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WH: NRA Doesn't Have Concerns About Trump; Massive Late-Winter Storm Slamming Northeast Coast; FBI Investigating Ivanka Trump Brokered Business Deal; Baldwin: "It's Like Agony" Impersonating Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 2, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:06] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN REPORTER: But you do have Sarah Sanders and folks in the White House having to go on cleanup duty. Here is what she had to say in terms of where the president is on guns.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think the NRA has had concerns with this president. He's been very committed to supporting the Second Amendment but also looking for ways that we can promote school safety and reduce gun violence.

The president has already expressed support for Senator Cornyn's legislation. He's also supported the stop gun violence act, and he is looking for ways that we can improve the mental health systems. These are all the types of things that he's looking for and hope are reflected in legislation that Congress puts forward.


HENDERSON: And Perry, one of the things we've seen is some companies say that they're going to raise the age limit. Why isn't that something that the president sort of embraces and almost takes credit for?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I'm not sure why. He probably should because that would be a way -- he wants to avoid -- he's not going to sign a bill, I don't think, on gun control because I don't think he'll ever get one.

Exactly, right. I think in some ways, we should emphasize that Republicans Mitch McConnell and Ryan as Jonathan said earlier are not going to do it. Though his comments are like, you know, (INAUDIBLE) he's trying to -- to me, he said those three things that are politically appealing knowing he will never have to actually to act on them. Some (INAUDIBLE).

HENDERSON: Right, right.

BACON: And so the private is moving. I think that's relative to notice that Walmart, a lot of big companies are moving. That tells you --


BACON: The public sentiment is clear where it's going. Why not go there knowing you will never have to actually -- take the base because you will never actually get a bill at your desk.

HENDERSON: And Kaitlan, we were told that at some point, the president would roll something out in terms of where he is on guns. The bipartisan meeting ended that because he was all over the place.

When can we expect something from this White House, or are they just waiting on, I don't know, Congress to act?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House doesn't even know because they were going to roll out these proposals by the end of the week. It's Friday. They're not rolling out anything because they don't know where they stand.

And Sarah Sanders just said there that the -- she doesn't think the NRA is worried about where the president stands on guns. But I think (INAUDIBLE) the CEOs, the NRA actually was --


COLLINS: -- out of the window after the president during that meeting with lawmakers that he doesn't even think that there should be due process in some cases that we should take the guns now and worry about due process later.

I'm from Alabama. I'm from a (INAUDIBLE) state. A lot of conservatives. I can't get over how striking it is that the Republican president made a comment like that advocating --


COLLINS: They think -- yes, a lot of the concerns is how is this going to affect the midterms. How is this going to affect -- whatever. There are a lot of conservatives who have voted for the president that will side with him when he makes a decision some things. Guns is not that subject.

They will never side with him saying he wants to raise the age limit to 21. They will never side with him saying things like you don't need due process first, you need to take the guns first.

If Barack Obama had said that which you could say --

HENDERSON: Which they sort of believed he thought (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: If Barack Obama made a comment like that, it would light the world on fire.

HENDERSON: Yes. OK. We're going to have to wrap there.

Up next, hurricane-like conditions, coastal flooding and heavy snow. We'll have the latest on that powerful winter storm that's slamming the northeast.


[12:37:44] HENDERSON: A huge chunk of the country is getting slammed right now with a late winter storm that is not playing around and is very serious business. Eighty million people are in the path of this nor'easter and it's going to make this weekend very dangerous. At worst and certainly inconvenient for millions of people.

CNN's Brynn Gingras -- sorry about that is in south of Boston in (INAUDIBLE) Massachusetts and we got meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's in the CNN's weather center.

Brynn, please tell me that people that are in the path of this storm are taking it seriously and preparing for it to get much uglier over the next couple hours.

BRYNN GINGRAS, NATIONAL CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Nia. I mean, we were actually here at early January where there was the sort of storm, had a little bit of snow in it and high winds and some rain. It's nothing compared to this, what we're experiencing right now.

We are getting serious wind gusts, as you can see, trying to brace my body. At some point, those wind gusts exceeding to Category1 hurricane level.

(INAUDIBLE) which is going all the way into tomorrow night.

Take a look at these waves. Now, we are on some higher ground so it may not be that impressive to you, but I can assure you, we're in different areas of the coastline here along the south shore of Massachusetts where the waves came crashing over walls and have continued to flood streets.

We have many street closures around here, many people have evacuated their homes and their businesses. Schools are closed, and there are shelters open.

We know emergency officials are holding a news conference right now updating everyone about power outages that are happening. That's a big concern. Flooding, again, that is also a big concern. And letting us know if any rescues have had to happen, so we'll continue to update you. But this storm is not letting up any time soon as the high tides will continue tonight and tomorrow as well, Nia.

HENDERSON: Brynn, thanks for that reporting. And you stay safe out there.

Jennifer, I turn to you now. How big is this thing going to get and give us if you can, a timeline. When will we see the worst of it?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Nia, this is expected to intensify continuously throughout the day. It is still getting stronger. It's bringing rain and snow across New England. It has several different components to it.

You have the rain component, you also have the very strong winds. We've had gusts 60 to 70 miles per hour already recorded.

[12:40:02] That's going to continue throughout the day and tonight. And we also have the flooding component and I think that that is going to be the most serious of the three.

So we all have -- we're going to have serious flooding around Eastern Massachusetts as well as Rhode Island, and especially during those high tides. We're having one, a lot of areas as we speak, or it either it has already passed. We're going to have another one late this evening, and that could set a record in Boston harbor.

Now, the one this morning is the third all-time high tide ever recorded at 14.67 feet. Now, the next high tide is expected to be 15.4 and you can see that record at 15.16. That was with that January storm.

So we could set a record high tide, and on top of that, when you have winds pushing in from the east, it pushes all of that water inland. And so that's where we see the coastal flooding, we've seen homes that have been in jeopardy, and it is very, very dangerous.

So that high wind threat continues all the way from the mid-Atlantic to the northeast with wind gusts of 70 miles per hour. Those winds are expected to roar throughout the rest of the evening, and then the storm will finally pull away by tomorrow afternoon.

HENDERSON: Jennifer, thanks for that. We certainly hope the people take this seriously.

And in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Reverend Billy Graham is being laid to rest. President Trump and the first lady both attending the services there on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library.

The man known as America's preacher died last week at his home. He was 99 years old. Reverend Graham's sister spoke a few minutes ago.


JEAN GRAHAM FORD, BILLY GRAHAM'S SISTER: And I was reminded when I heard that my brother had died on the sound that the choirs used to sing, heaven came down and filled my soul with glory.

On February the 21st, heaven came down, and took my brother from me.



[12:46:19] HENDERSON: Welcome back.

It's not just Jared. CNN is now reporting that U.S. counterintelligence officials have turned their attention to Ivanka Trump, the first daughter and White House adviser, in her role in securing a deal for the Trump international hotel and tower in Vancouver.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins me now. Shimon, why are investigators interested in this particular deal?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Nia. So as part of their counterintelligence overlook or perhaps investigation into some of the contacts that folks associated with the president, his family, Trump's orbit, the FBI has spent some time looking at the various foreign contacts.

And one of the contacts and one of the dealings and financial dealings that they have come across has to do with Ivanka Trump, this deal in Vancouver that she was part of. It was hotel and residential property that opened in February of 2017, but she had spent some time there, she had spent some time meeting with people about this property. And something there has interest -- has caught the interests of the FBI, much like some of the other deals that involved Jared Kushner, her husband, some are those with China have caused some concern for the FBI.

So this within the FBI's counterintelligence world sort of felt like for them that there was some concern, so they started looking into it. And that's still ongoing, and this all really could affect her security clearance.

Now, an attorney for Ivanka gave us a statement saying really -- denying that this has anything to do with her security clearance application. Let me go ahead and read that to you.

And the spokesman says that, quote, CNN is wrong that any hurdle, obstacle, concern, red flag or problem has been raised with respect to Ms. Trump or her clearance application. Nothing in the new White House policy has changed Ms. Trump's ability to do the same work she has been doing since she joined the administration.

So whether or not this will have any further effect on Ivanka Trump, that still remains to be seen. We don't believe that she is a target of any of this investigation.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Shimon, for that.

Kaitlan, I want to go to you on this. What do we know about the status of Ivanka Trump's security clearance at this point. Is she still in limbo? Is she sort of in Jared territory at this point?

COLLINS: Well, it's unclear at best. We don't know. The White House says that they have a practice of not commenting or confirming what her status is. But we do know that if she was operating off a top secret interim clearance as we had reporting that showed she was in November, it certainly could have been become a permanent security clearance by then. That she would have been downgraded just like Jared was to just a secret interim clearance as he was since John Kelly has decided to overhaul this process.

But it certainly calls a lot into question. She obviously is married to Jared who has had all these issues getting a clearance and whatnot, but she certainly has a lot of access to highly classified information. She did go to North Korea recently. She was briefed --

HENDERSON: South Korea, right?

COLLINS: I'm sorry, South Korea, excuse me.


COLLINS: Yes. That would be breaking some news.

She went to South Korea for the closing ceremony of the Olympics, but while she was there, they announced those briefings on -- those sanctions on North Korea.

So she certainly is in the know of a lot of highly classified things in the West Wing. She has been for the last 13 months obviously, but not the level of access what we reported that Jared was.

Somebody who requested more top secret information than almost anyone else in the West Wing and also read the presidential daily briefing. That document that even the president doesn't even read. She often had access to that as well.

HENDERSON: And Perry, what just -- what this does to Ivanka's brand, right? I mean, both she and Jared have been masters at cultivating themselves in all sorts of ways. They're moderating the influences. They're kinds of adults in the room.

[12:50:04] What's your sense of what this news that she's in the spotlight here?

BACON: Right. She is not been involved as much in here. There's not as much reporting of her being (INAUDIBLE) in the Russian investigation until now. This was surprising to me.

In terms of security clearance, it's not clear to me beyond the South Korea which is important of course. There's nothing (INAUDIBLE) she's trying injecting some of the foreign policy the way Jared was.

I think it's a little bit different with Jared's position where he's like -- doing some things that seem illegal, very problematic and also has been involved in very high level Middle East negotiations. Versus Ivanka doing some thing different and so far doesn't seem to have legal trouble and does not seem to have really need a top secret security clearance because she's not really doing that kind of foreign policy work.

HENDERSON: And she was asked -- I'm going to quickly run this about the Mueller investigation had she been interviewed and here's what she had to say.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been interviewed by the special counsel yet? TRUMP: I have not.


Jay Martin, she has not? Is that sort of not yet? We don't know. What's your sense?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It might happen. Actually Mueller is obviously (INAUDIBLE) if she's going to have a date with the counsel at some point someone here before long but it doesn't surprise me.

I was just struck by a line -- you guys had this week in one of your stories, I think Zeleny and couple other folks about some blind quote from somebody at the White House who said that Ivanka is a play-acting government?

COLLINS: Yes, John Kelly made that remark in private about Ivanka Trump.

MARTIN: The John Kelly himself.

COLLINS: Yes, John Kelly, yes.

MARTIN: The president's daughter and senior adviser is play acting the role of government. Again, it's astonishing --


COLLINS: -- why he said that because he was very (INAUDIBLE) ever since he came into the West Wing as the chief of staff. He has tried to downgrade Jared Kushner's portfolio which was very



HENDERSON: Up next, an INSIDE POLITICS investigation, who does the best impression of President Trump?


[12:56:05] ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP: You went against me on the DACA thing and you wouldn't fire James Comey when I needed you to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a very bad boy. Very bad, very bad. Please, don't tweet on me. Please. I cannot (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: Those tweets are so powerful, aren't they? You fear the tweets.


HENDERSON: President Trump hits back against comedian Alec Baldwin who says, "it's like agony" impersonating the commander-in-chief on Saturday Night Live. Baldwin's comment to the Hollywood Reporter clearly getting under the president's skin. At around 5:30 a.m. this morning, most of you were sleeping, I'm sure, President Trump, he tweeted, "Alex Baldwin" -- yes, Alex Baldwin -- "whose dying mediocre career was saved by his impersonation of me on SNL now says playing DJT was agony for him. Alex, it was also agony for those who were forced to watch. You were terrible. Bring back Darrell Hammond, much funnier and a far greater talent."

Of course it's Alec not Alex, and the tweet was later deleted then reposted without those typos.

And I'll go to you because you said, Rachael, during the break that you did not see Darrell Hammond. We're going to play him in his version of Donald Trump.


DARRELL HAMMOND AS DONALD TRUMP: Jeb, you're a very nice man, but you're basically a little girl. Folks, this is true. I got hold of Jeb's birth certificate, and full disclosure, his real name is Jebra (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not true.

HAMMOND: That is true, yes, it is. Jebra, Jebra!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not my name.


HENDERSON: So who does it better, Rachael, now that you've seen Hammond?

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I think I need to see more Hammond. I think Baldwin is hilarious. I think the president is probably feeling threatened by, you know, what he said about the president, and he obviously -- there's been multiple reports he's got a big ego. And -- so He's going to hit back and he call him -- the president, yes. He's going to call him Alex instead of Alec to sort of (INAUDIBLE).

HENDERSON: Maybe it was auto correct.


HENDERSON: And Perry, you've got a favorite. I'm going to play Anthony from Comedy Central. This is your favorite. Here's his Donald Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how do you respond to the judges rejecting yet another travel ban?

ANTHONY ATAMANUIK AS DONALD TRUMP: I reject their rejection. It's totally fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But sir, people are calling it your biggest public failure.

ATAMANUIK: You're the biggest public failure.


HENDERSON: Why do you like him, Perry?

BACON: His jabs aren't hard to miss. And I wonder if Donald Trump, the president has seen him though. I think this guy is absolutely the best one. I assume Alec Baldwin was actually fairly anti-Trump in terms of his rhetoric.


HENDERSON: And he tweeted back, and he said, "Agony though it may be", this is Baldwin. "I like to hang in there for the impeachment hearings, the resignation speech, the farewell helicopter ride to Mar- a-Lago." These of course is all a Democratic fantasy. You know, the good stuff that we've all been waiting for.

MARTIN: Trump love the attention. We started the show talking about how long (INAUDIBLE) and the painful sort of days and staffs (INAUDIBLE) and the folks on the Hill are doing.

This is who Trump is. He wants to be the star of the show, sort of the cast. I don't think he likes being mocked, but the fact that Baldwin is talking about him and talking about the impression, Trump eats that stuff up.

HENDERSON: Quickly, Kaitlan, your favorite? Hammond or whoever.

COLLINS: I don't have a favorite. I don't really think you can impersonate the president. I think he is such a character (INAUDIBLE) and that he is very difficult to impersonate, but I do agree that he has given Alec Baldwin, you know, a little bit of --

MARTIN: A boost, yes. It's real stimulus, yes.

COLLINS: Certainly, I think that's accurate.

HENDERSON: He's right on that.

All right, thanks for joining us on the INSIDE POLITICS. John King is back here on Sunday. Wolf starts right now.