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Virginia Lt. Gov. Speaks to Press on Northam Scandal; Report: Trump Spent 60 Percent of Working Hours on "Executive Time"; Rapper 21 Savage Taken into Custody by ICE. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired February 4, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] JUSTIN FAIRFAX, (D), VIRGINIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: I have to assume office in the event he were to resign. I have to be very circumspect. I have to think about the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: People have said he should go.
FAIRFAX: People can say whatever they like. I made my statement on that front. I believe the governor has to make a decision in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What conversations have you had with him?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There were e-mails you just referred to where --
FAIRFAX: It was a phone call, as I mentioned.
FAIRFAX: No. In fact, that's a great question. There were no texts. There were no e-mails that were produced to us by this person because it simply didn't happen. Furthermore, you all will see more information. And I'm all about the information being in the public. But in the course of discussion with the "Washington Post," we showed them ample evidence in the story, including there's a video of this person from about 12 years ago talking about sexual assaults that have happened to her, talking about her history, saying we need to make sure we're loud about these things coming out in public. She also talked about being in Boston in the Rape Crisis Center. Yet, in that video never says a word about having been consulted by Boston, about having been consulted --
KEILAR: You're listening to the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, in Richmond, Virginia, as the current governor, Ralph Northam, is under a lot of pressure to resign after his medical school yearbook, his yearbook page showed a racist photo of someone wearing blackface and also a KKK hood and robe and also had a racist nickname for him underneath his picture. And then he had a very odd press conference.
I want to bring in Jackie Kucinich and David Gregory to talk about this.
One of the weirdest press conferences we've ever seen where he actually admits to doing blackface, portraying himself as Michael Jackson, and he almost did the moonwalk. It defied any expectation.
Meantime, this was the lieutenant governor who everyone was waiting to see, what is he going to say. He said, as someone who would assume that position, I'm reserving my judgment, but I believe the governor should do what's in the best interest of Virginia.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Which is pretty heavy handed. The governor is taking more time to decide his future as he's feeling the walls close in on him. And there are people around him saying, don't do this, stay there, fight this, try to resist those calls to resign and you can be a voice of reconciliation on this, you have a role to play. I don't know how that's going to go. I just think he has very little room to maneuver right now unless he wants to just try to stick it out. There's not going to be any less attention on this.
GREGORY: I don't know who else will come out and say he should resign.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not to mention Virginia is not a state we're going to be ignoring any time soon as the presidential primary and going into the general election. Virginia very much will be a part of the discussion, and in it, its leader.
Now, you've had pretty much every 2020 candidate come out and say he should step aside. If he doesn't, he will be this reminder of this no matter what they do throughout the election. It doesn't help had also that his story changed. He initially came out, he apologized for being in the photo. Then he said the next day in that press conference it wasn't him. Because I guess he knows what he looks like in blackface because he was Michael Jackson at that event.
KEILAR: He remembered so well the time he did blackface some other time that he would remember this time, was sort of what --
GREGORY: I don't know how that's helpful, but I still had the picture on my page even if it weren't him.
KEILAR: Let's listen back in to the Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax.
FAIRFAX: I have no idea what the governor's thinking is on that. You'll have to ask him.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When did you last have contact with him? FAIRFAX: It was probably a couple of days ago.
FAIRFAX: I would have to check on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you talk to him after the press conference?
FAIRFAX: I don't think I have. I would have to double-check.
FAIRFAX: (INAUDIBLE). I was actually in northern Virginia with my family. 80s a very important point. Facts matter. And just because something is reported does not mean it's true. And that was one example. I was with my family yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it in the best interests of Virginia for you to ascend to the governorship, and what have you done to prepare for that, specifically?
FAIRFAX: I am the lieutenant governor in the Commonwealth of Virginia, elected by 1.6 million Virginians. They put their trust and faith in me to serve in that role. And I honor that trust and faith.
FAIRFAX: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: With your staffers, were there discussions on what you would do on day one if you were ascended to that position?
[13:35:06] FAIRFAX: There's a lot of uncertainty right now in our government, but we always have to be prepared to assume our roles and responsibilities given to us by the government Constitution. This is not something that anyone formulated in terms of how this process proceeds. So we are prepared to --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But William and Mary -- William and Mary have already pulled back their invitation --
KEILAR: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax.
As I bring in David Gregory and Jackie Kucinich back in.
That was telling. That wasn't even veiled. He was making the case for, hey, I was elected by 1.6 billion Virginians. They put their trust in me and he's honored that. It's pretty clear where he stands on what the governor should do. He's not coming out and saying it. KUCINISH: Sure. The lieutenant governor position in Virginia tends to be a launch pad for the gubernatorial position eventually. It's not like it would be a revelation that he would be interested in the governorship. This is the first office he was ever elected to. So it will be really interesting to see how he'll go forward, because initially, in the statement he issued, I believe it was yesterday, he was trying to walk the line, saying, I worked with Governor Northam, he's someone that I've had a respectful relationship with, however, he has a decision to make. Fairfax is a descendant of slaves, and when he was sworn into office, the "Washington Post" reported he had a copy of his ancestor's papers that set him free in his coat pocket. In addition to all this, all that history that was from his family, coming to be the fore as the --
GREGORY: Probably a little appropriate he's being a little careful to give the governor time to get to this decision, if that's where he'd like to get, so as not to alienate the supporters the governor does have who would like him to stay on at this point. He would like to be governor, he would like to govern in as wide a way as possible. He's giving him that room.
KEILAR: I go back to transgressions, you wonder if politicians will survive. I think of Donald Trump and the "Access Hollywood" tape. This is not the same thing. I'm just saying that's something he did where we wondered if he would survive. A lot of urging from Republicans but Donald Trump did not lose the support of his base. The question will be, what about support for Governor Northam? Do you have a sense of that?
GREGORY: The big difference is Donald Trump is a different category. He'd shown it. Also, people had made
KEILAR: This was not surprising to people about this
GREGORY: When the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, nobody was surprised that would be there. People make a judgment. People are willing to support him despite that. When that came out. I think this is more surprising. And all of the bad judgment involved from the original putting it on to do it, if it was him, to then put it on the page and then the clumsy way in which he's handled it.
KEILAR: Admits it's him, says it's not.
GREGORY: And, as you said, the bizarre thing about Michael Jackson -- just really bad.
KEILAR: David Gregory, Jackie Kucinich, stay with me you guys.
A new report is revealing how the world's most powerful person is spending his working hours in executive time. How the White House is explaining exactly what this is, next.
[13:43:31] KEILAR: "Executive time," that is what the unstructured time on President Trump's schedule is called, largely spent watching TV and making phone calls. Axios obtained leaked White House schedules which outlined President Trump's day-to-day schedules for the last three months. And 60 percent consisted of this so-called executive time.
Jackie Kucinich and David Gregory back with me now.
We knew about this executive time for some time. What we didn't know is exactly how much of the president's day is spent in executive time.
KUCUNICH: And the idea that -- let's take the White House at his word that he's working hard at executive times and not hate-tweeting at cable news. That means that the American people don't see what the president is doing. They don't know what calls he has. They don't know what meetings he has. There isn't any transparency in terms of what the president is doing day to day. And that is -- I don't know that that's a really great defense, frankly.
GREGORY: You know, a lot of this is about, what does the president know, what kind of process does he have, what kind of rig or does he bring to the job? He could certainly make the argument that I don't need to be in all these process-oriented meetings, I don't need to do things the same way. He's very much engaged with the culture, engaged with cable news. That's how he watches the critics and argues the things he's done.
What I'm interested in is that this got leaked. That there's so much dysfunction in the White House that people are making the observation, gosh, what kind of executive wing is he running here? I always say it's very hard to analyze this stuff in the absence of a crisis, because what you're really afraid of is that it's not just the president, but his entire team, if they don't work well together and they don't work well, period, that really shows up when things go bad, a crisis, an attack or some kind of catastrophe.
[13:45:30] KEILAR: I heard our Kaitlan Collins make a really excellent point last hour when she said sometimes there are leaks, and it's certain members of the administration trying to hurt their colleagues, sharp elbows. There's only one person this is damaging to, and that's President Trump.
KUCINICH: And Cliff Simms, who has a book out, that the president is not happy about made this point on Twitter saying the staff was e- mailed day by day, meaning someone would have to call these day by day by day in order to leak
KEILAR: Very premeditated.
KUCINICH: Yes, very premeditated, some someone is deeply dissatisfied with what's going on in the White House and that has to be causing quite a bit of concern inside those walls.
KEILAR: You covered George W. Bush. And when you think of this schedule that you see in contrast to -- look, there are different schedules. There are schedules we get sent out to us, reporters get it, the public can get it, then there's this private schedule. How would this be different? GREGORY: I think this is another indication of how different this
president is than his predecessors. We can look at it with everything he knows that we've covered, it must be wrong. I don't know that we can make a judgment that it's necessarily wrong. President Bush was criticized, as well as President Obama, for playing golf a lot. Other examples of --
KUCINICH: Clearing brush.
GREGORY: -- clearing brush or how they do their job. I don't know that that's fair. This speaks to, and we see this in other example, whether he criticizes his intelligence chiefs making their statements. These are reports they were reading that shows us out of touch with how the government is actually run. How his senior staff is responsible for executing his visions of government. That, I think, is a representative.
KEILAR: Listening to some of the interview he did with the "New York Times" last week, what became clear is he not -- the president is not using this to become widely read or widely researched. That's very clear. He doesn't know basic things about how his rhetoric has affected a sort of animosity toward journalists. Just basic things out there in the ethos if you're not reading everything. That's something I would wonder is executive time.
KUCINICH: At his point, and in stories throughout the year, the president kind of likes to construct his own reality. He goes with his gut. That's how he makes decisions. We see that in Syria or having to do with the shutdown and the wall. He's not going to change. We're two years in and this is going to be how he does things.
GREGORY: But I do think you have to give him his due, that he is often directionally accurate. even though inaccurate on other points. Saying, I am going after China. Saying, I am going to make this wall posture an issue that I want to drive. And he's been able to successfully do that. He can capture the imagination. And some of that is he wants to direct what the conversation is in the country certainly in this media environment. And he knows how to do that. People can be critical on how he does it, that he spends so much time doing it, but it's difficult to argue that he's not getting the results, maybe that he wants, but he's getting results of the narrative. Are people talking about it, is he driving?
KEILAR: David Gregory, Jackie Kucinich, thank you so much. Great conversation, you guys.
Still ahead, a prominent rapper believed to be born and raised in Atlanta targeted and arrested by ICE for being in the U.S. illegal. From where?
[13:49:23] A new development in the trial of drug kingpin, "El Chapo." Why today could be his judgment day in the courtroom.
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KEILAR: Fans of Rapper 21 Savage thought he was born and raised in Atlanta, but he was arrested by ICE. They say he's in the country illegally and he's actually British.
Let's bring in CNN's Nick Valencia.
What a shock to fans, Nick. Tell us what's going on.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Especially his fans here in Atlanta. Such a big name in the hip-hop music scene. But a law enforcement source tells me, with knowledge of his arrest, that 21 Savage wasn't even the intended target. He was in the car with another rapper who was the target of a criminal arrest when they ran a background on him. His immigration status showed up, they transferred him over to ICE, and now he's in ICE custody.
This is what they're saying in a statement, in part, "Mr. Abraham- Joseph" -- his real name -- "initially entered the U.S. legally in July 2005 but failed to depart under the terms of his nonimmigrant visa. He became unlawfully present in the U.S. and when his visa expired in July 2006." They go on to say, "In addition to being in violation of that, Mr. Abraham-Joseph was convicted on felony drug charges in October of 2014 in Fulton County, Georgia."
[13:55:03] We should note, Brianna, that that conviction was expunged. But it brings up a lot of questions as to why his immigration status wasn't flagged then in 2014.
His defenders say it doesn't matter where he was born. He's done a lot for this community. He has lived the gangster lifestyle, as noted, and he built a lot of success with this using this persona but shocked a lot of fans about this story.
VALENCIA: We'll try to get more information.
KEIALR: This story's not over.
Nick Valencia, thank you.
KEILAR: In a press conference meant to quiet calls for his resignation over a racist yearbook photo, Virginia's governor appeared ready to perform the moon walk after admitting that he blackened his face to look like Michael Jackson.