Kris Kobach: Immigration policy should put the economy first
This is a rush transcript from "The Story," August 2, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
DANA PERINO, GUEST HOST: Breaking tonight, the push to curb legal immigration into the United States -- that's "The Story." President Trump blamed by a pair of senators -- Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and David Perdue of Georgia -- and bailing a new bill aimed at slashing the number of legal immigrants allowed entry to the U.S. by 50 percent over the next decade.
Good evening, I'm Dana Perino in for Martha MacCallum. The proposed bill laying out a new immigration strategy offering what proponents deemed a merit basis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.
SEN. TOM COTTON, R-ARK.: We bring over a million immigrants into this country a year. That's like adding the population of Montana every single year; adding the population of Arkansas every three years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERINO: The bill, still on its infancy, immediately sparking a debate. And at today's White House press briefing, tempers flaring when Trump policy advisors, Steven Miller, took to the mic. For more on the scene, inside the briefing room earlier today, let's go to Chief National Correspondent, Ed Henry, who is live at the White House for us. Ed, what do you have?
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dana, good evening. You and I know all about fireworks in that briefing room. We had some spirited exchanges when you were White House press secretary. And the issue of immigration certainly sparks a lot of passion, and so there were some fiery moments yet again today. Somewhere, Steve Bannon is smiling, because President Trump's top strategist is an America first populist, of course. And this issue enabled the commander in chief to put himself squarely in the corner of the American worker, declaring that too many low skilled, legal immigrants are taking away jobs and lowering wages for not just white citizens, but African-Americans and Hispanics as well.
The president wants to pass the Raise Act, which would cut the number of green cards issued each year and a half from one million to about 500,000 over the next decade, by following in the footsteps of countries like Canada and Australia, by making this a merit-based system focused on highly skilled workers. Now, the president's critics note that Canada and Australia let in more than double the number of legal immigrants per capita compared to America, and add that this policy would actually hurt the U.S. economy because it would cut economic growth by slowing the flow of legal immigrants at a time when we actually need more workers participating in the economy. And reporters from the New York Times and CNN were eager today to also jump on other aspects of this proposal, like the push to learn English. That was red meat for Steven Miller, another one of the president's key America first advisors who went right at some of the White House's biggest media targets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER FOR POLICY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I named the studies --
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: May ask you first a question? Can tell me how many --
MILLER: Maybe we'll make it carved out in the bill. It says the New York Times can hire all the low-skilled, less paid workers they want from other countries, and see how you feel then about low wage substitution.
ACOSTA: Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?
MILLER: Jim, actually, I am shocked at your statement, that you think the only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It's actually -- it reveals your cosmopolitan biased to a shocking degree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: And those moments perfectly crystallized this debate. Great passion, a lot of fiery moments, but it is not likely to become law. So instead, this is a chance for a president who is struggling to pass major legislation to rally his political base by saying, look, I'm standing up for these plans, I talked about in the campaign, but the swap in Washington is blocking me. Dana.
PERINO: I'm pretty sure, Ed, that you and I were never that spirited. But I did give you quite the look. You know what I mean.
HENRY: You looked at me funny sometimes. There were tense moments, but we always made up.
PERINO: That's true. We did. And now, here we are. So, thank you so much, Ed. I appreciate it. All right, here with more is Kris Kobach, he's Kansas Secretary of State. He also consulted the Trump campaign on immigration policy. And obviously, Kris, I know that you're running for governor as well, so this is a timely issue. And I wonder, when you're on the ground talking to people in Kansas, I know that illegal immigration is something on the minds of people, but is this legal immigration issue something that you hear about as well?
KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, you do indirectly, because the two biggest concerns I hear when talking to, you know, people who are dealing with some of the problems of both legal and illegal immigration are the burden on the American taxpayer and the burden on the American worker. And so, this Raise Act, which deals principally with illegal immigration, addresses both. You know, one of the most amazing statistics, Dana, is that 51 percent of alien-headed households, illegal or illegal, mixed together; 51 percent consuming at least one federal means tested welfare program versus 30 percent of households headed by native-born U.S. citizens.
And so, what we're essentially doing under our current system is we're bringing in a large number of poor people who are unskilled, and they're coming into our welfare state, and the American taxpayer's immediately supporting them. And so, this Raise Act, and President Trump's proposal here, is to take the burden off the taxpayer, and also take some of that competitive burden off of the American workers who are trying to get these lower end jobs, these blue-collar jobs, and have them compete on equal terms in order to get those jobs and not see wages depressed too. You know, as you know, Dana, wages have been staggering for almost three decades in America.
PERINO: Right. And I -- you know, obviously, there are studies that support the position that the president and senators laid out today that you might dissent. And then there are studies from other places saying that they're actually is a great benefit to legal immigration, and like when you have that coming forward, that it helps. I understand the merit based system. I think that actually makes a lot of sense.
And especially I wanted to ask you about the piece about -- what Ed Henry was speaking about when he's talking about the reports and the exchange about English: is the assimilation a part of the plan as well? Which is that we want to have immigrants come into the country legally, participating, and able to participate and English is a part of that?
KOBACH: Yes, absolutely. So, people can learn English once they get here, but if a person already has some English skill, he or she is probably going to be able to make a better economic impact sooner in America. So, the bottom line in this bill is it wants to have a point system, which we've never had before, which says, OK, we have all of these hundreds of thousands of people wanting to come here legally in any given year. Let's pick the ones that do the best for themselves and for the United States, so we give credit to people with educational payments, we give credit to people who have a history of entrepreneurship in their home country.
KOBACH: We give credit to people who have some other outstanding compliments. Let's let the best and brightest come to the front of the line. Sure, you can still -- if you have a minor child in your home country, or if you have a spouse, of course, those family connections will allow you to bring in that person. But let's think about the American economy first and not be importing so many people who go straight to welfare.
PERINO: Well, I guess, I would love to see more reporting on the straight to welfare, because I do think you'll see businesses, as Ed Henry was saying, you know, you could see the Chamber of Commerce being one of the people -- one of the groups that push back against this. But let me ask you this because Republicans have long disparaged things like the $15.00 minimum wage, or something like card checks because it was government intrusion on the market. How is this different to that?
KOBACH: Well, the -- think of it this way, the labor market for foreign workers is by definition controlled by the government. Every government on the planet controls how many foreign nationals are allowed to come into its job market. So, it's not really government interference. Our country, in order to have borders, meaningful borders and be a sovereign nation, every country has to have some control over how many people come in and have access to its jobs. So, I wouldn't think of this as increased government involvement, we're already there.
The government of the United States has been defining who can come in and who can't for more than a century now. So, really, what we're talking about is tweaking it a little bit so that the interest of the American worker and taxpayer are first. Looking back at that welfare consumption, the average immigrant household consumes more than $6,200 a year in federal welfare benefits, that's not even counting the state welfare benefits they consume. Let's try to bring in more people who are not going to consume welfare benefits, who are going to be a job creator, who are going to be entrepreneurs. But the point is, let's think of the American people first when we decide who gets to come in.
PERINO: All right. Kris Kobach, thanks so much. I appreciate you being here tonight.
KOBACH: Thank you.
PERINO: All right. It was just Monday that we told you about a brutal attack in Portland, Oregon. A 65-year-old woman, allegedly sexually assaulted by an immigrant -- deported from the U.S. 20 times. Tragically, a similar case occurring in Washington state, a 19-year-old woman, found bloody, unable to talk with a broken jaw and a broken nose after an alleged rape. The suspect, a 23-year-old, brought to this country illegally as a child. Tonight, the town Burien is taking matters into their own hands, fighting to put a referendum on this November's ballot to drop its sanctuary city status.
Here now is Katie Pavlich, News Editor at Townhall.com and Fox News Contributor, of course; and Francisco Hernandez, an Immigration Attorney. I thought this was interesting, Katie, we've been talking about sanctuary cities for quite a while. Of course, there are crimes that happen all across the country, with all sorts of suspects and those who are then eventually convicted. This issue with sanctuary cities is, in some ways feel like its being pushed between Washington and the cities. But now, you have citizens who are actually saying, we want our city to do something different. Do you see that as sort of a sea change moment?
KATIE PAVLICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND NEWS EDITOR AT TOWNHALL: Well, that's a very basic concept. We want to know who is in our city, are they legal -- here legally, and are they going to be accountable for their actions? As we've reported on this network and elsewhere, these are not isolated incidents or these heinous, horrible crimes happening in sanctuary cities across the country. They're not happening in droves, in cities that don't allow for sanctuary city policy.
The problem is that illegal aliens who've been deported before come back and are emboldened by sanctuary city policies because they know they're not going to be handed over to ICE, be held accountable for their crimes. And so, it's an issue that people are paying attention to, it's an issue that people are going to be voting on, and I'm glad to see in this case that people are getting involved in telling their city council, we no longer want this to be a place where criminals are able to get away with things like this.
PERINO: Francisco, how does somebody, you know, defend you know, at least in the case for in the Oregon -- an illegal immigrant deported 20 times? Is the breakdown on our end as well?
FRANCISCO HERNANDEZ, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Well, look, for a person that's been deported 20 times -- about the second or third time, they ought to be federally prosecuted for illegal reentry after deportation. But you're talking about two different things. There is no such thing as a sanctuary city. A city cannot oppose the federal government from picking up at the jail. The city cannot say, we're not going to turn over somebody to ICE. It is impossible, as federal preemption clause, "federal law prevails," and we do every day with drug dealers or any person that the federal government wants to prosecute that's in any jail in the country.
The difference is that we have this political phantom. Everybody's afraid of it, but nobody can touch it, simply because congress won't act. Criminals don't flock to a sanctuary city. The city cannot protect anybody. They're not going to flock to commit crimes in something that's called a sanctuary city. It just -- it needs to be acted on by Congress, get on with immigration reform. We just got through talking about reforming legal immigration; we can't even get illegal immigration right, and we can't even get congress to act on illegal immigration. Now, they want to go that way?
PERINO: OK. Katie, I want you to respond to that, including the fact that, you know, we are seeing action now like there is action from the Trump administration pushing forward. There is action from the courts, although that is low. But now you see, citizens actually saying, we don't want to have this arrangement, we do want to cooperate with ICE. And you had Charlie Baker, the Governor of Massachusetts, yesterday, introducing legislation there and saying that I want to give permission to our local authorities to work with ICE.
PAVLICH: Well --
HERNANDEZ: But they don't need permission.
PERINO: Francisco, let Katie.
PAVLICH: Francisco made the argument that these cities are not -- it's illegal for them not to turn over people to ICE. So, that's exactly the arguing issue. That's just why they have been making -- is that these sanctuary cities across the country have been breaking the law and not turning over criminals who, by the way, on the record in court documents, including the case of Kate Steinle, the illegal alien in that case who was charged with murder, admitted, I came to San Francisco after being deported because it's a sanctuary city.
HERNANDEZ: He was transferred -- he was transferred from L.A. county jail with an immigration hold for minor traffic violations in San Francisco. That's absolutely not true.
PAVLICH: They let him out, and they protected him in San Francisco for months.
HERNANDEZ: Anybody could've picked him up. No, ICE doesn't need the city's permission to open the jail cell to get him out. I saw it there.
PAVLICH: The city does not help them when they have them in their custody. And therefore, they go out and commit crimes before ICE can get in and arrest.
HERNANDEZ: ICE doesn't need the help.
PERINO: This is an issue -- I appreciate both of you. There are a lot of issues, and obviously, there needs to be a lot of reform. And I do think that the court should weigh in quickly to help us resolve this. OK. Katie and Francisco, thanks so much.
HERNANDEZ: Thank you.
PERINO: Still ahead, a new development into the investigation into Obama- era spying; why a former Obama advisor is now on a hot seat for his role in the unmasking scandal. Plus, the White House, pushing back on a New York Times' report that the DOJ is targeting affirmative action at colleges. Tonight, the administration says the paper got the story completely wrong. Ed Henry will have that reaction ahead.
And an "incompetent player" -- that's what Moscow is labeling President Trump tonight in the wake of new sanctions on Russia. Ari Fleischer, A.B. Stoddard, and Chris Stirewalt up next on, if this is the final blow to a reset with Putin.
PERINO: Breaking tonight, Moscow lashing out at President Trump, labeling him an "incompetent player" in the wake of new U.S. sanctions against Russia. The president approving the sanctions as punishment for interference in the 2016 election, but berating Congress for limiting his control over them, writing, "This legislation is significantly flawed. In its haste to pass the legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions."
Joining me now are Ari Fleischer, a former White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush; A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor at Real Clear Politics; and Chris Stirewalt, Fox News Politics Editor. So, Chris, I think that was some pretty, like, high-stake strolling by Moscow today. And I've read his FSP file, and they said we're going to hit him right where it hurts.
CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR: And Sergey Lavrov questioned the president manhood. The Russian Foreign Minister, basically was like, yes, it shows how weak and Congress controls him. So, yes, they're upset.
PERINO: But did you notice that it can, A.B., from Medvedev? It did not come from Putin himself. What do you make of that?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I still think it's obviously high enough up that it's really an incredible provocation coming from him. Yet, when he says he's handed control over to the congress, and he's been humiliated. And it's -- it plays, obviously, right into the way that they know Trump is, and the way he responds. He had made it clear in that statement that he was powerless. He had a veto-proof majority, which sent this bill over; he could not veto it. They were going to overturn the veto. It would've been really humiliating.
So, he decided, he tried to make clear in the statement that he wasn't pleased, and the Congress was so inept and they can't pass health care for seven years, and he obviously could negotiate better deals. But he isn't really in a box, and you see Congress saying, signing it, you know, in private with this with all of these caveats, and the statement is a sign of weakness. Senator Graham said that today, Senator McCain pushed back in a statement saying, Congress co-equal branch of government. And frankly, Congress is going to continue to push back. They're very concerned that since Sunday, when Vladimir Putin announced the expulsion of 755 U.S. diplomatic personnel, this White House has not said anything.
PERINO: That's right. But Ari, president's (INAUDIBLE) statements are nothing new, and they often can be criticized as legislation that as high stakes like this. But do you think the Democrats might make too much of it?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I don't know what's left for the Democrats to make. I mean, obviously, the central issue remains collusion, and that's an unproven charge. We'll find out from Bob Mueller what the facts are, and I think we'll move beyond that. But you know, what strikes me here -- the bigger picture is: Russia seems to think it can understand our system and they never do.
FLEISCHER: This backfired on them. Their meddling in our election backfired on them more than anything they can imagine.
PERINO: Yes, they meddled in order to get rid of sanctions, and then they ended up with more sanctions.
FLEISCHER: That's my point. And today, when they come out and say that Congress has the upper hand over Donald Trump, they really don't understand democracies and free governments and the will of a free people. They may taunt us, but they don't understand us and it always rebounds to their negative.
PERINO: Do you remember when Putin thought that George W. Bush had fired Dan Rather from the CBS?
FLEISCHER: That's right.
PERINO: And 43 said, don't go out there and say that Vladimir. That's not how it works here, be he went out and that's what he said, and on our entire press corps laughed at him. We have another subject that we want to get to which is the Dow Jones, hitting on historic highs, signaling a lot of confidence in the stock and prompting some both scenes from President Trump.
But worth noting that one of his biggest campaign promises was that he was going to stick it to Wall Street. It could, perhaps, explain the disconnect with voters that the president finds himself at an all-time low -- 33 percent approval rating in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Chris, the stock market is certainly is on a tear, right? It's at six-record highs, hitting 22,000 for the first time. The president would like credit for that, and yet, the approval ratings are not corresponding.
STIREWALT: Before the president was the president, he was very good about pointing out that the Federal Reserve, sleuthing giant gobs of money into the U.S. economy and keeping rates at rock bottom loads; it was very helpful to markets because all they want is that stability and so they're going for it. But the larger problem here: the larger problem is the president's real focus, the real yardstick for the president and his success with his supporters and everybody in America, is real wages, real take-home pay.
The stock market can be through the roof. Rich people in New York can go to rich people things, and it's all very wonderful and great. But if real incomes don't start to go up in a pronounced way, and I would say a good benchmark for the president is about $1500. If he can see -- if we can see the real household income, median household incomes go up by $1300 or $1500 in his first term, then he'll get elected and he can (INAUDIBLE) -- he can get re-elected even if he (INAUDIBLE) with Putin.
PERINO: And people will have benefited.
STIREWALT: Yes, it won't matter.
PERINO: Ari, is it just really hard for a Republican to get credit for a good economy?
FLEISCHER: It's hard for anybody to get credit for a good economy from the press. It's hard for anybody to get credit from the press as a Republican. But you know, Dana, I remember when George Bush was president, and the stock market would go down. Literally, the cable stations would do a half split screen -- where George Bush is on one side giving a speech, and the little down arrow on the right of the screen marked into a gigantic half- screen down arrow.
Donald Trump is onto something. The press will give you blame disproportionately for everything you do as a president, particularly this president, and they will not give you credit. And that's a long-standing bias I've felt from the media, it's particularly pronounced for Donald Trump. But, Chris is right. The American people are able to feel what their wages are, and if he's able to get blue-collar wages particularly up, he has a chance to beat back the presses bias.
PERINO: And yet, A.B., I'll give you the last word about these poll numbers because you notice some things in there that, you know, the numbers across the board aren't necessarily good. If they got some when wins maybe they would improve, but some fundamentals are still very low.
STODDARD: Right. He really needs to put some wins on the board. And the dishonesty numbers are on the rise. The strong support among his base weight, working-class, white men, Republicans, going down, and those are signs that his tweets and his temperament are becoming an issue in the absence of a big legislative win. I think Chris and Ari are right if the voters don't feel something they can hold onto something tangible next year -- some economic growth, from tax cuts, improve tiring if they don't see some change in their health care; that is going to be a different story. But you're looking at the way that his behavior has led to a decline in his numbers, even among his strongest supporters in these new polls really points to a bigger problem for him.
PERINO: All right. Well, thanks, everybody. We appreciate your insight.
STIREWALT: You bet.
PERINO: All right. Tonight, could team Trump be cracking down on affirmative action? If you heard the story today, you might have heard wrong; Ed Henry has reaction from the White House tonight. Plus, one fellow Republican calls him an imposter who dishonorably speaks for conservatism. The president who he shares a party with has considered spending $10 million to defeat him. Up next, Senator Jeff Flake responds to the firestorm -- his new has created.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-ARIZ.: I'm concerned that the type of policies going forward: protectionism, isolationism, are really not conservative values. And I'm concerned about where the party goes if we embrace those kinds of principles.
PERINO: Tonight, a senator and a new book, dividing Republicans on the Hill and angering some pundits on the right. GOP Senator, Jeff Flake, has emerged as a sometimes GOP critic to Donald Trump. As a result, Flake's new book, "Conscience of a Conservative," has been met with swift rebuke from some prominent voices in conservative media. Laura Ingraham tweeting, "I look forward to campaigning against Jeff Flake in Arizona, and for one of his able primary challengers. Stand by for the fireworks!" Brent Bozell writing, "I also call on my conservative brethren to denounce this imposter, who dishonorably claims to speak for conservatism in the strongest possible terms."
It should be noted that despite the criticism, the senator receives high grades from a number of conservative watchdogs including the NRA, and the Pro-Life, NRLC, and Freedom Works. Additionally, his colleague, John Thune is defending his right to speak. Telling Politico, "I think Jeff's got a fairly strong held view about where we are as a party and where we need to go, and I think it's fine for him to articulate that. So, joining me now to respond is Republican Senator, Jeff Flake, of Arizona. So, your book is a slim-volume but it has created a lot of discussion. The way I thought, it was the book was not necessarily an anti-Trump book, but it was talking about the conservative movement as a whole and where it stands now. Because, clearly, as you saw from the response that your book got, there is a divide within the Republican Party in this debate, and do you feel like you're caught sort right in the middle of it?
JEFF FLAKE, U.S. SENATOR: Well, this does start long before the current administration. I think the trouble with conservatism, you know, really started -- well, it could be traced. I came to congress in 2001, and we had the majority in the house, and the senate, and also we have the White House. And at that time, I think we did a lot of things that we should not have. We really kind of threw away the mantle of fiscal conservatism. We spent like drunken sailors. You know, earmark spending, all of the obscene things that we did, and we were thrown out of the majority in 2006, and both the house and the senate, and we lost the presidency in 2008.
PERINO: And you said that you regret your vote in 2008 on the -- during the financial crisis. The tarp bill, also known as the bank bill.
FLAKE: Right. I think there was a financial crisis that certainly we had to play the ball where it was, and it wasn't a good situation we were in. And I mentioned in the book, I kind of took the easy route out and relied on my colleagues to do the right thing, which I think was to ensure that our economy stayed. So, that is one vote I've mentioned that I regret.
PERINO: So how do you feel about the criticism that somebody like Brent Bozell saying that you're dishonoring people like Bill Buckley?
FLAKE: Well, this book is very much a homage to Barry Goldwater. He in 1960 felt that the party had been compromised by the new deal, and he felt that he needed to write a blueprint about where the party needed to go. I think today, the party is being compromised by populism, by protectionism, isolationism, and I think we need to do a self-evaluation again, because populism is just not a governing philosophy. It's not the direction we need to have in the future.
PERINO: So is that then a direct criticism of President Trump?
FLAKE: Well, as I've said, I have been critical of the president and the campaign on policy, in particular on trade. I think that we ought to embrace free trade. We are living in a globalized society, and we can either take advantage of it, or we can be left behind.
PERINO: So what would you feel about -- the president today, stood with two of your colleagues, senators Cotton and Purdue on the raise act, which is an immigration piece to curtails legal immigration, green card holders by 50 percent, and some other pieces in there. Where would you stand on this legislation like that?
FLAKE: I very much support a merit-based system. In fact, the bipartisan bill that we did a couple of years ago, we employed a merit-based system for legal immigration. But we didn't cut the numbers in half. I think that that's the last thing we need to do if we want to grow an economy. I think that almost every economist would tell you that. So I agree with the merit- based system, we need to bring more people in who can help with our economy, certainly our competitors are doing that, but we can't cut the numbers in half. That wouldn't be the right direction to go.
PERINO: So in Arizona, where you'll be up for reelection, I think the approval rating for you is somewhere in the high 30's, are you concerned about a primary challenge for your reelection effort?
FLAKE: In an off year, those saved, unsaved, are always, you know, skewed. John McCain, at the same time, I think had a 30 percent approval rating, 54 disapproved, minus somewhere around there. In an off year, it's always that way. I'm going to run, run hard, have a good campaign, and I feel good about it.
PERINO: I remember another member who was threatened with a primary challenger on their right, saying, if they can get to the right of me, well, God bless them, because they didn't think that was possible.
PERINO: Last word, I wanted to actually ask you about criticism from you from the left as well. So the New York Times, for example, always wanting Republicans to stand up against President Trump.
PERINO: They actually have somebody in you who wrote an op-ed in Politico that was pretty pointed. And yet, that's never good enough. What they basically want is complete submission from a Republican if they're going to push back against President Trump. Were you surprised by that or typical?
FLAKE: I'm a conservative. I mean, that's the bottom line, and I'm going to vote conservative. I voted with the president on a great Supreme Court justice, and on regulatory reform issues. I think his instincts are good on tax policy. But, I think that on the side of policy immigration, for example, and things like behavior, and comportment, and demeanor, I think that I have been critical of the president and the White House, and I think that Republicans should.
PERINO: All right. Well, thank you for coming on. We appreciate it.
FLAKE: Thank you.
PERINO: All right. Coming up, another former Obama aide now included in the investigation into the unmasking of Trump campaign officials. We'll ask a former Obama administration spokesperson to respond. Plus, a firestorm ignited after a New York Times report claimed the DOJ is targeting affirmative action at colleges. Just one problem, says the White House, it completely wrong. Ed Henry has been following the developments and joins us with that breaking news next.
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UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe that white applicants to colleges are the victims of discrimination?
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PERINO: The Trump administration pushing back to a report from the New York Times headline, quote, Justice Department to take on affirmative action in college admission. The report which claims that Trump DOJ would refocus civil rights resources that target colleges that engage in affirmative action practices is completely wrong according to the Justice Department. Chief national correspondent Ed Henry has been following this story for us and is live at the White House. Ed, sometimes these things happen, and just can be completely wrong, other times there might have been like a trial balloon that was set up and that basically they poked it.
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana. It seems like the opposite. Fake news as the White House would claim. In fact, the New York Times appears to have gone into the story with a preconceived notion that they think the president's views are racist, so they took a swing at him and they missed rather badly. It all started with a simply want ad. That's right. A job posting over at the Justice Department seeking lawyers to work on a new project to investigate, quote, race-based discrimination in colleges and universities in their admissions practices. Well, the New York Times obtained that classified ad, and then ran the story suggesting this meant that President Trump wants to round up evidence that affirmative action policies have gone too far, so white applicants from college are now facing reverse determination.
This ignited a firestorm, as a parade of Democrats, including former President Obama's education secretary John King, rush out to say he was, quote, deeply disheartened by a move that would allegedly hurt African- American and Hispanic students. One big problem with all this outrage. The job ad for lawyers to work for Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not refer to white students facing any kind of reversed its discrimination. Didn't mention white students at all. And so Justice officials pointed out to Fox, this was not a policy announcement, and they say Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House podium said, the lawyering up to investigate potential discrimination against people of all races. Watch.
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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The New York Times article is based entirely on uncorroborated inferences from a leaked internal personnel posting in violation of Departments of Justice policy. And while the White House does not confirm or deny the existence of potential investigation, the Department of Justice will always review credible allegation of discrimination on the basis of any race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Well, that was this afternoon. And just a few moments ago, the Justice Department came out and denied all of this even more vehemently. They revealed they're hiring more lawyers to investigate a complaint filed by, yes, 64 Asian American associations, alleging discrimination at Harvard University. They first alleged this in 2015, sent it to the Obama Justice Department, and they never fully acted on it. So Dana, this is basically a case of alleged discrimination against Asian-American students. Not white students, as the New York Times suggested, and it's a leftover from something the Obama administration did not finish in the Trump administration.
PERINO: I remember when that lawsuit was filed. I think it's very interesting and so -- well, it's never a dull moment. Thank you, Ed, appreciate it.
HENRY: Good to see you.
PERINO: Joining me now, Kevin Jackson is executive director of the blackspear.net and is Fox News contributor. Wendy -- is a professor at John Hopkins University and political commentator. Wendy, let me start with you since I didn't say your name properly.
WENDY OSEFO, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Thank you.
PERINO: So the White House is saying, and the Justice Department is saying this is actually not happening. But when I read your reaction to it, obviously, there are some concerns amongst the African-American communities that there could be a decision by the Justice Department to go after these kinds of cases. What do you think?
OSEFO: Yeah, I don't think it was just a concern amongst the African- American community. I think it was a concern among educators as a whole, and as far as higher education is concern. We have to make sure that students, regardless of their color, they are given equal opportunity because we have empirical data that says that those who come from underrepresented minority groups have been statistically marginalized when it comes to the higher education practices. So, for individuals to jump out on the story and quickly say, you know, this was against white students and that's where they were going with it, you know there's definitely some pullback that needs to be done to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row before people jump out, but however, the White House is saying this is not what they're doing, and then we're, you know, are OK with that, right? Because we know that black and brown students are statistically marginalized in higher education.
PERINO: But Kevin, the Justice Department is saying that this is a false story, but you actually think that maybe they should take this on.
KEVIN JACKSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely, they should. You know, the fact the marginalization of blacks in higher ed. comes from the fact that you could score so much lower than an Asian student. I think you have to score 1085 and an Asian kid has to score 1310 to get into the same school.
PERINO: That's not true.
JACKSON: So I don't blame Asians for doing that. But the worst thing about this is that what they call the racism of low expectation. Look, my son is an awarded grad, he got in and graduated magna cum laude, and he's now performing in his real job in a very good way. It's because he's a bright kid. And it didn't matter that if there was affirmative action or whatever. When are we going to lose the crotch?
Here's what I can tell you, Dana. No white kid is trying to get into and HBCU, historically black college university. You're not going to see the racist activities of those schools that are overwhelmingly black being pursued by white kids. Why? Because those schools aren't performing at the level of Harvard. So, the discrimination is right in your face with HBCU's, but when it comes to actual schools like Harvard, they should be based on your ability to do the job. We placate to the black community. It's time to stop this nonsense.
PERINO: Wendy, let me have you respond to that.
OSEFO: So everything he just is statistically dubious and incorrect. First of all, affirmative action benefit white female the most and that is the fact. Furthermore, before we start pulling the race card, which is what this gentleman is doing, let's face the fact, 2.4 million unemployed black people make up the United States population. There are 112 unemployed white Americans. So there's more white Americans that are unemployed. So even if we use affirmative action to give every black person a job, that will only affect 2 percent of the white population.
OSEFO: So let's not sit here -- excuse me, reclaiming my time.
OSEFO: We're not going to sit here and say -- let's not sit here and say that everything is based on race when it's not. There are black students who perform at high levels and they have a rightful place in any ivy league institutions.
JACKSON: That's exactly what I'm saying.
PERINO: Here's the thing that we all agree on.
JACKSON: . there are black kids who perform at higher levels and that's the way it should be. Look.
PERINO: Kevin, we've got to run.
JACKSON: . blacks are historically under-employed, period.
OSEFO: I don't know where you're getting your facts from, if its from a back.
OSEFO: . but you're clearly wrong.
PERINO: We're out of time. But here's a fact, we all want people to succeed. So we can work together on that. All right, thanks to you both. New developments tonight in the ongoing investigation into possible Obama era spying on the former Trump campaign. Former President Obama's advisor, Ben Rhodes, now caught up in all of this. We'll explain, next. When Marie Harf, herself a former Obama official is here. Along with former spokesperson to President Bush, Mercedes Schlapp.
PERINO: Developing tonight, new reporting from our own James Rosen into the ongoing investigation into potential spying by the Obama administration on the Trump campaign. House committee chair Devin Nunes wrote to the NSA requesting information on the spying habits of former Obama advisor Ben Rhodes. Rhodes is just the latest former Obama official to get caught up in the probe, joining Susan Rice, John Brennen and Samantha Powers. Here to debate, Mercedes Schlapp is a former spokesperson for President George W. Bush, and Marie Harf is a former Obama state department spokesperson, both are Fox News contributors. Thank you for joining me, ladies. Andy McCarthy of National Review wrote something that I just -- put this on twitter. He said that he's very interested in the unmasking political spying story, but his hesitation is the president could declassify all of this, why hasn't he? I'm totally willing to believe there was political spying, but when people in position easily to prove it just flow innuendo, count me out. So, Marie, does the -- formal Obama officials are they frustrated that this drip, drip, drip, accusation against them, but there could be exposure if the president wanted?
MARIE HARF, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the Obama administration officials I've talked to have been very clear, while there's a lot of innuendo out there, exactly what you've just said, there has been zero evidence at this point of anything improper being done. And you even had senate intel chairman Richard Burr, who's a Republican, say -- after he talk to Susan Rice. He came out and said, Devin Nunes created this whole unmasking thing, and we'll see if there's actually anything improper, but he hasn't seen it yet. So Devin Nunes is really trying to push this theory with no evidence behind it.
PERINO: And Mercy, I guess there could be that -- maybe there wasn't a crime committed, unmasking apparently was allowed, I've never certainly ask any of that, I know you didn't either. But again, the question is then, like why then are all of these people asking for requests for unmasking all across the board? Does it seem suspicious to you?
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it does. And I think it raises questions. And I think that's exactly what Devin Nunes is bringing up. He basically saying, look, you have one government official that we know of with no intelligence background or function, yet he easily got access to this information of what they call a U.S. person. So, is this easy access, the ability of these government officials to gain access to this information. Secondly, you also have the fact of justification. Meaning, that these government officials, like a Samantha Powers, like a Susan Rice, they're supposed to provide justification as to why they're unmasking these names, and they did not do it. They did not give adequate information based on the information that we know. Normally, analysts, intelligence analyst, would ask for -- would have to fill out extensive forms to be able to unmask this information. So, I think those are the questions that are being raised, and you're going to have to let this investigation go through to see what the results are.
PERINO: And Marie, I understand your point. But I do think that there's something -- a question that I have, which is -- so unmasking is allowed, perhaps it was abused, I don't know. But then, there was the leak to the media, which is a separate issue, OK. But is that one is of concern to former Obama administration officials?
HARF: Absolutely. Any leak of classified information I think is a concern to all of us who ever had the privilege of having a clearance. So that is a separate issue. But, you know what Mercedes just said, actually, I don't think is entirely true. I have been told by numerous people that the process was followed here, and it is not an easy process. That someone like Susan Rice or Samantha Power, all of them had national security functions and roles, and they could have had reason to need this.
HARF: They went through the process. They went to the intelligence community, they gave a reason. And believe me, you know the intelligence committee, I served in it, they're not just going to give it to you unless they think you have a good reason.
PERINO: I guess it's hard though, Marie and Mercy, that you comment on this. It's just hard to understand that why somebody at the United Nation would need to unmask and get unmask information about the Trump campaign when you're at the United Nations. I mean, that's part to me that I don't think is understandable, Mercy.
SCHLAPP: Right. And this goes back to, let's raise the questions, let's have a thorough investigation as to why these individuals were unmasking. I made it very clear that one of the evidence that was shown was the fact that you have this one government official with no intelligence function, basically asking for hundreds of unmasking requests. It's something that we need to look into. And I think that when you're looking at the facts, at this facts, I think that it's just one of those other questions of dealing with the leaks and how these leaks got out.
PERINO: All right, Mercy, Marie, thank you so much for being here tonight. We'll be right back.
PERINO: Well, that's The Story for tonight. Tomorrow night at 7:00, President Trump holds a campaign-style rally in West Virginia. And, guess what? We're going to bring it to you live. Also, you here at 9:00 for The Five. Good night.
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