Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Tweet Man; FBI Reveals Russia Hacked Two Florida County Election Systems in 2016; Trump Unveils Immigration Plan. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired May 16, 2019 - 15:00   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so there you have President Trump on immigration, you see it on the screen, unveiling this merit- based immigration plan, saying he's going to be crystal clear.

And much of the focus, as we anticipated, was on border and border security.

Let's get some quick analysis with me, starting with Dana Bash, our CNN chief political correspondent.

And you have had all this great reporting, Dana, earlier today about this division within the White House, sort of like a team Stephen Miller border security vs. team Jared Kushner and maybe possibly including DACA kids and trying to get to get some support from the other side of the aisle.

Listening to the president just then, did you hear anything new?


BALDWIN: What were your takeaways?

BASH: Oh, new? Yes, yes, for sure, in terms of this proposal, new not as of yesterday, but as of this week.

This is the whole -- the whole game here for him is to try to appeal to the business community...


BASH: ... and try to appeal to Democrats who have been calling for merit-based immigration, more extensive legal immigration, to help with so much -- with the much-needed jobs and a work force that is absolutely necessary in this country.

There are so many "yeah, but"s, that I can go in so many directions here after I just explained that.

BALDWIN: Hit me with one. BASH: Well, just for one example, on this whole idea of this new legal immigration program, Democrats are already saying, OK, but what about the current system, family-based, need-based?

You know, we know about asylum that should be in a separate tranche because that's a different conversation. But are the -- is that going to change?

And then, of course, the biggest "yeah, but" is something you alluded to, which is if you want to have any kind of chance of this going through -- and when I say this, I mean anything related to immigration -- the Democratic-led House or to get 60 votes in the United States Senate, what you need is a conversation and a compromise about DACA children, which he did not bring up.


BASH: And, as I mentioned -- as you mentioned, my reporting is that it's something that Jared Kushner has said that maybe he can get people to be open to.

But good luck getting the president to commit to something that his base is going to go bonkers about.

BALDWIN: And to the point on working potentially or not across the aisle, I have got Rose Cuison Villazor. She's an immigration law professor at Rutgers.

And it's interesting. I want your thoughts on what we just heard from the president. And I know you do so much work on this. But hearing from the president's ally, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who also put forth his own immigration bill, he has even said, really, this is all about uniting Republicans and less about it becoming law.

So, my question is, well, what then is the point?

ROSE CUISON VILLAZOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: I think the best way to describe what's going on here, based on the president's perspective and Senator Graham's perspective, is that this is really about a political move.

The election is coming up, and there are proposals here that are designed to address the base of these two different political leaders. It's not really getting to the heart of the problem with an immigration law.

BALDWIN: What is it?

CUISON VILLAZOR: We have a broken immigration system. We don't have enough visas available to address the people who should be coming here even along family-based immigration.

We have heard quite enough about chain migration. But, really, in fact, we still have a number of people who have been waiting for years to come to the United States, 18 to 20 years to be reunited with their families. That, to me, is broken. If the true value within America, within the

United States is to protect families, to maintain the integrity of families, then we should do something about that. Our immigration system should unite families, the way that it was supposed to be designed.

BALDWIN: Speaking of families, Caitlin Dickerson, you and I have spoken many times about your trips to the border to visit these families, to see these detention centers.

And I just think it's -- through all of us today, I would be remiss not to point out that, today, we have learned, since December, a fourth Guatemalan child has died in U.S. custody after a border apprehension.

And listening to the president today, did you hear anything from the president that addresses the conditions of these folks on the border who have been taken into custody?



DICKERSON: I think what this plan really doesn't address and what the president didn't address was asylum.

And we know the vast majority of people who are -- thousands of people who are sitting on the border right now, waiting to enter the United States are coming to seek asylum.

The 2.5-year-old boy from Guatemala very likely was in that same process and seems to have died from some form of pneumonia. What we have learned is that asylum seekers, they continue to come. There are more and more children coming.

And we know now that children require very specific medical care, that it can be really hard to diagnose them, and that they can go from being stable to unstable very quickly. Really, only people with pediatric training can observe something like that.


And so the DHS secretary, the homeland security secretary has warned that we would see more deaths. And now we have. And so I think it's probably confusing to people why the administration seems to be not facing head on this very real problem.

BALDWIN: Did you want to add to that, Rose?

CUISON VILLAZOR: I think that's absolutely right.

There is a crisis. We do have a crisis at the border. And the crisis is the way that we are treating families and the way that we are treating children. It's unacceptable that children are dying under our jurisdiction. Something must be addressed about that.

BALDWIN: Dana, close us out. Final thought from you.

BASH: And that is -- it's such an important point...


BASH: ... because, yes, the president gave it a new proposal today, starting the discussion in a new way, but he's doing that while the -- this crisis -- and it is a crisis going on -- is so white hot, and it is not being solved.

And it needs presidential leadership to get Republicans and Democrats together to come up with a plan to stop what really is horrific, with people, smugglers and human traffickers, bringing children across the border, convincing families to bring them across the border, and get them into this country, and this country being completely ill- equipped, both in terms of facilities and the legal situation, the process and the laws on the books, to deal with it.

And there are people willing to find a way in Congress, but presidential leadership, all of them say, is needed. And he didn't talk about that very much.

He mentioned Senator Graham's bill, but it's going to take a whole lot more than that.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm. Dana and Caitlin and Rose, ladies, thank you so much on that today.

Also happening, the administration briefs the Gang of Eight on Iran, this as those close to the president tell CNN President Trump has become irritated with top aides who are pushing this more hawkish approach. I will talk live with the Swiss president, who's serving as the go-between for the United States and Iran on this.

And confirmation now that Florida counties hacked by Russia in the 2016 presidential election -- what the FBI just told lawmakers on what was compromised.

And just into CNN, the White House is releasing the president's financial disclosures. Find out how much Trump made in 2018.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just into us, the White House has just released a financial disclosure statement for President Trump. Of course, we still don't have his tax returns.

But the document does reveal that he made at least $479 million in 2018.

Cristina Alesci is our CNN politics and business correspondent.

And so talk to me more about the number and where it came from.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So it doesn't seem like there's a big change from last year.

So we're not talking about any material impact. But here's the thing. You really can't tell, because this form is -- requires the filer, in this case, President Trump, to report in ranges. So the most common range that I was seeing was $5 to $25 million and over $50 million.

Anything over valued over $50 million, you don't have to give the precise value for.

BALDWIN: Got it.

ALESCI: So it is very hard to tell exactly how much money he made and how much he's valuing these things.

So there are two columns. There's the income that the assets generate, and then there's the value of the assets. Now, the value of the assets, as you and I both know, is very arbitrary.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

ALESCI: So you could literally put anything on it. And it's very hard for the government to check that. That's why there's been such an incredible push for the release of his tax returns on the Hill.

It's because those would get into more granular detail. Now, on this form, what we can tell is how some of his properties are doing. It gives us a gauge.

For example, his D.C. hotel, which has garnered a lot of controversy, is still generating quite a bit of cash for the president, $40 million -- $40 million, unchanged, pretty much unchanged from his last financial disclosure. Mar-a-Lago took a little bit of a hit, $3 million.

But, again, it's hard to tell, like, exactly why and how that happened.

BALDWIN: And they're releasing it today because?

ALESCI: Well, because there was a deadline. So presidents have to file by May 15, according to law.

In this case, it went very quickly, because the Office of Government Ethics certified the report, and then the White House quickly released it. But we're still going through it. We're still looking at liabilities. We're looking at new loans.

There's one new loan in Florida that we have identified. We're trying to find out why...

BALDWIN: Got it. ALESCI: ... and how that happened.

BALDWIN: Keep a reading. Keep reading.

ALESCI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Cristina Alesci, thank you very much.

ALESCI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up here on CNN, confirmation of what may have -- many have speculated, Russians did, in fact, breach election systems in Florida in 2016.

And the state lawmakers who know which two counties have been sworn to secrecy -- what they are revealing about the FBI's role here.



BALDWIN: What Russia did during the 2016 presidential election and how they did it.

Florida's congressional delegation just finished a briefing from the FBI, being told how Russia hacked voter databases in two Florida counties in its effort to influence how the election turned out.

But it is classified, so they cannot tell us. But when the briefing ended, those Florida lawmakers told reporters they are worried that the FBI is holding back critical information from voters as we now approach 2020.


REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): We can now confirm that a second county was breached.


And I find that more than two years after the 2016 election, the public still doesn't know the names of these counties and what the government is doing to prevent it from happening again.

I think that is unacceptable. Because we received a classified briefing, we will be restricted in what we will be able to tell you. But rest assured we are working hard to continue to demand that the FBI reconsider their classification, so that we can provide more information to the public.


BALDWIN: Evan Perez is our CNN senior justice correspondent who was in the briefing.

Two counties. What else did they say? EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, one of the

really interesting points that these lawmakers are making is that, look, you're undermining the faith that the voters have in the system and in the confidence that they have in the system and the election results, really, if you don't provide the transparency, you don't provide that information.

They said that the FBI told them that they cannot tell them more because it is classified. Some of it is protection of sources and methods, the way in which the FBI determined all this. Some of this involves the NSA, and some of these, obviously, are classified tools.

But also they said that, essentially, these counties are victims, and under the FBI's rules, they can't identify victims. Now, we did learn, Brooke, that the FBI told the lawmakers that these counties in Florida were told at the time, in 2016, that there was an issue.

Two of them came back and said that they noticed suspicious activity. So, the question is, how are we going to prevent this from happening in 2020? That's the big question.

BALDWIN: What are they saying about that?

PEREZ: Well, that's the thing. I mean, the Russians were in there.

They say that they didn't change any vote tallies, they didn't change -- they didn't tamper with the voting rolls. But what's to say that they can't come back, try another way...

BALDWIN: Exactly.

PEREZ: ... to get back into the system, and then do something in 2020?

I think that's the big question that everybody's raising, including these lawmakers, who are very, very frustrated with the FBI at this time.

BALDWIN: Understandably. They got to make sure they don't do that come 2020. Every vote needs to matter.

PEREZ: It's always Florida, right?

BALDWIN: Always Florida.


BALDWIN: Evan Perez, thank you very much. Appreciate you.

The president's Twitter guru playing a major role in relaying Trump's message to the masses.

Dan Scavino is one of Trump's closest confidants. As Politico is reporting today, Scavino is one of the last original and completely trusted insiders still at the president's side. So, let me read this for you from Politico's new piece on Scavino's

growing influence -- quote -- "Oftentimes, I will go through Dan," Trump said. "You know, I will talk it over, and he can really be a very good sounding board, a lot of common sense. He's got a good grasp."

Daniel Lippman just co-wrote that piece for Politico.

Daniel, welcome back to you.


BALDWIN: First of all, just on Dan Scavino and his staying power, the fact that, as you write, he's the last of the original four Trump insiders sort of still standing.

Why? Is it all about Twitter?

LIPPMAN: Yes, so people like Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller and John McEntee, Trump's former body man, have all left the White House.

And we talked to more than two dozen close to Trump and also White House officials. And they say that Scavino's positive reinforcement and the fact that Trump trusts no one else to manage his Twitter feed is a big part of the reason why he has stayed.

And this is a guy who holds what would be a second-tier job in any other White House, and yet he makes the top White House salary of almost $180,000 and is with the president more than any other aide besides his family members.

BALDWIN: And how did Trump and Scavino first meet?

LIPPMAN: So, he met Mr. -- he met the president when Scavino was 16 years old. He was his golf caddy, later became his general manager of the Trump Golf Club in Westchester.

And so he's been by his side for a couple decades. And he seems to have a very good grasp of Trump's voice. And he can mimic it very well. And he knows what stories are going to play well on Twitter.

But a lot of people say that he's kind of a yes-man and an enabler of Trump's tweets. They used to, in the early part of the administration, try to tamp down Trump's tweets. They have completely given up.

BALDWIN: That's interesting.

How much influence does Dan Scavino have in Trump's tweets? And how integral will his role be -- we know about it in 2016 -- but going into 2020?

LIPPMAN: So, the president allowed to us that Scavino plays a role, but Trump likes to write his own tweets himself. And he likes to see cable news cover it within 15 seconds. And so, if they're only presenting drafts of tweets, and then Scavino

types them up, then, for Trump, that doesn't actually give him the thrill of making markets go up and down.


And so -- and -- but this -- they have to kind of modulate Trump's Twitter presence, because a lot of those moderate suburban women voters are kind of turned off by the constant chaos in Washington, which is primarily derived from Trump's tweets, where he's undermining his staff and Republicans on Capitol Hill, where they don't even know where the White House stands.

BALDWIN: We will see if we see less of that as we go on, and closer to the election.

LIPPMAN: I don't expect it.

BALDWIN: I don't know about that.

Daniel Lippman, great to have you on. Thank you very much for that.

Coming up next: Televangelist Pat Robertson says Alabama's new abortion law, the most restrictive in the country, may not go far enough -- details on the looming battle in the U.S. Supreme Court.