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STATE OF THE UNION
Did Trump Offer Immigration Official Pardon For Potential Lawbreaking?; Interview With Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Interview With Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA); Interview With Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 14, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Above the law? Senior administration officials tell CNN the president offered to pardon a top official if he ever went to jail for breaking immigration laws, as the president considers moving undocumented immigrants into sanctuary cities.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's see if they have open arms.
TAPPER: We will talk to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, and Senate Homeland Security Committee member Senator Rick Scott.
Plus: Omar outrage. President Trump attacks Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her controversial 9/11 comments with an inflammatory video. Now Democrats are coming to her defense.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is trying to incite violence.
TAPPER: But does the party stand by her words?
And millennial-mentum. Thirty-seven-year-old Mayor Pete Buttigieg makes it official today, as he and Vice President Mike Pence clash over Christian values.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has his convictions. I have mine.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your quarrel sir, is with my creator.
TAPPER: And another under-40 candidate enters the presidential race, framing his pitch around gun control. California Congressman Eric Swalwell is here.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is trying to keep up.
Washington is preparing for the expected release of the full Mueller report in just days, after a week in which President Trump seemed to spiral out of control a bit on his signature issue, immigration.
The president spent Saturday railing on Twitter, saying he's -- quote -- "not frustrated" -- unquote, except it sure seems like he is frustrated.
The president began the week by removing the top leadership of the Department of Homeland Security, ousting Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, along with other top leaders of ICE, the Secret Service, and more on their way out the door as well.
Then, after the White House denied that the president wanted release -- wanted to release undocumented immigrants into sanctuary cities, President Trump on Twitter confirmed he was considering such a move.
This as senior administration officials tell me that the president told border agents to stop letting asylum seekers into the U.S., contrary to U.S. law, and then he told the head of Customs and Border Protection he would give him a pardon if he went to jail for carrying out the president's order.
The president is now denying this, but his apparent anxiety on the issue is driven by real numbers. in March, 92,000 migrants were apprehended at the border. That's the highest number in over a decade.
Joining me now is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York.
Congressman, Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us.
I want to start with my reporting that, according to senior administration officials, President Trump told border agents to stop letting migrants, including asylum seekers, into the U.S., contrary to U.S. law. And then he told Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection at the time, that he would pardon him if he went to jail for doing so.
Now, I don't know if the president was serious or joking about the pardon remark, and he's since denied it, but those are the facts as relayed to me by senior administration officials. Your response?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, my response is that this just shows the president's contempt for law, another incidence of the president's contempt for law.
To order that something clearly illegal, namely, blocking people claiming asylum from coming into the country, which is clearly against our law, that that be done, is against the law. Or offering a pardon, even if in jest, to someone who would disobey the law at the president's request, this is exactly contrary to the key presidential duty and to his oath, which is to see that the faithful -- that the laws are faithfully executed. That's the main job of the president, to see that the laws are
faithfully executed. And for a president to sabotage that goal by deliberately seeking to break the law is unforgivable.
TAPPER: Is this something you think your committee will take a look at, or does it -- does your commentary on it end here on the show?
NADLER: Well, it's part of a pattern of conduct we certainly have to take a look at after we see the Mueller report.
TAPPER: President Trump has been pushing the Department of Homeland Security to transport undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities and release them there.
Here is what the president asserted last night in a tweet -- quote -- "Just out, the USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to sanctuary cities."
Now, you're from New York City. That is a sanctuary city. Do you agree that the president has the -- quote -- "absolute legal right" to do this, if he wants to?
NADLER: No, I don't.
The president has no right to spend money appropriated by Congress for other purposes to ship immigrants all over the country.
If someone requests asylum, he should be considered. There should be a place for that person to stay while that request is being adjudicated. This is just -- nor is it right for the president to use immigrants or people who are claiming political asylum as pawns in a fight against political opponents.
He shouldn't use them as what he imagines as retribution to political opponents in various areas. It's another misuse of presidential power, against the law.
Now, we heard several weeks ago from whistle-blowers that this -- that Steve Miller came up with this, before we heard it -- about it from any other source. And probably Steve Miller, who seems to be the boss of everybody on immigration, ought to come before Congress and explain some of these policies.
TAPPER: Isn't it likely that he will claim executive privilege, given that he works in the White House, and not for a department?
NADLER: It is likely. But that would be a misuse of executive privilege, because he seems to be making the decisions, not the Cabinet secretaries who come and go.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the Mueller report. I know you want to talk about that. We expect that's going to be released any day now.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel in the first place, defended Attorney General Bill Barr's handling of the Mueller report, telling "The Wall Street Journal" that -- quote -- "He's being as forthcoming as he can. And so this notion that he's trying to mislead people, I think, is just completely bizarre."
What's your response?
NADLER: Well, he would be forthcoming only if he releases the entire report and the underlying evidence to the Judiciary Committee, which has been done in every previous instance where they were looking into presidential or other misconduct.
That would be -- now, the Judiciary Committee is the proper locus of -- for deciding what has to be withheld from the public. Again, that's what's been done in the past.
To deny the Judiciary Committee and Congress the knowledge of what's in parts of the Mueller report is not proper. And, of course, the attorney general, when he started talking, completely without evidence, as he said, about spying on the Trump campaign, when what he meant was executing judicially ordered warrants, showed his bias and the fact that he's really acting as a personal agent to the president, rather than as the attorney general of the United States, in this matter.
TAPPER: In terms of the Mueller report, we already know that the special counsel report does not reach a conclusion when it comes to whether President Trump obstructed justice.
But Attorney General Bill Barr, he did reach a conclusion. He says there is not sufficient evidence to establish that the president obstructed justice. Does that end the debate over obstruction of justice?
NADLER: Well, certainly not, especially since Attorney General Barr, before he became attorney general, wrote a long memo in which he said that a president could not obstruct justice because the president is the boss of the Justice Department, and could order it around to institute an investigation, to eliminate an investigation, and could not be questioned about that.
In other words, he thinks that, as a matter of law, a president can't obstruct justice, which is a very wild and -- theory, to which most people do not -- do not agree.
And the fact of the matter is, we should see and judge for ourselves. And that's for Congress to judge whether the president obstructed justice or not, and for the public, ultimately.
TAPPER: It's not -- it's not the bailiwick of the attorney general to decide that?
NADLER: No, it is not -- no, it is not the bailiwick of the attorney general.
He assumed it for himself. That is not the purpose of the law. And the fact is that we also need to see the report, because it may be that the -- Mueller decided not to prosecute for obstruction of justice for various reasons, that there wasn't proof beyond a reasonable on some things, but there still may have been proof of some very bad deeds and very bad motives.
And we need to see that, and the public needs to see that.
TAPPER: The attorney general, as you noted, told Congress this week that he believed -- quote -- "spying occurred" against Trump associates during the 2016 election, saying he's concerned that improper surveillance may have occurred.
Now, you have asked Justice Department officials to brief you on this. Have they done that?
NADLER: Well, we have -- not recently.
But we have reviewed the inspector general's report and various findings over the last two years, and it's complete and total nonsense. The FBI followed procedure. They got a FISA warrant. They probably did it.
In fact, the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein signed off on the -- on one of the renewals of that FISA warrant. And that is proper legal surveillance, when they -- when they were concerned that the Russians were attempting to infiltrate an American political campaign.
NADLER: That is not spying. Spying is a loaded word.
And the president -- and the attorney general should not have used that.
TAPPER: I want to ask you.
President Trump posted a video on Twitter attacking Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her speech in which she described the 9/11 terror attacks as saying some people did something.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement condemning the president for what he's doing, but she also seemed to have a message for Congresswoman Omar too saying in her statement: "The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground and any discussion of it must be done with reverence."
Did you take any issue with the way Congresswoman Omar characterized 9/11?
NADLER: No, I did not.
She characterized it only in passing. She was talking about discrimination against Muslim Americans. And she just said that, after that happened, it was used as an excuse for lots of discrimination and for withdrawal of civil liberties. No, I did not take -- I have had some problems with some of her other
remarks, but not -- but not with that one.
And for the president to -- 9/11 occurred in my district. I'm very familiar with it. I know a lot -- I know people, a lot of people, who suffered from it.
I was involved, I was instrumental in getting funding for small business grants for victims of 9/11, for people with small businesses in the area.
The president -- he wasn't president, but Donald Trump actually took a $150,000 grant from the Bush administration. They let him take a $150,000 grant meant for small businessmen for 40 Wall Street, the small business 40 Wall Street.
He stole $150,000 from some small businessperson who could have used it to help rehabilitate himself. And that's why we appropriated it, why I got Congress to appropriate that money. To use it for his own small business of 40 Wall Street, he has no moral authority to be talking about 9/11 at all.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler, the chairman of House Judiciary Committee, thanks so much for coming on. We appreciate it.
NADLER: Thank you.
TAPPER: President Trump is throwing out lots of ideas for addressing the humanitarian crisis at the border, but his own party, are they on board with the plans?
I will ask Florida Senator Rick Scott next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
President Trump is brushing off reports that he's upset by the situation at the border and his administration's response to it, but all evidence points to the contrary. And the president does not seem overly concerned that his plans to stem the tide of illegal immigration might not be entirely legal.
Joining me now, Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida. He sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Senator Scott, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
President Trump tweeted last night he has the -- quote -- "absolutely legal right" to transport undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities. It's a plan he's considering in order to retaliate against Democrats.
I obtained some guidance from the general counsel at DHS suggesting to the White House that he didn't think this plan would pass legal muster.
Do you have any legal concerns about transporting migrants to sanctuary cities?
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Jake, I don't know whether it's legal or illegal.
I mean, maybe he's just saying this to make everybody crazy, make everybody talks about on their shows. But what I -- what I do know is, I have been up there, I have been in the Senate for 90 days.
We're not securing our border. We're not enforcing our laws. Sanctuary cities are illegal. You heard Congressman Nadler say contempt for the law. That's clearly contempt for the law. You don't get to pick and choose what laws you do and what laws you comply with. You and I don't get to. Cities don't get to.
What I don't get is, why don't we try to solve the problem? We don't want illegal immigration. We don't want people coming illegally across our border. We want legal immigration.
I'm from a state that we love immigrants. But we want legal immigration. So it's frustrating to me we're not getting anything done.
TAPPER: Senior administration officials told me on Friday that the president told border agents to block asylum seekers from entering the U.S. when he visited Calexico, California, about a week-and-a-half ago.
And then he told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, now the acting department secretary for DHS, that, if he went to jail for closing the border at Calexico, the president would give him a pardon.
Now, I know President Trump's unhappy with U.S. immigration laws, but what's your response to this? Do you think that his frustration gives him the right to tell subordinates to break the law?
SCOTT: No. No. No.
I -- I finished eight years as governor. And what I told everybody, we're going to enforce all the laws, whether we like them or not. You want to change the law, you have to go through the legislature. In this case, it would be Congress.
So, I'm sure -- I'm sure the president's very frustrated because we're not securing our border. The Democrats are stopping this. But we have to comply with every law. Everybody does, including sanctuary -- there's no such thing as a sanctuary city. You don't have a right to pick and choose the law.
I don't get to say, oh, Florida, we don't pay federal income taxes. You don't get to do those things. So let's all comply with the law. Let's fix immigration. TAPPER: President Trump's replacing several senior leaders in the
Department of Homeland Security, including Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of ICE, the head of the Secret Service.
There are now 16 acting or vacant senior leadership posts in the department. You're on the Homeland Security Committee. Your committee's chairman, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, says he's concerned with a growing leadership void. Are you?
SCOTT: Well, I say, I liked working with Secretary Nielsen. She was very helpful to me when we had the hurricanes while I was governor.
So I always -- I thought she did a wonderful job. But I do know that the -- I have been down to the border. The people that do the job day to day, they're absolutely committed. They might not like to see all the change, but they're doing their job.
But it's -- it's -- we have got to -- we got to get leadership in there. And we have -- we have got to find good people.
But I know the border agents are trying to do their job. I talk to them, and they're trying to do their job.
TAPPER: You were at the White House this week trying to strike a compromise on disaster relief funding.
I know the bill already includes money for food stamps for Puerto Rico. But Democrats are calling for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional money for Puerto Rico.
President Trump refuses to provide those funds. Do you agree with him that Puerto Rico has gotten enough money as it is?
SCOTT: Well, what I -- you know, I have been to Puerto Rico eight times, so now nine times, once as a senator, but eight times after the hurricane.
And we opened up relief centers. I want to take care of Puerto Rico, to the extent like can. I want to make sure they get the relief they need. That's why the first thing I did on the Senate floor was, I was talking about the food stamp program for Puerto Rico.
But we -- we have got to strike a compromise. It's frustrating to me. I think this is -- this -- to me, this is all politics. This is Chuck Schumer trying to say, oh, I care about -- he cares about Puerto Rico more than President Trump does.
I think we should have passed the bill that Senator Shelby had done. And then what -- if we needed to do more, let's do more. But let's get something done. This is six -- six months since the -- it's like since Michael hit Florida. And we can't get anything done.
And so I'm going to keep trying. We had a good meeting, I think, at the White House. We will find out. We're in recess for two weeks. So, we will find out by the time we get back if we made any progress.
TAPPER: President Trump's been pretty clear -- pretty clear he doesn't think that Puerto Rico should get any more money.
When you ran for the Senate, you ran a Spanish-language television ad about how you stood up to President Trump when he denied the death toll from Hurricane Maria.
Are you also willing to stand up against President Trump's refusal to give Puerto Rico any additional relief funding?
SCOTT: Oh, don't worry, I'm going to fight for Puerto Rico.
What I told people along, when I agree with the president, I will agree with him. If I disagree, I will disagree with him. I'm going to fight to get -- get support for Puerto Rico, along with Florida and along -- I want to help Georgia and these other states. Now we have the states in the Midwest.
So I'm going to do it. But what's frustrating to me is, let's get something done. Whatever we can get done -- I'm an incrementalist. I was in business. Whatever I could get done that day, get it done and then work to improve it the next day. That's what's frustrating to me on this.
We had a bill that should have passed. And Chuck Schumer decided, for political purposes, to stop it.
TAPPER: I want to turn to Venezuela.
You made a stark statement this week that -- quote -- "If military force on the part of the United States and our allies in the region is necessary to rid us of the scourge of Maduro and his thugs, then we cannot rule it out" -- unquote.
Maduro has been clinging onto power now for months. Just last night, he announced he wants to add one million members to the military.
Do you think the U.S. should put troops on the ground in Venezuela?
SCOTT: You know, Jake, I think we have got to -- we have got to take seriously there's genocide going on in Venezuela right now.
Maduro is intentionally starving his citizens. Think about it. They don't have food. They don't have water. They don't have medicine. I think, of my 3-year-old grandson, what would happen if he didn't have that.
And so we -- I think the White House has done a good job of recognizing Guaido as the interim president. The international community has come on board. We have got to keep focus on the sanctions.
But we have got to really consider whether we do military help getting this aid in to save -- to save the starving people of Venezuela. They are starving to death. Eighty percent of the kids under 5 are -- have malnutrition. Ninety percent of the households don't have money for food.
I mean, this is genocide, and Maduro is doing it.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Rick Scott of the great state of Florida, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate seeing you.
SCOTT: Thanks, Jake. Have a good day.
TAPPER: You too.
Is America ready for a millennial president? You better grab your avocado toast and stick around, because I'm talking to one of the youngest candidates in the Democratic race next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Is it time for a millennial president?
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of Indiana will capitalize on his soaring poll numbers to formally kick off his presidential campaign today. That's as another millennial candidate is entering the fray.
Congressman Eric Swalwell became the 18th presidential candidate to enter the race this week, with a formal kickoff this afternoon in his home state of California.
And Congressman Swalwell is joining me now.
Congressman, good to see you, as always. Thanks so much for joining us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning. Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: So, gun control is the central plank in your campaign.
You wrote last year -- quote -- "We should ban possession of military- style semiautomatic assault weapons. We should buy back such weapons from all who choose to abide by the law. And we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy it by keeping their weapons."
Criminal prosecution for keeping assault weapons. What's the punishment for people who don't hand in their guns? Do they go to jail?
SWALWELL: Well, Jake, they would, but I also offer an alternative, which would be to keep them at a hunting club or a shooting range.
And the reason I have proposed this is because these weapons are so devastating. I have seen this as a prosecutor in the cases that I have prosecuted. We have seen these in the school shootings, from Sandy Hook to Parkland. And I was just at Parkland earlier this week doing a town hall there.
But it's not just the violence that they have caused. It's the fear, the immeasurable fear, that our children live in, because they are still on our streets. I want to get rid of that fear. I want to do what Australia did and New Zealand just recently did. I think this issue just needs some bold leadership to do it.
TAPPER: I know you know this, but the vast majority of gun-related deaths in this country are not related to these semiautomatic assault weapons, whatever you want to call them. And the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who have purchased these weapons legally and use them safely.
One of the most frequent attacks on this issue from President Trump and the Republicans is that Democrats want to take away your guns. But isn't it fair to say you actually do want to take away people's guns?
SWALWELL: You know, keep your pistols, keep your long rifles, keep your shotguns.
I want the most dangerous weapons, these weapons of war, out of the hands of the most dangerous people. But when it comes to what else we can do, because I don't even suggest this is all we can do, I also want background checks.
So do 73 percent of NRA members. I want to invest in gang violence prevention programs, especially in our cities. I want more community- oriented policing. My brother is a Sheriff's Athletic League police officer. He works in tough neighborhoods and helps them get kids out of the streets and into sports.
There's a lot that we could do on this issue, but unless it's the number one issue for a president, it's just going to be one that we respond to shooting to shooting. I want to lead on it.
TAPPER: Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says that the United States should repeal the Second Amendment. Do you agree?
SWALWELL: No, I don't agree.
But I think the greatest threat to the Second Amendment is doing nothing. And the Second Amendment is not an absolute right. Just like free speech, you can't shout fire in a theater or lie about the products you are selling, you can't own a bazooka, you can't own a tank, you can't own rocket-propelled grenades.
So we should put some limits in place. And I think the American people are with me. I'm no longer intimidated by the NRA. The moms and the kids, they're behind us on this issue. And I think it just takes leadership in Washington. TAPPER: You're a co-sponsor of the Medicare for all bill in the
House, which says -- quote -- "It shall be unlawful for a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this act."
Yet you said on Thursday that you don't support an end to private health insurance in this country. So, are you supporting -- are you supporting a bill that you don't fully agree with?
SWALWELL: Well, I support a bill that would give Medicare to all. That's the title of the bill.
The part of the bill that I would strike -- and this is part of negotiating and collaborating -- would be to give a public option, the Medicare portion, but allow people to keep plans that they like.
Union members like to keep their union plans. Employers may offer a better plan. I think it's very much in our DNA to have choice. And so I will support that.
But the other part of my plan, Jake, is to invest in and find cures in our lifetime. I don't want the debate to only be about coverage, because I think one of the best things we do as Americans is to seek and find cures. So, invest in genomics, targeted therapies, and data sharing.
And John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican, and I have legislation that would allow any child born into poverty to have access to their genomics, so they don't have to go on a diagnostic odyssey.
So, already leading on this issue in the Congress, but with challenges to go much bigger as president.
TAPPER: But, Congressman, with all due respect, the Medicare for all bill that you co-sponsored would essentially do away with private health insurance. But you're saying you don't agree with it. Why are you co-sponsoring that bill?
SWALWELL: Well, I do agree with the part of having Medicare access for anyone who wants it, because that would drive down the cost on the private insurers. It's the best bill out there that could do that right now.
But being a leader means sitting down and negotiating and finding what works best for everyone. So I don't think it has to be a false choice, Jake. I think it's finding what is better than now, which now is health care costs are eating up our paycheck. We're in a free market system. Preexisting conditions are not being protected by the president.
And I will give the American people something better than that.
TAPPER: But would you vote for this bill if it came to the floor? SWALWELL: If this bill came to the floor, I would offer an amendment
to have the public option, just as we had that opportunity back when President Obama was in, but we couldn't get it through the Senate.
But this is a good start. And we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And I'm going to give something that's much better than what we have today.
TAPPER: But if that amendment didn't pass, would you vote for this bill?
SWALWELL: Well, I -- Jake, I -- I think this bill, as it is, is better than what we have today.
But I will have a public option in the law that I sign in, in -- in the bill that I sign into law as president.
TAPPER: You have called the president a -- quote -- "agent of Russia," saying if he wasn't -- quote -- "taking orders from Vladimir Putin," he would release the full Mueller report.
That's a remarkable claim, especially for somebody on the House Intelligence Committee. Is it irresponsible to suggest that President Trump is an agent of Russia and taking orders from Vladimir Putin?
SWALWELL: He certainly acts on Russia's behalf, Jake.
And it's a claim from someone who also worked as a prosecutor for seven years and had the responsibility of looking at evidence and putting it before a jury.
And when I look at the evidence, I see that this person's family met with the Russians who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. He was in a room where Roger Stone called him and said he was -- that WikiLeaks was acting on his behalf and releasing more dirt. He stood on a stage and told the press, Russia, if you're listening, keep hacking.
And every time he was confronted about it, he lied and lied and lied. And it's not just that he acts on Russia's behalf, Jake. He also acts like Russia's leader. He attacks our free press. He acts in such a lawless way, and what we're seeing most recently, telling a Customs and Border official that he would pardon him if he broke the law.
And he puts his family in charge and in positions of power. So he acts on Russia's behalf, acts like Russia. I think the American people deserve a leader who shares our values, not Russia's.
TAPPER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Hope you will come back soon.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Jake. Of course.
TAPPER: The 2020 Democrats are criticizing President Trump for his latest attack on freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, but the Democrats are not all defending what Omar actually said.
We will discuss next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It implicates her, Muslim Americans in violence and terrorism here in the United States. It makes her a target for extremists in this country, at a time of rising Islamophobia.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that it's a good thing that the president is calling her out for those comments. And the big question is, why aren't Democrats doing it as well?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Another partisan fight over comments by Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and the president's response, after he tweeted video of her saying -- quote -- "Some people did something," referring to the 9/11 attacks, and spliced that with graphic footage of the attacks on the Twin Towers.
Mayor Gillum, first of all, welcome to the panel here.
ANDREW GILLUM (D), FORMER FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: We appreciate having you here.
What's your reaction to this whole story?
GILLUM: I mean, obviously, like many -- and I think we have heard this on both sides -- I find the president's comments to be deplorable, and I think really beneath the office of the presidency.
And, obviously, Ilhan has become a little bit of an easy target for this White House, for this administration. But I think his attack is beyond Congresswoman Omar. This is about the fact that she looks a certain way, she is a woman of color, she happens to be of a Muslim faith.
The president is setting, in my opinion, the groundwork for the kind of campaign he wants to run, which is to turn Americans against Americans, to turn brown and black people against his base.
I find it extremely overreaching in many regards. And I think he underestimates his supporters out there, because I think there are a lot of people who find this extremely deplorable, especially those who remember well the heartache that many of us experienced watching those towers come down.
And to associate a member of Congress in this way, as if she was a sympathizer or a supporter there, in spite of it's contrary to being to the record, to her comments on the record, I think is extremely unfortunate.
TAPPER: There are people saying that President Trump should be suspended from Twitter -- I think you're actually one of them -- for...
GILLUM: I think he should be.
TAPPER: ... inciting violence.
GILLUM: Any regular person would.
LINDA CHAVEZ, CHAIR, CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: Well...
TAPPER: What's your comment?
CHAVEZ: I would love to see President Trump suspended from Twitter.
But, frankly, I think Representative Omar is the gift that keeps on giving to the Republican Party. And I think what she said was horribly insensitive; 3,000 of her fellow American citizens died on that day.
And for her to say something happened by somebody, it's just not somebody did something. It's just not the appropriate way to talk about one of the most tragic days in American history.
And so I think -- I'm not going to defend President Trump on this, but neither am I going to defend Representative Omar.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that they just skip the debate.
What she said, was, you know, worthy of public debate. It was worthy of Crenshaw's criticism. It was worthy of Donald Trump's criticism.
TAPPER: Congressman Dan Crenshaw, Republican of Texas.
JENNINGS: That's right, because that's where this started, you know?
And so I -- what I find amazing is, they just skip the debate. They don't want to have a conversation about whether her idea is right. They want to have a conversation about vanishing, demonizing and getting rid of people from the public square who dared criticize what she had to say.
Just because a Republican, a president, a congressman or anyone else is critical of Ilhan Omar, it doesn't mean they're racist. It doesn't mean they hate her. It may just mean that they disagree with her ideas. But this is the modern-day authoritarian tendencies of this socialist
movement, to try to banish people from speaking.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I think it's important to remind people that the context of her remarks were in a speech that had a very powerful message, one that the terrorists who committed that horrific act on 9/11 do not represent the millions of Muslims who are living around the world.
That was the message of her speech. Now, I think everybody should admit that she should have been more specific in her language and referenced the tragedy that occurred. But we're talking about a phrase. She did not say anything. She had an absence of saying the tragedy.
And I think what we're looking at here, though, is that you worked for President Bush. In the days and weeks after -- after the tragedy 9/11, he went into a mosque and he said, this is not -- Muslim Americans do not represent what just happened.
That's the message she was trying to get at. And I don't think we should forget that.
It was the president of the United States, then, who came out and used 9/11 as a propaganda tool to attack a freshman member of Congress. And I don't think we should lose sight of that either, because he is not following in the tradition of past presidents, who have moved beyond partisan lines to try to bring the country together.
He is doing what he does, which is attack via Twitter, fire via -- fire via Twitter, and incite violence via Twitter. And that's incredibly dangerous.
GILLUM: And, by the way, I would be happy to have a debate around whether or not it is appropriate and right to basically attack all Muslims for what occurred on 9/11, because that's essentially -- if you took this to its own logical conclusion, the suggestion is, is that, in some way, she's either sympathizing or supportive of what happened on 9/11.
And that's not what...
TAPPER: Well, Mr. Mayor, I want to ask you a question, because Nancy Pelosi wrote something about the president's attack and also about Omar's statement, saying -- quote -- "The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground and any discussion of it must be done with reverence. The president shouldn't use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack."
She went on to criticize President Trump. But a lot of progressives were upset at Speaker Pelosi seeming to kind of chastise Ilhan Omar, Congresswoman Omar, by saying the memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, any discussion must be done with reverence.
What did you think?
GILLUM: I don't disagree that any conversation about what happened on 9/11 -- and 9/11 isn't just the date. It isn't just a set of numbers.
That was one of the most horrific days that we experienced in this country. I remember where I was. I was student body president. And my alma mater, Florida A&M University, and my university president was off campus.
I remember having to have the responsibility of bringing students together, trying to comfort students, holding vigils and prayers. That event didn't happen in isolation. It happened to all of us.
And the congresswoman isn't rejecting that. Obviously, I agree with the -- with the speaker of the House that any conversation about it should be done reverently. What was done here was, comments were taken out of context. We struck at the nerve and pierced the nerve of Americans by using those extremely horrific images as to suggest that the congresswoman in some way was supportive of what happened on that day.
CHAVEZ: I don't think there's a question about whether or not she was supportive. I certainly would not accuse her of that.
But she was grossly insensitive. And she is a member of the United States Congress. And she's a Muslim. And I think it, in that respect, if you want to talk about Islamophobia -- and it certainly exists and there have been an increase in attacks on American Muslims -- but you also have to pay attention to what Islamic extremism has done and the number of people who have been killed, including Muslims who have been killed by it.
JENNINGS: Yes, she should have chosen her words more carefully.
And then she should not have sent the tweet she sent out about President George W. Bush, when he made his speech atop the rubble on 9/11. Doubling down on this was absolutely wrong.
You know, where I'm from, when you're in a hole, the best way to get out of it is to stop digging. And that tweet was a terrible doubling down on this.
I think that, if...
TAPPER: Just to -- just to explain to people who aren't sure, she quoted George W. Bush when he was in the rubble. And he said, "The people who knocked down these towers are going to hear from all of us."
TAPPER: And she was trying to say, I believe, that he also used kind of like vague language, instead of condemning...
GILLUM: Absolutely, without a doubt.
JENNINGS: If you were even a moderately sentient being in the last 20 years in this country, you know he was threatening the terrorists. And then he followed through on those threats.
I find it amazing. We sit here every couple of weeks, and the Democrats having to fight amongst themselves about how far to go in defending Omar, Cortez, Tlaib, and they never seem to quite get it right.
And it's clear to me that they are going to follow her and these other freshman radicals down these rabbit holes. And it is in no, way, shape or form going to help them win back these voters in 2020.
TAPPER: Is this not a trap set by President Trump, in a sense? Like, he wants all of the Democratic presidential candidates to embrace Congresswoman Omar. And who knows what she will say...
PSAKI: Look, I think if we look at purely the politics of this, because I think we have weighed in on the morality and the troubling response of President Trump, that, yes, President Trump wants to put some fresh red meat out there for his base and stoke racism and stoke hatred and make the -- all the Democrats seem like they are socialists and that we are disrespecting 9/11.
That could not be farther from the truth. There are traps that are being set for candidates, and they do have to be careful about how they respond.
I do think Mayor Pete -- and I'm a fan of Mayor Pete. Put it out there. But he gave a very thoughtful response to this that was not meant to be a two-sentence...
TAPPER: And he got criticized for not mentioning her name.
PSAKI: He got criticized.
But what I -- what I think is valuable about his response is that he reflected on the fact that the president should be a uniter, that he is a veteran. He is somebody who -- who went out there and talked about how, in the in the days and months after 9/11, we all came together, and that we all recognize that Muslim Americans are not all defenders of the hijackers, obviously, or hardly represent what they did.
That's what I'm looking for in a president. I think that's what most Democrats are looking for. But we're going to have to be careful about not falling into the traps set by Trump.
GILLUM: There is no moral equivalency between what the president has tweeted out, what the official White House Twitter account tweeted out, and, quite frankly, any Democrat in this conversation. We have all decried what we believe is a total misuse of emotional imagery to, frankly, make assertions about the comments or the sentiments of Democrats or the congresswoman.
But I don't think it is just about Ilhan Omar. I think it is about what he wants people, his side, to believe Democrats are. They want to run this campaign separating us based off of the way we look, the language we speak, the religion that we may or may not hold.
I don't believe that is who we are as a country. I don't believe that's where the majority of Americans are. And I think that we ought to, I believe, send an unapologetic message to this president that he is out of bounds and that we're going to show him the door come 2020 when we elect a new president to the White House.
TAPPER: Scott, I know that you have an issue with Congresswoman Omar, many of her comments, including the most recent one.
Do you have any issue with what President Trump tweeted out?
JENNINGS: No, I don't have an issue when people speak freely and debate these issues. I do not have an issue with that.
What I have an issue with is when people skip the debate and immediately say, I don't like it that you criticize me, so I'm going to take away your Twitter account. You should be banished from the public square.
She has every right to speak. She's a member of Congress. And, by the way, she signed up for this kind of criticism. When you become a member of Congress, you sign up to have all of your statements parsed and picked over and criticized.
TAPPER: She's getting -- her argument would be, she's getting death threats and, like -- and that the president's tweet was incitement.
JENNINGS: What do you think -- what do you think the language of the last two years towards Donald Trump from the Democrats has been? Is that incitement?
PSAKI: I mean...
JENNINGS: Democrats have called him a Russian agent for two years.
What do we think that is?
GILLUM: Only because he has been.
JENNINGS: This is public -- this is public debate.
And her words are worthy of debate. And to try to shut down that debate...
GILLUM: They are worthy of debate. But if we were having a debate about that, it'd be one thing.
What we're talking about is the use of 9/11 footage to make a point that was not her point.
TAPPER: So, I hate to shut down debate, but that's all the time we have.
TAPPER: Thank you so much, one and all.
And welcome to the family here.
GILLUM: Thanks again.
TAPPER: Could President Trump have helped George Washington better promote the Washington brand?
That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoon-ion." Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
Well, according to Politico, President Trump seems to have had a few pointers for the nation's first president. That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoon-ion."
TAPPER (voice-over): When he toured President George Washington's former estate at Mount Vernon, President Trump was not impressed, according to Politico.
Trump said of the nation's first president: "If he was smart, he would have put his name on it. You have got to put your name on stuff, or no one remembers you."
Notwithstanding the nation's capital, or the Washington Monument, or the dollar bill, it got us all thinking how President Trump differs from his presidential predecessors.
Would a young Donald Trump have doubled down on his lie after chopping down his father's cherry tree?
TRUMP: This is a witch-hunt. TAPPER: Or remember that famous painting of General Washington
crossing the Delaware? How would President Trump have done it?
TRUMP: I'm really rich.
TAPPER: Not far from Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello, just a short drive away, really, the president owns his own winery. He might have taught Jefferson a little something about branding.
TRUMP: Thomas Jefferson wrote that Americans should choose products made in America whenever possible. And, by the way, I'm asking you to do that.
TAPPER: Perhaps the nation's 45th president could have spruced up Abraham Lincoln's famous cabin...
TRUMP: Bing, bing, bing, bing.
TAPPER: ... by using golden logs.
The one thing President Trump would never do, share the spotlight.
TRUMP: Nobody's going to give me credit, but that's OK.
TAPPER: Hillary Clinton says she knows why President Trump beat her in 2016.
Her advice for Democrats this time around -- next.