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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Syrian Refugees Reunited with Family in the U.S.; Pres. Trump Calls Arguments on Travel Ban "Disgraceful"; Supreme Court Pick Calls Trump Attacks on Judges "Demoralizing"; Passports in the Shadows; Senate Confirms Jess Sessions as Attorney General; Sen. Warren: Won't be Silent About Sessions "Radical Hatred"; Trump: Terrorism a Bigger Threat Than Americans Understand; Refugee Father Racing to Reach Wife and Daughter; Pres. Trump's Vision for the Border Wall; U.S.-Mexico Border Apprehensions Down Sharply in January; Pres. Trump: I Wasn't Kidding About the Border Wall; What Pres. Trump's Border Wall Could Look Like. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 8, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:00] RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- 12-year-old girl in that story. She was in a Spanish emerging school and learned Spanish and English. She taught her own parents Spanish and English and hopes to teach her grandparents some English as well. Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Randi, thanks very much.
Up next, as we wait that appeals court decision on President Trump's travel ban, some startling findings from a year-long CNN investigation. How one country could actually be selling passports to the highest bidder in the Middle East? You'll want to see this, next.
COOPER: Good evening again. Welcome to the second hour of "360". President Trump on the attack, calling the appeals court arguments over his travel ban disgraceful. Also just suggesting the judges aren't grasping concepts that even a "bad high school student would understand." He says the order was written beautifully in his words. The talk at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considers a lower court's temporary restraining order on the ban but the president's pick for the Supreme Court has a different take on all this. More on that coming up in this hour, but first, more on the president's criticism of the courts over his ban. Let's got to Jeff Zeleny who's at the White House.
What does the president say about the Ninth Circuit judges today?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it was a blistering and rather extraordinary attack on the judicial branch of the government. And the president also was talking about the urgent threat of terrorism. He said he's been in office two weeks and he knows things that other people do not. He was casting all of this as a reason why his executive order must be upheld. And this is what he said directly to those judges. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's sad. I think it's a sad day. I think our security is at risk today. And I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, OK? Better than, I think almost anybody. And I want to tell you, I listened to a bunch of stuff last night on television that was disgraceful. It was disgraceful. But courts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Now, Anderson, so interestingly, last night at this time, the White House said the president was not likely to talk about this before the ruling came out. Well, of course, that did not happen this morning in that speech. But it's clear that he is trying to litigate this in the court of public opinion as well before that ruling comes out.
COOPER: It was also surprising today here, President Trump, essentially taking a different position on the roll out of his travel ban saying he didn't actually want to roll it out right away, but that's not exactly what he said before, is it?
ZELENY: He did. He was speaking to those law enforcement officials here in Washington and he said, "Look, I wanted to wait a week, even a month to roll this out," but the, you know, the information he was receiving from law enforcement agencies was that he needed to do this right away because of evil seeping in across the border. Well, that simply does not square with anything, A, he was saying at the time and B, his advisers were doing that all week.
The first week of his presidency, he wanted to sign something on that first Friday evening, and he said there was an urgent need to do so. And our reporting shows that people in the government were not briefed on this as the week went along. His Cabinet wasn't even sworn in at Homeland Security and the Pentagon here. So, the first time he said that this morning he wanted to actually, you know, sort of hold on a little bit, we've not heard that before, and most people do not believe that's actually true.
[21:05:05] COOPER: Yeah, I mean, it would be interesting to hear who he actually allegedly said this to. Because I think in his today, he said law enforcement types. He didn't even say like agency. I think types was the word he used. But it would be interesting to know who actually said that, because that whole notion has been discounted by a number of reporters.
Jeff Zeleny, thanks.
Tonight, as we wait for the Ninth Court of Appeals to weigh in on whether to lift a block on President Trump's executive order banning travel from seven majority Muslim countries, we've got a startling year long joint investigation that we did in partnership with CNN en Espanol. Our investigations uncovered the alleged selling of passports under the eyes of one country that is not part of the ban, but there's also alleged connections to Iraq and Syria, two countries that are part of the ban. That the allegation center around Venezuela's embassy in Baghdad.
You might ask why that matters, because Venezuelan passports can be used without needing a visa to enter more than 130 countries, including 26 countries at European Union. There's also this, the U.S. has condemn Venezuela for years as a hotbed of corruption and human rights violations. In the allegations, passports got into the hands of people who shouldn't be getting them. Well, the U.S. has known about them, too. Here is our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin with passports in the shadows. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: There is good reason this Venezuelan strolling the streets of Toledo, Spain instead of Caracas, Venezuela. Misael Lopez is frightened, because he says he told the truth about Venezuela, possible terrorists and corruption that will have him forever looking over his shoulder.
MISAEL LOPEZ, FORMER EMBASSY OFFICIAL: I'm concerned about my safety and my family's safety. Everywhere I go or where they are.
GRIFFIN: If what this former official for the Venezuelan government in Iraq says is true, criminals and potential terrorists could be freely moving about the world undetected with authentic Venezuelan passports that were sold at a profit to anyone who was buying. Passports good to enter more than 130 countries, without a visa, not including the United States.
Lopez was the legal adviser for the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad, starting in July 2013. A former police officer and an attorney, he provided CNN with documents that he says show an employee at the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq sold passports and visas for a profit. And, a CNN investigation found serious irregularities in Venezuelan passports and visas.
On his first day in Baghdad, Lopez says Venezuela's ambassador, Jonathan Velasco entrusted him with a very special envelope.
LOPEZ: Full of visas and passports. He told me, "Get this. This is one million U.S. dollar." I thought it was like a joke. Then he told me here people pay a lot of money to get a visa or passport to leave this country.
GRIFFIN: You said you thought it was a joke.
LOPEZ: Of course. The first moment, yeah. That's his meaning, but OK, I take it like that. It was the first day, so.
GRIFFIN: But about a month later, Lopez learned the ambassador's joke foreshadowed a frightening discovery. Lopez says an Iraqi employee of the embassy seen here in a video he recorded told him Venezuela's passports and visas were being sold. She had made thousands of dollars. Cash. And Lopez could too. LOPEZ: Some good money. You can make lot of money with that. They pay $10,000 U.S. for a visa. Then I got really, really mad. And I told her, "How could you think I'm going to be selling visas or passport."
GRIFFIN: And who was the person that was supposedly going to get the document?
LOPEZ: An Arab guy.
GRIFFIN: With no connections to Venezuela?
LOPEZ: No. No connection at all.
GRIFFIN: It was only the beginning. Over the next several months, he says he was approached again and again by the same employee asking him to participate in the scheme. Lopez says she even once offered to sell visas to an entire group of Syrians and give him a cut.
LOPEZ: She told me, I have 13 Syrian people wants to pay $10,000 U.S. each for a visa.
LOPEZ: I suspect that might be terrorist. That's why I reject, of course, immediately.
GRIFFIN: Lopez decided to investigate further. He searched the Iraqi employee's desk and took these pictures of what he found. The embassy's official stamp, used to authenticate visas, still wet with ink, along with sheets of paper printed with the Venezuelan government seal.
[21:10:07] She was an interpreter, wasn't authorized to have any of these items. He eventually fired the employee. Lopez did not have any other documents that would confirm the allegations.
Do you think that Venezuela is basically offering free travel passes to potential terrorists?
LOPEZ: I have found link to three things, laundering money, trafficking drugs and terrorism.
GRIFFIN: And it was this document, he says, he found inside the embassy that alarmed him most. It is a list of 21 Arabic names and corresponding Venezuelan passport numbers.
Curiously, many of the passport numbers are consecutive. Same with the official government I.D. numbers, which are like Social Security numbers. A Venezuelan immigration official tells CNN, these passports are valid and match the names. We checked with a Venezuelan database and found for example Atif has an I.D. that belongs to Jose. That's the case were 20 of the 21 I.D. numbers registered to other people, people with Hispanic names. Not the Arabic names listed on the passports.
So these are fake people with real passports?
LOPEZ: No, it's not fake people. It's different people.
GRIFFIN: Lopez says he even found this man, who has an Iraqi national I.D. but who has a Venezuelan passport that says he was born in Venezuela.
LOPEZ: So this guy, it's like he has two mothers, and he was born in two places.
GRIFFIN: Lopez documented everything, including details of the offering of money to issue visas to 13 Syrians and sent an official report to the Venezuelan Ambassador, Jonathan Velasco.
And there's no doubt in your mind that the ambassador knew this was happening.
LOPEZ: How could he being there for so long, couldn't notice that?
GRIFFIN: And you presented that information to him, and he did nothing.
LOPEZ: Sometimes he used to say, Caracas do not need to know anything about that.
GRIFFIN: Lopez says the ambassador threatened his job, so he took his allegations all the way to Delcy Rodriguez, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, reporting his suspicion of the fraudulent issuing of visas, birth certificates and Venezuelan documents. He says he heard nothing.
Finally, frustrated and fearing the implications, Lopez contacted the FBI at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. Law enforcement source tells CNN, an FBI official did meet with Lopez at this restaurant across the street from the embassy and send his information to Washington.
The FBI told us it could not discuss anything about what happened next. By the end of 2015, Lopez was removed from his position by the Venezuelan government.
For months, we repeatedly tried to get comments from the Venezuelan government.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRIFFIN: Caracas, the government threatened CNN en Espanol's crew with expulsion for just asking about the passport and visa allegations. At a press event, Foreign Minister Rodriguez ignored our question.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Foreign Minister, just one question.
GRIFFIN: Months later, during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Rodriguez ignored us again. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister.
GRIFFIN: Until finally, we tracked down the Foreign Minister on the sidewalk outside the U.N.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign Minister, what can you say about the allegations that Venezuelan passports are being sold at the embassy in Baghdad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say about it? How crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you tell us about it? As foreign minister do you have any knowledge?
DELCY RODRIGUEZ, FOREIGN MINISTER OF VENEZUELA: You're going to hurt yourself. You're going to hurt yourself for following the lies of a person who doesn't know what he's talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say that's a lie?
GRIFFIN: As she walked into the U.N., Rodriguez refused to answer any more questions.
Is there anything you'd like to say?
GRIFFIN: And Ambassador Velasco, in an e-mail to CNN wrote that he has nothing to hide or fear, and the embassy don't never and ever sell Venezuelan nationalities. As for the former employee in Iraq, who Lopez says was selling the passports, she did not respond to our calls or e-mails.
Misael Lopez says he knows what he saw. He has lost his job and even his country.
[21:15:01] He's under official police investigation for revealing confidential matters or secrets. But he says he could not stay silent.
LOPEZ: You cannot be cop and a thief at the same time. I decide to be a cop and do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Drew Griffin joins us now. That's the fastest-walking Venezuelan official I've ever seen. If the -- do we know if the Venezuelan government actually investigated the claims or did any checks to see if their own documents were being sold?
GRIFFIN: Anderson, surprisingly, the only investigation we're aware of is the one that now targets the whistle blower, in this case, Misael Lopez. He brought his detailed charges first to the ambassador, then to Delcy Rodriguez, the Foreign Minister you saw running along the sidewalk there.
Lopez told us they both ignored his investigative work that he compiled on duty and instead they turned their attention to him.
COOPER: I mean, the implication is that terrorists could be, you know, worst-case scenarios. Terrorists could be buying these passports, traveling to a lot of countries legally and undetected by the No Fly List or Terrorist Watch Screenings not the United States, but into the European Union.
GRIFFIN: Correct. As we pointed out, the U.S. requires an additional step of visa for anyone with a Venezuelan passport. But this is a global security problem, Anderson. And the problem with passport control when you're dealing with questionable countries like Venezuela is real. There are experts who claim, terror networks are involved. It has become a concern especially, as you said, in Europe for those security officials, because this Venezuelan passport gets you in those countries.
COOPER: And from my understanding, it's not just this former Venezuelan embassy official linking this alleged passport fraud to possible terrorists, the U.S. government has been discussing it for years.
GRIFFIN: The United States government has known about this problem, not only for years, but there's even a congressional report showing concern that Venezuela is providing identity documents that could be useful to radical Islamic groups.
And Anderson, as we're going to be reporting in part two later this week, the people that are supposedly involved in this in Venezuela reached the very highest levels of that country's government.
COOPER: Wow. I look forward to that report. Drew, thanks so much. Great job.
Coming up, the Senate confirms Jeff Sessions as the next Attorney General and Senator Elizabeth Warren just sent out a blistering series of tweets about that. We'll show you that and talk about it with our panel ahead.
[21:20:16] COOPER: Breaking news tonight, the Senate approved Jeff Sessions as Attorney General with 52-47 vote with mostly along party lines. One Democrat joining the Republicans, but it was another Democrat who is the story tonight, Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Last night, Senator Warren was silenced, told to sit down after she was accused of impugning Sessions. Republicans invoking rarely use rule to make her be quite. She tried to read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions for a federal judgeship. Now that Sessions has confirmed as Attorney General, Senator Warren essentially will not stay silent. Jeff Zeleny is back with the latest on that. Jeff?
ZELENY: Well, Anderson, Senator Sessions is going to be confirmed and sworn in here tomorrow at the Oval Office tomorrow morning by the President.
But it is Senator Warren who is sending out, just a flurry of messages really in the last several minutes. Let's take a look at some of these. This is coming after the confirmation of Jeff Sessions.
She says this, "There is no Rule 19 to silence me from talking about Jeff Sessions anymore. So let me say loudly and clearly, this is just the beginning." She goes on to say, a few moments later, she says, "If Jeff Sessions turns a blind eye while Donald Trump violates the Constitution or breaks the law, he'll hear from all of us."
And she continues, "If Jeff Sessions makes even the tiniest attempt to bring his racism, sexism and bigotry into the Justice Department, he'll hear from all of us." And then finally, one more in this series of tweets just this evening, she says this, pointed words here, "And you better believe every senator who voted to put Jeff Sessions radical hatred into the Justice Department will hear from all of us too." That is a direct shot and message to the Republicans who voted to confirm Senator Sessions as the Attorney General here.
Anderson, this is one of the most blistering confirmation hearings, and this is unusual in one respect. He's a fellow senator. Usually senators are treated slightly differently with some more decorum. But I can tell you, all sense of decorum really has broken down here. And the implication of that Rule 19 last night has elevated Elizabeth Warren to platform she has not even been on yet. Anderson?
COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks very much.
Back with the panel, I mean, Kirsten, radical bigotry, I think, racism, sexism, I mean, these are incredibly strong attacks.
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yeah, well, and I think it's interesting that BuzzFeed has a story up, I just read that a lot of people know Mitch McConnell is a very savvy person and that contrary to what a lot of people are saying that he has made a mistake here, that he actually intentionally did this, and he did it because he wants to elevate Elizabeth Warren even more to harm red state Democrats. And because there are quite a few that are up right now and are in pretty bad position.
COOPER: This raised her profile. I mean --
POWERS: Well, yes. I mean, I think a lot of people were feeling this, you know, who is this good for, it's good for Elizabeth Warren. It's not necessarily good for Democrats, but it's good for Elizabeth Warren.
COOPER: Right. Yeah, I was (inaudible) and suddenly she was on "The View" as well.
COOPER: I wonder when was the last time she was on "The View".
JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTER: You know, there's sort of a perfect parallel. In 2001, George W. Bush named a very conservative senator to be attorney general, John Ashcroft. There, there was some controversy over Ashcroft, but nothing like this, and I think that illustrates just how much more poisonous our politics have become since, you know, in those 15 years.
COOPER: It's also interesting, Paul, I mean, Senator Lindsey Graham who's not exactly an apologist for President Trump in any way, said it was long overdue for the Senate to take action against Senator Warren saying she's just posturing for a 2020 presidential run.
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It would be more credible to Senator Graham if he had stood up when Tom Cotton, a conservative Republican senator from Arkansas, attacked Harry Reid personally, attacked Reid's cancerous leadership that's what he called him. Or when Ted Cruz attacked his fellow Republican, Mitch McConnell, called him a liar. Directly impugning, he did not invoke Rule 19 for that. They did not shut him up, but shut him down the way they --
COOPER: How much of this is about, you know, angling for a run in 2020?
BEGALA: Yeah. That may well be. I would caution Mitch McConnell.
BEGALA: No, but McConnell wants to promote who he thinks is the easiest to beat. He needs to watch he will takes in me. I made an ass of myself last year going on T.V. every night, saying bring me Donald Trump, we want to Donald Trump, we'll kill Donald, you know what happened? He's the stinking president now. So be careful what you wish for in this.
BEGALA: -- and see Elizabeth Warren in Oval Office.
TARA SETMAYER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR GOP: It's clear that Elizabeth Warren just like Cory Booker, they're all now beginning to put themselves out there starting for 2020. They're auditioning already.
Elizabeth Warren raised $7 million for her campaign off of this stunt. She just signed a book deal, was just announced shortly before she pulled the stunts. And now, look at all the free publicity she's gotten since then. She's sent out fund raising letters, capitalizing on this. So, yes, it is clear that Elizabeth Warren is going to use this -- all this free media, all as much as she can. [21:25:05] Now, whether Mitch McConnell's decision to do this was purposeful or not remains to be seen in whether that pays off politically or not. I understand that because there are not nine Senate Democrats, I believe, that are up for reelection --
SETMAYER: -- in states that Trump won, so perhaps. But he has to remember that Trump didn't win by all that much in certain places. So, you know, we need to be careful with this.
COOPER: Attorney General Cuccinelli, was it a mistake for Senate Republicans to cut Senator Warren off last night?
KENNETH CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't know that it was. You know, we always celebrate when Nancy Pelosi gets reelected as the Democratic leader in the House. And this is the something of the equivalent. Certainly, when you ban a book, the sales go through the roof. They had to know this was going to happen, though, I think he give Mitch McConnell a little too much credit. You've got to balance that against the fact that these guys really believe this is the house of lords and they get all sniffety and uppity about people behaving differently.
And look, this was libel. This is libel. Forget Rule 19 now. He's not a racist. He's not a sexist. He's not a bigot. If he wanted to sue her for defamation, he'd win the case. He'd win the case. This is pathetic. It's sad. It's -- this is what the politics on the left. And I'm not going to describe it to all Democrats, but certainly, the vast base is driving the Democrat Party to this kind of name-calling.
Look at Cory Booker. Last year, Jeff Sessions was his good friend and his pal. Look, even if I'm doing something with a partner, if I think they're a racist, I'm not going to stand anywhere ever and say this is my good friend and my -- Cory Booker did all that. And now he's coming in and pulling stunts like Elizabeth Warren. It's really pathetic.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: For all the time, you know, the left, my leftist colleagues spend critiquing Donald Trump for what they see as mistruth and mischaracterizing him. I think it's time we expose the mistruths of Elizabeth Warren tonight.
To call Jeff Sessions radically hateful, was he exhibiting radical hate when he prosecuted the head of the KKK in Alabama and advocated for the death penalty? Was he exhibiting radical hate when he signed 10 pleadings against segregation or when voted for the 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act?
Attorney General Cuccinelli could not be more correct. This is libel. And Elizabeth Warren should be exposed. And I hope she is the Democratic nominee, because it will ensure Trump another four years.
COOPER: Jeff, could she be sued for libel? TOOBIN: Absolutely not, that's absurd. No, it's totally absurd. I mean, for one thing, a racist, those are statements of opinion. And in the United States, the First Amendment protects the opinion. So there could never be a libel suit case on this. Plus --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not true.
TOOBIN: There is truth as a defense. Jeff Sessions was denied an appeal -- a federal judgeship because of anti-civil rights activity in Alabama. So I don't think Jeff Sessions wants to have a trial about whether he's a racist.
MCENANY: One of his people who spoke against him recanted his testimony. That was highly of questionable what happen --
TOOBIN: You are totally wrong about that.
MCENANY: No, I agree with A.G. Cuccinelli here. It is absurd.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, the idea of the people recanted their testimony, the defendants in that case, the one who -- there's only one who's still alive, I'd interviewed those people. They did not recant their testimony.
SETMAYER: The son of one of the defendants came out and defended Jeff Sessions and said he wasn't a racist. And to Kayleigh's point --
COOPER: Right. His mom continues to say that he is --
SETMAYER: Right, and also the other allegations about things that Jeff Sessions allegedly said, there was -- one of the -- I can't think of his name right now, but he did go back and say, "Oh, well, maybe it wasn't him." The guy had a history of making statements that weren't necessarily true. And people took that and ran with it in '86.
COOPER: But those are -- I mean, those are all old charges.
COOPER: I mean, you know, Kayleigh points to a more recent record of Jeff Sessions, so is it really fair for Elizabeth Warren to be --
BEGALA: What Senator Warren was doing when she was silence, was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, who herself is the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. One of the highest honors Congress can award to someone. I presumed Senator Session voted for that. I certainly hope he did. I would expect he did. So, this is American icon who's no longer here. She wrote a letter strongly opposing Sessions for the judgeship that Jeffrey was talking about, and that's what Elizabeth Warren was reading -- COOPER: OK.
BEGALA: -- when somehow Senator McConnell got the papers and shut her up. She did not obey her boss, boss McConnell.
SETMAYER: -- Senator Santorum, he was -- he has been shut down before, decorum is important in this country. I encourage everyone to watch Marco Rubio's speech on decency. I didn't vote for him. I get it. But --
COOPER: We got to go. Attorney General Cuccinelli, last word.
CUCCINELLI: Yeah, Look, CNN's got a file, an in-kind donation to Elizabeth Warren's 2020 presidential campaign and be done with it. This panel is exactly what she wants going on. She's going to raise money off it. She's going to be the first native-American candidate, right, with three percent native-American, talk about a racialist. That's what we get with Elizabeth warren and she's accusing everybody else.
[21:30:05] SETMAYER: And that's why Mitch McConnell shouldn't have done what he did, because it gives the Democrats bother for like --
SETMAYER: -- like friends your doing at --
COOPER: Well, thanks to panel. Coming up, the president says based on what he has learned in the past two weeks, the threat of terrorism is far greater than the people of United States understand. Is it true, is it fear mongering, deflecting future blame coming for his travel ban or all the above or is he accurate? We'll get into that, next.
COOPER: As he defends his travel ban, President Trump's critics believe that he may be trying to ramp up the fear of terrorism. Without citing any specifics, the president said this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will work with you on the front lines to keep America safe from terrorism, which is what I began this with. Terrorism. A tremendous threat. Far greater than people in our country understand. Believe me, I've learned a lot in the last two weeks. And terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[21:35:08] COOPER: Joining me now is David Priess, former intelligence officer, and daily briefer at the CIA, and author of the, "President's Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's President from Kennedy to Obama". And CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen.
David, we're hearing a lot now from the White House just in the last couple days about concerns about terrorism. I mean there's certainly always been terrorism threats against the United States. The president gets a lot of information, obviously, the public will never get to see. David Gergen, what do you make of what the president is doing here?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I do think in fairness to him, it's often been true that people who come within the national security top echelons of the White House are quite stunned by how much information is coming in from around the world, by how many people are planning things and one thing another. And it can be -- it can be sort of the have a frightening quality to it. But even so, in this case, you know, the president and his team have justified the haste with which this executive order on travel was executed. They've justified the sort of going after these seven countries that -- when in fact there's no, no one since 2011 has ever killed, from one of those seven countries has been charged with a terrorist murder of any sort.
And so I think given all that, Anderson, and then especially given the fact that he so often exaggerates the threats, just as he did yesterday when he said the murder rate was down 45 percent over the last several years when it's not. I mean, it's gone up 45 percent, and that's not gone down.
In line of all that, his credibility being in question, I think it's really incumbent on the president and his people to tell us, OK, who urged -- who among his advisers actually briefed him and urged him to get this out. Who is really knows a lot about intelligence and the threats themselves who came in and talked to him.
It's not clear that anybody that --
GERGEN: --- anybody did.
COOPER: Yeah, because David -- you know --
GERGEN: And what -- and they give us -- the United States government ought to provide more information so we know how to judge this properly.
COOPER: Yeah. David Priess, I mean, the president essentially saying, you know, law enforcement types talked, you know, that he talked to told him he can't wait a week, can't wait a month. The idea that bad guys are going to run into the country in that week or in that month, I mean it does take a long time to get a visa though?
DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Yeah, it's surprising to me that this is even an issue, because of course he's going to see things in the president's daily brief that other people aren't seeing. Of course he's going to see things about threats that are based on classified information. That's not any surprise. His predecessors did this and not only them but the whole range of counterterrorism intelligence and law enforcement professionals have been looking at this kind of threat for many years, and that's why there are extensive vetting procedures for immigrants, for people applying for visas and refugees. That's already there.
One of the things that he said hasn't got much attention, it is in fact much more interesting. He says I've learned a lot in the last two weeks. That's not something the intelligence community expected to hear from him based on his rhetoric during the campaign, if he's admitted that he's learning something, he's getting to the point where Barack Obama was a few years ago when he said about his president's daily brief, every morning I get a thick book full of depth. That's what this is. It tells you about all the threats that are out there. And of course it widens your view once you incorporate all that information.
COOPER: I mean, David Gergen, it is, you know, I mean, to David Priess's point, we have heard from presidents in the past that it is an eye-opening experience to get all that information, and to suddenly sort of see the world in a different way.
PRIESS: Yeah, it is.
GERGEN: It is eye-opening. But the urgency with which they're acting is, if people are pouring across our borders, it just not borne out by any information we have. And it's just not true that these seven countries are flooding that, you know, the borders and pouring in here. And given all that and then to go to the court and insist this be done right away and they now go back through the appeals process and given to a fight with judiciary and then leave yourself sort of wide open.
If you're so concern about this, what about this odd things today, you know, that the president's daily public schedules call for him to have a briefing, his national security briefing in certain hour, and 20 minutes into that so-called briefing, he was tweeting about Ivanka.
PRIESS: Right, but --
GERGEN: You know, there's something peculiar about all this, it doesn't add up. And I think gives people a lot of pause of whether this is really being done for political reasons.
GERGEN: And frankly, the three judges that we heard last night, there was skepticism among those three.
COOPER: David --
GERGEN: Certainly with two of them. About whether, you know, whether the government had justified the urgency and what is being done to people's lives by these orders. [21:40:03] COOPER: David Priess, just very briefly, you know, it is also I think worth mentioning. People are, I believe, the last time I look at the statistics are less likely to die a violent death than anytime in human history, I mean wars are shorter. Fewer people are dying, you know, and all of us are less likely to die a violent death than generations past.
PRIESS: Yeah, the trend line is positive. There's no doubt about that, but the daily intelligence is not there to tell the president about all the things that have gone well. Its job is to highlight the threats so that they can be addressed. Now we're not seeing what's in that daily book. We're not seeing those threats, but it would surprise me if it's markedly different suddenly on January 21st of this year than it had been during the transition and then it had been in previous years when it comes to the fact that yes, terrorists are coming to America. How they're doing that, probably has not changed significantly just because we have a new president in office.
COOPER: Right, David Priess, David Gergen appreciate it, thanks.
Just ahead, the father of a little girl will meet her for the first time on Friday when he finally reaches the U.S. after years in a refugee camp unless the court ruling by the Ninth Circuit reinstates the travel ban. Their story ahead.
COOPER: As the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether to overturn or uphold the order of suspending President Trump's travel ban, refugees who have been cleared to come to the U.S. are trying to get here before the border possibly closes again. Including one father in Africa who's never met his daughter who lives here in the United States. Kyung Lah has their story.
[21:44:54] KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nimo Hashi is a broken wife without her husband, the mother of a toddler without her father. But on government papers, she's a Somali refugee, her husband trapped in Africa in a legal tug-of-war over the travel ban.
What is this back and forth in the courts like?
NIMO HASHI, SOMALI REFUGEE (Through Translator): I went from being happy to confused and angry, she says. You don't know what's real or not.
LAH: Are you worried he won't be coming?
Until I see him at the Salt Lake City airport, she says, I won't believe it.
The last time Hashi saw her husband was in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Both had fled the bloody civil war in Somalia.
You were pregnant at the time? HASHI: Yeah.
LAH: The U.S. refugee resettlement program brought to Hashi to Salt Lake City three years ago. Just this year her husband was finally cleared. But President Trump's executive order slammed the door shut, halting all refugee entries for 120 days. Hashi's husband stuck in Ethiopia.
ADEN BATAR, CATHOLIC COMMUNITY SERVICES: Actually, when the executive order came out, all these cases were canceled.
LAH: Aden Batar once a refugee himself says 69 refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and several African countries had entries canceled into Utah, many of them children.
BATAR: When you're telling somebody their loved one is not coming. I don't know if our president understands how that would be if he was told his wife was not coming or his daughter was not coming. How would he feel? I want him to think of that.
LAH: But then 180. A federal judge suspended the ban, and gave new hope to Nimo Hashi. Her husband's travel to the U.S. was back on.
Refugees began to trickle back into Utah days ago, greeted by hundreds of cheering Salt Lake City residents, even Utah's Republican governor Instagramed their arrival, saying, "We welcome Utah's newest pioneers."
How is the refugee program working for your state and its systems here?
GOV. GARY HERBERT, (R) UTAH: Very well.
LAH: Republican Governor Gary Herbert breaks ranks with fellow Republicans on the executive order. He supports the president's right to review immigration policy, but from the governor's advantage point?
HERBERT: Refugees, as I look at them, are people running away from bad circumstances. We've had some of that in our own culture. Maybe that makes us a little more sensitive to that issue, maybe a little bit more empathetic because of our own history in Utah.
BATAR: American Airline and their flight.
LAH: Written in erasable ink on this white board, the name of Abdulsalam Ahmed, that's Nimo Hashi's husband. He's now scheduled to arrive on Friday, when he will meet his daughter for the very first time in person.
Do you believe that it's going do happen?
By the will of God, she says.
COOPER: Kyung joins us now. So, what's happening in this refugee's case, I mean given the back and forth in the courts?
LAH: Oh well, because the current stance is that the ban has been suspended. The ninth circuit court has yet to rule, the ticket has been issued. We understand it is in his hands. He is prepared to come here, and so far, everything is going according to plan, but here is the catch. He doesn't land here until Friday. The refugee agency that is helping him says that they are just holding their breath. They're waiting to see what the decision from the court is going to be.
And so is his wife. She says she simply won't believe that he is here until he is here. If there is any blessing in this, Anderson, it's that his daughter who is just 2 years old, even though it impacts her so much, she's simply too young to understand. Anderson.
COOPER: Kyung, thanks. We'll continue to follow that.
Up next, President Trump responding to those who maybe thought he was kidding about building the border wall. He says he didn't kid.
Plus, for the first time we're getting a look at what he wants the ball to possibly look like.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight. Apprehensions at the southern border were down by 27 percent in January according to numbers obtained by CNN. Trump supporters may interpret that as validating his tough rhetoric. The drop is in line with yearly seasonal trends. Meanwhile President Trump is sticking with his promise to get wall built. Here's what he said this morning at a gathering of county sheriffs at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The wall is getting designed right now. Lot of people say, "Oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall." I wasn't kidding. I don't kid. I know we will have a wall, that will be a great wall and it will do a lot of -- will be a big help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well tonight, we have new details on that possible design from someone who knows the president well and was asked to help with the project. Here CNN's Rene Marsh.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRSPONDENT: One month after Donald Trump won the presidency, he turned to billionaire builder sometimes business partner and long time friend Jorge Perez for help building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Dubbed Miami's condo king, Perez's company has shaped skylines worldwide. In December, Perez received e- mail attachment with a message penned by Trump.
JORGE PEREZ, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: The handwriting was his that went with the attachments.
MARSH: The e-mail which CNN saw under the condition it not be shown was sent from the Trump Organization and signed by Trump. These images resemble the ones in the e-mail.
PEREZ: Inside was the wall, you know, the 2,000 mile 30 foot wall with some sketches. And he said would love to get you involved in this, please give me a call.
MARSH: A patrol road would separate the wall from a secondary barrier. Another e-mail attachment, a map showing the wall extending from California to West Texas. Though the images he received are unlikely the final plan, it's a look at Trump's early vision for the wall.
TRUMP: See that ceiling, that ceiling is much lower than my wall.
MARSH: Trump is spoken in general terms about the wall and the few details we have heard have changed, including that 2,000 mile length.
TRUMP: You have a lot of natural barriers and a lot of things, so the wall is a 1,000 miles, right?
MARSH: Former customs and border patrol agent Rowdy Adams worked the southern border during his 28-year career.
So when the president talks about the wall, it's often times in the terms of it would be a concrete wall, something similar to this. You say bad idea. Why?
[21:55:00] ROWDY ADAMS, RETIRED U.S. BORDER PATROL CHIEF: It's bad idea for primarily for an officer safety reason, you cannot see on the other side that to determine what it is that may be additional threats.
MARSH: Adams does see benefits of having two barriers in urban areas.
ADAMS: So a time somebody comes breeches that first barrier and gets across the roadway, in this particular case of an urban environment, you might want a secondary fence to slow them down until a response vehicle capacity wanting up that showing up in times.
MARSH: The White House did not deny that Trump reached out to Perez for help building the wall. In an e-mail to CNN a spokesperson said quote, we are not aware of any conversations between the two. A senior White House official speaking more generally tell CNN Trump has been looking at various blueprints and sketches of the wall along with his top advisers. Perez a Democrat turned it down Trump's request to help build the wall.
PEREZ: I think it's an insult to all Hispanics and maybe all immigrants in this country and also because I don't think it's going to achieve his purposes.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: So Rene, in this e-mail did it lay out any guarantees for actual in terms business partner accepted the job to be involved in building the wall?
MARSH: Right, so the e-mail asked Perez to get involved in the project but it did not offer a contract to build the wall for a specified amount of money of course. That would not be the way to go about this of -- as, you know, federal government infrastructure projects like building a wall, there is a process in place including a bidding process. So you can't just give preference to a friend who happens to be a builder. Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thanks very much. We'll be right back.