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Tillerson, Kelly to Mexico amid Tension over Immigration; Pastor Walks Out of "Demonic" Trump Rally; Voters Erupt at GOP Town Halls. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired February 22, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:34] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now at the White House, President Trump is meeting with his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, before the top diplomat heads to Mexico, together with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. They're planning to hold talks and meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto and other officials. It's a mission focused on mending fences, not building walls. They're set to coordinate bilateral issues from counterterrorism to law enforcement to border security to trade. But this is coming as tensions escalate over President Trump's new guidelines for aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.
Joining me, we are going to be talking about CNN's counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
Phil, one of the things they'll be talking about is counterterrorism issues. But another thing we should discuss, as President Trump having lunch with Rex Tillerson, is the fact that evaluated only said about 50 words-- I'm joined now by Jack Kingston as well, former congressman and Donald Trump reporter.
Phil, he hasn't said much, Rex Tillerson, 50 words on the record since being secretary of state. You had no State Department briefing. Is that something that concerns you?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Not yet. But that's going to have to change over time.
MUDD: One of the responsibilities of the Department of State is obviously to speak to the world. But let's look at the world for a moment in this first month of President Trump's presidency, through the eyes of the new secretary of state. He comes into Washington not having spoken much as a chairman of Exxon and he comes with the sort of tweetmaster in chief of the Oval Office talking every day and Sean Spicer having to respond to that. For somebody in Tillerson's shoes, not accustomed to speaking, if I were him, I would be concerned about are we certain we have a consistency message, and how much time, if I get on the air waves right now, will I have to answer for the president's tweets as opposed to speaking for myself about foreign policy issues like immigration in Mexico. KEILAR: Congressman Kingston, how does he do that? How does he try
to counteract the fact that there are so many tweets from President Trump, that there are disparate foreign policy opinions from, it seems, different departments? How does Rex Tillerson wrangle that, especially while his State Department is silent?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER GEORGIA CONGRESSMAN & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think in time, as he puts in his own team, and he starts to put his own stamp on foreign affairs, people will turn to him and say, OK, now we really want to know what's going on, we understand out of the White House there may be some rhetorical statements, there might be some politics going on. But Rex Tillerson is the final arbitrator, if you will, on foreign policy. I won't say he's over the president at all, but they'll look to him.
I want to point out, Condoleezza Rice was very silent as a secretary of state. It frustrated me as a Republican in Congress at that time, because I felt that she should be speaking out far more than she ever did on Iraq and Afghanistan and our efforts to fight terrorism around the globe. But she was kind of quiet. But in doing so, she sort of preserved her statesmanlike appearance and I think demeanor. And it served a useful purpose. Colin Powell, as secretary of state, spoke, but he spoke sparingly. A lot of what he said was through Richard Armitage or other members of his team.
I think Tillerson is going to be, coming from a business background, is probably the kind of guy who speaks no more than he needs to speak. I think the world will turn to him and have great respect. It's been pointed out many, many times, ExxonMobil has probably more locations than the State Department around the globe.
KEILAR: What about no White House briefing?
KINGSTON: I think he's dealt with world leaders before and he's going to be able to --
KEILAR: I'm talking about just the presence of, if not from Tillerson himself, just a presence of there being a larger I guess contact between the department and reporters to sort out where things stand. You have to admit, it's pretty confusing sometimes about where things stand on foreign policy with this administration.
KINGSTON: Well, you know, I don't know if he has a spokesperson yet at the State Department. One of the problems, as you know, when the Democrats have drug out all the confirmation processes, then the secretaries themselves haven't been able to put in their own team. I know that is the case in all the cabinets, that they're now trying to backfill some of the human bodies that they need just to get the machine to run on time.
Again, I don't know where they are on a spokesman, but it is very important that -- (CROSSTALK)
[11:35:14] KEILAR: Couldn't they pick staff, Phil? He didn't just get confirmed, it's been almost a few weeks now. And you can always be looking at staff, that's part of the transition process.
KINGSTON: Well, I don't think this is --
KEILAR: Sorry, Phil, go ahead.
MUDD: This is not a question of staff. Some of this is a question of messaging. Let me give you two examples. Number one, we have not had a national security adviser until a couple of days ago, who could enforce discipline within the cabinet to ensure that everybody is speaking off the same message. Number two, if you looked at what's been happening, including in the last week in Europe, you have consistently cabinet officials saying things that are different than what the president has said, on NATO, on Israel, on Russia, including Russian sanctions. So I think if you're Tillerson coming in, it's not that he has not found the right person. Some of it may be that they don't have a cabinet process to ensure discipline in the message, and he doesn't want to be out there every day saying, I don't want to say something different than what the president is saying, which is what happened in Europe this week with Vice President Mike Pence and the secretary of defense.
KEILAR: Maybe not to muddy the water.
Quick final word to you, Congressman?
KINGSTON: I think, in time, the number one thing we need to do is get all the cabinet members and key advisers that have to have Senate approval, we need to get them in place as soon as possible. That will help establish the goals and the direction and the communication. And I think that the Senate Democrats could do their part and say, you know what, the Republicans approved the Obama cabinet and key advisers as quickly as possible, let's go ahead. We've made our points now, we've scored our politics, now let's get on with the business of the American people and let President Obama -- President Trump have his team in place.
KEILAR: I would say hallelujah to both sides on that, Congressman. And it never happens.
Jack Kingston, Phil Mudd, thank you so much to both of you.
And as Republicans are facing angry citizens at town halls, live pictures of protesters outside of Mitch McConnell's -- even in Kentucky right now. You can see folks there on the ground. And we are going to be talking more about that after a quick break.
[11:4144:] KEILAR: A Florida pastor walked out of President Trump's weekend rally, calling it "demonic." He says his 11-year-old daughter was traumatized and in tears.
Pastor Joel Tooley is joining us live to share his story. He is the lead pastor at Church of the Nazarene in Florida.
Just to set the stage, Pastor Joel, Donald Trump is not your cup of tea, but you wanted to go any so that your daughter would have the experience of seeing a presidential event. Tell us about that what tell us what happened?
JOEL TOOLEY, LEAD PASTOR, CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE: First of all, to clarify, I didn't describe the event as "demonic." There was some --
KEILAR: A headline described it as that.
TOOLEY: Right. There were people that were interacting that acted very angrily. And I described that interaction --
KEILAR: You described some of the supporters, OK.
TOOLEY: I had the privilege of visiting a couple of presidential events in my past as a kid and as a young adult. And since this was in our backyard, it was a great opportunity to bring one of my kids and let them participate in this fantastic event. And the event unfolded, in my post I described it as somewhat of a religious experience. I'm pastor, so we create events that we hope people will have a religious experience. I was joking around with my kid about the magnificent song "God Bless the USA" and how people were rallying with that and responding. It was a lively experience for my kid to be a part of.
KEILAR: The part that really got so much attention was there was a protester in front of you, protesters near you, two women who had children with them. One of them had a disabled child with them. And describe what you saw and the reaction.
TOOLEY: They were not really being disruptive. I would say they were speaking in a voice almost like what I'm speaking at now. But the people around them suddenly reacted very quickly, angrily, screaming in their face, holding up signs up. People were motioning with their arms for security to come and remove them. Some of what we had seen in some of the campaign events. I noticed, one of the men became very aggressive and angry. That's the portion I described as demonic. You don't have that kind of anger in a reaction to something that happens in your day to day events.
KEILAR: And you actually stepped in between some of these protesters.
KEILAR: And tell me what happened and what led your daughter to tears.
TOOLEY: Well, I was reading, again, this morning, in a passage of my scripture reading that I was reading from Mica, that talks about the heart of God is that we would act justly, that we would love mercy, walk humbly. Even in that event, there was this injustice happening. I just reacted. I moved in. I positioned myself between the people that were interacting. And at one point, the vitriol was screamed in my face and shared at me. And I just spoke calmly, I said, these ladies aren't hurting anyone, they're not breaking any laws, they have the right to be here. And I said, just let them -- I said, ignore them. Turn and listen to the president.
[11:45:06] KEILAR: You did note that two of the women that you said that to actually did turn around, one man certainly did not. The protesters eventually left. I'm sure that wasn't the experience you wanted your daughter to see. But what was the take away for you, not being a Trump supporter, but what was the take away, real quick -- I'm running out of time here -- but I want you to tell me what the takeaway was for you.
TOOLEY: The takeaway for me was we have a nation right now that is very emotionally involved with the decisions that are taking place. I think I can speak at least to my tribe, people who follow the teachings and the ways of Jesus, that we have a responsibility to not allow our own desires for safety and security to get in the way of justice. Scripture is very clear in how we are to love our neighbors. Sometimes that means we have to do some things that are awkward for us or not maybe in our official DNA. But we have to make choices that allow us to serve those that are not like us.
And my kids learned a lot from that experience, by watching and hearing the story. Now even seeing the reactions. I think, as a nation, we have an incredible opportunity to take a shift away from all of the anger and say, who do we really want to be as people? Do we want to be good neighbors? Do we want to love people? Do we want our neighborhoods and communities to be safe and strong and secure? That's got to change by the way churches and Christian people react to all of the violence and the hate that's being spread.
KEILAR: We appreciate you being with us.
I do just want to clarify, because of the use of the word "Demonic," you had described the behavior of some crowd members as being that way.
TOOLEY: Right. Right.
KEILAR: The headlines took that word because it was used in your post.
But, Pastor Joel Tooley, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
TOOLEY: Thank you. KEILAR: Facing the heat. One Republican lawmaker speaks to a fiery
crowd after saying, "Women are in my grille no matter where I go." We'll talk to him next.
Plus, moments ago, Ivanka Trump attended arguments at the Supreme Court. Hear why, in what was sort of an unusual scene.
[11:51:33] KEILAR: It is hardly a welcome mat that is greeting lawmakers back to work after the congressional recess. This is what it looked like on Tuesday as angry voters packed town halls across the country demanding answers from the representatives. Republican lawmakers in particular are getting an earful while being confronted about President Trump's agenda. The raucous scenes have not gone unnoticed by the White House. President Trump tweeting yesterday, "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad."
Here's a quick snapshot of one day of voter outrage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last I heard, these are not coming back, and now these people don't have the insurance they need because they're poor, and they work those coal mines, and they're sick. The veterans are sick. The veterans are broken down. They're not getting what they need. If you can answer any of that, I'll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to go back to the ACA. You folks in Washington have had seven years to come up with --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of concern that we are going to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You stole the Supreme Court Pick. You stole it.
REP. DAVID BRAT, (R), VIRGINIA: A lot of people are organizing and doing rallies and people are getting boisterous. What if I don't mind boisterous? I'm having fun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And you just heard from Dave Brat there, a Republican Congressman from Virginia. And he is joining us now. You thought it was important to go and have a town hall in person.
You took 30 questions for over an hour last night. Many of your colleagues are not doing this because of the reaction. What do you say to them about what you chose to do?
BRAT: Yeah. Well, it's a tough call. Thanks, Brianna. We had a few of the organized protesters with the pink cue cards, when to boo and all that, but most of the folks are just sincere constituents that have anxieties. A lot of them on ACA Obamacare. You heard in the last clip. They -- my goal was to allay some of the anxieties and concerns saying, hey, nobody is going to get the rug pulled out from you, but then the booing kicked in midway in, and so the only regret is that a lot of people that show up and want me to do town halls don't get rationale civil discourse, which is the goal of a town hall. And so, it makes it very hard on us when we're trying to say, hey, what's the real objective here? We got through 34 questions from constituents, and then you have 10,000 folks that say, hey, you're my representative, you have to meet with me. We want to do that, but then when we show up to get booed down. I's a tough job.
KEILAR: Yeah. I mean, I imagine that is incredibly frustrating if you are trying to have a substantive conversation.
But let me pose this question to you. I covered the summer of 2009 where it was the complete opposite, right? It was Democrats in this exact same position over Obamacare. They were getting booed. They were cancelling town halls. They were having these tele-town halls instead so they could control the situation. We're seeing Republicans do that now. That was an indicator of a wave that came in 2010 in the Tea Party which you were backed by in 2014. Is it important to hear outrage like this because it is a signal to these members of Congress?
[11:55:12] BRAT: Yeah. It's hugely important to hear, and we hear it. I did two Facebook town halls. I think we got 30,000 hits in one day. The Tea Party was interesting too, though, because over half the energy was against our own leadership and our own Republican Party, and that point is often missed.
KEILAR: You blasted a Republican, the number two Republican in the House, we should mention.
BRAT: I know. Right. Yeah.
KEILAR: But keep going about what you learn from this.
BRAT: Yeah. What I learned is it's -- Obamacare is broken. When you got the head of Humana and the head of the insurance companies saying we're out of the market. It's broken. So, the car is in the ditch. I just came in two years ago, and now we've got to fix it. And people get very frustrated and we're laying out our agenda, which is Obamacare, then regs, which already has the economy boosted, the market is going up, jobs are coming, and then a tax reform package in April, if we can get there. We're laying out an agenda. And I asked the press last night when I was done, I said what's the agenda on the other side of the aisle? The press was just dumbfounded. They didn't know. What the press can do to help allay some of the anxieties is give the people the background. What does the price plan look like, the Rand Paul plan look like, the House Freedom Caucus plan looks like? Then we can educate each other and have a rationale discourse at these town halls. And then -- because it's very hard, right, in 30 seconds to say, hey, what's your position on ACA or health care reform going forward?
BRAT: If all the press, you know, quit all the sound bytes on the pile of ticks and get to the underlying policy, I think we would have a better conversation.
KEILAR: I want to circle back really quickly, because I'm out of time at the end of the hour, to something you said at the beginning. You said you felt like most of the people there were your concerned constituents.
BRAT: They were.
KEILAR: We've heard the president dismissing the outrage as being planned by liberal activists. That's not what you saw.
BRAT: Well, unfortunately, the majority are great constituents, but we had 20 in the back row from the Resist movement, and they self- identified that way on camera. Right? The Indivisible document. It had 15 million downloads as of yesterday. Those folks are instigating the anger and starting the shouts, and then people will join in, and then you can't have -- the Democratic process breaks down, and you can't have a decent town hall. That -- we look at, going forward, what's the best use of our time, and how do we really hear from as many constituents as possible, which is our goal?
KEILAR: Congressman, thank you so much for talking about what was really a brave move for you to hold that town hall.
BRAT: Thank you.
KEILAR: Thank you so much.
KEILAR: Thank you, Brianna.
BRAT: Thanks for a great interview. Very fair. Very fair. Good job.
KEILAR: All right. Thank you so much, sir.
Any moment now, top Republicans are set to meet with officials on our border with Mexico to assess the costs of building a wall there. We'll bring you that live.
[12:00:08] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.
The U.S./Mexico border getting extra attention today.