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Interview with Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT); Immigrants to Be Transported to Florida Next Week; SAT to Add Adversity Score. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 17, 2019 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: OK. So I'm asking you, are you comfortable with a sitting president of the United States sending a message through his attorney to a witness to an ongoing investigation, that the president would take offense or would not be happy if that witness cooperated with the special counsel? Do you consider that acceptable from a U.S. president?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Here's what I'm comfortable with. I have always supported Mr. Mueller's investigation. I have always said he's a fair impartial professional. He didn't bring charges.

Look, there's going to be dozens and dozens of these types of things that come out. And I mean, maybe hundreds. And each one of those, you can grab and say, "But look at this," "But look at this." But you're not seeing the exculpatory information. You're not seeing the other side. Mr. Mueller saw both sides and he chose not to bring charges.

So we can, as I said, start out saying we can find another horse and go beat it. But the evidence is pretty clear and I think Mr. Mueller made the right decision.

SCIUTTO: To be clear, the special counsel came up with 12 instances of possible obstruction of justice. But you're right, he did not make a decision. He left that to the attorney general.

I want to ask you about Iran because --


SCIUTTO: -- we've gone, in the span of two weeks, from this administration raising an alarm about Iran -- potential Iranian military activity, the deployment of an additional carrier group to the Persian Gulf. Discussion of this intelligence indicating missiles placed on boats by Iran -- to the president now saying -- seeming to dial back his own advisors on this, that he does not want to go to war.

Is it clear to you? And can you explain to your constituents today, what is the Trump administration policy regarding Iran? STEWART: Yes. All right. First, thank you for asking this question.

And I really mean that. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, there's a lot of important issues that we would like to talk about --


STEWART: -- and this is one of them. And I think there's a couple of things that took place here. One of them is that we clearly had evidence -- and have evidence now that is very concerning to the president and the administration, National Security Council and those of us who work in national security.

Some of that has been talked about a little bit, although not much of it has. And the president felt like he had to make a defensive posture. He had to make a statement towards Iran. "Don't carry forward with some of these plans we think you're considering," or there would be a price to pay.

But then the second thing that happened was, some of the reporting, for example, of saying he was considering sending 120,000 troops to the region. Look, that's what the military does. I was an Air Force pilot. We considered everything. The one thing you don't want to do is have the president say, "Well, what about this?" And for the Pentagon to say, "Well, you know, we've never thought about that." They want to think about everything.

SCIUTTO: True (ph).

STEWART: But I think some of that reporting exaggerated the urgency, and I think the president wanted to dial it back a little bit. I think he wanted to assure the American people, "We're not on the cusp of war with Iran." Because I don't think that we are.

SCIUTTO: But it wasn't the reporting. I mean, these were public comments from Trump administration officials, who were describing the threat from Iran in dire terms and diverting an entire carrier strike group to the region.

I mean, what does the -- what's the misunderstanding about, you know, the president's decision-making on this?

STEWART: Yes. Well, I wasn't indicating the reporting wasn't accurate or that that wasn't the key. I mean, these were comments. But it was only one of probably dozens and dozens of alternatives that were being considered.

And it was appropriate to send a carrier strike group. Again, that is sending the message, that's putting yourself in a good defensive posture. But I think a lot of people assumed, "Oh, man, we're about to go to war with Iran and why are we doing that?" And I think the administration just wanted to, again, temper down some of those emotions.

And by the way, to your last point, this is very common. In fact, this is good that you have, within the administration, people presenting different views. People may be a little more hawkish, some people a little more dovish. And then the president has to decide between those views. But it's good to have the debate.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And you're right, as you say. The Pentagon is designed -- part of its job is to present options from this end of the spectrum to this end. Congressman Stewart, it's always good to have you on the program. We hope you have a nice weekend.

STEWART: Thank you, sir. It's an honor.

SCIUTTO: Well, folks, you talk about Iran, you talk about Russia, you talk about China. It's in the news every day. I happen to have written a book about this. It's called "The Shadow War."

I dive into the dangers most Americans just have no idea are a threat today. Disinformation campaigns, you know about election interference. But do you know that Russia and China have deployed weapons in space? Do you know that they're attacking us in cyberspace, thousands of times a day? These are connected. It's part of a war being waged on the U.S.

And if you're in Washington, D.C. tomorrow, join me and my colleague Wolf Blitzer. We're going to have a discussion on the book and all the news regarding Russia and China. That's tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Eastern at the Newseum in Washington. You're very welcome to come and you'll have every opportunity to ask me and Wolf hard questions about this.

[10:34:45] Well, hundreds of migrants could soon be transported to southern Florida. Why, where they might be going, and why local lawmakers are upset about it. That issue is next.


SCIUTTO: Florida lawmakers want answers after they were told that hundreds of migrants would be transported to two counties beginning next week. Local officials say Border Control will send about 500 migrants a month to both Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

What do they have in common? Well, the mayor of Broward County responded with this. "If the president will not provide us with financial assistance to house and feed these people, he will be creating a homeless encampment.... I would suggest that we bring them to the Trump hotels and ask the president to open his heart and home as well."

[10:40:06] Politics may be at play here. Let's bring in Matt Dixon, the Florida bureau chief for "Politico."

So you got two pretty blue districts here. The president seems to be targeting them. I mean, is that the concern, that this is about politics?

MATT DIXON, FLORIDA BUREAU CHIEF, POLITICO: Well, I would say there's two concerns here. The two areas, Palm Beach County and Broward, are very Democratic. So their local politicians, their local officials are kind of crying politics.

They've -- some of them have said, you know, let -- "Let undocumented immigrants come to our communities and we'll care for them." Others have, as you just noted, sort of blamed politics and the Trump administration.

And there's also been some communication issues, even Republicans here and some of President Trump's staunchest allies have been concerned that they were kind of blindsided by this, including Governor Ron DeSantis. They're kind of scrambling, trying to figure out what to make of this sort of quickly announced plan.

SCIUTTO: OK. So how about the political implications of this? Of course, Florida's going to be key -- it's key in every race, certainly going to be in 2020. Is this an attempt to influence the election by the president, by the DHS?

DIXON: I think that's yet to be seen. There actually hasn't been a lot of communication out of the federal government, either to the media or to local officials. So I think we need to get a bit better handle on -- on some of the motivations behind this.

But without question, Florida's the third -- you know, the third biggest state in the country, the biggest swing state. There's a lot of political implications, especially going into 2020, that are always at play and worth keeping our eye on.

But right now, I think one of the most interesting elements of this story is just kind of the lack of communication. The federal government announced to these local officials that planeloads of undocumented immigrants --


DIXON: -- largely from El Paso, we believe, are going to be coming. And they're just not quite sure what to make of it yet.

SCIUTTO: Well, the president's talked publicly about dumping them in sanctuary cities. So not hard to make a connection.

Republicans senator from Florida, of course, Marco Rubio, he has a list of questions for the acting DHS secretary. So interesting for a sitting Republican senator to be concerned about this as well.

DIXON: Sure. It is important to note that Palm Beach County and Broward have both said that they're not sanctuary cities, they don't classify themselves as such. But that's kind of a side issue, how they classify those issues.

And yes, Senator Rubio has been sort of vocal, the most vocal, probably, elected official in Florida thus far. And kind of not necessarily pushing back, but seeking answers and publicly sort of questioning the administration on the decision.

SCIUTTO: Matt Dixon, always good to have you. Look forward to speaking again because we're going to be talking about Florida a little bit, going into 2020.

DIXON: We always are. Thanks so much.

SCIUTTO: A major shake-up for students taking the SATs, coming up. The adversity score schools will soon use to help with college admissions. What does it all mean.


[10:45:06] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Tiger Woods' bid for back-to-back majors, not looking particularly good after round one at the PGA championship. Andy Scholes, live in New York with the "Bleacher Report.

So how's it looking out there, Andy?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it's a beautiful day here for round two. It's 70 and sunny. But for Tiger Woods, he's going to have some work to do. Nine shots off the lead, heading into today's second round. That's thanks to the defending champ, Brooks Koepka.

These two guys, they're playing together in rounds one and two. And my colleague Don Riddell actually asked Koepka earlier this week if he was intimidated at all, playing with Tiger. And Koepka said, "What's there to be afraid of? It's not like we're fighting. It's not like Tiger's going to punch me in the teeth."

And I tell you what, Koepka was fearless in round one out here yesterday at Bethpage Black. Just an incredible round. He had seven birdies, no bogeys. He finished with a course record, 63. Could have been even better. Koepka never really got in trouble all day long.

And Koepka's looking to make history here this week. On top of winning last year's PGA Championship, Koepka is the two-time reigning U.S. Open champ. And no one has ever held back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time.


BROOKS KOEPKA, FIRST ROUND LEADER, PGA: I won this last year. You know, I'm playing good. You know. It was great that Tiger won August, but I mean, we're at a new week now.

That was one of the best rounds I've played, probably, as a professional. I mean, obviously it's never been -- I mean, it's never been this confident. I think, you know, I'm still learning, understanding my game. And I figured it out.


SCHOLES: Now, Tiger meanwhile is going to have to have a good day here if he wants to get himself into contention. You know, the course here at Bethpage Black is very tough, very hilly. It's like a rollercoaster. And that pretty much sums up Tiger's round yesterday. He started off

poor, a double bogey in the first hole. Had two double bogeys on his front nine. He battled back, though, to get under par after an eagle on four. But then really just struggled in his round, finishing two over par for the day.


TIGER WOODS, FOUR-TIME PGA CHAMPION: Wasn't as clean as I'd like to have it, for sure. Didn't get off to a very good start. But I fought my way back around there. And unfortunately, I just didn't keep it together at the end.


SCHOLES: All right. In the morning session out here today, there's really only one guy making a run at Koepka. And that's his buddy, World number one, Dustin Johnson. He's got five birdies so far today. He's gotten himself to four under for the tournament.

So, Jim, we'll see if Dustin Johnson can make a run at Koepka. He and Tiger Woods get going later on this afternoon at 1:49 p.m. Eastern. And if Koepka plays like he did in round one, it's going to be tough for anyone to catch him.

SCIUTTO: Nine shots, three rounds to go. Stranger things could happen. I know you'll be there. Andy Scholes, thanks very much.

And we'll be right back.


[10:50:28] SCIUTTO: A big change is coming to the SATs. Soon, instead of just measuring the students' math and verbal skills, the test will also provide schools with a third number, a student's adversity score.

TEXT: The SAT's New Adversity Score: Local crime rate; Poverty rate; Family stability; Median family income; Availability of A.P. classes; Senior class size; Percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches

SCIUTTO: The new system assigns a score from one to a hundred. It factors in a student's life, such as the crime rate in their neighborhood, or how many advanced placement classes are offered at their high school. Those numbers will not be available to the students, just to the schools that they want to attend.

Fifty colleges and universities used the numbers in a pilot program last year. That will then be expanding to 150 schools. This change comes amid a college admissions scandal in which wealthy parents are accused of paying bribes to help their children get into eight prestigious universities.

Joining me now is Elissa Salas. She's the CEO of College Track, that's a nonprofit that works to help low-income and first-generation college students.

It's very good to have you on today. Thanks for taking the time.

ELISSA SALAS, CEO, COLLEGE TRACK: Thanks, Jim. It's good to be here.

SCIUTTO: So, first, explain what's taken into account in this adversity score. It does not, am I right, take into account race, but more other disadvantages purely from the area in which the student came from school.

SALAS: That is my understanding. I think the score attempts to really control for the environmental factors, including the rigor of curriculum at the high school, the environment within the neighborhood and then also indicators within the family.

SCIUTTO: OK. It's an additional score. So it does not change the math and verbal score, but it's an additional number that schools can consider as they assess the student. Explain that for folks at home so they understand.

SALAS: Yes. I mean, I think what's important for people at home to understand is that the SAT itself is one data point in which admissions officers use to evaluate the candidate. And so when the admissions officer is looking to understand kind of the -- evaluate the whole experience of the student, this is one additional factor that will help them contextualize the SAT data itself.

I think it's important to know that the SAT has a long history of showing a bias based on income, and a direct relationship for families that come from higher income households. So this additional data point will help contextualize that data point in particular.

SCIUTTO: OK. So of course, we're in the midst of an unrelated scandal now, that exposed people paying money outright to cheat their kids' way into school, but also to cheat the SAT. You know, the case of Felicity Huffman paying to correct answers on their child's SAT.

With an adversity -- and I know this adversity score is not connected to that. But I wonder from your vantage point, does this adversity score help to, in big picture terms, correct that -- I don't know if "bias" is the right word, but advantages for folks with money against those who don't have those advantages?

SALAS: Yes. I think I do. Like I said before, I think it's important for folks at home to understand that there are a variety of factors that admissions officers take into account when evaluating the eligibility of a candidate. And so this, again, is an additional data point that attempts to level the playing field by really understanding the environmental impacts that that has on the particular score.

Again, this is one of many, right? And so GPA, kind of leadership qualities, community service, all of which vary by college admissions policies.

I think what's also important to note is that college admissions policies vary by school and include other ways in which students are advantaged, like legacy policies for example, or being children of professors on campus. And so by having this additional data point in the admissions process, it helps level the playing field to a certain extent.

SCIUTTO: OK. Now, students will not see these numbers. Families will not see these numbers. Only schools will. Does that create issues, in that it'll be sort of shrouded in mystery to some degree?

SALAS: Yes. I mean, I think it's still pretty early on in the process and I think that's a really valid point. And in particular, for a student to be able to see their own data.

That said, what I would offer is that, again, college admissions officers are using a variety of factors. In fact, before the adversity index, many admissions policies did evaluate access to curriculum or the school size and high school, or whether students came from urban or rural areas.

[10:55:00] And so, you know, the data have already been available. This additional score helps to kind of contextualize specific to the SAT.

SCIUTTO: Understood. So you're saying that other data was already in there, maybe in a less formal form, prior to this, right? Yes.

SALAS: That's correct. Yes. Less formal --


SALAS: -- and less consistent, you know, across admissions policies. But the data have always been available and it's been a part of holistic evaluation of students in the past.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Elissa Salas, thanks very much.

The attorney general, taking shots at the Russia investigation and the special counsel. How it began, and the special counsel's involvement. Stay with CNN.


[11:00:07] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan --