or that is as small as a drone. Also, when the drones are launched on a target in a swarming manner, this creates a redundancy and also a saturation effect.

TODD: Russian officials say, they believe these drones were launched from at least 30 miles away from their targets, but they could travel as far as about 60 miles. How would swarms of them be operated?

LEE: The idea of launching multiple drones at a single target really isn't that difficult, especially if these drones have a GPS capability, and there's a way, therefore, to preprogram a waypoint into the drone so that it lands, basically crashes at a certain point and becomes a kamikaze.

TODD: CNN has learned that U.S. security officials are scrambling to keep up with this latest threat of swarm of drones. A large open venue like this where there's a lot of people often gathered at once, how vulnerable to swarming drones with bombs?

JAMES CARAFANO, HOMELAND SECURITY EXPERT, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, the answer is if you have a bunch of people in a wide-open space like this, of course, they're vulnerable, right? And we already know that, because we've seen attacks in New York City and other places, and mostly in vehicles, right? And so now, what we've done is, is we try to protect ourselves on the ground, pushing things further out to protect the crowd. But this is new coming come and get overhead, right?

TODD: High-profile targets like the upcoming Super Bowl could potentially be threatened by swarms of drones. A key question tonight: how can security teams defend against them?

CARAFANO: On is you find the bad people to begin with and stop them before them they do anything. The second one is, all these things are radio controlled. So, you would interfere with the electronic signal that's commanding and controlling the aircraft. And the third thing you might do is to shoot them down. I mean, they are fragile and they are pretty light; you could probably take it down with a high-powered rifle.


TODD: So, are those steps being taken to protect Americans against swarming drone attacks? The Pentagon and Homeland Security officials tell us they are, but they won't say specifically what's being done, saying a lot of that is classified. One Homeland Security official did tell us that some of those measures are being used to protect big crowds at significant events. So, Wolf, watch out for the upcoming Super Bowl on that potential threat.

[17:56:02] BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting. Coming up, there's growing fallout right now here at home and abroad from President Trump's shocking remarks on immigration.