Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RIGHT NOW

Trump World Questions "Legitimacy" of Democrats Winning in 2020; Trump Condemns Democrat Omar But Silent on Steve King; Rand Paul Says 10 Senators Will Vote Against Trump's National Emergency; Sobering New Warning from Top U.S. General in Europe on Growing Russia Military Threat; 3 Packages Containing Improvised Explosives Found Near Two London Airports, Train Station; Loved Ones Remember American Tourists Killed in Helicopter Crash in Kenya. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 5, 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] RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But the idea that they'll be any kind of resistance of handing over power, I think, goes beyond the pale. That just will not happen.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That concern aside, which you do not have, do you worry that by doing this -- and you said he questioned the legitimacy after last time because of the popular vote. However, before the election, he also was laying the groundwork for the narrative that if he were to lose, it is a rigged system. This seems to be very close to what he's doing now. Do you worry that he's undermining confidence in the electoral process?

SANTORUM: I don't because that's sort of who Donald Trump is. He can never be seen as a loser, and so he has to do everything --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: I mean, that's not mutually exclusive by undermining the electoral process.

SANTORUM: My point is the electoral process is more than just Donald Trump. And there will be a whole body of Republicans, me and many, many others, who will stand by the elections and move forward with the transference of power. I'm not saying me. I'm talking about the Republicans that work in that administration as well as in Congress. And the idea that because you have a president who has a history of calling questions of anything that is negative about him personally and questioning the legitimacy of any negative criticism or any negative outcome related to him is not going to have an impact beyond just his rhetoric.

KEILAR: But people listen to him and they believe him and they repeat what he says. No offense to you or those other people in the White House, they may listen to him more than they're listening to you guys.

SANTORUM: I think what you'll find is, if the unlikely happens, because I think there's a good chance he will win reelection, but if he doesn't win reelection, there's no question that the large swath of the Republican Party and the leadership for the Republican Party is going to recognize legitimacy of the election. It's much too important an institution to allow it to be sullied in that way.

KEILAR: I do think you're right. I wonder what the impact is on the confidence. We'll have to see, actually, though.

I want to ask you about something different. Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is back in the spotlight. She tweeted critics, including some in her own party, see, this is anti-Semitic, certainly anti- Israel. And President Trump called her comment -- that pro-Israel lawmakers have an allegiance to a foreign country -- that's what she said. He called this, quote, "a dark day for Israel." She's been rebuked by some people in her party. You know the Democrats are coming up with a resolution --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: -- that doesn't call her out by name. Is that enough?

SANTORUM: There's a fine line between criticizing the state of Israel, which everybody has a right to do, and Representative Omar has been very forthright in expressing her concerns, and Representative Tlaib, and many others, and going into these anti-Semitic tropes. That's sort of over the top. There is -- and this is something we don't see discussed a lot -- there's a real division in the Democratic Party, the folks, the progressives, the Socialists, whatever you want to call them, are very much pro-Palestinian and very much have concerns about Israel. Not just because of Benjamin Netanyahu, who they find distasteful, but I think just the whole oppression that they see of the Palestinian people by Israel. So this is a divide. It's not one that's often talked about in the media, but it is a huge divide in the Democratic Party. And it's only going to grow bigger as you see the influence of the president having more effect in the Democratic Party.

KEILAR: When the president latches out and criticizes Congresswoman Omar -- and I see you're making a distinction. The other one was very much trafficking and anti-Semitic trope. You're describing this is more just about Israel but it's a fine line. He's seizing on this. Do you wish that his application of criticism was a little more non- partisan? I ask you that because he didn't say anything about Steve King, whose rhetoric about white supremacy and inherent in that anti- Semitism, the president hasn't said anything about that.

SANTORUM: I would love to see a lot more honesty and a lot less politics here in Washington, but I don't think you really see less of that. And you look at what's gone on in Virginia and --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Would it help Republicans if the president said something about Steve King, that he was paying attention to what's going on in his own house as well as the other?

SANTORUM: I think it's always helpful when someone in politics shows that they have consistent principles and that they're going to apply those principles irrespective of whose ox is gored. I think most politicians don't do that. I don't think Trump is an anomaly in that. I think he's pretty much the norm in that. I think it is important that we saw in Virginia, you know, a lot of Democrats speak out, but what's happened? Nothing has happened. And the issue has sort of gone away. That, to me, again, is a double standard. If that was a Republican having done those things, this would be a drumbeat, drumbeat on the left to get rid of these politicians. You can blame Trump but the same thing is happening on the other side, and no one is really criticizing that.

[13:35:25] KEILAR: I want to ask you about Senator Rand Paul. Because he says he believes there are 10 Senate Republicans who will vote to block the president's national emergency declaration when it comes to the border. In the end that's not going to be enough to override a veto. I know you're not really a fan of this route the president is taking. Is that a message the president needs to heed?

SANTORUM: Here's the distinction I would draw between what Republicans are doing and what happened under Obama with two major things, which I think are much more egregious constitutionally than what the president is doing here. The president has statutory authority to declare a national emergency. President Obama didn't have the authority. In fact, went over Congress' head more particularly in Obamacare and spending money there, but also with DACA and the immigration thing. The Democrats were uniformly behind him. Republicans had to bring lawsuits that actually stopped the president from doing these things. Not a single voice said anything on the Democratic side. At least give credit to the Republicans for showing dissent and actually standing up for congressional prerogative --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: In fairness, showing dissent is all that's going to happen.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Because there aren't enough of them --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: I agree.

KEILAR: There's -- there's --

SANTORUM: But give credit, a little bit, where credit is due that there's not a monolith on the other side. There are at least some voices that are expressing concern as opposed to everybody locking up.

KEILAR: What does that do?

SANTORUM: I think it sends a shot across the bow.

KEILAR: What does that do?

SANTORUM: I think it's a shot across the bow to the president.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Well, what happens next.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: What does? Anything?

SANTORUM: Well, I don't know. I suspect there will be another executive order come down the pike that the president wants to do. This president, contrary to what his campaign was, has been very active on front of executive orders, something he says is by necessity. It's the same excuse Barack Obama used. Congress isn't working with me so I have to do it all by executive order. We've seen now two presidents in a row, because of this dysfunction in the Congress, and candidly, in part, their lack of being able to bring people together in the Congress, have led to more executive actions. Republicans are saying, at least the body of them are saying, hey, enough is enough. We'll see about the next time. I think this is a good show of force you'll see in the House and the Senate, and hopefully it will chasten the president in the future.

KEILAR: We'll see if he's chastened. He's not often chastened.

SANTORUM: Well, it actually could be something that will stop him from doing in Congress. Look, Congress has, for decades, been giving their authority to the president of the United States through the legislation they pass, through their unwillingness to stop the regulatory process of the president or executive orders, and at least we see one instance here where some are speaking up.

KEILAR: Senator Santorum, thank you very much.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

KEILAR: More on our breaking news. Two Democrats demanding a formal criminal investigation into White House adviser, Jared Kushner, and his security clearance, ratcheting up the heat on the president and his orbit.

Plus, a sobering new warning from the top U.S. general overseeing American military operations in Europe. Why he's uncomfortable about America's ability to deter Russian aggression.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:43:12] KEILAR: A top U.S. general is sounding the alarm about the growing threat from Russia. During public testimony on Capitol Hill, General Curtis Scaparrotti warned the U.S. needs more troops and warships in Europe to counter that threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. CURTIS SCAPARROTTI, COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY EUROPEAN COMMAND: I'm not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe, in support of the national defense strategy, and in particular, when you look at both the building capability and the modernization of the Russian forces that we face there. And then finally, of concern is my intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capacity. Given that increasing and growing threat of Russia, I need more ISR.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, former Pentagon press secretary, is with me now.

Some observers look at this and say that's pretty remarkable that he's detailing a threat. Maybe this is a rebuke of President Trump. You don't see it that way.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't see it as a rebuke of Trump. I know the general very well. The last thing he would ever do is get into a political fight. That's just not his way. He's doing what you want your combatant commanders to do when he testifies at these readiness hearings to Congress, lay it out straight, here's how I see the security environment. And it shouldn't surprise anybody that he sees it the way most other analysts do. Russia is trying to boost their capability, they are becoming more of a threat on the continent, so I think he was laying it out honestly.

KEILAR: One of the more startling things he talked about was this key nuclear missile treaty. Tell us about that.

KIRBY: The INF Treaty signed in 1987 between Reagan and Gorbachev that controls the intermediate-range nuclear missiles and Trump said he's going to pull out of it. And Putin, a day or so ago, said he's going to pull out of it, too, which leaves nothing in place and we're off to the races here literally and potentially an arms race. What I was stunned to hear General Scaparrotti say he doesn't know of any plan to revamp that or move forward or how they, on the continent of Europe, will react to this failure of the treaty. And that's really alarming.

[13:45:14] KEILAR: This is a key step but there would be other things that would need to happen that I'm pretty sure would alarm you following removal from the treaty. What would it look like?

KIRBY: Sure. On the research and development side, you would have to begin building those capabilities because we don't have them. Russia has been cheating, we haven't been. Now we have to start building those capabilities. Number two, and this is important, Brianna, they're only good where they're placed. They're not long enough range to get to the United States to Europe to use them. You have to base them in Europe. Which means the administration has got to look at basing options there. Again, listening to General Scaparrotti, it doesn't sound like they've moved very far down that path.

KEILAR: John Kirby, thank you so much as always.

KIRBY: Thank you.

KEILAR: House Intel Chief Adam Schiff has said he hired an organized crime prosecutor well-versed in the Russian mafia to lead investigations into the president. What does that tell us about the Democrats' strategy?

Plus, this just in to CNN. Explosives have been found near two London airports and a train station. We'll take you there, live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:50:44] KEILAR: Breaking news. Three packages containing improvised explosives have been found near two airports and a train station in London.

Let's check in now with Nina Dos Santos. She is at the train station where one of these packages was found.

What can you tell us, Nina?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, very much, Brianna. I'm outside Waterloo Station. This is one of the key commuter hubs in and out of the capital heading toward the south and southwest, so it's used by many hundreds of thousands of people every single day. This is one of the locations that one of those small improvised explosive devices was found. It was found around mid- morning but already authorities have intercepted one other package at Heathrow Airport, which is one of Europe's biggest transportation hubs. That was intercepted earlier on in the morning. And there was a third package that was intercepted in the smaller airport in the city of London in east London.

As a preventive measure, authorities temporarily evacuated some of these buildings but made it clear that these were small devices that appeared to have been mailed from the same location or at least the authorities are treating this as a linked investigation. They said these were not particularly destructive devices but they could have been enough to cause a small fire. Brianna, the investigation will continue as to who sent these and what the motivation would have been behind this.

KEILAR: Do they have any concerns, Nina, that there could be more of these devices to discover, Nina?

DOS SANTOS: Well, the timing of this is significant in the sense that the first device was intercepted around about 9:40 in the morning. Again, at the height of the commuter rush hour in places like Heathrow. It was mailed to a building within the confines of Heathrow Airport that deal with packages. Another one here roundabout mid-day, another lunchtime peak traffic point. And then one later on in the afternoon at City Airport, just as people were trying to take planes to and from various European locations and parts of the U.K.

For the moment, authorities have reopened all of these facilities after they were shut for preventive measures and evacuated so that would indicate that at the moment they feel they have the situation under control.

The question will be, were these small devices that were designed to disrupt peoples' behaviors and cause chaos among commuters, or were they the sign of something more serious? The U.K. raised its terror alert last year after a number of attacks and thwarted attacks. It then downgraded it to the second-highest level. But this is a tense time. In less than a month, Brexit is set to happen. So, for this reason, authorities will be looking very closely into why these packages were sent to these key transport locations -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Nina Dos Santos, thank you so much for that report.

As Democrats are starting to target nearly everyone in the president's orbit, a defiant White House is pushing back. New CNN reporting details exactly how they're preparing to fight these requests.

[13:53:52] Plus, it seems the Trump administration doesn't invite women's teams to the White House after they win championships, despite rolling out the red carpet for men's teams. We'll speak live with one WNBA coach who says she was not invited.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:58:47] KEILAR: Right now, you're looking at live pictures from the White House. President Trump about to sign an executive order that seeks to prevent veteran suicide. This is going to create a new task force to advance research and prevention efforts.

A father, a charismatic leader and a loving brother, that is how loved ones are remembering a group of American tourists killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya over the weekend. The helicopter crashed in the Central Island National Park on the country's northern border. And when a rescue team arrived, all four American on board and the pilot were dead.

Kyle Forty (ph) would have turned 30 in August. And in a statement to CNN, his wife describes him as lovely. In addition to his wife, he leaves behind five children and a sixth child on the way.

The family of 28-year-old Anders Asher Burke (ph) says that Kenya was Burke's (ph) favorite place on earth. He had recently purchased land there. Those closest to him say he was nothing short of magnetic.

And Brandon Stapper, who had been posting photos on Instagram just before the crash, his brother describes him as a best friend and a father figure ever since their dad died when they both were young.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT STAPPER, BROTHER OF BRANDON (voice-over): Everything that Brandon did was at the highest level, so loved by so many people. It's crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)