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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Bannon Placed on National Security Council; Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; Trump's Travel Ban Sparks Outrage; Trump Adds WH Strategist to Security Council; World Leader Reacts to Trump Travel Ban. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired January 30, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, you know this better than anyone. Members of his own party are voicing serious opposition. And Wall Street is now worried that all the infighting will actually slow the tax reform process.
Remember, there are big differences, as you know, between Paul Ryan and Trump's tax plan. Corporate taxes is one of the biggest areas of disagreement. Bottom line, Wall Street at some point today thought that maybe Trump might undo his rally.
And that's why at one point today, you saw the worst decline since early October. Look, that said, like you pointed out, we saw a little bit of a rally at the end of the day to recover some of those losses. And that's probably because Trump has indicated that he might take on regulations and undo some of the financial regulations that were put in place post-financial crisis.
So there is a little bit of a silver lining for Wall Street there -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Cristina Alesci on Wall Street, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Now to our politics lead. Americans, refugees, world leaders, Congress, humanitarian groups are still reeling from President Trump's executive order temporarily banning U.S. entry for all refugees, as well as travelers from seven specific countries.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets and the airports for three days to protest the move, which fundamentally alters an underpinning of the United States' creed and character, at least in modern history. Dozens of U.S. career diplomats are now considering opposing the order under the grounds it would make the United States less safe.
Today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that those diplomats should either get with the program or they can go. That's a quote.
Facing accusations of a hasty and less than competent implementation of the sweeping change, the White House is today defending its action as a -- quote -- "massive success story" and saying the lack of coordination with Congress and other agencies was necessary for national security reasons.
In a tweet, President Trump said the White House couldn't give advance note in order to prevent -- quote -- "bad dudes" from rushing in.
CNN's Sara Murray is live at the White House.
Sara, even many Republicans on Capitol Hill today seem to think the executive order is, A, too sweeping and, B, incompetently implemented.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
If you want to look at a good way to create confusion and expend a lot of political capital unnecessarily, they are saying you can sort of look at the way that Donald Trump rolled out this travel ban. Even though the White House is insisting that people who needed to be in the loop were, many people who are in government agencies who are implementing this and many Republicans on the Hill who may have been supportive of this action say they can't get on board with how it was rolled out.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump springing to the defense of his controversial travel ban, which caused chaos at airports in over the weekend and drew fire from both sides of the aisle.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not a Muslim ban, but we are thoroughly prepared. It's working out very nicely.
MURRAY: The president's executive order includes a 90-day ban on citizens coming to the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries identified as countries of concern under the Obama administration. And it suspends the refugee program for 120 days.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Refugees are welcome here!
MURRAY: Over the weekend, it prompted protests in the streets and elicited a sharp response from Democratic leaders.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: This executive order was mean-spirited and un-American.
MURRAY: And, today, a cutting rebuttal from the president.
TRUMP: I noticed that Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears. I'm going to ask him, who is his acting coach, because I know him very well. I don't see him as a crier.
MURRAY: But it's not just Democrats raising alarm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have had.
MURRAY: Trump administration officials, including senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and chief strategist Steve Bannon, quietly crafted the order with limited guidance from the administration's own agencies.
It caught the Department of Homeland Security, State Department and Customs and Border Patrol flat-footed, breeding confusion at airports over the weekend. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is defending the rollout and calling the criticism overblown.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If we announced it a lot earlier, it would have given people plenty of time to flood into the country who could have done us harm. That's not exactly a sound strategy. Right? So the people that needed to be kept in the loop were kept in the loop. The people that needed to be briefed were.
MURRAY: Trump also tweeting, "If the ban were announced with a one- week notice, the bad would rush into the country during the week. A lot of bad dudes out there."
But the refugee process often drags on for more than a year, and even visas can take weeks for approval. The uncertainty the administration unleashed drew a sharp rebuke from many Republicans.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said the order was poorly implemented and called for revisions. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham warned the travel ban could alienate Muslim allies, saying, "Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self- inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism."
Trump swiped back on Twitter, calling them weak on immigration and saying they're always looking to start World War III.
MURRAY: Now, former President Barack Obama may have left the White House, but he is not staying quiet about Donald Trump's travel ban. He weighed in via his new spokesman, saying: "The president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion" -- Jake.
TAPPER: Sara Murray, thanks so much.
Let's bring in Democratic Congressman Adam Smith from California. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
The White House says they had to act quickly on this out of respect for national security.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, apparently, they acted so quickly, their own people didn't know what they were doing and thus we had this chaos around the country.
I don't buy it. In fact, I think the whole order is only going to make our security challenge even worse. We are successfully alienating allies that we need in the fight against terror. I was in Iraq not less -- not more than two weeks ago, and meeting
with their national security adviser, among others. I can only imagine what the reaction is from Iraq right now. We need to partner with these nations. And how do we do that when we basically say that the faith that most of them hold, we're not going to respect, we're not going to let people of that faith into the United States and from that country into the United States?
It's a terrible misstep. And it's going to cost us dearly.
TAPPER: So, the Trump administration is explaining the decision to pick these seven countries because it is based on the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, which said that these countries require extra steps for travelers who had -- were coming from those countries.
Is the list wrong, or is it -- explain the disconnect here, because this list was based on a DHS Obama list.
SCHIFF: Well, I have never heard the Trump administration so fall over to praise the Obama administration for anything.
The Obama administration didn't put in place any kind of freeze like this. They didn't do that for a reason. They knew that putting in place an action like this would send the message that we were going to discriminate against a religious group.
And I am glad the president has spoken out today. Yes, there are procedures that are in place to make sure that we vet people and that we are very careful. And the administration may have said that additional steps may be necessary. But you don't just slap a ban on like this. And you don't say the only exception to this ban will be people who are not Muslims.
I think that's exactly the wrong message, and that was never a message the Obama administration wanted to send, in fact, quite the opposite.
TAPPER: And one of the other measures is basically an indefinite ban or indefinite hold, suspension, of the Syrian refugee program. This is what FBI Director Comey had to say in 2015 about vetting Syrian refugees and the challenges of allowing them into the country. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: There is risk associated with bringing anybody in from the outside, but especially from a conflict zone like that. My concern there is that there are certain gaps that I don't want to talk about publicly in the data available to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, let's say you are the average American watching this at home. And you think, well, that's the FBI director saying they don't really know how to vet Syrian refugees. Why is Trump's indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee program a bad thing for the safety of the American people?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, we have a very long and arduous vetting process for anyone coming from Syria.
And, as a part of that, if we can't find the documentation, if we can't figure out who are these people, they don't get approved, they don't come in. So, the bottom line is, yes, there are difficulties in confirming people. If you can't do the confirmation, they don't come in.
But that's a different story than merely saying, we are never going to accept anyone, even when we can vet them, even when we do know who they are, even when they pose no risk, even when they're women and children.
That, I think, is really antithetical to the historic traditions of the country. And how do we ask other countries to bear a burden in the refugee crisis if we are not willing to?
So, I also think, if you look at this purely from a national security point of view and you say here is a group of people that have the most extensive vetting that we do, it takes a year-and-a-half to two years, let's compare it to people coming from Europe who don't even need a visa.
And we have a lot of foreign fighters who left Europe, went to join the fight and have come back. We know who some of those people are, but we don't know all of them. Those people can come here with the least amount of vetting possible.
If he were serious about this from a national security point of view, he would have a discussion about how do we deal with that, not simply say we're going to turn our back on all these refugees.
TAPPER: Congressman Adam Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.
TAPPER: He's a self-described nationalist who has no apparent foreign policy experience, though he did a stint in the Navy. So, why is President Trump giving him a permanent role on the National Security Council? Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Sticking with the politics lead now. An American president has a tremendous amount of power. At least once a week, a life-or-death decision comes across his Resolute desk, a military strike against a terrorist cell, a hostage rescue attempt, an Iranian ship too close to a U.S. Naval vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. A president needs information. He needs intelligence. And he needs
the expertise of seasoned professionals. The very first week of the Trump presidency does not provide much evidence that information and expertise from outside the president's immediate circle are valued as much as they should be.
That's at least according to Democratic and Republican national security experts with whom I have spoken. The number of agencies and experts and congressional leaders consulted or even briefed upon the executive order on immigration and refugees was, Republican and Democratic officials say, shockingly small.
The White House today took great pains to suggest that reports of a major shakeup at the National Security Council are -- quote -- "utter nonsense."
To be charitable, those are alternative facts from our friends at the White House. National security experts in the presidential memorandum making the change disagree.
[16:15:03] The president, in his new memo, gave Stephen Bannon, the former publisher of "Breitbart," a seat on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council.
To be clear, this has never been done before. President George W. Bush did not even invite strategist Karl Rove to the meetings. Barack Obama would allow strategist David Axelrod to occasionally attend NSC meetings, but only as an observer -- because giving a purely political staffer a principals committee seat on the National Security Council, that's brand-new and it is unsettling to a great many experts from both major political parties.
In addition, President Trump has said that the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are no longer on the National Security Council Principals Committee but, quote, "they shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed," unquote.
This is also a tremendous change, despite claims otherwise. Why the president would think that the former publisher of "Breitbart" is a more important voice on national security matters than the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Director of National Intelligence, that's a mystery. Except, of course, that the fear is that this is a White House that seems not to value sufficiently information and expertise from outside expert voices.
Republican Senator John McCain called the National Security Council changes a, quote, "radical departure". And Ambassador Susan Rice, President Obama's former national security adviser, described the decision as, quote, "stone cold crazy".
CNN's chief Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins me.
And, Jeff, the White House pushed back today saying that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence, they're welcome at any meeting they want to come to. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They did, indeed,
Jake. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said they could come to any meeting that they wanted to, but indeed, that is not what the memorandum over the weekend said. It said that Steve Bannon is a member of the Principals Committee and the others that you mentioned, the generals are not part of that.
Now, this all goes to show how much influence Steve Bannon has, as we enter the second full week of the Trump administration. In previous administrations, political advisers have not been invited. But as we're seeing, Stephen Bannon, his portfolio extends far beyond politics.
ZELENY (voice-over): Steve Bannon is the White House chief strategist, but even that title may not do justice to his influence in the West Wing. He is driving decisions on every piece of President Trump's agenda, domestic and foreign, including the president's immigration order and travel ban that sparked a global backlash. But it's his elevation to a permanent spot on the National Security Council that's outraging even many Republicans, questioning why he has a seat alongside the secretary of state and defense secretary in the inner sanctum of national security.
The president said in a weekend memo the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of national intelligence will no longer have a standing seat on the group as the Principals Committee.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has served eight presidents said it was an unprecedented move.
ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think pushing them out of the National Security Council meetings, except when their specific issues are at stake, is a big mistake. I think that they both bring a perspective and judgment and experience to bear that every president, whether they like it or not, finds useful.
ZELENY: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer brushed aside criticism as utter nonsense. He drew a comparison to David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, who attended some national security meetings. Yet, Axelrod never had a permanent seat on the council.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This administration is trying to make sure that we don't hide things, wait for them to come out after the fact. So, it recognizes the role that he's going to play. But Steve is not be in every meeting. Like Axelrod, he'll come in and out.
ZELENY: Bannon is unfazed by the controversy. In fact, a person close to him tells CNN he thrives on it. Bannon sees his role as disrupting the establishment, Republicans included, and putting his ideological imprint on the Trump's presidency.
He calls himself a nationalist, who says Trump could create a new populist movement. STEVE BANNON, BREITBART NEWS DAILY: This whole movement, it's really the top first inning.
ZELENY: He joined Trump's team last August, taking lead from leaving the conservative Breitbart News website. At 62, he has one of the loudest voices in the White House who is rarely heard or seen outside, except now at the president's side. He is a former naval officer. Goldman Sachs investment banker and Hollywood movie producer who drew attention of conservatives with this Ronald Reagan film in 2004.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: In the traditional motion picture story, the villains are usually defeated and the ending is a happy one. I can make no such promise for the picture you're about to watch.
[16:20:00] ZELENY: Last week, Bannon told the "New York Times", "The media here is the opposition party."
One day later, the president echoed the same sentiment to the Christian Broadcasting Network.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the media is the opposition party in many ways.
ZELENY: Now, Bannon believes there is a short window to get a lot of things done. That's why he is using this opportunity to push things through.
And, Jake, I am told by someone close to him he does not view this controversy as a setback at all, but rather an opportunity to do more -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.
Quote, "It won't stop terrorists." That's how one U.S. ally is responding to President Trump's immigration executive order. The backlash President Trump is now facing at home and abroad.
Plus, they had the proper paperwork to travel from Syria to the United States, but when they arrived in America, they were detained. One family's story about being caught up in the executive order chaos, next.
[16:25:11] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for our world lead now.
Just one week into the job, President Donald Trump's relationships with some critical U.S. allies are off to something of a rocky start. Hours before the executive order barring citizens from seven nations from entering the U.S. was signed, British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump were at the White House praising the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. A day later, under pressure, Prime Minister May released a statement saying that her government did not agree with Trump's ban.
Let's get right to CNN's Clarissa Ward who's in London for us.
And, Clarissa, the U.K. is just one of the U.S. allies really criticizing President Trump for this executive order.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And right now, their approach is taking place here in London, outside Downing Street, the prime minister's residence. There are also protests taking place in Canada.
And, you know, Jake, few world leaders want to come out and publicly criticize the White House. That puts them in a very awkward position, especially Theresa May, who is desperately hoping to negotiate a good trade deal with the U.S., but nonetheless she did come out today. She said, quote, "as far as the ban goes, we have been clear. We don't agree with it." And that was one of the more moderate responses.
WARD (voice-over): International criticism of President Trump's travel ban is growing.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: This is not an approach that this government would take.
WARD: In the U.K. today, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stepped carefully into the fray.
JOHNSON: Where we have differences with the United States, we will not quell from expressing them.
WARD: Following Prime Minister Theresa May's meeting with President Trump Friday. According to her spokesman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Mr. Trump directly to reiterate the Geneva Convention's rules requiring aid to refugees.
Today, Merkel told reporters this.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The necessary and decisive fight against terrorism does in no way justify a general suspicion against people of certain beliefs. These actions according to my beliefs are against the core idea of international aid for refugees and international cooperation.
WARD: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted by welcoming refugees, tweeting, "To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians welcome you regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. Welcome to Canada."
All this as reaction comes pouring in from the seven majority Muslim nations directly affected by the executive order. Refugees from Syria had a clear message for Mr. Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a privileged man who has lived a life of privilege. He has not seen our suffering. UM AHMAD KIWAN, SYRIAN REFUGEE (through translator): We want to live
in peace. We do not want to go to the United States to carry out terrorist operations.
WARD: In Iran, the foreign minister called America's ban a, quote, "great gift to extremists", while the nation's vice president vow to take reciprocal measures towards U.S. nationals traveling there.
And in Iraq, where U.S. and local forces have long partnered in the fight against terror, the decision was called flat out wrong. The parliament there today saying reciprocal suspension of U.S. visas is not just possible but probable.
WARD: One Muslim majority country that is not on the ban is Pakistan. But today, we heard from Pakistan's foreign minister. He spoke out against it saying, "In my personal opinion, the move will not affect terrorists. However, it will increase the miseries of the victims of terrorism." A reminder, Jake, to our viewers that the vast majority of the victims of terrorists are, in fact, Muslims.
TAPPER: Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.
Meanwhile, in Canada one man is in custody after a deadly shooting rampage at a mosque in Quebec City. Police say they are investigating it as an act of terrorism.
Authorities say they believe there was only one gunman. Witnesses say the shooter arrived at the city's Islamic cultural center last night dressed in all black, with at least one weapon, and opened fire upon families inside. When the carnage was over, six people had been killed, all the victims were men. Eight others had been injured, some critically.
Police say that the shooter called 911 afterwards and identified himself as the suspect. He is now in custody. At one point, officers had detained two people but now we're learning the second person was just a witness. As we learn more about that situation, we'll bring you more information.
In other world news today, U.S. defense officials are just confirming to CNN that Iran test-fired a ballistic missile yesterday, the launch failed and according to the Pentagon at no point was the U.S. or its allies in the region in danger. The White House says it is looking into the exact nature of the test. It would violate a United Nations resolution signed after President Obama's Iranian nuclear deal.
They flew around the world from Syria to America to be with their son in Florida. But when they got to the United States, this Syrian family was held at the airport for hours, even though they had all the proper paperwork. Their story next.