Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump, Canada's Trudeau Meeting Inside White House; Fate Of Trump's Security Adviser Hangs In Balance; Source: Flynn Spoke With Pence Twice Friday; Zero Evidence To Support Trump Voter Fraud Claims; Trump's Deportations: A Spike Or Business As Usual? Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 13, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining us today. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan begins right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Breaking news from the White House right now. President Trump meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau arriving just moments ago for his first meeting with the new president. Canada is of course one of America's closest allies. But how close a friend will these two leaders really be?

One glaring issue between the two men, Syrian refugee, the prime minister, Prime Minister Trudeau, he literally hugs them. President Trump just tried to ban them, and that's just one issue before these men right now.

we hearing about? What are we learning about this visit right now today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, Kate. Prime Minister Trudeau just arrived and was greeted by President Trump. They'll be spending quite a bit of time together in meetings, they'll have a working lunch, and they'll have a joint press conference later.

Now Trudeau is really seen as a liberal icon in Canada. So this is a very different relationship he's likely to have with President Trump than he did with President Obama.

As you pointed out, they have sharply different views, for instance, on how to deal with Syrian refugees. But you are getting a sense that they want to start things off on the right foot with one another and on common ground.

They're expected to unveil a joint initiative today to promote the advancement of female entrepreneurs. Trudeau has made no secret of the fact that he'd used himself as a staunch feminist. So this is an opportunity for them to say, hey, there is some common ground.

We will see if that unified front holds over into the press conference this afternoon, though -- Kate. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And as you say, we may see them in a meeting in the oval office later this hour, also very much waiting for that joint press conference later this afternoon. Sara is there for us. Thank you so much, Sara.

So this visit comes at a wild time for this White House, amid rumors and reports of a possible staff shake-up in the works. At the center, the president's national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

A senior White House official telling CNN that in this person's words, "The knives are out" for Flynn after reports that he discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador before President Trump even took office.

And then after, misled or maybe even lied to White House officials including the vice president about those conversations. "The Washington Post" first broke the story.

Philip Rucker, the White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post," is joining me now. Phil, it's great to see you. We haven't heard anything from the president on this issue, that's almost what surprises me most.

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, it's pretty striking. It's now been four days since the story broke and President Trump has said nothing, signaled nothing to indicate his support for his national security adviser, which is one of the reasons why Flynn is in such a precarious position right now.

It's not just the president. Nobody from the White House has come forward publicly to defend him and to ensure the American people that he has the president's confidence, which is leading a lot of people inside the White House to turn on Flynn. And there's a feeling from people I talked to over the weekend at the White House that Flynn's days may be numbered.

BOLDUAN: I mean, from what you're hearing over at the White House, is it conceivable, Phil, that he could lie to the vice president and keep his job, if that all turns out to be true?

RUCKER: Possibly. I think the thing going for him most of all is that Donald Trump may not want to give into what has now become sort of a media controversy and basically give the media a scalp. He may want to dig in his heels and defend his guy, but that hasn't happened yet.

And certainly Vice President Pence is quite upset that Flynn misled him or may have lied to him. But it's not just Pence, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, both went out publicly to defend Flynn back in January, and insist to the American people that Flynn did not have those conversations with the Russian ambassador.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to Flynn, I mean, really kind of amid all of the rumors of staff shake-ups that's going on right now, it's almost like there's a question mark, Phil, hanging over his head and his future, is even more damaging. Does the president have to come out and say something one way or the other, a vote of confidence or we're parting ways?

RUCKER: He doesn't have to. He'll say whatever he wants to say whenever he wants to say it. But the problem for Flynn is it's created this period of paralysis where we're now going on four days where Flynn doesn't have that public vote of confidence, where if people who work with Flynn see him as somehow weakened or undermined.

And it's created a lot of controversy and drama around the National Security Council that inhibits their ability to do work at a real important time. We have the North Korean missile tests over the weekend, for example. There are serious issues that the NSC and the administration have to be dealing with.

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly, North Korea, put that point front and center over the weekend. Great to see you, Phil. Thank you.

RUCKER: Thank you, Kate.

[11:05:03]BOLDUAN: We are keeping an eye on the White House. Let's talk more about all of this that Phil has been reporting and we've gotten reports on. With me right now is Colin Kahl, the deputy assistant to President Obama and also the national security adviser to Vice President Biden.

Colin, it's great to see you. You were Vice President Biden's national security adviser. If he had gone out and defended you and found out later that the story was something quite different than what you had told him, what would have happened to you?

COLIN KAHL, EX-DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO OBAMA AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO BIDEN: I think I probably would have been fired.

BOLDUAN: That's the big question, what time period, what amount of investigation needs to be done here? From your perspective, can Michael Flynn function in his role successfully after this?

KAHL: I think there are really two issues. One is whether he indeed did mislead not only the public but also the vice president, potentially investigators and others. I think that's really important. So right now, let's go to the White House. That's where CNN Sara Murray is there. Sara, what are But the other question, which I think shouldn't be lost in all of

this, is why did he mislead, if he did? Because after all, the sanctions were put on the Russians because the intelligence community overwhelmingly concluded that they Russians tried to influence our election to tilt it towards Donald Trump.

The question is why was Donald Trump's national security adviser in waiting having conversations with the Russian ambassador to potentially lift those sanctions against Russian behavior, implying it's no big deal?

BOLDUAN: If these conversations are further confirmed, if this comes out, and Michael Flynn stays in his job, what does that do?

KAHL: I think a lot of it depends on his relationship with the president. At the end of the day, the national security adviser has authority to the degree to which they are perceived throughout the government as having the reflective authority of the president, that they are the last person in the room or one of the last people in the room.

I think if this scandal kind of creates a friction or a gap between Flynn and Trump and you also have the fact that Steve Bannon, for example, or Jared Kushner apparently are much closer to the president and have his ear much more often than Flynn, then it makes Flynn look weak.

The challenge is it's difficult to run a process that provides the president with the best advice and kind of coral the rest of the government if you look weak.

BOLDUAN: And there are reports, you go from Flynn to the National Security Council at large, that there is disarray there as well. "The New York Times" had an amazing passage, "Three weeks into the Trump administration council staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump's Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them.

Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls. Some staff members have turned to encrypted communication to talk with their colleagues after hearing that Mr. Trump's top advisers are considering an insider threat program that could result in monitoring cellphones and e-mails for leaks."

When you see that, do you think this is a growing pain of a new administration or is this something more?

KAHL: It's something more. I think what people have to understand is that the National Security Council staff is nonpolitical. The vast majority of that staff is kind of the all-star team from around the government, the best intelligence officers, the best people from the Pentagon, the best people from the State Department, who go there and work 14 to 16 hours a day, 6-1/2 days a week, to keep us safe.

When the Obama administration transitioned, they kept the vast majority of that staff and it was relatively smooth. The fact that there is such friction and such a gap between the politicals over in the west wing and the hundreds of men and women who help keep our country safe, that's a big problem.

BOLDUAN: I want to talk to you about another issue, speaking of disarray, and something that you think is misleading is, the White House, their defense, their explanation for the Yemen raid and the lead-up to it, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this about the planning timeline. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On January 6th, there is an interagency deputies meeting. The deputies recommended at that time they go ahead. It was so easily approved, it was sent straight up. The conclusion at that time was to hold for what they call a moonless night, which by calendar wouldn't occur until then-President-elect Trump was President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Colin, you were in that January 6th meeting. You say this is wrong. What did they get wrong?

KAHL: Pretty much all of it. Yes, I was a standing member of the Deputy's Committee, I was the vice president's representative on that committee. The Pentagon came to the White House shortly before Christmas with a request for a generally set of expanded authorities to conduct raids like this.

But they never briefed the president or the cabinet or the deputies on a particular raid against a particular target or compound. We did have a meeting on January 6th to discuss the generic authorities to do more stuff like this and the deputies concluded and made the recommendation to the president that he defer this to the new Trump administration so they could run a careful process.

[11:10:04]Because this was a significant escalation that would put our men and women in harm's way in a very dangerous environment and the president didn't want to jam Trump with that in the closing days of the administration.

The president was then briefed on that recommendation to defer to Trump and he agreed. So that's what happened and the reality is, apparently, you know, Trump was briefed on this by his new secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, who I respect an enormous amount, and Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs over dinner with very few members of the government present, and green lit the raid, and it went sideways.

And the Pentagon is now on record saying that they did not ask for the authority to do this raid, nor this moonless night issue, until after January 20th. So pretty much everything that Sean Spicer said was false.

BOLDUAN: What about the moonless night bit? He said the only thing that held it up from not happening under Obama was that the next moonless night was going to be when Trump took office.

KAHL: Yes. It's fan fiction. The reality was there was never an operation or raid briefed to the Obama administration, period. There was not a decision about, we could do the raid but it would have to be on a moonless night and that would have to happen after Trump came into office. The decision was whether there -- of these type of things in general and the deputy said no, not under our administration, this should be a decision for the next team.

BOLDUAN: So are you saying Sean Spicer is lying? Can you both be right? KAHL: We cannot both be right. I don't know whether he's lying or he was reading off of a piece of paper that had the wrong information, but what he said during that press conference was false.

BOLDUAN: Colin Kahl, thanks for coming in, really appreciate it.

KAHL: Sure.

BOLDUAN: We'll go to the White House and see what else they can give us on these details and the lead up in the planning of that raid. We'll get back to you after that.

All right, so from the integrity of our national security to the integrity of our national elections now, voter fraud, not just any voter fraud, but widespread, coordinated illegal voting. That has been President Trump's defense for why he didn't win the popular vote in November. Still no evidence provided there.

Now he and his staff are getting more specific with their allegations, but again, not with any evidence. This weekend, the president's senior policy adviser claimed people were bussed into New Hampshire from Massachusetts during the election to vote there illegally. Trump lost that state to Hillary Clinton. Listen here to more from Stephen Miller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, TRUMP SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: I have actually, having worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire, I can tell you that this issue of bussing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who has worked in New Hampshire politics, it's very real, it's very serious.

This morning on this show is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence, but I can tell you this. Voter fraud is a serious problem in this country. Go to New Hampshire, talk to anybody who has worked in politics for a long time, everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That's Stephen Miller. Let's go to someone who has worked in New Hampshire politics for a very long time, Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general. He's been involved in New Hampshire politics since the 1960s.

He's been a New Hampshire delegate to every Republican National Convention since 1984. He was also a senior adviser to the presidential campaigns of Republicans Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, and Bob Dole. Did I leave anything important out of your bio there?

TOM RATH, FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE ATTORNEY GENERAL: I had an interesting moment here, given the perspective we're trying to bring to this.

BOLDUAN: Safe to say, you know New Hampshire politics. You not only call the allegations, what you heard from Stephen Miller there, baseless, you also called the talk of it, when the talk included of course Donald Trump talking about it in a meeting with lawmakers, talk of this shameful. Please explain.

RATH: Well, I think if you're going to make allegations of wrongdoing particularly about something like an election that goes to the core of our democracy, you have an obligation to be truthful and forth right and have a factual basis for the allegations you're making.

In this case, the comments I saw from Mr. Miller yesterday are not connected to reality. They did not happen. I think people should start talking about it. That did not happen. People were not bussed in here illegally to vote. That did not happen.

BOLDUAN: So Tom, when you see these claims, though, not just coming out from anybody, coming out from the White House, from the president, from the president's senior policy adviser no less, what do you say?

RATH: Well, in New Hampshire, we take our elections very seriously. It's really an awful lot about who we are, how we see ourselves, why we have the first in the nation primary.

And I think anybody who is going to call into question the legitimacy of that process, wherever they sit but particularly if they're in a public office, has an obligation to do so with a basis of facts and not rumors and have the ability to prove it.

This case, they didn't have it. It is unfortunate and I think one shouldn't spread rumors that have no basis in fact, no matter where you sit.

[11:15:08]BOLDUAN: Well, I mean, in that very same election in New Hampshire, voters of course elected a Republican governor. In your vast experience in New Hampshire politics, do people voting illegally usually split tickets?

RATH: Well, I think, we have election laws which guarantee fair elections, not perfect elections. Can we tighten them up? Sure, we can. Can we do more with things like the current technology that has not yet been fully implemented, of course, we can. But the basic integrity of these elections, given that it's run by people who have done elections for 30 and 40 years, some of them almost as old as I am, should not be questioned irresponsibly.

BOLDUAN: So Stephen Miller, the evidence that he provided for New Hampshire voter fraud was none, other than saying talk to Kris Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas. Kobach has agreed with Donald Trump's assertions that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in the election.

Kris Kobach is a very strong proponent saying that this all happened meaning people -- widespread voter fraud and illegal votes happening in the election. What's your message to Kris Kobach?

RATH: I'll tell you, bussing people into New Hampshire, no one has seen the busses. They're like the Yettis, a great part of myth that doesn't occur. We have enough to talk about that's serious and matters to people without creating false stories that have no basis in fact. If we're going to have this discussion, we'll have it based on fact, not innuendo. It's disappointing that people who have a high degree of responsibility don't base their comments on what's really happening.

BOLDUAN: We'll continue to talk about it and bring all the facts to it. Tom Rath, thank you so much.

RATH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up for us, immigration raids in half a dozen states. Is that new under President Trump or is this business as usual? A former top official at ICE is going to be joining me live.

Plus Al Franken says Republicans are telling him that they're worried about Donald Trump's mental health. Not a joke. Is that fair or out of bounce? We'll discuss.

And breaking news out of California, America's tallest dam on the verge of breaking. Hundreds of thousands evacuating as we speak. We're going to take you there live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:21:13]

BOLDUAN: Immigrant rights activists and Democratic lawmakers are raising the alarm over new raids that rounded up hundreds of undocumented immigrants. Operations were carried out in at least half a dozen states across the country. These are the first to be carried out under the Trump administration.

Joining me now to discuss is John Torres, a former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and president of Compliance Guidepost Solutions. John, thank you so much for coming in.

JOHN TORRES, FORMER ICE ACTING DIRECTOR: My pleasure, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Can you put all of these in your experience, put these numbers in context for everyone. Hundreds of people picked up in raids in at least half a dozen states. Is this a spike? Is this unusual?

TORRES: I can tell you what is unusual. While they may be targeting a number of criminals across the country, and they do this annually, operation cross-check takes place every year.

But in this case what's different is that the numbers you are seeing also include non-criminals, people that weren't part of their prioritization or targets.

And so what we're seeing is in the past, if they wanted to target a priority, they were let go. They weren't brought into custody and what we saw over the weekend or this past week really is that they are now taking those people into custody too. BOLDUAN: So to kind of take a step further on that, President Obama during his time in office was criticized by many immigration advocates for his aggressive deportation policies. He deported I think it was 2.4 some million in his time in office.

The difference here is, we're seeing Obama always said he was focused on deporting violent criminals. The reports over the weekend are that immigrants without criminal records, some of them were caught up in this.

Do you see this as a big difference, as something significant, or is this, I don't know if this fits into a category of a growing pain of an administration trying to get its feet under itself?

TORRES: I do see this as a subtle shift. One of the byproducts, the unintended consequences of many of these jurisdictions not cooperating with ICE is that historically, if you targeted a criminal and they were already in custody, in jail, you could transfer them in that custodial setting from the jail right into federal custody. What you're seeing today now is that ICE has to send agents out in the community to arrest those same people.

BOLDUAN: John, let me jump in just one second. We're seeing right now new tape coming in of President Trump meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Hello. I think they might want a handshake. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, press, thank you very much.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can go out through these doors. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: A lot to say in that meeting. A photo opportunity between the president and prime minister. They'll be holding a joint news conference in just a few hours, we'll bring that to you live.

John, sorry to cut you off. I do want to ask you, when you look at these raids, we're now -- it's been three weeks since the president has been in office.

But how much advanced -- how far in advance are operations like this, coordinated in a half a dozen states, how far in advance are they planned? Could they all have been planned out since the executive order from President Trump was signed, I think it was just a little over two weeks ago?

[11:25:03]TORRES: No, not operations of this size. Maybe if you're going out to arrest a few people, two or three, maybe even five. But when you're talking hundreds in multiple cities across the country, it takes usually a couple of months, because there's a lot of vetting involved, research and analytics that have to go into setting up the targets and coordinating the logistics.

BOLDUAN: So in your mind, this has been in the planning process since Obama?

TORRES: Yes, absolutely, at least a couple of months.

BOLDUAN: Interesting. John Torres, thanks so much for laying it out and giving us some perspective. We really appreciate it.

TORRES: My pleasure, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up for us, it's only been 25 days but President Trump's inner circle seems to be facing some major disarray right now. Several of his advisors reportedly on thin ice, in the hot seat, whatever metaphor you want to pick. Who is to blame and who is going to go, if anybody?

Plus when North Korea launched its missile, Donald Trump and his team were sitting at dinner. Did they openly discuss strategy in the middle of a ding room with Japan's leader at the Trump hotel? What happened here? We'll take you there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)