Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

ICE Arrests Atlanta Rapper; Trump Reportedly Spends 60 Percent of Working Hours in 'Executive Time'; Democrats Call on Virginia Governor to Resign. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 4, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, at first, Governor Northam said that he was one of the men. And now he says he wasn't.

How does he know? Because a friend told Northam that, another time, he darkened his face with shoe polish during a Michael Jackson dance contest in the same year. It was offensive. And, for that, Northam apologized.

And right now, even as Democrats at all levels, including the former Vice President Joe Biden, both of Virginia's current senators, its former black governor, all say he should go, Northam remains on the job.

And when asked what Northam should do, Virginia's lieutenant governor answered it this way:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Can you say definitively, should the governor resign?

LT. GOV. JUSTIN FAIRFAX (D), VIRGINIA: Can I say definitively?

QUESTION: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Yes or no?

FAIRFAX: I have made my statement on that. I believe that the governor has to make the decisions in the best interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN's Dan Merica is there in Richmond.

And, Dan, we know that the governor met with his cabinet and staff today, and now he's asking for more time. More time for what?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS PRODUCER: Yes. You know, a lot of Virginia Democrats here are surprised that Ralph

Northam remains in office, because, to be to blunt, he's hanging on by a thread at this point. He had two critical meetings this morning, one with his cabinet and then another all-staff meeting, sandwiched together.

And throughout those meetings, we're told by someone who was briefed on those gatherings Ralph Northam asked for more time to just determine what comes next for him.

I have also newly now been told by somebody who was briefed on the meetings that Ralph Northam was emotional in those meetings. They were described to me as tense, and that he was emotional when describing the situation regarding that racist photo that you laid out.

You know, it's difficult for him to ask for more time, when there's been really a cascade of calls for his resignation, not just from 2020 Democrats and national officials. You note Joe Biden, also Kamala Harris Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and a whole host of 2020 Democrats, but also here in Richmond at the state capitol.

Both sides of the Democratic Caucus called for his resignation. The Virginia Black -- Legislative Black Caucus called his resignation, as well as a whole host of key Democratic officials in the state.

So that's one difficult ask, asking for more time, after all of that. You also correctly note there's a credibility issue here. He admitted on Friday that he was in the photos and apologized for it. And then on Saturday, he walked that back and said he couldn't remember if he was in that photo. He denied being in that photo, but said that he did dress up in blackface another time in a dance contest in San Antonio, where he dressed like Michael Jackson.

You played the sound from Justin Fairfax. Really, all eyes are on him at this point. I -- you can look behind me. It looks pretty serene and peaceful. But I can guarantee you that inside that capitol and around the capitol, it is not, because there are many people who think Justin Fairfax should be the governor of Virginia at this point.

And there are people who -- and he is back there actually presiding over a Senate session right now, and all eyes are on him to see what he does next. He's not called for the governor to resign. He says he's in a unique position because he is the lieutenant governor. But it's very clear that people are focused on Fairfax to see what comes next and what role he plays in that, Brooke.

BALDWIN: He could be the governor in a matter of minutes, hours. Who knows.

Dan America, thank you very much in Richmond.

Michael Futrell is a former Virginia state delegate and was the first African-American to represent Stafford County. He is one of only 20 current and former black leaders in the commonwealth, mayors, NAACP presidents, city council members who issued a statement calling on Northam to resign.

So, Delegate Futrell, good to see you sir. Welcome.

MICHAEL FUTRELL, FORMER VIRGINIA STATE DELEGATE: Well, thank you so much for having me today.

BALDWIN: All right, so you heard the news. The latest from Richmond is that the governor is asking for more time. You heard the meeting today was emotional for him. Is he delaying the inevitable?

FUTRELL: Well, while I understand it was emotional for him, it's also emotional for the rest of us who have to live through this after walking into the shock that we found out on Friday morning.

So I'm once again disappointed. I'm not really sure why he's delaying time. Everyone has asked for his resignation at this point. And one of the things that I have been saying, the problem that I'm running into here is, I know Ralph Northam. I have built a great relationship with him over the years and the statesman that I believed him to be.

And while so many people were taken back by that picture, the bigger problem that we're running into here was how he has responded. Like you said, he started out -- his instincts were correct at the beginning: It was me. I was wrong and I'm sorry.

And all the reports said he was going to step aside.

BALDWIN: Yes.

FUTRELL: But then after a night of sleep and some bad advisers, all of a sudden, we're going to try to fight this thing out.

And the only thing he's doing is causing more and more trouble to everyone that is involved here. And it's disappointing for the 500,000 people of color who supported him in his election.

BALDWIN: Yes, I think it was Ben Jealous last hour saying, we are a nation, we love to forgive, but when you play it one way and then you think you can play it another the next day, that ain't going to fly.

[15:05:05]

Speaking of a response, speaking of a response, that news conference Saturday, I mean, say what you will about the man's judgment in 1984.

I know. I heard that sigh.

The man was about to moonwalk, if his wife had not stopped him. If you have not seen this, roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Are you still able to moonwalk?

PAM NORTHAM, WIFE OF RALPH NORTHAM: Inappropriate circumstances.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: My wife says inappropriate circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Mr. Futrell, what does that say about the governor's judgment today?

FUTRELL: That, obviously, he does not get it.

The fact that this is a joking moment for him continues to point back to the fact. And I will continue to say that, if this were a one-off thing, we would have a different conversation. But we have a pattern established.

We saw what happened in the race where they pulled Justin Fairfax off of the flyers. We saw where he chose his favorite governor to dress up at for Halloween was a slaveholder. And now we have "Coonman" and we have blackface and moonwalks.

I'm not judging you off in one individual moment. What we're judging is this pattern that has been created. And, again, it is my hope, that at some point, Ralph Northam is the statesman that we all believe that he was, and does what's best for the commonwealth, instead of letting his ego prevent him from doing what's right.

BALDWIN: Now, like you point out, you know the man. You have really come to know the man. What about this notion of people evolving?

I mean, this is something we heard from former Senator Joe Lieberman on CNN earlier this morning. This is what he said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You're aware of the problems facing the Democratic governor of Virginia...

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yes.

SCIUTTO: ... Ralph Northam.

Do you believe he should resign?

LIEBERMAN: I don't today. I mean, I think there's a rush to judgment that is unfair to him. One, he says he wasn't in that picture. Two, I think we ought to fairly ask him, did he know the picture was on his page of the yearbook?

And then, three, really, he ought to be judged in the context of his whole life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Context of his whole life, is there any room for that argument here?

FUTRELL: Well, here's the thing. If Ralph Northam would have stuck with his initial instinct and said, you know what, I'm stepping aside because I realize that there are so many people who have lost faith in my ability to lead here, and I'm going to support Justin Fairfax wholeheartedly to move Virginia forward, if he had done that, I would have personally taken Ralph Northam around to start to rebuild.

I'm a man of God, and I truly believe that we do have redemption, we do have the chance to evolve. But the question is, how do you respond when you're in the moment? And we have seen right here that the more this continues to drag on, the worse it does not just for his legacy, but what it does badly for the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

And I just can't put into words how disappointed I am in this entire process.

BALDWIN: Michael Futrell, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your feelings. We appreciate it.

FUTRELL: Well, thank you so much for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Now to a stunning revelation about how the president has spent the majority of his time over the past three months. Axios has published a trove of President Trump's internal schedules, showing that roughly 60 percent of his working hours were spent in unstructured so-called executive time.

The report is raising all kinds of questions about a president who is certainly known to brag about his personal work ethic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I promise you that I will work so hard. We're going to get it turned around.

I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.

I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.

I have also gotten older, and I'm working a hell of a lot harder than I have ever worked before. That, I can tell you.

When I look at some of these trade deals, I say, how could this have happened? And the truth is, it was laziness. They just let it go. But we're not going to be letting it go.

To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.

We have done more than anybody ever thought possible in -- it's not even two years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's go to the White House now, to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

And, Jim, first, can you just define this for us? Well, what exactly is executive time?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's in the eye of the beholder.

There are Trump critics who will say that he's spending a lot of time behind the scenes composing tweets and watching a lot of TV. But I have talked to a source close to the White House just in the last hour, Brooke, and this is somebody who speaks regularly with the president, who says, no, you know what, he does spend a lot of time on Twitter. He does been a lot of time watching TV, but he's also on the phone, he's talking to outside advisers.

And that is something that we have reported on in the past, Brooke, that he talks to these outside advisers and friends, almost to the frustration, and really not -- not almost, but really to the frustration of people like the former Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was trying to rein in the president's schedule and rein in the access that a lot of outside advisers had to this president.

[15:10:03]

So he is doing some of that during this unstructured period of time that he has before he goes into the Oval Office every day.

But we should point out, that is one of the issues that I think this report has been raised -- that has been raised in this report, is that because so much of this of this unstructured, because so much of this takes place over in the residence, there aren't the kind of controls that you would normally have when somebody is in the Oval Office, and you have stenographers and people around, officials witnessing what's taking place in these kinds of meetings with advisers and phone calls with advisers and so on.

We do want to point out, though, in the last few hours, Brooke, the White House as tried to put some spin on all of this. Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, came out and talked to reporters. She said -- she was pushing back on this Axios report just a short while ago with reporters and saying that there is a -- there's another schedule, more detailed schedule, that goes to a smaller, shorter list of advisers and officials over here at the White House, and that the schedules obtained by Axios -- this is according to Kellyanne Conway -- don't include some of the things that they know about internally inside the White House.

This being according to a small group of advisers, I suppose, including Kellyanne Conway. And we also want to point out, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, put out a statement to Axios adding her spin on this.

And it says: "President Trump has a different leadership style than his predecessors. And the results speak for themselves. While he spends much of his average day in scheduled meetings, events and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive president in modern history."

Now, obviously, there's a lot of spin there, and describing him as the most productive president in modern history. A lot of other officials from other administrations would dispute that.

But it is curious that he has this much time. It's not something we experienced, that I experienced covering President Obama in the previous administration.

BALDWIN: Why would somebody stockpile all these personal schedules and leak them? What are they trying to convey to the American people?

ACOSTA: Well, Brooke I think the only thing that is being conveyed when somebody leaks information like this is that there is a view, I suppose, among some officials inside this White House.

And I have talked to people inside the White House, outside of the president's circle who say that he does not spend as much time in the Oval Office as he probably should, and that when he's in the residence and he is in this unstructured environment, he can be susceptible to a lot of outside advice, talking to people who perhaps couldn't get a security clearance working in this administration, or perhaps might have an agenda that's at cross purposes with people who actually work inside the White House and work for the administration.

And so there is a concern about all of this unstructured executive time, but at the same time, he is the president, and there aren't exactly rules and regulations as to how he should spend his day on a daily basis. You can just look at the White House schedule today, Brooke. Once again, his schedule shows that he's behind closed doors in private meetings, got a lunch with the vice president.

He's got this intelligence briefing that happened earlier today, and there are people that have told "TIME" magazine about these intelligence briefings, that he just sort of pooh-poohs what he hears in those intelligence briefings.

And it is very much on like what we experienced covering the Obama administration, when there was a schedule of meeting after meeting, pool spray after full spray. And it was just a very busy, much busier schedule than we're seeing from this president in recent months.

It is curious that he has been spending so much time away from the cameras. He will make up for it at the end of the week on a Thursday or Friday. He will bring everybody and he will talk for 90 minutes. It'll be like, whoa, look at all this access we have.

But a good part of the earlier part of the week -- we saw this last week and we're starting to see it again this week -- he's just away from the cameras, away from the public.

BALDWIN: Closed doors.

ACOSTA: And we don't know what's going on with that schedule -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: You brought up the PDBs. We're talking to the author of that "TIME" magazine piece later this hour, just extraordinary information he's getting from these senior intelligence officers on the president paying attention or not. Jim Acosta, thank you at the White House.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: As President Trump prepares to deliver the State of the Union address tomorrow night, we now know the political impact the government shutdown has had on his job approval. We will show you the new CNN poll that may surprise you.

And he is currently under a Pentagon investigation amid allegations of improper behavior -- why Ronny Jackson, the man formerly nominated to run the VA, is being tapped for a new role in the White House.

And fans know him as a Grammy-nominated rapper from Atlanta, or is he? ICE officials say he's actually British and is in America illegally.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:19:08]

BALDWIN: Tomorrow night may be the second time the president gives the State of the Union speech, but it will be the first time he will give it with a Democrat overseeing the U.S. House of Representatives.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be seated where of course the former speaker, Paul Ryan, sat last year, next to the vice president.

And as the president figures out his new footing in Congress, the new Congress, new CNN polling reveals just what impact that 35-day government shutdown his had on the president's job approval. And the numbers might surprise you.

So, to Chris Cillizza we go, our CNN politics reporter and editor at large.

And, Chris Cillizza, the result is in. What is it?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, it's weird. He's sort of Teflon. It's not like a great Teflon, but his numbers don't move all that much, Brooke, based on sort of external events.

OK, let's go. I got a couple things for you. Let's start here.

OK, his job approval in our latest poll, 40. Now, noted, his disapproval is 55. In January, it was 37. Before the shutdown, it was 39. These three numbers, candidly, if you talk to any pollster, sort of a statistically insignificant change.

[15:20:10]

There's always about a 2 percent margin of error built into these things, so those all look about the same.

Now, February 15, the wall -- excuse me -- the wall -- I got it on my mind -- the government will shut down if nothing happens. Do you want a shutdown if no wall funding? This is the important part. Conservative Republicans, almost eight in 10 support another government shutdown.

So that tells you why Donald Trump isn't giving in. It's why he's not going to say, OK, we don't need wall money.

OK , let's go to the next one. OK, this is my favorite one. Federal government is doing, dot, dot, dot -- do you think they're doing the worst job of your lifetime? Forty-three percent of people, four in 10 people, Brooke, think that the federal government is currently doing the worst job in their lifetime.

This is my favorite. This has often been used to describe me. He's doing a bad job, it's just not the worst -- 26 percent, one in five people say the government's doing a good job. So huge cynicism across the board.

And then this one. Credit to our colleague Kate Bennett for pointing this one out. Opinion of Vice President Mike Pence, who, by the way, has been a member of Congress and the governor of Indiana prior to being vice president. OK. And these are roughly the same 39, 45 -- 12 percent have never heard of the vice president of the United States.

BALDWIN: Wow.

CILLIZZA: Which could be slightly concerning, because remember, if Donald...

BALDWIN: How is that possible?

CILLIZZA: Right.

If Donald Trump -- how is it possible? I seriously don't know. But I lived with this my whole life, and I'm a giant nerd. So, obviously, like, I don't know who these people are, and I would like to meet them.

Regardless, it is important because Donald Trump, if he happened to leave office, for whatever reason, Mike Pence would become president. The good thing is, as Donald Trump said over the weekend, he's got all that covered. Nothing to worry about. Let's play the sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Are you prepared for an attempt to impeach you?

TRUMP: The only way they can win, because they can't win the election, is to bring out the artificial way of impeachment. And the problem is, you can't impeach somebody for doing the best job of any president in the history of our country for the first two years.

It's supposed to be high crimes and misdemeanors. Well, there was no high crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: Well, that logic is absolutely impermeable. You can't impede someone who's doing a good job.

Now, I don't think Donald Trump should be impeached at this point based on what we know. But whether or not you're doing a good job, according to your subjective measure, has zero bearing on whether Congress can impeach you.

What a day. The State of the Union is tomorrow, Brooke. Can't wait.

BALDWIN: I know. I know. We will all be in D.C. I'm still back on the category of you're doing a bad job, but it's not the worst.

CILLIZZA: Hey, that show, you did a bad job, but it wasn't the worst job of my lifetime.

BALDWIN: What a compliment. What a compliment. Geez.

Chris Cillizza, thank you, as always.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will see you tomorrow in person.

Coming up next year: Have you heard of this story? This rapper with a chart-topping album has been arrested by ICE agents. He is reportedly in the country illegally from the U.K., despite building his whole life persona around being this rapper from Atlanta -- what his lawyers are now saying in his defense.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:52]

BALDWIN: That is Grammy-nominated and popular Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage. Right now, he is in federal custody rescued by ICE in a sting operation because he's reportedly in the country illegally.

Immigration officials say the rapper is British and overstayed his visa. And now he's facing deportation.

So let's go to Nick Valencia, who's live in Atlanta.

And, Nick, I mean, may be a huge shock to a lot of fans who've embraced him through the years. He's English, as it turns out. What happened?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a huge shock.

And in Atlanta, it was almost a bigger story than the Super Bowl itself, where the Super Bowl was hosted. You know hip-hop. I think you're a hip-hop fan, Brooke. You know this genre of music. It is so important to be raw, to be candid, to be your authentic self.

And, at least according to one ICE official, 21 Savage's whole public persona was false. hand I know a lot of people would take exception with that. And we will get into that a little bit.

But here's what a law enforcement source with knowledge of the arrest is telling me; 21 Savage was not even the intended target in this arrest. He was actually with another rapper who was the target of a criminal arrest. Law enforcement officials did a background search on 21 Savage.

It was then that they realized he was in the country illegally, he was here undocumented. And they took him into custody and handed him over to ICE.

Now, even if you don't know who he is, you should know that he is wildly popular. He's one of the biggest names in Atlanta, which is -- a lot of people would argue is the capital of hip-hop. He's Grammy- nominated. His record with Post Malone is up for record of the year at the Grammys.

And he has made a lot and benefited a lot from his persona, a gangster lifestyle. He's talked a lot about in interviews being from the streets of Atlanta. And it's something that was celebrated by his fans.

Now, his defenders -- and I have spoken to a lot of people over the course last 24 hours say that, even if he was born in the U.K., as is being alleged by ICE, that doesn't take away from the fact that he spent his formative years in Atlanta, and he really did live that gangster lifestyle.

A lot of his defenders are bringing up the timing and saying it is very curious timing. Super Bowl, he was arrested hours before that. He's also very recently started to speak a lot and promote a lot more social consciousness , impressing on young black youth that they need to save their money, invest their money in communities, and not spend it on jewelry.

In fact, he himself doesn't wear jewelry anymore, but a lot of people caught off guard by this, Brooke, incredible shock for somebody, you know, who is thought to be -- quote, unquote -- "one of the real ones."

[15:30:00]