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Pelosi & Schumer: Trump's Emergency Declaration is a Power Grab; Interview with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI); Fact-Checking Trump's Assertions about the Situation at the Border; Police Make 2 Arrests in Alleged Jussie Smollett Attack; Supreme Court Will Take Case on Citizenship Question on 2020 Census; Trump Talks the Great Support He Gets from Conservative TV & Radio. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 15, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:53] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Top congressional Democrats wasted little time blasting the president's national emergency declaration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement saying, quote, "The president's unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist, does great violence to the Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from the urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation. This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process. We call upon our Republican colleagues to join us to defend the Constitution. Just as both parties honored our oath to protect our people by passing the conference committee bill, the Congress, on a bipartisan basis, must honor the Constitution by defending our system of checks and balances. The president is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution."

Democratic Congressman David Cicilline joining us from Rhode Island.

Congressman, when you look at what the president is doing here -- and there's also criticism from Republicans -- how do you see this playing out? Obviously the House is going to take action. Do you think the Senate will also register disapproval?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D), RHODE ISLAND: I hope so. Look, it is very clear there's no national emergency. Illegal border crossings at the southern border are at a 40-year low. The president's own Intelligence Community when they testified before Congress doing their world threat assessment barely mentioned the southern border. So there's no factual basis for this. The president is violating his oath of office, violating the separation of powers, purporting to take money from military construction and counter narcotics work. So the very things he claims he's worried about he's taking money from those efforts to fund a wall. And you don't get to use emergency power simply because you lost at the negotiating table. We live in a democracy. The American people will decide how their money is spent. They decide that by electing people to the House and Senate. The president is not a king who can issue an edict and overrule the Congress. I think it's lawless, reckless. He's violating his oath of office. And I don't think it'll be sustained in the courts. We're going to take action to do a resolution of disapproval. I hope our Republican friends will join us. This is about the rule of law, separation of powers, congressional authority, and it's important that Republicans join us in this effort, not just issuing statements, but be sure they're voting in a way that makes it clear the president cannot do this on his own.

KEILAR: He's clearly looking at this through a political lens and thinking this is playing very well with his supporters and some Republicans that he appears, at the very least, that he is trying to get this done. That he is trying to build a wall or a barrier. And to that end, whether it does get hung up in Congress, whether he is successful in this, the fact that he is just pushing this message as we look towards 2020, how do Democrats respond to that? Because there's very resonant with many people.

CICILLINE: Look, there's no question all the president is attempting to do is create some political theatre and try to argue that somehow he's fighting for border security and nobody else cares about it. There was a bipartisan bill that helps to secure our border in a smart way, that makes investments in the infrastructure at the ports of entry, in additional personnel, additional investments that will provide barriers where appropriate. There's a good bipartisan compromise. Democrats have been clear we're continuing to support investments in border security. We want to do it in a way that achieves the objectives, that makes sense, that experts say will work. Best practices. We reached a bipartisan effort to do it. The president made a campaign promise, build a wall and, of course, Mexico was going to pay for it. So we ought not be wasting taxpayer money. I think we have the responsibility to call him out. And I hope our Republican colleagues will join us because this is a very dangerous precedent. If every time a president loses a negotiation or doesn't get his or her way they think they can issue an executive order, we will have lost our democracy.

[13:35:27] KEILAR: His new bumper sticker is, "Finish the wall," as I'm sure you have noticed.


KEILAR: That's what he's saying. That seems to resonate with a lot of people as well.

But listen to what he said about your party and its opposition to the wall.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you look and when you listen to politicians, in particular certain Democrats, they say it all comes through the port of entry. It's wrong, it's wrong. It's just a lie. It's all a lie. They say walls don't work. Walls work 100 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: When you're talking drugs, maybe not all of it -- I think it's only 90 percent -- but that's a lot, how do you respond to that, though?

CICILLINE: The overwhelming amount of drugs come into this country through legal ports of entry. If we're serious about doing something about that, we need to make investments so there are cargo investments, additional personnel to prevent the drugs from coming in the country. That's where they come. The president keeps throwing out statements that are not supported by the evidence, not supported by his own Department of Homeland Security or Customs and Border Patrol. I've been to the border twice and they said it used to be single men come, now it's families. We need to respond to that in a humanitarian way. But that's the change of circumstance that's happened at the border. There's not an emergency there. We have invested significantly in reducing the flow of drugs into our country. We want to do it in a way that actually works. The president is fixated on this border wall, this vanity project that's not effective and won't achieve what it's trying to achieve. I think his own Republican colleagues, by voting on this compromise, voted for things that will actually work.

KEILAR: Congressman David Cicilline, thank you for joining us.

CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Have a great weekend.

During his announcement, the president made a number of assertions about the situation at the southern border.

Tom Foreman is here to fact them.

What are you finding, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we're finding that a great many of these assertions are dubious, at best, flat-out wrong, at worst.

One of them that he's repeated many times is that the wall is already being built. And he echoed that theme today.


TRUMP: We're right now in construction with wall in some of the most important areas. And we have renovated a tremendous amount of wall, making it just as good as new. That's where a lot of the money has been spent on renovation.


FOREMAN: The second part of that statement is accurate. There has been a lot of renovation of existing portions of wall or barriers, just as there has been under every single president. But this suggestion that there's construction of something new out there, that is simply not happening. There could be some start on a short, short, short section of new wall next month. But the suggestion that it's happening right now, that's not happening. Even he said later on, they're just in reconstruction right now. That's misleading, at best.

Let's look at another big claim he's repeated over and over again. That El Paso had a giant crime problem, they built a wall, and it stopped.


TRUMP: When the wall went up, was it better? You were there, some of you. It was not only better, it was like 100 percent better.


FOREMAN: El Paso did have a huge problem, a huge spike in violent crime, and then it did drop very dramatically, you can see it right there. Here is the problem, though. All of that happened before the wall was built down in this period of time. And at that point, crime actually went up again. So for him to suggest that the wall is the reason it changed for El Paso and violent crime, that is simply false.

One more big claim you have to look at here, you made reference to it a moment ago. The idea that all this open land with no barrier or limited barriers on it, is where drugs are pouring into America, he brought that up.


TRUMP: A big majority of the big drug, the big drug loads don't go through ports of entry. They can't go through ports of entry. You can't take big loads because you have people. We have some very capable people, the Border Patrol, law enforcement, looking.


[13:39:59] FOREMAN: The problem with that is very capable people at the DEA have studied this and they said, look, this is where the drugs are coming in, through the legal ports of entry, not open land. Look at the number on heroin, 2018 report, the majority of the flow is privately owned vehicles entering the United States at legal ports of entry followed by tractor trailers. Here are pictures from the DEA of that happening.

In fact, the only drug more likely to be brought into the country, through open land where, presumably a fence would make a difference, is marijuana. He said over and over again that's not the case. The numbers are somehow wrong. That's false.

The bottom line, Brianna, is he keeps making the claims and everything we talked about here has been fact-checked over and every and over again. It was false in the first place, it remains false, and yet the president keeps going back to it.

KEILAR: Thanks you, Tom, for the skinny on that. So important.

President Trump also spoke of the great support he gets from FOX News host, Sean Hannity, and others. But Trump insists he still decides policy. We have Brian Stelter with us next fact-check on that fact.


[13:45:50] KEILAR: A major new development in the bizarre story involving an alleged attack on Jussie Smollett, one of the stars on the show "Empire." We are learning police made two arrests.

I want to go to Ryan Young in Chicago.

Tell us what you learned here.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we learned so far is two men have been arrested. They haven't been charged with a specific crime just yet. We've been working our sources to try to detail what happened.

This is interesting. This story keeps twisting and turning. We know this attack happened about two weeks ago. The actor saying he was walking from a subway late at night when two men attacked him, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him. After that, the detectives were working this case for hours. Twelve Chicago police detectives have been working this case nonstop to figure out what happened. The actor told GMA yesterday he thought a camera nearby would help police but didn't learn that the camera was turned in a different direction.

Then this started spiraling out of control. We know police met two Nigerian men at the airport yesterday, brought them in for questioning. And then we learned the two men apparently worked on the set of "Empire" at one point, maybe appearing on the episode. Now there's the question of the story, do the three men know each other. All these questions have been put out there. Detectives and police, for their part, have started to get more quiet over the last few hours because, obviously, with this investigation, they're trying to trace things back.

We did confirm that the police went to the two men's apartment. They took several items from inside, computers, cell phones, and other items they wanted to inventory. After that, we learned they used ride share and cab receipts to learn the men were in the area. So those two persons of interest, they believe they tracked down at the airport.

How did this come together? That's the next part. Did the actor have a role in this? These are all questions put out in the last few hours. Things we're trying to confirm through the police department. We know police have made an arrest of two men. And we'll be working on it for the next few hours now that the police move ahead in the investigation a lot faster.

KEILAR: It is so bizarre.

Ryan Young, thank you for that update.

We have breaking news. The Supreme Court has decided to take up a case about whether a citizenship question can be added to the 2020 census. We have a Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue, to tell us more

about this.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Brianna, this is a big case. This court has just decided that this term it will decide whether or not a citizenship question can be added to the 2020 census. You remember a lower court said that the administration acted unlawfully when it chose to put that question on for the next census. The administration says, we want to do this to comply with the Voting Rights Act. But it was challenged by the ACLU and some states that said that's a pretext, that question is being put on there to discourage immigrant families from coming forward.

As you know, this is really important. That census only comes up every 10 years. It's used for redistricting, for allocating funds. This will be one of the big cases of the term.

KEILAR: And when you look at the makeup of the court, is there any idea of where the court might be on this?

DE VOGUE: It'll be interesting. One big factor is that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been away. We learned today for the first time she was back at the court for this conference. So that means, after she had that surgery for cancer, she missed oral arguments. And now she is back. She's feeling better. We haven't confirmed it but we think she'll be on the bench next Tuesday when they hear arguments. So that will be a big indicator here. She is the leading liberal on this court and she'll look hard at this question.

As I said, the arguments themselves are going to be at the very end of oral arguments for the term in April. They've managed to put this in. They think it's important to hear it this term because that census has got to be printed by the June.

[13:50:13] KEILAR: And we will be watching. What a case.

Ariane De Vogue, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.


KEILAR: It's no secret that President Trump listens to many conservative TV and radio hosts and pays close attention to criticism of his policies. Today, in the Rose Garden ceremony declaring a national emergency for the border wall, he revealed more about what he thinks about them, starting with Rush Limbaugh.


[13:55:03] TRUMP: This guy is unbelievable. Try speaking for three hours without taking calls. Taking calls is easy. OK, I'll answer this one, I'll answer that one. He goes for three hours. And he has an audience that's fantastic.


TRUMP: They don't decide policy. In fact, if I went opposite -- I mean, they have somebody -- Ann Coulter -- I don't know her. She's off the reservation. Anybody that knows her understands that. I haven't spoken to her. I don't follow her. I don't talk to her. But the press loves to bring up the name Ann Coulter. I think she's fine. I think she's good.


KEILAR: CNN chief media correspondent and anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

What are conservative pundits saying about his decision to declare a national emergency, Brian?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDICA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Ann Coulter is criticizing the president for signing this bill, saying all of this is 100 percent his responsibility. And challenging the assertion that Trump doesn't know her. Obviously he knows her. He sees her on TV. She's spoken at his rallies. There's a mission from Trump trying to disassociate him from one of his top critics. A lot of the president's other allies or right-wing voices, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, et cetera, are very much in his corner, Brianna, continuing support throughout this. Rush Limbaugh's been on the radio in the past few minutes, all of this, the Democrats and the Republicans, the compromise, the spending deal, all of this is designed to get Trump supporters demoralized. When in doubt, they always come back to President Trump. That is why this is the pro- Trump media in action. And, of course, the president hears all of this. He focuses more on his base. In a way, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, these guys, they are Trump's wall of support in the media.

KEILAR: I thought it was an extraordinary moment as he was going -- he was asked sort of who informs his thinking and he started going through them.

STELTER: Yes, he started ticking them off. Praising Tucker Carlson. Praising Laura Ingraham. The mention of Laura Ingraham stood out to me. She's been tough on him, saying this is a fiasco, this budget compromise. There are voices on FOX, like Laura Ingraham, that have been pushing the president to take a harder stand. But at the end of the day, they accept what has happened and they support him. They will mostly begrudgingly continue to back him up.

I find that what happens in these cases, when the president suffers a political defeat, right-wing media voices focus on something else instead. They change the subject. One of the big stories for them is about Andrew McCabe's book and McCabe and his credibility and the idea of a coupe by the Deep State. The ability to change the subject, in this case, from the border wall and the funding to something that gets the audience riled up, is a trick that we see time and time again from shows like Ingraham's.

KEILAR: Brian Stelter, thank you so much for that. STELTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: That's it for me.

"NEWSROOM" starts right after this.