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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Acting Atty. General Tells DOJ Not To Defend Trump Order; Acting Atty. General Defies President TrumpProtests Grow Over President Trump's Travel Ban; Acting Attorney General Defies President Trump; Joint Chiefs Chair Responds to Trump's NSC Changes Aired 7-8p Et

Aired January 30, 2017 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- for breaking the news. Our breaking news coverage continues right now on Erin Burnett OutFront.

ERIN BURNETT, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: Next, breaking news, a dramatic twist from the justice department tonight. The acting attorney general define the President of the United States, telling justice department lawyers not to defend Trump's travel ban. That story is breaking at this moment. Senator Chuck Schumer is my guest OutFront. And President Obama weighs in as Trump tries to compare his travel ban to Obama's. The facts OutFront.

Plus, Steve Bannon, getting more power this evening. What people close to him are telling us about it. Let's go OutFront. Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight. The breaking news. It is a stunning move, at this moment, the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, defying President Trump's controversial executive order. Yates, an Obama appointee notifying justice department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending the travel ban.

This is according to sources familiar with the order. Yates in a letter to those justice department lawyers writing impart, "I am responsible for ensuring that the position we take in court remain consistent with this institution, solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present I'm not convinced that the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful."

Pam Brown begins our coverage OutFront tonight. And Pam, this is dramatic and it is stunning, right? Obviously, Sally Yates a holdover from the Obama administration as they're waiting for the confirmation of Jeff Sessions, but the acting attorney general, even though it's a holdover to defy the President of the United States, that is significant.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is a remarkable move. As you point out the acting attorney general, Sally Yates telling justice department lawyers in this letter not to make any legal arguments defending the Trump executive order on immigration and refugees. This as the White House continues to defend the ban saying it is essential to protect the homeland.

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Actually I have a very good day yesterday in terms of Homeland Security and some day we had to make the move and we decided to make the move.

BROWN: Tonight, President Trump justifying the implementation of his travel ban, in the face of chaos and confusion at airports across the country. The president tweeting, "If the ban were announced with a one-week notice the bad would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad dudes out there. "

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you wait, you're going to be reacting. And what I think I'm -- I want to be clear on this, the president is not going to wait. He's going to make sure he does everything in his power when he can to protect the homeland and its people.

BROWN: CNN has learned Department of Homeland Security officials including the new Secretary John Kelly were shut out of the process.

TRUMP: The protection of the nation from foreign terrorists' entry into the United States. Big stuff.

BROWN: And weren't briefed on the details until the president was signing the executive order Friday.

SPICER: The people that needed to be kept in the loop were kept in the loop.

BROWN: The last minute notice sent DHS officials scrambling about what the executive order meant for newly banned passengers on U.S. bound planes and green card holders in the seven counties. Two days after the ban was imposed, DHS Secretary John Kelly released a statement clarifying green card holders will be allowed into the U.S. on a case by case basis, absent significant derogatory information.

SPICER: Look at how it worked when you talk about the 325,000 people, 109 were temporarily inconvenienced for the safety of us all.

BROWN: As democratic leaders in congress now jostle to put forward a bill rescinding the sweeping order, civil rights groups are lining up with lawsuits to try to strike it down.

LENA MASRI, CAR NATIONAL LITIGATION DIRECTOR: This is not a Muslim ban simply. It is a Muslim exclusion order.

BROWN: The White House points out that the order itself does not specifically mention Muslims but rather identifies dangerous areas of the world that need more vetting.

DAVID MARTIN, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW PROFESSOR EMERITUS: The plaintiffs will claim that it is in effect a Muslim ban or was motivated by antipathy towards Muslims.

BURNETT: Pam, there already is incredible chaos and confusion. You have had multiple judges in different states ruling multiple things about how to enforce this ban so far. The attorney general of the United States now coming out and defying the president, obviously going to cause more chaos in many ways. What can Trump do about it though? BROWN: Well, I mean, he could fire presumably the acting attorney

general, attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president. But then the question remains, OK, who would fill that spot? Jeff Sessions his attorney general nominee will be getting his committee vote tomorrow and then is expected by all accounts to be confirmed later this week. And so you have that, but of course, Erin, I mean, we're still waiting from President Trump, the White House to respond to this because it certainly is an extraordinary move for the attorney general to come out like this against the president's executive order.

BURNETT: All right. Pamela. Thank you very much. And I want to go straight now OutFront to the top senate democrat, the minority leader, Senator Charles Schumer. Senator, thank you. I want to begin of course with this breaking news, Senator Schumer. Your reaction, the acting attorney general of the United States defying an order from the president.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) MINORITY LEADER: Well, what Sally Yates has done shows that her integrity, everyone knows she's a person of integrity. And this is a poor reflection on President Trump and his entire administration. They put this together in a slap dash way, it was almost as if they wrote it on the back of an envelope. They didn't check its legality. Most people think it's illegal. They didn't take -- talk to the agencies in charge, creating chaos.

They didn't clearly know exactly what they were doing, some departments thought green card people were included. Some people thought green card people weren't. When you do something as important as this, it can't be a Twitter type activity. This has to be thoroughly vetted, thoroughly gone over. All the agencies have to be consulted. And it's a very bad omen for this presidency. If they're going to do things like this they're going to run into trouble the same kind of trouble they ran into on this horrible, horrible order on many, many other things.

BURNETT: So you think that she's doing the right thing, and I --and I asked this -- I understand you agree with her point of view, but that is almost separate senses right from an acting attorney general defying the President of the United States.

SCHUMER: Yes. Sally Yates --

BURNETT: I mean, that could create even more chaos and weakness in our institutions.

SCHUMER: Erin, Sally Yates is a person of integrity and I think she looked at the law regardless of her view. Most of the judges who have looked at this, I think just about every one that I have seen rulings from has ruled in that direction. I don't think there's much doubt that what they have done is unconstitutional. It's just causing chaos for months until we get a final ruling unless our republican colleagues who are on the floor of the senate will join us in repealing.

I made a motion to do that tonight. The republican leadership didn't allow it. But maybe they will because now 12 republicans have spoken out of the senators and said that things are very wrong with what was done.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about those republicans because obviously when we talk about the replacement for Sally Yates whether she is fired or whether he is approved in the next few days -- I know you can delay it, but probably not more -- much more than that, right? By the end of the week, we're going to know on Jeff Sessions?

SCHUMER: Well, I hope we don't because I think he is -- he is the wrong person for the job. He has been so anti-voting rights, anti- civil rights, anti-immigrant. This is probably the most anti- immigrant senator and I would hope maybe some of my republican colleagues would rethink given what's happened in the last few days whether he should actually be approved. The odds that they will vote for him, yes. But is there a chance? Maybe some of them won't possibly.

BURNETT: So what you're saying there's nothing really you can do to stop his approval at this point, but hope that those individuals come over?

SCHUMER: Well, we hope that some republicans will. You know, there's -- I understand party loyalty. But this goes way beyond that. This is a constitutional crisis. It hurts the United States abroad. You've heard from people like CIA Director and former General Hayden who worked for George Bush and so many others who are on the other side of the aisle who have said what a disaster this is. It wasn't thought through. And that's going to be a real problem for this president and his -- and his team if they're going to keep doing things like this. This is bad in itself. But the way it was implemented made it -- made it almost, you know, it didn't look like the United States government was -- knew what it was doing.

BURNETT: When it comes to Jeff Sessions and more than Jeff Sessions you've obviously demanded several of Trump's cabinet nominees submit public statements, right? About their stance on the travel ban. I know Sessions is one of them, right? Has he responded to you?

SCHUMER: He has not responded. Don't you think, Erin that the American people owe -- he's owes the American people and act on something as controversial and as volatile as this, an explanation of how he feels before we vote on him? You know, you can't ram through these things without paying consequences. And that's what's going to happen unless things are slowed down. People are given, you know, given a thorough examination. And people are thoughtful about what's happening.

BURNETT: Now, Jeff Sessions is saying -- Senator Sessions is saying that he didn't have anything to do with this particular order. He didn't know about it beforehand. Does that make you more open-minded to him and his approval?

SCHUMER: No. Jeff Sessions has an obligation to say what he thinks of the order and what he would do once he gets in. No one is saying he had something to do with it ahead of time. Maybe some are. I -- that to me is not the issue. The issue is what will he do should he become attorney general which of course is likely, even as much as I will oppose him. It's up to our republican colleagues to join us as I said.

BURNETT: You obviously have a strong point of view on this and it was visible when you came out against the ban. I just want to play for those who didn't see it what happened. You got visibly choked up talking about the ban yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: This executive order -- was mean spirited and un-American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The president is responding to you, to what happened to you at that moment when you choked up and here's what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. If he is, he's a different man. There's about a five percent chance that it was real but I think they were fake tears.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The president of the United States says he thinks those fake tears.

SCHUMER: You know, I'm not going to dignify that kind of silliness. Let him roll up his sleeves and put out -- put out of something that really does prevent terrorists rather than this. He ought to stick to the substance. Name calling and things like that are what's led to these problems that we're seeing. He doesn't -- he doesn't take this presidency seriously enough. At least in this instance. And, you know, I have said all along, there are times he flatters me. There are times he calls names. That's not going to influence me. I'm going to do what I think is the right thing and that's what I'm doing here and I'm proud of it.

BURNETT: You are going to announce a number of Trump's cabinet picks. Jeff Sessions of course, just one of them. You cited the travel ban as the reason for that opposition today. The bigger question though for you, Senator, is this and I think it goes back to what I asked you about the justice department and whether it should be working as a functioning institution. Are you going to do everything you can to block anything the president wants to do until this travel ban is rescinded or expires or will you work on other things?

SCHUMER: Of course not. And what we have asked for with both Jeff Sessions and Tillerson who were the two nominees is they simply state their views. Both of them have jurisdiction. One in the overseas department and one here at home. And don't you think they owe the American people -- aren't they obligated to tell us what they actually think of this ban and how they're going to enforce it if at all? That's really important. So we're not blocking for blocking sake. We are trying to -- we are trying to get to the bottom of something that's very serious and seems very wrong to so, so many Americans. They did -- they put this in effect without an attorney general. If they felt it was so important they should have waited till he got there. It's only -- it's only a short period of time and for someone -- I heard someone on your show said, well, the terrorists would line up and come in. Not a single refugee has caused an act of terrorism from the countries.

We have seen abilities of terrorism from Saudi Arabia. Not on the list. Egypt -- citizens of Egypt, not on the list. Citizens of -- American citizens of course not affected by this, the last two major terrorist incidents were caused by Americans and lone wolves. And if you ask not just me, but John McCain, these lone wolf incidents will be increased by what they did. So it just makes no sense. They seem to do, you know, whatever pops into their heads, it's terrible.

BURNETT: When you say though Saudi Arabia, Egypt on the list, of course neither was Lebanon or UAE all of which of course with the source countries for the 9/11 attack. But with that argument, it almost sounds like you're saying, OK, well if we put more countries on the list --

SCHUMER: No, no, no. You don't put a whole country on the list. You vet people and see who might be a terrorist. The refugee program has had such a strong vetting that we have had almost no terrorists coming from there. The place to really look at is -- are places that are part of the visa waiver program. Belgium, France, where we know there are indigenous terrorists and they can come into the United States with very few questions asked. If you're a refugee from one of these countries or the countries you mentioned, you get a two-year thorough vetting and that's why we have had very terrorism coming from the folks. So, focus on the problem, not on what sounds good for the moment.

BURNETT: So the two issues of course there's the -- there's refugee halt and then there's -- separate from that the seven countries that have -- that the temporary visa ban. But I guess the question I have for you, Senator, at its most basic level, do you agree with President Trump that we need changes in the vetting system in the United States? When you look at San Bernardino for example, someone coming from Pakistan.

SCHUMER: Yes.

BURNETT: OK. So you do agree with that.

SCHUMER: Look. We can -- we can always do more against terrorism. This executive order does virtually nothing against terrorism. It sacrifices great American values by imposing a religious test. Giuliani said it's a religious test, the president said certain religions are going to be preferred over the others. And so it's a double -- it's a double -- doubly wrong. It doesn't stop terrorism and goes against the American grain. Plain and simple.

BURNETT: I just want to read for you, Senator, something that I just got. As we're trying to understand this too. Jeff Sessions did an interview on December 10th on Breitbart Radio. He was asked about a Muslim ban overall, OK? And it was actually an interview with Steve Bannon. And here's what he said. "While he's treading on dangerous ground because Americans are so deeply committed to freedom of religion. That is a major part of who we are." He continued, "But at the same time we're in an age where it's very dangerous, we're seeing one more persons enter and a lot of them have done terrorist acts and a lot of them believe it's commanded by their religion. So I think it's appropriate to begin to discuss this and he has forced that discussion." This obviously is back from the original the Muslim ban. this is a year ago.

SCHUMER: Erin, I rest my case. I rest my case. That he ought to come clean and describe to the senate and more importantly to the American people just what his views really are. Now that we have this executive order that's been promulgated by the administration.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Schumer, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

SCHUMER: Thank you, Erin. Take care.

BURNETT: And next, more on this breaking news, the acting attorney general defying President Trump, what this means and what's the White House's next move? Plus why is the White House citing the Obama administration as the model for Trump's travel ban? The president speaks out tonight. And Trump supporters on why they are behind this executive order.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL FITZGERALD, TRUMP VOTER: No, I'm glad to see our president taking the actions that he needs to take to provide the highest degree of security for the American citizenry that he possibly can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

And these are live pictures right now, protests to Trump's travel ban in Washington and New York. The breaking news coverage continues next, OutFront.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking news, the acting attorney general telling the justice department do not defend the President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees. This coming from a President Obama appointee. Sally Yates is her name, he's the acting head of the justice department. She says she's not convince the elective -- executive order is lawful and in keeping with the rules and morals of the United States. Evan Perez is OutFront. Evan, you broke this news. This is pretty stunning. What more can you tell us about Sally Yates the acting attorney general?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, she has a distinguished career really over a couple of decades inside the justice department as a career lawyer and it's really late in her career that she was tapped to become deputy attorney general by President Obama. So this is someone who grew up in the department if you will. This is where she has made her entire career and so the fact that she -- this weekend we know from our sources have been struggling with what to do about this executive order she was not consulted.

Neither were any of those lawyers around her were not consulted about this executive order. Which is something that you'd want to do if you're going to ask them to defend this in court. We do know from the White House, the White House says they did consult the office of legal counsel which is the office inside the justice department. They act separately from the attorney general which reviewed just the language in the order. But doesn't really look at the policy implications of the order, Erin.

And so what we know is that over the weekend, she was struggling with whether or not this thing was even legal and as the language in her order that she wrote, she said, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with the responsibilities of her office nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful. You can bet, Erin, that right now there are many inside the Trump White House, why didn't they wait just a few more days for Jeff Sessions to take office? He surely would have defended this order. It's a big political mistake on their part.

BURNETT: And also though there is this. That she may be doing what she thinks is right and then she may be also doing what she thinks is morally right. But putting that aside, she's at the helm of the justice department, right? An important institution in the functioning of the greatest democracy in the world. Her defying the sitting president as the sitting attorney general, what kind of chaos does that create here?

PEREZ: It's a huge crisis, frankly, for the Trump White House. For the president, he deserves someone at the justice department who is going to defend his executive orders. And so, you know, he has the option to fire her because that she serves at the pleasure of the president. Here's the problem. She is the highest senate confirmed lawyer at the justice department and as such, she is the one that signs surveillance warrants, foreign surveillance warrants that they come routinely, that cross her desk almost every day.

If she gets fired there's nobody else inside the justice department who can sign off on those warrants and that's a big, big problem for the Trump White House. They have to wait until they get an attorney general who will be able to sign that.

BURNETT: All right. Which of course means you could have several days of the going on at least until the end of the week which is what we understand is kind of -- as long as they can delay it and certainly Senator Schumer did not seem to disagree with that. And he obviously wants to delay it more than anyone. In the minority leader. Thank you so much, Evan. Evan breaking this news.

I want to go now to the Harvard Law Professor, Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, Mark Preston and Jamie Gangel. Alan, let me start with you. What do you make of this, Sally Yates coming out, the sitting attorney general and defying an order from the President of the United States?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, Sally Yates is a terrific public servant but I think she's made a serious mistake here. This is a holdover heroism. It's so easy to be a hero -- heroine when you're not appointed by this president, when you're on the other side. She made a serious mistake. I think what she should have done is done a nuanced analysis of what parts of the order are constitutional, what parts are in violation of the statute and what parts are perfectly lawful.

There's an enormous distinction between green card holders on the one hand, people who are in the country and have to be thrown out on the second hand and people who are simply applying to get a visas. There is also a distinction between what's constitutional, what's statute thoroughly prohibited, what's bad policy. This is very bad policy.

BURNETT: Yes.

DERSHOWITZ: But what's lawful? And I think by lumping all of them together, she has made a political decision rather than a legal one.

BURNETT: And that obviously could carry its own issues. I want to do a follow on you -- with you before I bring everyone else in, Alan. And just on this, I don't know if you heard Senator Schumer, he kept repeatedly saying that he doesn't think it's constitutional that judge after judge is ruling in that direction, were the words that he used. Of course the different rulings have been regarding detentions and green card holders and various other issues. Do you agree that it is not lawful or do you think that given the wide parameters the President of the United States has to set these sorts of things that he is within his legal rights?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think it's -- some of it's constitutional, some of it's not constitutional. For example, there's a statute that limits the president's power. And says that visas may not be denied on the basis of religion. Is that statute constitutional or is it a claim on presidential authority? These are very complicated legal issues and people shouldn't jump into them. You know, we have a hobby in this country, if you don't like something, you assume it's unconstitutional.

Even my colleague Elizabeth Warren pointed to a part of the constitution that says no religious test shall ever be required which she didn't read the second part of it for holding of office of the United States government. It has nothing to do with visas. On the other hand, the first amendment says congress shall make no law. So it's a prohibition on congressional action and presidential action.

BURNETT: Right.

DERSHOWITZ: I could teach a whole seminar on this subject. It's very complicated, very nuanced. And we shouldn't get political about it when we're talking about the constitution. BURNETT: So -- and you raised a great point. People always like to invoke the constitution, it's one of their favorite things. But Mark obviously, tonight, no laughing matter what we're seeing Sally Yates do. And you heard Alan say it ended up in his view boiling down to a political move. How damaging could that be?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly going to embolden those who supported Donald Trump during his run for the president. They're going to say that again, this is what you're seeing from a holdover from the Obama administration. No question about that. But let me read one line that I really think is going to pop out for those who are supportive of her actions and those who are against it.

She writes, I'm responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with the institutions solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. And it's those last few words right there, Erin, and stand for what is right. That is what we've seen the left talk about ever since Jeff Sessions was nominated to become attorney general. They want to see democrats stand up and try to derail him. Now, we saw Chuck Schumer acknowledge there's no way they can do that.

But there's a lot of concern on the left that once Jeff Sessions gets into the Department of Justice that all the reforms that we have seen put in place are going to be rolled back.

BURNETT: Jamie?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So just to follow up on the political, look, Sally Yates has taken a stand whether it's political or whether it -- isn't is nuanced as Alan said it should be. That's what she has done. The question now is what is Donald Trump going to do? Is he going to say you're fired? I mean, this isn't -- this is very serious or is he going to pull back? This has been a chaotic, confused first 10 days. Republicans have said things publicly, but privately they're pulling their hair out about this. They want him to stop. They want him to slow down. As you said, if he had waited a couple of days for Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, this wouldn't be an issue.

BURNETT: And could he wait this out now with Sally Yates sitting there? You just play a game of chicken but he can't be silent now that she said this. This is the thing, you cannot be silent. She just defied the President of the United States on an executive order.

GANGEL: Donald Trump is not nuanced. If I had to guess, she -- it's likely he's going to fire her.

DERSHOWITZ: That would be a mistake. That would be a mistake also. I think he can work with this. I think he can ask the court to appoint a special defense attorney to defend the statute. That's happened before. He's entitled as the head of the --

BURNETT: So, what if -- so Alan, in layman's terms, what are you saying? Like let her stay for the next few days and do a work around for those few days?

DERSHOWITZ: Just ignore her. Just ignore her and say, well, you know, have the court appoint somebody who will president's actions. The president has a right to have his actions defended. If I'm a judge, I'm going to say that some of it is statutes are unconstitutional, as it applied to green card holders, as it applies maybe to people who are in the country but maybe not so much as it applies to people who are seeking visas, but it may be in violation of a statute. These are hard questions and we shouldn't be treating them with a blunder bus, we should be treating them with a scalpel, that's what they are entitled to.

GANGELL: I would just say while Alan is wise and thoughtful, every morning we get up to Donald Trump's Twitter account, and so I'm not sure those two things will end up being wise and thoughtful.

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: We don't response Twitter with Twitter, you response to Twitter with nuanced and that's why I think Sally Yates made a mistake. She played into his hands and instead of responding in an intelligent, sophisticated, calibrated way.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all. And this breaking news comes as the outrage over the travel ban grows tonight. These are live pictures right now, Washington, New York, protesters gathering in both of those cities. It's being repeated across the country at our nation's airports. When you talk to Donald Trump's supporters though their reaction to the executive order is quite different from the people you see on your screen right now. Martin Savage is OutFront.

MARTIN SAVAGE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: As thousands across the country protest president Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim majority nations. Here outside Atlanta, his supporters are cheering him on.

FITZGERALD: I'm glad to see our president taking the actions that he needs to take t provide the highest degree of security for the American citizenry that he possibly can.

SAAGE: Jay Lin came to America decades ago. He too agrees with Trump and said something that the group expressed about the order.

JAY LIN, TRUMP VOTER: It's temporary. Until we figure out a way of securely vetting the people who are coming to this country, I think everyone wants to be safe.

SAVIDGE: They all feel in the aftermath of 9/11 and subsequent attacks in San Bernardino, Paris and Nice, the world changed. And America's policies have to change as well.

KRISTINA TWITTY, TRUMP VOTER: I walk that same street in Nice with -- where the truck ran all over the people. So, I'm aware that we're just a few steps removed from terrible things that could happen. And I'm OK with the temporary stop so that we can re-evaluate where we are. SAVIDGE: Instead of blaming President Trump, they say blame those who

flew planes into buildings, turn the holiday party into a massacre, and mowed families down on the street. They do not hate Muslims, they stressed, and resent those who say they do.

MAUREEN GIANNONE, TRUMP VOTER: I think the push back ended up being like, no, I don't like you because you're Muslim. I don't like you because you're making me feel unsafe.

SAVIDGE: Lenny agrees with the president but he admits he grapples with the impact on the refugees.

LENNY ZAPROWSKI, TRUMP VOTER: That's what I struggle with morally, because is this the right thing to do, I don't know. But I believe this is a temporary thing and making sure we're getting it right is OK.

SAVIDGE: Vinnie immigrated from India 41 years ago. He's the only one in his family to vote for Trump, something they often ask him about.

VINOD NAYYAR, TRUMP VOTER: How can you agree with our president that so many people are left on the airports? I'm saying, yes, there's a human side which I think -- which we could have done differently. But the intent -- I think the intent is right.

SAVIDGE: Bob says this is not about being fair to those immigrants who want to come to America, but about being fair to an entire nation of immigrants already here.

BOB GRAY, TRUMP VOTER: They have come here to create a society and nation and they want to be protected. And right now, we have a threat. And we are at war and we have to recognize that and do something about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: I did push back on a number of aspects there, Erin. One of them, of course, being 9/11. The majority of the attackers there from Saudi Arabia, it's not on the Trump list so far. They acknowledge that and admit the list may not be perfect. It can be changed.

They also point out that those who say this is a dramatic turn in American history, they say you don't know history. In our past, in times of crisis and conflict, they say, we have either closed the door of immigration or narrowed it greatly. Only to reopen it once more -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Martin, thank you very much.

Important context to this discussion, James Zogby is OUTFRONT now, the president of the Arab American Institute, and Raheel Raza, the president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow.

You don't agree on this. I want to make this clear, so everyone understands. James, you hear some the supporters. They don't mind the ban. They

want people to calm down. They say it's a temporary, give the administration a chance, it's not perfect, but we need changes in the vetting. Senator Schumer just agreed with that. There are changes needed.

Are these Trump supporters all wrong?

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Look, the vetting process for refugees is one of the most onerous and time-consuming that we have in any country in the world. It takes almost two, sometimes 2 1/2 years for these folks to be vetted. And they go through at least 12 different stages of vetting.

So, I think that, no, they're wrong. The vetting process is quite significant.

BURNETT: What about the other countries, outside refugees, which is a fair point, because he's banning refugees for now.

ZOGBY: Right.

BURNETT: But what about the seven countries where it's just a total visa ban on people who are not refugees necessarily?

ZOGBY: Take a look at the newspapers in the last couple days and see the stories of those who are being denied entry, being denied access to plane or simply there in country and not able now to come because they have a visa. But this is going to take 60 to 90 days to go through. And their visa is only good until March.

We have heard stories about that and understand that these visas when you get one, they're not permanent. You get them for a certain period of time.

BURNETT: Yes, right.

ZOGBY: So, this is going to affect up like what Kellyanne Conway said today it's only 109 people who have been affected, tens of thousands of people are going to lose their visas. That means families won't get visited, businessmen won't be able to do their work, students aren't able to study.

BURNETT: Tens of thousands?

ZOGBY: Tens of thousand, yes. That's the number of people who come over on visas, many of them from the countries. Syrians and Iraqis and Yemenis, folks who have family here, people who are coming to do work. And they're not able to come and that is a horrible situation to be in.

And when you're cutting the refugee total from 100,000 down to 50,000 -- that's 50,000 desperate people who will not have a chance to come every year to the United States of America and fulfill their dreams and make a contribution to our country.

[19:35:12] BURNETT: Raheel?

RAHEEL RAZA, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL FOR MUSLIMS FACING TOMORROW: Yes, well, you know, there's so much hysteria and over the top reactions by the anti-Trump groups that we forget clarity. You know, in 1965, America opened its doors to people coming in. And this is a country which many people came and dreams came true.

But -- and it was actually done so that people who come from communist countries, what Muslim majority countries utilized it, so we have American-Muslims living very good lives.

There is now a problem. It is a virus. It is a cancer, of a jihadist ideology which we must recognize. I'm so glad that President Trump has actually articulated it, whereas the previous administration could not even use the words.

This is a battle for the soul of Islam that we have been fighting on the forefront. And we are delighted that a leader of the first world has actually addressed the issue and said he's going to defeat it.

This is not a ban against Muslims. This is not against Islam. It's a temporary moratorium against -- for people so that the house can be sorted out.

And let me add that about three years ago, I suggested the same in Canada, I'm a Canadian citizen, we had a rise of radical Islamist ideology, and I suggested a temporary moratorium from countries that have radical Islamist problems that fund and support terrorism, so that we can sort out the problems at home.

Any leader of any country has the right to secure their borders. They have ways in which they do it. And let's not forget that every country has restrictions on people coming in.

There are 16 Muslim countries that don't allow Jews or Israelis to come in. This, of course, is a temporary stoppage.

BURNETT: True.

RAZA: It is not permanent.

So, it takes time to sort out a problem that's been festering for over eight years. And the extremists and terrorists feel empowered and confident that they can get away with many of the attacks that we have seen in the last year. So, house cleaning needs to be done.

ZOGBY: Erin --

RAZA: There were problems in my house, I would close the doors as well.

BURNETT: All right. We're going to leave there. We will have you both back and thank you for your time tonight.

Our coverage of the breaking news continues. The White House fighting back, defending the travel ban tonight, saying it's similar to what President Obama did. President Obama speaking out, not waiting a long time. He's only been out of office, what, ten days, speaking out.

And Trump strategist Steve Bannon now elevated to the seat on the National Security Council. How much power does Bannon truly wield?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:42] BURNETT: Breaking news, sources telling CNN, the nation's acting attorney, a President Obama appointee, has told Justice Department lawyers not defend President Trump's travel ban that he enacted through executive order. The Trump administration, though, is pushing back hard against critics of the ban. President Trump defending it, saying President Obama had a similar policy, and it targeted travel from the exact same seven countries.

His top aides also saying this all started with President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These seven countries were derived from what the Obama administration deemed as needing further travel restrictions.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Those were the seven countries that both the Congress and the Obama administration identified.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: President Obama certainly had a ban on the Iraqi refugee program for six months which is double the time that's contemplated under President Trump's executive order.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BURNETT: So, does all this add up?

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

And, Tom, let me start by asking you, President Trump and the aides say this is similar to what President Obama did with Iraqi refugees. You just heard that case. Is it true?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is true, Erin. Absolutely, these seven countries were targeted by the Obama administration for specific concern because of terrorism.

But there's some key differences here that you also have to consider. Let's break those down. This didn't start with seven countries. In fact, what we started off with here is one country of concern which you heard mentioned a little bit there.

Back in 2011, a couple of refugees from Iraq were picked up in Kentucky here and they were linked by intelligence services to bombing of U.S. troops back in their home country. The Obama administration's response to this was to say, we need to be looking much more carefully at Iraqi refugees. So, there was a specific threat and a specific response. What we're hearing about right now is much more generalized. The

Trump administration is talking about the general threat of future terror, not a specific threat that we know of. So, that's one key difference already between the plans, Erin.

BURNETT: Now about refugees, right, which is a crucial part of this. President Trump, of course, is going beyond just refugees, right? Banning travel in this ban from anyone in those seven countries, refugee or not refugee. Did President Obama ever do the same?

FOREMAN: Well, some of President Obama's critics want to say it was a ban. He says it absolutely was not. What we do know about this, is under the Obama plan that original one involving the Iraqis there, the processing of people trying to come here from Iraq was slowed to a crawl.

They say it was never a ban and a few years later when they expanded this concern over visas to the seven different countries out there, what they wanted was closer scrutiny of everyone coming from there. They didn't want anybody getting a visa from certain groups without at least an interview.

But it wasn't a ban, at least according to the Obama administration. This unapologetically is a ban, a 90-day ban, on many people from those seven nations, a four-month ban on refugees and an indefinite ban on anyone trying to come from Syria, Erin.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you, Tom, because a lot of this could come down to packaging. I'm curious whether it does, right? Slowing it to the crawl, so essentially no one gets approved is almost the same thing as a ban, right? It's just the way you announce it and put it out publicly is completely different.

[19:45:03] Is that what happened here or no?

FOREMAN: Well, it certainly seems to be part of it. There was never a point at which no one was being approved under the Obama administration, but certainly it was very, very slow.

Here's seems to be a real key difference. The Obama administration seems to have done a lot of consultation with the Justice Department, Homeland Security, the intelligence services, all of the people who have to put it in place before it was put into place.

Whereas over here, one of the complaints of the critics is to say the Trump administration took a small inner circle, came up with the plan and then sort of said to many of people in these agencies who felt they should have been consulted, now you just make it work. That may be the key.

The bottom line to all of this though is, if you think about the seven nations that we're talking about here, yes, absolutely the seven that Donald Trump is talking about now are the same seven that Barack Obama talked about in his time, but to suggest the policy being proposed right now is a natural extension of what we lived with so far, that's just pushing it too far. We're tempted to just call it false, but we're going to give this a verdict of misleading -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you.

And OUTFRONT now, our global affairs analyst Tony Blinken, also a former deputy secretary of state, former deputy national security adviser.

Tony, so you saw the reporting -- the seven countries President Trump has in his executive order are the same ones President Obama placed severe travel restrictions on back in 2015, calling them countries of concern and saying they were doing it because of the, quote, "growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters."

There do appear to be some similarities.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Look, I think Tom Foreman had it right. Trying to compare the things is grossly misleading.

What happened with the seven countries back in 2015, this is after San Bernardino, is that we had some concerns about them and what we did in close consultation with Congress and with all of the relevant agencies at the table to figure it out was to take them out and affect the visa waiver program. That means that before, whereas nationals could come here without a visa, afterward, they had to get one and that added an extra layer of scrutiny.

But to suggest that nationals from those countries were banned from coming to the United States is simply not true.

BURNETT: So when it comes though to slowing down visa applications, you know, I have experienced that going to other countries. No one ever tells you they're not going to give you a visa, right? They just slow it down so much you don't get the visa. Is that what was happening under President Obama? Is that a similar thing by another name or would you say no?

BLINKEN: No, I disagree with that too, Erin. Back in 2011, when there were concerns about two Iraqis who were in the United States in Kentucky who may have been tied to attacks on Americans back in Iraq before they came here, we decided we had to make sure that we had the closest possible scrutiny. And so, we went through a six month review.

During that time, there was not a single month in which an Iraqi refugee did not come to the United States. There was no ban. The program wasn't stopped. It did showdown, but it wasn't stopped. We wanted to make sure that it was as secure as possible. That's exactly what happened.

BURNETT: Do you agree with President Trump there do still need to be changes in the vetting process or do you not agree with that?

BLINKEN: Look, the problem with what President Trump has done is this. First, it's the president's obligation, of course, to look out for the security of the American people. That's his number one priority. But with this executive order, he has taken a sledgehammer to the wrong problem.

The fact of the matter is that the seven countries concerned, not a single American has been killed by a citizen of one of those countries going back all the way to 1975. And overall, as other guests have said, the refugee program is about the last way someone would want to come to the country and infiltrate it as a terrorist. It takes on average two years to get here as a refugee.

By the way, immigrant as a class overall commit fewer crimes than native born Americans. So, this was the wrong problem to attack. The problem that we do have is the danger of homegrown terrorists.

And what the administration has done is actually likely to make that problem worse. It's going to be a great recruiting tool for the Islamic state at a very time when they're on their heels in Iraq and in Syria. This is a bonanza for them to be able to play into the narrative to say that there's a war against Islam.

And Muslim communities in the United States may feel isolated and discriminated against by this and that's likely to create an environment that people susceptible to extremism may go over to the wrong side.

BURNETT: So, Tony, I want to ask you. I know, obviously, you know the breaking news tonight, which is that Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, has said she will not comply with the order and she will not supply lawyers to defend that executive order in court. She obviously is a sitting attorney general, so she reports to the president of the United States. She is an Obama appointee though.

Donald Trump has just tweeted about this, which, of course, as we expected, the first way in which he chooses to respond. He writes, "The Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama AG."

[19:50:03] Not coming out and saying he's going to fire her. Not giving at least at this moment an indication of what why he's going to go. My question for you, Tony, though, is she doing the right thing or is her decision based no doubt on her moral belief going to cause more chaos and insecurity in the institutions that matter most to this country, the Justice Department?

BLINKEN: Erin, I know Sally Yates. I know her very well. We served together. We sat at the same table in the White House Situation Room for several years.

She is an extraordinary public servant, a remarkable patriot, someone who has dedicated her life to enforcing the laws of the United States and upholding the laws of the United States. If she has come to the judgment that this law, that this executive order should not be defended because it violates the Constitution, I have absolute faith in her judgment.

She is doing exactly what a good public servant should be doing, particularly someone who is the acting attorney general and is sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

BURNETT: All right. Tony, thank you very much. Tony Blinken, as I said, former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser -- thank you.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Steve Bannon promoted to a permanent seat at Trump's national security briefings, getting an incredible seat of new influence tonight. How powerful is Bannon?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, breaking news: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff responding to President Trump's changes to the National Security Council. General Joseph Dunford Jr. saying the announcement, quote, "makes it clear that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will fully participate in the interagency process to provide best military advice. I remain honored and humbled to represent the extraordinary men and women of the Joint Force and serving the president and our nation.

Now, this came after widespread criticism of President Trump's changes, the joint chief's chair and the director of national intelligence are actually no longer even required at all meetings. Steve Bannon is now at a permanent seat at the table.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (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 is now outraging even many Republicans, who questioned why he has a seat alongside the secretary of state and defense secretary in the inner sanctum of national security.

[19:55:08] 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 going to 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.

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, the Principals Committee, Erin, is the most inner circle of national security advisers to the president. And thinking back now 16 years under President Bush, his chief the staff would not allow political advisers like Karl Rove to attend. Now, in the Obama administration, David Axelrod occasionally observed, but did not participate.

But this is entirely different than now. Steven Bannon will have a permanent seat at the table there and some Republican critics on Capitol Hill believe that that could prevent the president from hearing conflicting points of view and put things in a political lens. Erin, it's one more example, Steven Bannon has a very wide portfolio at this White House.

BURNETT: And getting wider. Thank you, Jeff.

And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Thanks for joining us. And don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere on CNN Go. I'll see you back here tomorrow night.

"AC360" begins right now.