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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Discusses Rising Anti-Semitism; Immigration Crackdown; Ceasefire On Edge As Hostilities Surge; Russian-Backed Rebels Fighting Ukrainian Troops; President & Ivanka Visit African American Museum; Ivanka Calls For Tolerance After Jewish Center Threats; 3-Year-Old Giant Panda Leaves National Zoo For China. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 21, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, earlier today -- Sara Murray talked about this in your show, Jake.

Today is the first time the president addressed this recent spike. After deflecting question several times, having several opportunities to talk about it, today, President Trump called the anti-Semitic incidents -- quote -- "horrible" and said they have to stop.

And then in the daily White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the president will continue working to unify the country and speak out against these hate crimes -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Turning back to politics now, today is the first day on the job for Scott Pruitt, the man tasked with running the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt addressed employees this afternoon as he begins to move forward with an ambitious agenda, including promoting fossil fuel production and rolling back Obama era regulations.

CNN government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh joins me now.

Rene, what did Pruitt have to say?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was interesting to see him standing before the employees of the agency that he sued at least 12 times.

But he set the tone. There was a room full of about 75 EPA employees and he set the tone that there was a new sheriff in town. There would be no over-regulation. There would be no overreach.

Actually, we have some sound from him as he spoke to those EPA employees today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PRUITT, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR: I believe that we as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment, that we don't have to choose between the two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: So, in that sound bite there, you also heard he took a bit of a reassuring tone as well for anyone concerned that if anyone who says that there is going to be a rollback of regulations could mean that the environment is forgotten. He's saying there that you can do two things at once. You can roll back regulation and keep the environment in mind as well.

He also told the employees that he plans to listen, learn and lead.

TAPPER: What's on the top of the agenda for him?

MARSH: So, we know where Pruitt as well as Trump stands on overall regulations and we do expect the EPA will reflect that stance.

But in speaking with environmentalists and even conservative think tanks today, both sides agree these are the rules that are most vulnerable under the Trump administration, the Clean Power Plan, which really has an emphasis on greenhouse gases, emissions from power plants. Of course, that's the cornerstone of the climate change initiative under the Obama administration.

We expect that to be rolled back. Also, you see there the waters of the United States rule. That is a rule that essentially gives the federal government broad authority to police the streams and waterways of the United States to make sure that they are not polluted. Farmers, for example, don't like that because they say it restricts what sort of activities they can do on their own land.

And the third one that you saw there, Jake, the moratorium on leasing federal land for coal mining, obviously, that direct contradiction. If you're trying to curb carbon emissions, to go ahead and lease federal land for coal mining would be problematic. A moratorium was put in place under the Obama administration. We expect to see that being relaxed under the Trump administration as well.

TAPPER: All right. Rene Marsh, you're going to have to cover over the next four to eight years.

New immigration guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the White House's revised travel ban, what those guidelines mean for undocumented immigrants -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:40]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Sticking with our politics lead today, the Department of Homeland Security laid out the Trump administration's plans for aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.

The guidance explains how the administration plans to act on the presidents' executive orders, including hiring 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, building that wall along the southern border, creating more detention facilities for undocumented immigrants and designating a new office in the department to help victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, taking all of the funds previously used to advocate for undocumented immigrants.

For now, the Trump administration says it will leave intact the Obama era protections for immigrants who were brought into this country illegally while they were children, these individuals known as dreamers.

DHS officials say the policies mostly enforce existing laws and will not lead to mass roundups of undocumented immigrants.

Let's bring in my panel now to talk about it all.

Mary Katharine, Sean Spicer today said the goal is not mass deportation, but it certainly looks like there is going to be a lot more people deported than in previous administrations.

Obama, by the way, got hammered for deporting too many people, according to advocates.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does certainly sound like the number of people eligible for deportation would go up and that they are making plans for how to staff up to make that happen.

First of all, a little bit of progress on the idea there are guidance memos for how this might take place.

TAPPER: Baby steps, right, yes.

HAM: But I think, like all things Trump, you're going to get a mixed bag in this. In this case, you're going to get more enforcement, which is partly what a lot of people voted for.

TAPPER: Right.

HAM: And frankly people who commit fraud, that is a crime in this country, in addition to being here illegally. Making an argument against that is politically perilous, I think, for Democrats.

But, on the other hand, you're going to get what he said at his press conference, which was largely missed last week, about the dreamers, which was quite sanguine and seemed to suggest that he was not going to work on deporting them. So, again, it's very Trump.

It's hot and cold at the same time.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: It's mass deportation. I'm sorry.

TAPPER: It is mass deportation?

POWERS: If you look at it, unless people decide for some reason to not act on -- if ICE decides that they're not going to act on this, that somehow -- in the executive order, they talk about deputizing local law enforcement officials.

If all these people are suddenly going to not follow through with this, then I guess it's not mass deportation.

But it talks about -- this is one of the criteria. Under Obama, you had basically -- if you were a serious criminal that posed a threat to society, then you would get deported.

[16:40:02]

If you were somebody who is basically not threatening anybody, you wouldn't. Here, one of the areas is anyone who has committed acts that could constitute a chargeable criminal offense.

Well, unlawful entry into the country is a criminal offense.

TAPPER: If you exist and you're in this country, yes.

POWERS: Any undocumented immigrant who is basically just a functioning member of society who came here because they wanted a job and to support their family and who have children and grandparents here are now targets to be deported.

HAM: My understanding is that it was beyond that initial offense.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: That's not what it says.

HAM: Even if it was minor...

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: No, that's not what it says.

TAPPER: Even today, Sean Spicer said anyone who is in this country illegally is liable.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: There is also kind of the time and the space issues.

Under the Obama administration, that guideline became if you were within 100 miles of the border, if it was within two weeks of your arrival here. Those guidelines are scrapped now. I believe they're moving to kind of a two-year timeline for this to apply to you, and it could be anywhere in the country.

But I think there's two things that I think are worth keeping an eye on politically outside of these specific issues. And one has to do with the number, 10,000 new hires. That is really important in terms of the president attempting to build support within that law enforcement community.

This is a job creation measure that is going to have to be paid for. The other is Mexico, because part of these guidelines go to the idea that Central Americans who are caught kicked back to Mexico pending their hearings. None of that is worked out. It needs to be negotiated with Mexico.

HAM: I was going to say, as far as being politically perilous on the conservative side of this, if you are going to engage in a mass deportation plan and hire 10,000 more agents, and you, like I, are concerned that maybe the federal government is not good at actually doing things that it says it is going to do, you run into the same problem, where you end up possibly with the serious criminals still here, because the agencies are not doing -- they're not focusing on the thing that is most important.

POWERS: You also end with people who now are not going to report any crimes. They're not going to talk to the police.

That makes everybody less safe. If you are now an undocumented immigrant and something happens to you, there is no way in the world you are going to talk to a police officer, who now may be deputized to deport you, to literally act an immigration agent.

They also have something in there about prosecuting and deporting parents who pay smugglers to bring their children from Central America. Now, this is actually sick. I'm sorry. These are children that are fleeing for their lives. These are parents who are in horrible situations where they have decided this is the worst thing that I could -- out of all my options, this is the best decision that's better than having my child maybe being killed by a gang member.

TAPPER: The least worst option.

POWERS: The least worst option. Sorry.

And they're going to literally prosecute them and deport them for trying to save their children's lives.

TAPPER: It is definitely a new day. And, as you said, voters did vote for that.

While we're talking about crime, I want to share some video. There was a riot in Sweden last night, with all the focus on President Trump's clumsily delivered comments about a terrorist incident that never actually happened. He was actually referring to a segment he'd seen on FOX News.

There were immigrants to blame for this riot in Stockholm. And I think it's interesting just because the truth of the matter is that if you read about what's going on in Sweden, immigrants, and it's not a surprise, there aren't a lot of jobs for them and obviously poorer communities tend to commit more crimes.

There is an increased level of crime, maybe not as bad as some are depicting it, but assaults are up, rapes are up. This is just according to police statistics in Sweden.

HAM: Right.

I think there is a practice that I try every day, which is hold two ideas in my head at the same time, which is that President Trump should be vastly more careful with the way he says these things. And also let's not pretend that there is no problem at all in Sweden, because that drives the people who are listening to Trump to not believe us, because there are problems with assimilation.

There are problems with unaccompanied minors, many of whom because there is an open door are not actually as minor as they say they are, and trying to figure out how to get those folk into society without being brought into sex slave rings and all sorts of stuff, because there is no one being held accountable for where they are and what they're doing.

TALEV: But this is another example of the old adage that words matter.

And there is some incongruity in the way the president has treated this, because, on the one hand, he is dipping into another country's business. Obviously, Swedish officials are aware of the issues that they have and how serious those issues are.

President Trump, when it comes to issues like the Middle East or even Russia, has said repeatedly it's not for us to impose our ideals on other countries. But when you go and make statements that are going to obviously cause a massive news event in that other country, what you're doing is having an impact on the other country.

TAPPER: Kirsten, Margaret, Mary Katharine, thanks, one and all, for being here. Really appreciate it.

Be sure to tune in to CNN tomorrow night for the Democratic leadership debate moderated by CNN's Chris Cuomo and CNN's Dana Bash. It all starts at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Who is going to lead that party out of the wilderness?

Is Vladimir Putin sabotaging the cease-fire between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine? What the Russian president did next.

Then, showing the softer side of the White House. Is there a political purpose behind the first daughter's Instagram account?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. Let's turn to our "WORLD LEAD" now. A hasty ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels appears to be faltering. The truce took effect just yesterday in the eastern part of the country. According to the organization for security and cooperation in Europe, there have been more than 700 violations on both sides over the last 24 hours. This all, of course, comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin just issued an executive order recognizing the travel documents issued by separatist authorities in Eastern Ukraine. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground in the Ukrainian Capital of Kiev. And Nick, thousands have been killed in the nearly three years of violence in that country. Where do things stand on the ground right now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still pretty horrific, Jake, for the civilians who are trapped on those frontlines there. We were a few weeks ago on both sides and regular shelling makes even getting water, food, often a difficult task. Now, I should say the OSC monitors who have been trying to keep a handle on this conflict for the past months or years here, reported in the last 24 hours, slight reduction in the number of explosions they hear.

[16:50:00] But we're talking about this going from 700 to about maybe 400 or so. These numbers are quite meaningless, frankly, to those of you at home, but it means one thing, we see violence go up and down here depending on which day of the week you are looking at, but it never really stops. There's never really the ceasefire that all sides say they're trying to get behind. And that is one fatal thing, Jake, it really undermines confidence in the political process here. It's evident from everyone you speak to hatred on both sides of the line between separatists and Ukrainian is growing. And that simply have been amplified, I think it's fair to say by the Kremlin's executive order over the weekend.

While on one hand, they were talking about imposing this ceasefire or trying to get behind it. They're also at the same time recognizing documents issued by the separatist de facto authorities in those rebel-held separatist areas, parts of Eastern Ukraine. That means you've got a driving license, a divorce document, a passport from those separatist authorities, Russia will recognize it. You can get into Russia perhaps on that separatist passport. Some say that's one step towards potentially recognizing those separatist territories by Moscow. And it had one important effect here, Ukrainian hardliners, Ukrainian security officials in Kiev where I'm standing, talking about how this basically means Russia doesn't want anything more to do with the so-called Minsk agreements, the big peace deal that was supposed to try and quiet the violence down.

We've heard Ukraine officials talking about the need to retake parts of the separatist area in the months ahead. It's highly volatile here. And in this new geopolitical world we're taking about, Jake, here with an uncertain White House vision for the Ukrainian conflict. Many are worried we may see a full-blown conflict start again here, as both sides try to cease the initiative. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine for us. Nick, stay safe, thank you so much. Showing the softer side of Donald Trump, how first daughter Ivanka is trying to humanize her father and change the White House image from Tweetalot to Camelot. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: We're back with more on our "POLITICS LEAD". Today, as President Trump visited the National Museum of African- American History and Culture, Ivanka Trump was by his side. It's a now familiar scene, as the first daughter made the move to Washington along with her family and her father. President Trump himself confirmed last week that Ivanka will be helping First Lady Melania Trump with some of her initiatives. But Ivanka Trump's most important role right now might be humanizing her dad. Here with me is CNN White House Reporter Kate Bennett. Kate, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Sure.

TAPPER: Before the president or any other member of the Trump family reacted to the threats on the Jewish community centers, Ivanka tweeted out, "America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship and religious centers." Her father, critics have said, was rather slow to issue such a statement, but the daughter clearly seemed to pave the way for him a little bit.\

BENNETT: Yes. And I think it's - it's not that unusual for Ivanka to sort of take these heart issues and tweet about them, and be - you know, humanize these issues. Also, I mean, she's Orthodox Jewish. She's a - you know, she married Jared Kushner, she converted. She's raising her kids orthodox, it sounds like. So, it's not unusual that she was first. It may have helped give her dad that push to say, you know, "You should do this, too" as we saw him this morning.

TAPPER: And also remember, when he was feuding with Nordstrom for cancelling Ivanka's line of clothing and shoes, he said, "She is always trying to get me to do the right thing."

BENNETT: Yes.

TAPPER: That was -

BENNETT: And that's been her role, really, from the beginning. You can look back as far as the campaign, and she really sort of helped to be that surrogate who, you know, fostered this nice guy image that we don't get to see. And she's still doing that in many ways.

TAPPER: So, take a picture - take a look at this picture of Ivanka Trump getting quite some access. I think some comedian joke, it was "take your daughter to workday". There she is at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, flanked by the Prime Minister of Canada and her father, the president. They talked off the record about women's issues. But I guess the question, is she actually having any major effect on policy?

BENNETT: So this is the bizarre part, because she has no official role, and yet, she's at the Resolute Desk with a major leader of a world country and her father. So, there's no -- nothing official, and yet, she is sort of official. She's the one we're seeing at the press conferences. She's the one we're seeing with her dad when they toured Boeing. So, I think she is pushing the ball forward, I think she is going to help out. I mean, he even -- he said that last week, that he was going to help Melania, Mrs. Trump. But officially, we still haven't gotten that title, we still haven't gotten an office, we still don't know exactly what the role is going to be.

TAPPER: That's very interesting. And quickly, there's obviously a lot of documentation going on about her family, kind of warming her father's image a little.

BENNETT: Yes, agreed. It's a very humanizing thing to do. But who doesn't love to see these cute little kids that's smooched up against the Oval Office glass. And holding hands with the grandpa Trump. But sort of this role that we're not used to seeing him in, I think Ivanka does a really good job of telling that story at a time when he probably needs a little bit of that warm and fuzzy. She's also sort of blow the lid off what life is like for kid inside the White House. We never saw this with the Obama's kids. They were very private, young. And we're getting a glimpse inside this world thanks in part to Ivanka and her -- I think she has 6 1/2 million followers on her social media.

TAPPER: Very impressive. Kate Bennett, thank you so much. And finally from us today ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYAN FONTANA: And watch, the mood is tense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Tense indeed, Bryan Fontana, because it's time to say bye-bye to Bao Bao. The National Zoo's three-year-old giant panda is returning to her ancestral home today. This afternoon, Bao Bao boarded the FedEx "Panda Express" in a specialized crate bound for China. No complimentary peanuts, but the Panda will have 55 pounds of bamboo for the flight. Bao Bao was always set to make the move. Most captive giant pandas are on loan from the government of China. Cubs born abroad are sent home to participate in a cooperative breeding program. The National Zoo first received a state gift of two pandas in 1972 as a gesture of good will, and has participated in so-called "panda diplomacy" ever since.

That's it for THE LEAD. Jake Tapper here. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, immigrant -