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Fact-Checking Trump's Assertions about the Situation at the Border; Trump Signs Spending Bill Averting 2nd Shutdown After Declaring National Emergency; Trump Talks about the Great Support He Gets from Conservative TV & Radio; Former Border Patrol Chief Talks Wall & Trump's National Emergency Declaration; Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld Announces Launch of Presidential Exploratory Committee; Andrew McCabe Discusses Trump Siding with Vladimir Putin over Intel Agencies; Judge Places Gag Order on Roger Stone. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 15, 2019 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, is here with us to fact-check this. Another by the president today.

Thanks for being with us, Brian.

The president was a little loose with the facts, wasn't he?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDICA CORRESONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": More than a little. The weaker his political standing on any given day, the looser he is with the facts. He was very loose today saying he's built a lot of wall. There was a gunfight two weeks ago, one mile from the border, 26 dead. There's no evidence for those sorts of assertions. He was lying about President Obama and things like that. The through line here is that he continues to portray this as an emergency with statistics. Just don't line up the reality.

CABRERA: There was a moment where he talked about the drugs coming across the border. I want to play what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country. Much of it coming from the southern border. When you look and when you listen to politicians, particularly certain Democrats, they say it all comes through the port of entries. Wrong. That's wrong. It's just a lie. It's all a lie. They say walls don't work. Walls work 100 percent.


CABRERA: All right, it's not Democrats who say the drugs come through ports of entry, it's his own government statistics, the DEA, the Customs and Border Protection, right?

STELTER: He's doubting his own employees. It's reminiscent of him doubting the U.S. Intelligence Community. He's doubting Customs and Border Patrol and other agencies that gather these for a living. It's got to be demoralizing for the government workers who are furloughed and not paid. It must be demoralizing to hear the president not believe all the statistics we gather. I don't think it's going to change in terms of the president not believing his own government.

CABRERA: When it comes to who is influencing the president, he was asked about the role of conservative media. Here's what he said about that.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, could you tell us to what degree some of the outside conservative voices helped to shape your views on this national emergency?

TRUMP: I would talk about it. Look, Sean Hannity has been a terrific, terrific supporter of what I do. Not of me. If I change my views, he wouldn't be with me.

Rush Limbaugh, I think he's a great guy. He goes for three hours and he's got an audience that's fantastic.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do they decide policy, sir?

TRUMP: They don't decide policy.


CABRERA: Brian, your take on this?

STELTER: They influence the president. They influence policy. They influenced his decision to get the government shutdown at the beginning of the year. Hannity, Limbaugh, these voices are influential to the president. We are in this world, it's very much a FOX News government. And we are here to see that on a daily basis, even though the president tries to downplay that fact.

CABRERA: Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

With us now, Mark Morgan. He's a former Border Patrol chief.

Mark, thanks for being with us.

Your reaction to the president declaring a national emergency.

MARK MORGAN, FORMER BORDER PATROL CHIEF: From my experience as a law enforcement and border security aspect, not from some political ideology right or left, in my opinion, the president had no choice. Congress has failed. They continue to fail. This bill was a failure with respect to doing what the men and women, the experts who have the tools and assets they need. They left the president no choice but to do what he's doing.

And real quick, your last guest, with all due respect, he can't speak for the men and women of the United States Border Patrol. I can. I was there. And I feel comfortable speaking for them. Right now, they are applauding this president. He is listening to them. Especially with the facts of the drugs coming through the ports, the president is right.

CABRERA: I know you support the wall, so let's just take it piece by piece here. Is this a national emergency when you consider southern border arrests have dropped dramatically over the past couple decades? They're going down not up.

MORGAN: First of all, let's take that apart real quickly. One of the reasons they've gone down is because we've applied a multilayer strategy of barriers, technology and personnel. Which is what the experts are still wanting the Congress to do. The other element of that --


CABRERA: Congress did just do that in the border security spending bill. It was $23 billion total when it comes to border security with the barrier being $1.375 billion of that.

MORGAN: Exactly. That's the key part. They didn't give him resources. They're not giving him enough technology and they're not giving him the physical barrier, which is the key element of that multilayer strategy, which has reduced the illegal immigration we talk about. In Arizona, with only 23 miles of physical barrier, technology and personnel. The illegal immigration went from 150,000 to 15,000. It works, we need more of it. And experts will tell you they need more of it. Congress is not listening to them.

[14:35:05] CABRERA: You know, a wall still won't keep people from crossing. Just this week, you mentioned Arizona. CPD put out this video of migrants using a ladder to climb over the wall that's already at the border.

MORGAN: That wall is an ineffective wall. It needs to be replaced and upgraded. No one has ever said that a wall is 100 percent effective. That's the false narrative. Sure, it's going to be defeated. It's still 80 percent to 90 percent effective. When is the last time a 99 percent effective strategy, all of a sudden, you say it doesn't work? Of course, they're going to get over it, under it. Over all, it's effective.

CABRERA: I hear what you're saying, but is it an emergency? On the issue of the drugs, we're about the facts first here on CNN. The president said it's wrong, it's a lie. Most drugs come through ports of entry. We know there are drugs coming through across the border. It's DEA, Customs and Border statistics tell us otherwise. Do you have a problem with the president misleading the public on this? Maybe he's twisting the facts here. There's some drugs coming across between ports of entry. That's not the majority.

MORGAN: That's false. Your previous guest is twisting it. Let's break that down a little bit. The statistics, we're talking about those drugs that are addictive. If you look at meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. The majority comes at the ports, you throw in marijuana, which a lot of people don't want to talk about, pound for pound, the overall drugs, are seized in between the ports. What no one talks to is the border is 60 percent porous. There's not enough technology personnel or infrastructure to adequately safeguard these borders. We don't know what's getting through. So the experts will tell you, for every pound of narcotics that's seized in between the ports, there are countless getting through that we will never know. The president is right on that.

CABRERA: I really appreciate your perspective.

Thank you, Mark Morgan, for joining us.

MORGAN: You bet. Thank you.

CABRERA: Still ahead, there's a new name in the 2020 presidential race. This time, it's a Republican. Why former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld says he wants to take on President Trump.


[14:41:31] CABRERA: First potential Republican challenger to President Trump in 2020 has emerged. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld announced today he's launching an exploratory committee. Weld ran for vice president as a Libertarian in 2016. This time it would be as a Republican.

Today, he called President Trump a schoolyard bully and says presidents -- Republicans need a course correction.


BILL WELD, (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope to see the Republican Party assume, once again, the mantle of the party of Lincoln. It upsets me that our energies as a society are being sapped by the president's culture of divisiveness in Washington. I encourage those of you who are watching the current administration nervously but saying nothing to stand up and speak out when lines are crossed in dangerous ways.


CABRERA: Tara Setmayer is here. She's a political commentator.

Tara, will Weld's announcement embolden others to challenge Trump?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Perhaps. I don't think he's the right candidate to offer a serious primary challenge to Donald Trump. Trump enjoys an 87 percent approval rating among Republicans. No incumbent president has lost in a primary challenge since Chester Arthur in 1884. It's very unlikely that a primary challenger could come in, not only Bill Weld, but anyone, and beat Trump historically.


SETMAYER: I think Bill Weld has very good name recognition. He ran as a Libertarian before. He's a professional candidate here. I don't think he has much of a constituency. Unlike someone who I think would be -- if he made that decision. Unlike, say, John Kasich. He would at least -- he has name recognition. He has more recent experience as a successful governor in an important state like Ohio. that would pose a more interesting challenge to Trump than Bill Weld.

CABRERA: You make a very good point. History shows presidents only face serious primary challenges when their approval rating within their own party is at 75 percent or below? And, yes, 89 percent is where we're looking at Trump's approval right now, within the Republican Party, according to a recent Gallop poll.


SETMAYER: Better than Obama and better than Clinton as this point in their first term.



KEILAR: That's why I wanted to hear from you, because you made it no secret your disdain for this president. You are a conservative. Would you vote for Weld if it were between Trump or him?

SETMAYER: In a primary?


SETMAYER: Yes. Because I mean, I would -- it's my opinion. Any -- almost any Republican at this point, short of a Pat Buchanan or someone who's a nativist, would be better than Donald Trump in my opinion. But that's only because of the constitutional threat that I feel that Donald Trump poses. And that, to me, Trump's everything. All of the social issues, the taxes, everything elsewhere we may agree on Republican policy, none of that matters if there's a constitutional threat. And I think Donald Trump today, his declaration of an emergency, is a perfect example of how this presidency continues to push the constitutional envelope. In my opinion, that is more important than anything else.

CABRERA: Tara Setmayer, thank you.

[14:45:04] You'll have much more to learn. We have Amy Klobuchar next Monday night. Don Lemon is going to moderate a CNN presidential town hall. It's 10:00 eastern next Monday night as we continue into 2020.

Just in. Breaking news from the Supreme Court. What a case involving a census question could mean for the Trump administration.


CABRERA: One guy who used to be inside the Justice Department is speaking out against the Trump administration. We're learning more about the early days of the Trump presidency from a new book by former deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe, including the moment where, according to Andrew McCabe, Trump sided with Vladimir Putin over his own Intelligence agencies. Not just on the issue of Russia's election interference. McCabe writes that in July of 2017, Trump dismissed a U.S. Intel reports that North Korea had fired an intercontinental ballistic missile. He writes, quote, "He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so."

Now, the White House has issued a statement about the book saying McCabe has no credible and is an embarrassment to the country.

[14:50:38] CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd, served on Obama's National Security Council and joins us now.

Sam, it's not the first time Trump may have sided with Putin over his own Intel agencies.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: President Trump has had a shadow cabinet of foreign leaders and TV commentators for a long time. President Putin has seemingly served as Trump's team for a number of years. They discussed things we don't know about, because there wasn't a note taker present. On North Korea, President Putin probably has better Intelligence than the United States on what's happening in North Korea, because Russia and North Korea have a closer level of content. President Putin is not factually representing that to President Trump he's pursuing Russia's national security interest, not our own. While President Putin has supported U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea's use of weapons like IBMs, he's really focused on maintaining the status quo on the Korean peninsula and doing everything possible to prevent a U.S. military strike that could result in more U.S. troops on the peninsula and, potentially, a leader in North Korea that is more pro-USA than pro- Russia.

CABRERA: What do you think of McCabe's credibility in this book?

VINOGRAD: I think that we have to consider whether Andrew McCabe is, when it comes to North Korea, really knowledgeable about what President Trump was or was not thinking. The director of the FBI would not be a party to a lot of the discussions that were taking place on the North Korea policy in the Situation Room with President Trump. When it comes to that kind of natural security issue, it is a bit suspect to me.

CABRERA: I want to get your take on something we heard from the president just this morning when it comes to North Korea. Listen to this.


TRUMP: When I came into office, I met right there in the Oval Office with President Obama. I said, what's the biggest problem? He said, by far, North Korea. And I don't want to speak for him, but I believe he would have gone to war with North Korea. I think he was ready to go to war. In fact, he told me he was so close to starting a big war with North Korea.


CABRERA: Sam, as someone who was part of Obama's national security team, any truth to that?

VINOGRAD: Well, I left in 2013, but Ben Rhodes, who was there until the end under President Obama, said this wasn't factually true. Ben Rhodes would know. He was part of the discussions that happened.

Why is President Trump talking about classified conversations he may have had with President Obama in front of the entire world? That's irresponsible, reckless, and it's untrue. And it's also misinformation. It is great, it is positive that we're not at war with North Korea right now. Reality bites for President Trump here. The threat from North Korea's nuclear weapons, has increased under President Trump. It hasn't decreased. Everyone but President Trump agrees, North Korea has more nuclear weapons than they did when he took office, has more fissile material used for those weapons than when he took office. The nuclear threat is increasing every day that President Trump is in office. And is mired in what are becoming endless diplomatic negotiations with Kim Jong-Un.

CABRERA: On today's most recent development, the president declaring a national emergency declaration at the border. Bottom line, does this make Americans more safe?

VINOGRAD: It doesn't. We are diverting resources toward a manufactured political emergency, when we could spend an entire show talking about the actual national security emergencies affecting our country.

CABRERA: Sam Vinograd, thank you very much for your take.

Breaking news on the president's emergency declaration. In the Rose Garden, Trump said he didn't have to do this. Why did he? And did he just undermine his own argument that it has to happen right now?

[14:54:36] Stand by.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CABRERA: I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin on this Friday.

We have breaking news involving Roger Stone. A federal judge has just placed a gag order on Roger Stone, a Trump confidant, and his attorneys involved in his criminal case, restricting what he can say in public.

With us now is Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. Also joining us, Kara Scannell here with CNN.

Renato, let me start with you.

What do you make of this? How significant is this gag order? RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's an unusual step. Typically,

the concern is that the government might be prejudicing the defendant, Roger Stone. But frankly, Mr. Stone himself, and to a lesser extent, his attorneys have engaged in a widespread tour, P.R. campaign that involved a lot of disinformation. So I think the judge's concern here is whether the government gets a fair trial. And also to protect Roger Stone against himself. Any smart attorney would advise him not to be doing what he's doing, not to be on television and mouthing off about his case.