tv CNN Newsroom With Poppy Harlow and John Berman CNN February 24, 2017 6:00am-7:01am PST
good morning everyone. i'm poppy harlow. john berman is off today. thanks for joining us. president trump takes the stage this afternoon. he will speak at cpac, the nation's premier gathering for conservative leaders and activists. we'll bring you those comments live as soon as we begin. we begin with exclusive reporting from cnn on the trump white house and a very unusual request raising eyebrows. sources tell us the administration wanted the fbi to publicly dismiss reports of contact between russian officials and trump campaign advisers before the election. the president responding this morning on twitter we'll have what he said in just a moment. first let's straight to justice correspondent pamela brown who has been working sources all day and night breaking this news. what can you tell us? >> cnn is told by multiple
sources that the fbi rejected a request from the white house recently to publicly knock down media reports about communications during the 2016 presidential campaign between donald trump's associates and russians known to u.s. intelligence. a white house official says that the request was made only after the fbi indicated to the white house it did not believe all of the reporting was accurate. multiple u.s. officials telling cnn the white house sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the russian matter to say the reports were wrong and that there had been in contacts, the officials said. fbi director james comey responded by rejecting this request according to sources in part because the alleged communications are the subject of an ongoing investigation. white house spokesperson sean spicer says we didn't try to knock the story down. we asked them to tell the truth. the fbi declined to comment, poppy. >> pamela, this is not a typical request at all. how did it all begin? >> it's not a typical request.
this began with fbi deputy director andrew mccabe and reince priebus. a white house official says mccabe told priebus that "the new york times" story vastly overstated what the they know about the context. the white house officials say priebus later reached out and again to mccabe and to the fbi director james comey asking for the fbi to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. the fbi refused. again, it's worth noting they didn't just reach out to the fbi, but to other agencies in an effort to publicly knock down the reporting. >> which ultimately didn't happen. you had reince priebus going on the sunday shows saying it himself. pam, why is this not a typical back and forth between the white house talking with the fbi and their own justice department. what makes this so odd and
perhaps against regulations? >> there are decade-old restrictions, poppy, on such contacts between the white house and the fbi limiting those discussions only when it is important for the president's duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective. now, if the deputy director of the fbi, andrew mccabe, said this to the white house, he may have overstepped since it is an ongoing investigation, not to mention an investigation involving the president's associates and russia. the request from the white house is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the fbi on pending investigations, poppy. >> right. this is an investigation that's still on going. >> it is very much still on going. the fbi's counterintelligence division, they are investigating the contacts between trump associates during the campaign as well as russia. also the house and senate intelligence committees tell cnn that congress is still investigating those alleged contacts. that has already begun. and they're starting to collect
documents and records. these investigations are in full swing. >> absolutely. pamela brown, stay with us. we have more breaking news. i'll take you to the white house where we're getting reaction finally directly from the white house on all this. that's where we find our joe johns. what are you hearing, joe? >> reporter: a senior administration official briefed reporters a little while ago. i think the overall takeaway, number one, they say they did nothing wrong, and they do accuse cnn of trying to make a situation look nefarious when they say it was not nefarious at all. much of the recounting of the conversations as detailed in cnn's reporting you just heard from pamela brown. the white house administration's versions of events spoken on background suggest that reince priebus, the chief of staff, was having a conversation with a group of individuals about intelligence, an unrelated matter, and at the end of that
conversation, mr. mccabe, the deputy director pulled reince priebus aside and essentially told mr. priebus, according to these administration officials, that the story in "the new york times" as relates to constant contacts involving the russians was, quote, bs. the response from reince priebus, according to the accounting we got today, he told them -- told mccabe in one word or another, well, what can we do about it? and the message back to mr. priebus was the fbi cannot get engaged in responding to every news story because that's essentially all the fbi would be doing. after a series of additional conversations, it was determined that it would be okay for reince priebus to say that he had been briefed by fbi officials or
words to that effect and that they had told him the story in "the new york times" was not true. the white house strongly denies trying to apply influence or pressure on the fbi and also takes issue on the question of whether they were trying to influence an investigation at all. they say they weren't trying to influence an investigation. they were simply trying to get out in front of a news story after it had already happened. so i think those are the finer points as to the question that pam brown raised in her reporting just a minute ago about the decades-old policy, that pretty much puts a firewall between the white house and the fbi. they say there's a carve-out there for public affairs. the only point they continue to making, they were talking about shooting down a news story, not shooting down an investigation, even though the fact of the
matter is, and i raised this point, if the fbi had come out and shot down "the new york times" story, they would have had to make a substantive statement about the investigation. the takeaway from that is that is something the fbi would have had to deal with. >> important reporting and reaction we're getting from the white house. joe johns, thank you very much for that. the president, as i mentioned a little bit ago this morning, taking to twitter, hitting leakers within the intelligence community about all of this exclusive cnn reporting. here is what he tweeted. the fbi is totally unable to stop the national security leakers that have permeated our government for a long time. they can't even find the leakers within the fbi itself. classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on the united states. find now, meaning i think find the leakers now. let's talk about all this and we'll get to more cnn exclusive reporting from pamela brown. julia khayyam is with me, former
assistant secretary of the department of homeland security and norm eisen joins us, former white house ethics czar under former president obama. nice to have you both here. juliette, let me go to you first. the president is hitting back on twitter to the leakers, not to the substance of cnn's exclusive reporting. he is saying, look, people are leaking this. it is a danger to the united states. just explain to the american people why it matters so much if indeed this is the action, that cnn has multiple sources reporting that took place between the white house and the fbi. >> the call itself by the white house to the fbi, even if they claim it only had to do with, oh, the pr aspects, clearly went to the core of the investigation into the white house. if ties or collusiveness between trump and potentially his people and russia during the campaign. the idea that that could would even happen was at best very bad judgment by the chief of staff,
at worst suggests they were trying to quiet the story. i will tell you if "the new york times" story was about trump is visiting o -- if it was totally erroneous, the fbi would have said so. so the idea that the white house can ask the fbi to get dangerously close to facts about an investigation on going, it just breaks not just guidelines but i think sort of good politics on their part. it's why people like me who generally do not like independent investigations, i have confidence in law enforcement, think there's too much talking between the white house and the fbi. i will say on trump's point, mccabe should have never said anything to the chief of staff in that meeting, even if it was innocuous. everyone needs to stop talking. >> norm eisen, in your position running the ethics office in the obama white house, what do you make of sean spicer's argument, the white house pushing back saying we didn't do anything wrong, he said, quote, we didn't
try to knock a story down, we asked them, the fbi, to tell the truth. how do you see it? >> poppy, good morning. thanks for having me. good morning, juliette. i think that it's very concerning, and the explanation that we just heard that this was a conversation at the end of a meeting between the chief of staff and the fbi representative does not give me any comfort whatsoever. the right answer from the white house should have been there are clear rules that prohibit communications about investigations. this, if it had happened in the obama white house would have resulted in a job action, an investigation in whether the chief of staff could keep his job, and the excuse that the white house is offering, that it related to a newspaper story, is not ap plik lk here. if there's an investigation on going, you are not supposed to talk about it. it's the first thing that we
briefed, i briefed our white house officials on, and we very strictly enforced it. the final thing i would say is the comments we just heard from the white house and from mr. trump only demonstrate the need for an independent review here. if there's a dispute about the facts, we need to have n a independent party look at it. i think the doj ig should have a look at it. i think bipartisan members of congress should have a look at it. let's figure out what's going on and donald trump's attacking the leakers is wrong. he should be saying let's get to the bottom of whether rules were broken by my own people. >> this is a trend we've seen from the president, going after the leakers, not the substance of what was leaked. we'll get to that in a moment. i want to bring in our justice correspondent pamela brown again. she's been breaking this news with our colleagues. pamela, the white house pointing out to this carve-out in these guidelines, do they have justification for that? does their argument make sense? >> reporter: i've been reading through the memos again.
essentially there's an allowance for public affairs officers between the white house and the department of justice to communicate when they're coordinating something on a particular issue, not when you're talking about a pending investigation. i know the white house is basically trying to say this was an article, this was a news story. we're not trying to shoot down an investigation. but essentially, no matter how you look at it, this is about an investigation and this is an investigation involving trump's associates, president trump trump's associates during the campaign and alleged contacts with the russians. these memos from 2007 and 2009 preclude any interaction between a white house chief of staff and the deputy director of the fbi discussing any pending investigation. it says if there has to be any discussion about a pending investigation, it can only be if it applies to the president's duties -- so if it's important enough where it applies to the
president's duties or is a law enforcement sensitive matter, it must be discussed. even that aside, it is very specific with how the contact should happen, the single point of contact between the highest levels of the department of justice, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general and thement or vice president or counsel to the president, deputy counsel. it's very clear here the white house chief of staff and the deputy director of the fbi should have no communication whatsoever when it comes to a pending investigation which is what this is, no matter how you cut it. i think what the white house said today on background actually raises more questions than answers. >> it's not only justification for the conversation in general that is in question, it's who had the conversation and who the regulations allow to hold conversations like that. also, pamela, a lot to unpack here. you more cnn exclusive reporting on something different. this is the white house looking to prop up support for and
really get justification for its travel ban. the new one expected next week, basically going to dhs and going to other agencies asking them to draft memos and reports that would give meat and substance to backing up a new travel ban. is that right? >> reporter: that's right, poppy. sources tell my colleague jake tapper and me, and the white house made this request to dhs to bolster its case for why the seven countries listed in the travel ban should remain after it was blocked by the courts. a senior white house officials tells cnn the department of homeland security and justice department are working on an intelligence report that will demonstrate the security threat from these seven countries is substantial and these countries have been exporters of terrorism into the united states. the situation has gotten more dangerous in reseptember years and more broadly the refugee program has been a major incubator for terrorism. that according to a senior white house official talking to my colleague jake tapper. this report was requested in
light of the court of appeals conclusion that the trump administration pointed to no evidence as to why citizens from those seven countries pose a threat. cnn learned current rank and final intelligence officials have concerned about this assignment. >> they're concerned about it for a number of reasons. what is their key concern about the request coming with the timing that it's come by? >> reporter: there are a couple key issues they have. it's viewed by some officials at dhs and elsewhere, this is an attempt to politicize intelligence to fit a policy rather than the other way around. some officials, officials within dhs disagree with the trump white house position on the seven countries. in fact, poppy, the dhs intelligence agency has filed a report disagreeing with the white house view that blocking immigration from all seven countries is justified according to our sources. they do not think nationality is the best indicator of potential
terrorism. a spokeswoman for the department of homeland security confirmed this report to cnn basically saying while dhs was asked to draft a comprehensive report on this issue, the document you're referencing was commentariry from a single intelligence source versus a single robust document with thor row interagency vetting. he initially objected to his division's assessment that was at odds with the white house assessment. the dhs spokeswoman says the notion any intelligence within the agency is politicized is absurd and factually inaccurate. the white house says the new travel ban is expected to be signed next week. back to you. >> great reporting on all fronts. stay with us. let's bring back in juliette kayyem and norm eisen. juliette, one of the key problems with the first travel ban, as you heard on the call with the ninth circuit justices, the white house could not provide justification for why these countries were selected.
they say what terror attacks, et cetera, can you point to and the white house counsel arguing this did not have it. these reports would arguably give them more justification from a new more narrow travel ban. the issue pamela brings up of politicizing this is a big risk and a big concern. how do you see it? >> exactly. this was 2003 all over again, obviously less dramatic than a war in iraq. when you have a political mission, either going to war or having a muslim ban and you drive the intelligence that way, it will tell you what you want to find, but it may not necessarily be true. based on pamela's reporting, there's no question the seven countries are dangerous as compared to, say, great britain or france. but the question that needs to be answered to a court -- and it's clear the whois is trying to bolster its evidentiary claim in potential litigation, is are those countries responsible for
exporting refugees to the united states that would justify a ban. and i think there's no -- i know there's no evidence for that. this is i think a dangerous way to treat intelligence agencies. policies should be driven by what the intelligence is telling you because reality sort of ends up showing its face, right? eventually the facts are going to catch up. so that's sort of what's going on at least at the department of homeland security at this stage. >> i would note one thing, the white house pushes back against any notion this is a muslim ban. they say these are the seven countries outlined by the obama administration. they're right to an extent. the obama administration said you have to vet them more. they didn't say you ban everyone from these countries. >> this is a misconception. i was part of the obama administration during this time. i just want to clarify for viewers. those seven countries were
chosen because after paris, it became clear that nations that we do not require reese is as from, say france, for example, had citizens who were dangerous, because those were french nationals. what the obama administration decided was, okay, anyone from those countries can no longer have a visa waiver. if they have gone to seven countries, the seven listed, and want to come to the united states. in other words, if there's a frenchman who went to syria and that's on his passport, he no longer can get automatically into the united states. so that's the difference. >> it's an important clarification, absolutely. norm, to you, given all this, cnn has also learned that the white house hopes to make its case this time in the courts if it needs to with this travel ban by using a much more expansive definition of terrorist activity, more so than they believe the narrow one that was considered by the courts the first time around. does that strike you as odd. does that raise eyebrows?
poppy, the whole procedure is odd. and what we just heard from pamela i think is going to be an exhibit in the litigation that is sure to result next week when the new muslim ban, muslim ban 2.0, is uttered by the white house. the fact of the matter is that constitutionally, if the courts believe -- and pamela's story suggests this is happening. that there's backfilling to fit a preconceived notion. we heard heard evidence the first time around. trump wants to ban muslims. they're going to look at this with strict scrutiny. it may not hold up to muster. i have the question further to juliette's point and i've written about this with my bush-era counterpart in "the new york times," why is it trump is banning countries that are too poor to do business with him, banning migrants from those countries, but neighboring countries that have accounted for nationals who committed
terrorist acts on u.s. soil, saudi, egypt, uae, where he has business ties, no ban. those kind of questions and the evidence now of this after the fact request to justify a pre-existing already drafted executive order are going to be looked at very skeptically by the courts starting next week. >> a lot of reporting to dive into. thank you juliette kayyem, norm eisen. still to come, lawmakers sit face-to-face with furious voters slamming the president's policies. one florida republican congressman shocked an angry crowd last night with this answer. >> absolutely donald trump should release his tax returns. >> the republican promise to repeal and replace obamacare, former house speaker john boehner saying it's not going to happen, at least not exactly like that, straight ahead.
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the white house pushing back against cnn's iks collusive reporting that white house chief of staff reince priebus had discussions with his counterparts at the fbi requesting the fbi knock down reporting about contacts between russia and the trump campaign. this is something the nib refused to come out and do. let's bring in my panel, errol louis, cnn commentator. maria cardona, democratic strategist and dana lagg, a spokesman for the national rifle association and conservative. dana, let me get your reaction. the white house saying we weren't doing anything inappropriate here. however cnn has multiple sources telling them, and if you look at the guidelines, you're not allowed to have the chief of staff calling a deputy at the fbi and the justice department
saying, here, come out and say all this just isn't true. they can't do that with an ongoing investigation. >> right. poppy, thanks for having me. if the fbi says there's nothing, the same fbi that exonerated hillary clinton, if they say, look, there's nothing here, then i tend to kind of go along with where they stand on this. >> but they didn't come out and say that. they actually said no to the white house request to do just that. >> well, what's the accusation? there has been multiple accusations against this new administration in a million different ways to try to delegitimize it, accusations over flynn talking to russians and so many -- the bottom line. >> let's stick with the reporting. we just had a 20-minute report on all of cnn's exclusive reporting that pamela brown went through item by item. i'm asking you, do you think what the white house did is
justified? >> i actually don't think the white house did anything wrong at this point. i don't. >> why? >> if more evidence comes out, then by all means, then by all means have an investigation, then put pressure on the fbi. at this point, no, i do not believe there's anything to warrant any sort of concern at this point. persuade me, though. i'm completely open to it. i'm not sitting here trying to win a debate on who is going to be right in an argument. i want to be write on principle. if there's wrongdoing, put pressure on the fbi, go to the proper committees in congress, that's why they exist. go to house intelligence, go to house oversight. that's why we have these protocols in place. take it there, put pressure on the fbi, get an investigation. if that's true, if that's where the evidence leads, by all means do it. >> i hear you. you have a number of republicans and democrats on your side calling for investigations, independent investigations into the overall russia alleged contact with the trump campaign.
however, that's not what the president is calling for this morning. here are his tweets. the fbi is totally unable to stop the national security leakers that have permeated or government for a long time. that can't even find the leakers within the fbi itself. classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on the u.s. errol louis, he's going after once again the leakers and not the substance here. how do you see it? >> those of us who remember the watergate scandals, those tweets sound very much like what was later heard on audio tapes of richard nixon saying find the leaks. he had a whole squad called the plumbers who were supposed to go and try to find the leaks. every administration deals with this. it is, in fact, bedevilling if you have something you don't want the press to finds out about. to the extent we've got multiple investigations already going on, to the extent we've got in every case what we just heard, sort of
a political response, getting to the motives or alleged motives of people trying to find the truth. there's credible evidence from multiple sources, and today's reporting is one more example of it, that there's a serious problem with foreign infiltration into the last election and frankly elections before that. until we get more information about it, everyone who is trying to sort of make it all go away, make the press stop talking about it, make the fbi chase leaks and not chase the truth, i think we're going to have more and more of a scandal. it ends up making things worse and not better. that was one of the lessons from watergate. >> let me get to some other news. we're also continuing to see these town halls where angry crowds are sounding off on their lawmakers, these lawmakers continuing to get an earful at these town halls across the country. constituents saying they're fed up, hungry for change. last night no different. there was, though, this surprise
moment last night in pace, florida, at a town hall for congressman matt gates. listen. >> do you call release of president trump's income taxes? >> yes or no! yes or no! >> i think if you'll hear me out, you'll like the answer. let me say right here, right now, absolutely donald trump should release his tax returns. >> all right. maria cardona to you, just a reminder, he's not the only republican who has called for donald trump to release his tax returns. others including his former campaign manager and counselor, kellyanne conway. here is what she said last spring. >> so i want to ask you about this alliance between john kasich and ted cruz, this
alliance, shall we say, that donald trump is calling collusion. is this fair game? >> of course it's fair game. completely transparent. donald trump's tax returns aren't. i'd like to see those being transparent. >> maria cardona, she also called for donald trump's tax returns. did that surprise you, that moment? was that the political pressure of all these town halls pushing this republican congressman to say -- you and i agree, i support the president, but he should release them? >> it certainly is the kind of pressure that you're seeing now, a bunch of the gop lawmakers are going through during these town halls. it didn't surprise me all that much because frankly it's easy for republicans to say, sure, donald trump should release his tax returns, because it doesn't matter. nothing that they say is going to make donald trump release his tax returns. they've already said that they're not going to release his tax returns. it was no skin off the congressman's back to say that. >> another thing making headlines is what former house speaker john boehner said last
night, and i want to pose this to you, dana, about the promise from this president and from some other republicans to repeal and replace obamacare. here is what boehner said is the reality. >> all this talk that went on in november and december and january about repeal, repeal, repeal. we'll do replace, replace. i started laughing because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. you broke it. but most of the affordable care act, most of the it will stay there. i shouldn't call it repeal and replace. basically fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it. >> repeal and replace not going to happen. more conservative box around it. dana, is boehner right? >> boehner never really wanted
obamacare repealed and replaced to begin with. if that doesn't happen, all the town halls, a lot of it is being fueled by the town hall project with very interesting origins and address shares. they're going to see organic grassroots people back in those town halls. i was one of the original tea partiers that were out there way back then. >> looks a lot like what you guys were doing. that's not my question to you. my question is did republicans and this president over promise on obamacare, did they over promise on obamacare? >> i hope they didn't. really, i look at it like this, mike pence gave a really great speech yesterday at cpac. he said, look, this is happening. obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced. i wished -- i will say this, i wish lawmakers would say we're going to gut it and we're going to give you something that's portable, something you can compete with, something we'll have high risk pools, we'll make it to your insurance, you can
take it with you. it's not dependent upon your job, wherever you work. and it's something you're going to be able to afford. that's the language i wish they would say. i'm tired of hearing that phrase, what does it mean? i'll end with this. if they don't, they will see conservatives, they will see republicans, they will see a lot of people on the american right in those town halls holding them accountable for not fulfilling that promise, although i don't see how they can't do it because trump's promised it. >> already seeing a lot of that anger play out. guys, thank you very much. a lot to get to. errol louis, maria cardona and dana lash. protests raging on. the latest fiery exchanges at those town halls, backlash building over lawmakers refusing to meet face-to-face, some refusing to meet face-to-face with their constituents. that's next.
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angry crowds continuing to pack town halls and unleash fury over representatives. tempers flaring in arizona last night as voters demanded answers from representative martha mcsally. >> you are not answering our questions. just answer our questions -- >> you may not like the answer i'm giving you. >> deborah feyerick is live in covington, kentucky. what was it like, deb? >> reporter: look, there's a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty. there's great concern that for the people at these rallies, at these town halls, all the gains
they feel they made will be wiped out and wiped out quickly. on the other side, as you heard there, the republican lawmakers feel whatever answer they give is not going to be the right answer because the country now sort of shifting in a different direction. what we see going on at these town halls is a lot of people speaking out and voicing concerns. there are some lawmakers that are simply not doing these town halls. they're doing virtual remote town halls where they're not showing up. others are basically having private luncheons where rallies are taking place outside. we were at one of those rallies yesterday where senate leader -- majority leader mitch mcconnell basically had a ticketed luncheon only. at that luncheon it was very friendly, he got a standing ovation, a lot of laughs. there were two people who paid to get in to make sure what they had to say was heard. >> it's pretty clear what they're protesting, and that's the outcome of last year's election.
>> senator we're not protesting the election. we're protesting right to work. we are protesting losing our health care. we are protesting russian interference in the white house, we are protesting the fact that to get in front of you we have to pay dollars. why won't you hold a town hall with your constituents? we want to hear from you. we want to talk to you. >> was somebody else invited to speak? >> reporter: senator mcconnell dismissed the people at the rally as remnants of kentucky's failed democratic party. poppy, there were teachers, horse farm owners, moms and kids and families. so they're speaking out because they feel it's important, and they may not be able to change the outcome of the election, but hopefully they can perhaps at least have their concerns shared in the halls of washington's power. poppy. >> deborah feyerick reporting from covington, kentucky, thank
you very much. still to come for us, former congresswoman gabby giffords has a message for lawmakers skipping out on those town halls. he words show some courage. it's my decision ito make beauty last. roc® retinol, started visibly reducing my fine lines and wrinkles in one week. and the longer i use it, the better it works. retinol correxion® from roc. methods, not miracles.™
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a pretty stunning response from a republican lawmaker. louie gohmert faces new criticism from congresswoman gabby giffords. this started when gohmert cited gifford's shooting as justification for him not holding a town hall. writing the house sergeant at arms advised us after congresswoman gabby giffords was
shot at a public appearance that civilian attendees at congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or shot. giffords responded, i was shot on saturday morning and by monday morning my office was open. i say this, have some courage, face your constituents. hold town halls. gohmert is now responding to that. manu raju is live with the detamgs of his response. >> reporter: he's mushipushing . louie gohmert has battled republican leadership, but also democrats as well, pushing back at someone widely revered after she survived the 2011 near assassination attempt after 40e8ding a constituent meeting in arizona. gohmert speaking to local east texas station saying gabby that i cared so much about the shooting would never have minimized the death of people that day at that horrible event that changed her life forever
and caused us to lose her from congress. of course, referring to the six people who were killed during that mass shooting in arizona. this comes as democrats are pushing republicans who are skipping these town hall meetings to actually take questions from their constituents at a time when the republicans are moving an aggressive agenda through congress and trying to repeal and replace obamacare. bernie sanders saying this to our erin burnett last night. >> if you don't have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn't be in the united states congress. and if you need police at the meetings, that's fine. have police at the meetings. have security at the meetings, but don't use that as an excuse to run away from your constituents. answer >> reporter: now, poppy, all this comes to a head in the coming weeks. house and senate leaders are trying to cut a deal to replace
obamacare. the question, though, is are there the votes, and will those more moderate members feel pressure from the constituents in their districts, especially districts which supported hillary clinton. >> especially given what john boehner about they can't really fully replace and repeal obamacare. manu raju on the hill, thank you very much. the largest gathering of conservatives will be hearing from the president at cpac. next, president trump calls our trade relationship with mexico unbelievably bad. but his homeland security chief says, not exactly.
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perspectives within the trump white house this week. just yesterday, meeting with manufacturing ceos, president trump called trade deals with mexico, quote, unbelievably bad. but on the same day, while in mexico, the homeland security chief, john kelly, praised them. >> with mexico we have $70 billion in deficits, straight deficits. and it's unsustainable. we're not going to let it happen. >> the relationship between the united states and mexico is i believe among the most critical in the world. this dynamic trade relationship has helped create jobs on both sides of the border. >> our senior economics analyst is here, he served as an economics adviser to the trump campaign. diametrically opposed views. who is right? >> hi, poppy, happy friday. i'm going to try to square the circle and say they're both right. >> you can't do that on this program. you've got to say it straight.
come on. >> first of all, i think donald trump is right that there are problems with our trade arrangements with mexico, that those trade deficits that you mentioned are a problem for many american companies and mexico has to do a better job of opening up their markets to american manufacturing products and agriculture products and so on. by the way, i'm a fan of nafta. i don't agree with donald trump on that but i think nafta has been a great thing for mexico and a good thing for the u.s. the trade representative was right, from a security standpoint, poppy, one of the most important national security concerns of america should not be necessarily what's happening in the middle east, russia, and china, all these other places on the globe, but what's happening to our southern neighbor. we want to make sure that they maintain their position as strong and stable. that's in america's interests for sure. and so i think both of them have a point. >> you've said, just last week, steve moore, "on trade i think
he's playing with fire." we both know the studies inside and out. many of them show millions of u.s. jobs exist because of trade with mexico. i'm not writing off the fact that 800,000 jobs at least have been lost to mexico because of nafta. but the u.s. chamber of commerce says 6 million u.s. jobs exist in this country because of trade. does the president need to back down on this? >> again, first of all, there's no question that trade with mexico and canada has been a positive thing for all three countries, no question about that. and, you know, it's interesting that donald trump was meeting with manufacturers yesterday. you know, a lot of americans don't realize that almost a quarter of everything we manufacture in the united states is exported abroad. so manufacturers actually benefit from some of these trade agreements. but again, i do think that mexico needs to do a better job of opening up their markets to american products, just so that we don't have a trade war with
mexico. and poppy, i want to get this out because it's important. i do not favor a tariff against mexico. i think that would be bad for american consumers and bad for our relationship with our southern neighbor. >> almost every economist says that would throw us into a trade war, and the last time that happened, in the '30s, it was a disaster. listen to this interview from yesterday with christiane amanpour. >> national security of the american people relies a lot on cooperation with the american side. if the united states wants to fight with mexico and not cooperate, we don't see a more cooperative attitude coming from the american government, we don't need to cooperate. yes, we can lose a lot, about the americans can lose a lot. they need to understand, don't take mexico for granted.
>> is he right with that message, don't take mexico for granted? >> partly he is. but i don't think this idea of challenging trump head on is necessarily good strategy for mexico. we've learned donald trump is a counterpuncher, right? you punch him and he's going to punch a little back. i think we need to have a greater cooperation with the two countries, no question about it. i think mexico is going to, to some parts of nafta, poppy, are probably going to have to be renegotiated. donald trump ran on that and he won on that. i don't think mexico wants to do saber-rattling there, i think it may actually disrupt the relationship. i want mexico and the united states to have a great relationship. i want it to be both politically and economically beneficial to both countries. >> stephen moore, i'm sure we have to cut your time short, we'll have you back for a long time soon. the next hour of "newsroom"