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In an interview Rep. Tom Reed (R) New York Discusses Trump's Emergency Declaration, Kirstjen Nielson's Testimony; Poll: Growing Number of Americans Want Trump Impeached; Poll: Vast Majority of Americans Believe Michael Cohen on Hush Money Payments; FOX News Responds to DNC Decision Not to Have FOX Host Democratic Presidential Debate Following "New Yorker" Expose"; In an Interview State Rep. Debra Altschiller (D) New Hampshire Discusses Pearl-Wearing Republicans Mocking Gun Control Activists at Hearing. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 6, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] REP. TOM REED, (R), NEW YORK: I would agree with the assessment that there's a crisis at the border, it is an emergency, especially given the context in which the powers of the presidency have been given when it comes to emergency action. This has been going on for decades, Congress passing the buck to the executive department and then the president utilizes that authority in a way to deal with that situation. And in this situation, I see that here. Going forward, we have to change this. This is not the way to do business in America.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: OK. So I want to get back to why you think it's an emergency, in a moment. But you've introduced a bill and you want Congress to weigh in on national emergency declaration. Explain that in this case.

REED: So what we're proposing and what I'm proposing -- and we have bipartisan support on this -- is to say when the president declares emergency action, he or she has the ability for up to 60 days to take action to direct that situation, but then Congress has to set aside its legislative agenda and vote to approve the emergency action for it to continue going forward. Right now, that doesn't happen. Congress has advocated its role of being a co-equal branch in the conversation. And you've got emergency declarations from the '70s. The Carter administration is still on the books that the president could potentially utilize because, under emergency powers, they have the ability to do things that typically aren't allowed by law.

KEILAR: So effectively, then Congress would not approve a national emergency declaration in this case. That would be the effective result of this. So that, then, in effect, reins in the president's power here. That's the goal?

REED: The goal is to rein the president's power in and to make it co- equal with Congress. And take the politics out of the national emergencies so that we, as elected officials in Congress, have to be on record to say we agree or don't agree in each and every case where an emergency declaration is made. Right now, this doesn't occur. KEILAR: You would want the president then -- because then this would

basically wash his ability to do this. You'd want him to find some other way to get this policy done?

REED: So we can agree on a united front to address this on an emergency basis because Congress doesn't approve that declaration, and that would force the president and Congress to do is say, well, it may not be an emergency, but we at least have to solve this crisis. And if you have a humanitarian crisis, a drug crisis, if you have a criminal crisis, that would force legislators that to stay in the room to fix and address the crisis rather than saying, wink, wink, nod, nod, this is what we'll do, we'll agree in Congress to do this and you use the emergency action to work around so, politically, and we don't have to take a hard vote.

KEILAR: You're saying this is an emergency. What makes this an emergency at the border or the crisis at the border?

REED: Yes. When I see fentanyl being confiscated where 20 million Americans could be killed if that got onto the street, you know that are caught, but there are things coming through, when it comes to criminal activity or ports of entry, and that is a true crisis that needs to be dealt with. And it's not being adequately protected in regard to what Congress came through into its position on the funding side.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about Kirstjen Nielsen's testimony today. She was asked about the zero-tolerance policy that resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents, the significant uptick that we saw under the Trump administration. She said it was not intended to be a deterrent to people coming into the U.S., but we know that that is not true. In January, months before this policy was announced, there was a memo that was released by a whistle-blower and put out by a Senator that made it clear that this was intended as a deterrent, that there were senior Homeland Security Department officials who outlined these plans to separate parents from their children in an effort to combat immigration, the illegal immigration at the southern border.

REED: My understanding of it is that what happened is that there's a conflict in the law. There are some legal cases and the Martin case that requires potential holding of individuals in separate facilities. And what happened was, hopefully, a message being sent, that, look, this is a real situation that could occur at the border and we don't want families separated and I am glad to see the administration change the policy and keep families together --


KEILAR: But, Congressman, that's my point, because Jeff Sessions made it clear that he did want them separated as a deterrent to illegal immigration and that was made very clear as well in this memo. And why is the secretary then saying that it wasn't supposed to be a deterrent when we have verbal and written confirmation that it was?

REED: Well, I think -- and I won't speak for the attorney general. I won't speak for the secretary, but my understanding of the situation was it was a reading of the law and they were trying to follow the law rather than arbitrarily ignore it. I am glad that they have changed their policy in the administration to keep families together as they go through the process but, again, it is the reason why we should fix the root cause of the problem, which is the broken immigration system that you have not addressed in a way that's efficient with this going forward.

[13:35:00] KEILAR: But more than being a reading of the law, it was seen as using the law as an instrument to achieve the policy of deterrence. You seem to take issue with that characterization, saying no, no, this is just reading the law, which critics say, that's something the secretary is just hiding behind.

REED: I can understand that. And there may be folks over there -- it's a large administration, there's a lot of people working over there that thought this was a wise course to do from a deterrence perspective. All I can tell you is what I know and what I was briefed upon. What I was briefed upon was the legal basis for what occurs. There was a strict interpretation of the law as it exists on the books. And obviously, the attorney general, in particular, has to follow the law. And that's the problem when you start picking and choosing what laws you're going to respect and which ones you're going to ignore. We should have clear guidance. I'm glad they changed their policy. But this is why we need to fix the broken immigration system at the border as well as the entire country.

KEILAR: Congressman Tom Reed, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.

REED: It's good to be with you.

KEILAR: Great to have you.

This is just in to CNN, a growing number of Americans voicing support for impeachment proceedings against the president. We will break down those numbers.

And why were these men wearing pearl necklaces to a gun control debate? The New Hampshire hearing grabbing national attention today.


[13:40:57] KEILAR: As House Democrats launch their sweeping probes into all things Trump, Republicans worry that this is the first official step towards impeaching the president. And according to a new national Monmouth University poll, support for impeachment proceedings have ticked up among Americans.

Patrick Murray is the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Patrick, thank you for being with us.

And when you look at these numbers, you see the support for impeachment is slightly higher, but the president's approval rating has also stood steady, so what do you make of this?

PATRICK MURRAY, DIRECTOR, MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY POLLING INSTITUTE: Yes, as we know with Donald Trump, we have to look closely because they tend to not move a lot. The fact that support for impeachment has moved up six points -- it was 36 percent in November and it is now 42 percent -- is driven mainly by Independents who don't approve of the job that the president has done, but in the past, have said that I don't think he's done anything criminal, I just think he's doing a bad job. Now we've seen a shift among those Independents saying, you know, I don't particularly think that maybe he's been on the up and up, and so maybe impeachment is a course that we need to look at. And so that's why his approval numbers, which currently stand at 44 percent -- that's a slight tick up from where they were during the shutdown, but 44 percent approve of the job they're doing right now. And it hasn't moved that much because the Independents still say he's done a bad job and it's just that now they're moving into, well, maybe we need to look at impeachment, as well.

KEILAR: So how does the country feel about Michael Cohen's testimony and whether the president did reimburse him for hush money payments.

MURRAY: It's interesting. When we ask people about Michael Cohen, they were basically evenly split about thinking he was honest or not honest in most of what he said. But the vast majority, over 50 percent, said that they believed his claim that Trump reimbursed him for the hush money payments that he made, and only 12 percent said that they definitely did not believe that he did that. And there was the other part in the Trump support. His defenders, who in the past have said I definitely do not believe these things about Donald Trump, we've seen an increase in the number of those folks who say, you know what, now I'm not sure. That number who say they don't know about these kinds of things have gone up. So Trump's defenders have dropped from defending him to saying, I'll have to take another look at that. There are very small movements in both the Independents and the Trump defenders but they're movements that they need to pay attention to.

KEILAR: Very interesting.

Patrick Murray, thank you so much.

MURRAY: My pleasure.

KEILAR: This just in, FOX News is responding to a decision by the Democratic National Committee not to have the network host a Democratic presidential debate in the wake of a damning expose in the "New Yorker."

I want to bring in chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter.

This, Brian, was an expose that basically said FOX News, while it has had an agenda in the past, has been operating essentially as state media for President Trump.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDICA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Yes, as propaganda. And Jane Mayer's story pull a lot of threads together, much of it reported before, but she tied it together in a bow and got the attention of a lot of Democrats and a lot of progressives, who said, why in the world would the Democratic National Committee ever think about giving a debate to FOX News. Brianna, it has been on the table. The DNC has been talking to all of the networks about who will host these debates. We know NBC has the first one this summer, CNN has the second. FOX was apparently still in the running for the debate.

Here's what the DNC is saying as the result of the reporting in the "New Yorker." The DNC Chair Tom Perez putting out a statement saying, "I believe the pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach our voters. That's why I've made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including FOX News. But recent reporting in the "New Yorker" on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and FOX News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, FOX News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 primary debates."

And that's the statement from the DNC, referring to the reporting in the "New Yorker,"

FOX News expressed regret about the decision and said they hope the DNC will reconsider. I will call that zero percent. But here's the statement from Bill Sammon, who heads up the D.C. bureau. He says, "We hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha McCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic debate."

[13:45:23] That's the statement from FOX. But, Brianna, if we're realistic about this, it is true FOX has journalists like Bret Baier who do a good job. But every night, in prime-time, Democrats are dehumanized and attacked relentlessly by FOX News prime-time hosts. It was always hard for me to image a Democratic primary debate taking place in those hours, when figures like Nancy Pelosi and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez are constantly demonized and attacked. So the Democratic National Committee now making that official in saying we'll have nothing to do with FOX in the primary season.

KEILAR: It's an interesting development, even if it seems that it's something that isn't too surprising at this point in time.

Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

KEILAR: These Republican lawmakers are being accused of sexism and mocking gun violence victims at a hearing by wearing strands of pearls. Hear what happened and how they're explaining this.


[13:50:39] KEILAR: A hearing on gun control in New Hampshire is getting national attention today because of what some of the Republican men and one woman were wearing, strands of fake pearls. Almost immediately critics accused the lawmakers of using this imagery of clutching their pearls to mock the testimony of gun control activists but pro-gun activists pushed back on the criticism. They argued that the real intent was just to represent opposition to the bill.

We have Democratic State Representative Debra Altschiller with us. She sponsored this bill. She's joining us now.

When this happened in this testimony, Representative, what were you thinking?

STATE REP. DEBRA ALTSCHILLER, (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, I was thinking, when I saw members of the committee, who were supposed to be listening to members of the public testifying, you know, those members of the committee are supposed to be listening with open hearts and open minds, and when you're wearing a symbol that's a nonverbal cue that I'm not listening to you and I don't care about what you say and I'm putting myself in solidarity with a group who's mocking you, I find that incredibly disrespectful and troubling.

KEILAR: So the Women's Defense League that provided this prop, says the men who were actually supporting women's rights to arm themselves for defense. What is your response to that?

ALTSCHILLER: Well, I think that's a lovely way to put a shine on what we all know is -- an untrue statement. You can put lipstick on that, but it's not going to shine it up. Those pearls or plastic white beads, if you will, were something that the Women's Defense League came up with about a month ago because they have, for over two years, been mocking Moms Demand Action and calling members of Moms Demand Action pearl-clutchers, and accusing them of false outrage whenever they are calling attention to the epidemic of gun violence in our country. And so when they show up with a prop that supports what they have been doing online and in their blogs and in their presence of saying, that, you know, Moms Demand Action are pearl-clutchers, they show for the prop that supports that, you know exactly what they're talking about. They're trying to backpedal now. What was really problematic was when members of the committee, who know this group and know their vitriol, they're not unknown to the state, join in solidarity with that vitriolic statement and mocks other members of the public. That's the problem.

KEILAR: How do you feel this has affected the debate? It was already very divisive in New Hampshire, but now -- but now where do you think it's headed because of this?

ALTSCHILLER: So it seems like it's very divisive in New Hampshire because we have a very vocal minority of people, who really, honest to god, believe that everybody should have guns everywhere all the time regardless of what kind of mental state they might be in. And this piece of legislation is an extreme risk-protective order that is meant to be a public safety issue. We know that so many mass shooters have exhibited signs where people in their community and their families know that we're heading down for trouble. And in New Hampshire, the second-leading cause of death between -- for people from the age of 10 and 34 is suicide. Half of them are done with a firearm. And so, you know, we have a problem in New Hampshire. And being able to intervene when someone is going to hurt themselves or other people around them is a tool that 14 other states in the nation have enacted and it's time for New Hampshire to do the same. We have -- we have the wind at our backs and we are very vocal and very strong that we need this piece of legislation. And we've heard so many Republicans talk about how we need extra help in the mental health field, and so if someone's suffering from an issue that has to do with their mental health and they're having suicidal ideations, they're not an ideal candidate for having a firearm.

[13:54:00] KEILAR: Representative Debra Altschiller, thank you so much. We really appreciate you joining us from Manchester.

And coming up, we have breaking news. The president's former fixer, Michael Cohen, providing Congress with new documents as he tries to explain past discrepancies in his testimony. We'll have details ahead.


[13:59:59] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

And we begin this hour with breaking news out of Washington, where on a day when he was supposed to report to prison, Michael Cohen is instead back on Capitol Hill --