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NPR - Rep. Flores Weighs In On Flynn Resignation, Trump Immigration Order

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Washington, February 14, 2017 | comments
Heard on Morning Edition
 

Rachel Martin talks to Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, who says he's glad National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is gone. Flores is also keeping tabs on the status of the immigration executive order.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're now going to get another view on the shakeup at the National Security Council. Congressman Bill Flores is a Republican from Texas, and he joins us now on the line.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

BILL FLORES: Good morning, Rachel. Great to be on MORNING EDITION.

MARTIN: You tweeted overnight that you are glad that Michael Flynn is gone, that he has been pushed out of his role as national security adviser. Why?

FLORES: Well, we have the Logan Law, and - or the Logan Act, and it looks to me like he disregarded that and engaged in inappropriate discussions with the Russian government.

MARTIN: We should say, the Logan Act is a law that prevents a civilian from engaging in foreign policy discussions, which he was before the Trump administration took power.

FLORES: That's correct. And I believe that - so two things. One is I believe his behavior was inappropriate. No. 2, I think it was inappropriate to start any dialogue with the Russian government regarding the potential relaxation of sanctions. In my view of the world, I think more members of Congress would be inclined to increase sanctions on Russia as opposed to - or as compared to reducing sanctions on Russia.

MARTIN: NPR has confirmed that the former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates had actually alerted White House lawyers that retired General Flynn had talked about sanctions with the Russian ambassador and that she did so a couple of weeks ago. So if Michael Flynn had been compromised in this way, do you think the White House acted fast enough?

FLORES: Yes, I do. I mean, most of this didn't come to light until the last couple of days. So I think they acted fast enough. Look, we've got to give some deference to the administration because they're in the early stages of setting up all of their teams and their staffs and so forth. And so you can't expect them to be able to turn on a dime with respect to each new issue.

One of the challenges I have is that they've got the lowest number of Senate confirmation since George Washington, I believe. So - you know, we can't expect them to do everything as well as they do, let's say, two months from now.

MARTIN: Are you convinced that Michael Flynn was acting on his own when he had these conversations? Or do you have concerns that he was doing so because someone else in the administration asked him to?

FLORES: I have no idea. I don't think anybody knows the facts on that yet at this point in time.

MARTIN: Has this situation raised more concerns with you about this administration's connections to Russia, which is what a lot of Democrats are flagging now?

FLORES: No, it hasn't.

MARTIN: I want to pivot and ask you about President Trump's immigration order. The courts have stayed this order.

FLORES: Well, one court has stayed the order - one court, one appeals court.

MARTIN: The 9th Circuit has stayed the order. The president is now thinking about how to move forward. What would you like to see happen with that executive order?

FLORES: Well, I think that if you look at the law today under 8 USC 1101, particularly 8 USC election - Section 1182(f), it gives the president broad authority to deal with immigration, the refugee program. So if you look at the Boston judge's order, a different order that came out on the same day as the Washington judge's order, you'll see that that judge referenced the law and particulars and upheld the president's authority to promulgate the executive order. Now that said, the implementation was exceptionally sloppy. And that's one of the things that caused the confusion, the angst and some of the emotional response (unintelligible).

MARTIN: So your beef is with the rollout, not the substance of the order?

FLORES: Correct, correct. Now, the administration will have broad authority as they modify the executive order. And so I really don't - it's not up to me to give them any suggestions on how to do it except to say once you roll out the order, make sure that it's well-implemented.

MARTIN: So why is this the measure that could keep Americans safe in this moment? I mean, why these countries and why now?

FLORES: OK. There are two principal issues. Let's say - well, actually three. One is these are fragile states in terms of their central governments, except for Iran which has - is the biggest perpetrator of state-sponsored terrorism in the world. The second thing is that there are weaknesses in the current vetting program that can be exploited. And the third thing is, is that ISIS and other terrorist groups have publicly said that they intend to try to exploit those weaknesses in order to harm Americans, both here and around the world. So it's perfectly appropriate for the president to be concerned about this...

MARTIN: So how did...

FLORES: ...And to tighten up the vetting program.

MARTIN: How do those things get fixed? As you just identified, these states are failing if not failed - Libya, Somalia, Sudan. So can you imagine those countries ever getting to the point where you are a hundred percent confident in their vetting systems?

FLORES: Well, I can do this - I mean, based on what I know about the vetting system, I have some confidence that - we can't eliminate all risk in any program, but we can greatly reduce the risk levels from what they are today. So I have confidence that we can do that. We can't fix those failed states.

But another thing we need to look at is, how do you handle refugees from these areas to start with? If I were the president, what I would be doing is working with our friends in the neighborhood, the Gulf states and Jordan, which has been exceptionally helpful, in creating a safe zone in that area and make sure that we're providing for humanitarian needs, educational needs and security needs. And then once those areas become stabilized, if ever, then those - the refugees will be able to go back home. That way, we don't - you don't even have to worry about them coming to the United States except in extreme circumstances.

MARTIN: Just briefly, I want to get your take on Stephen Miller's comments over the weekend. He's a senior White House adviser. He was on "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." And here he is talking about the president's executive power on this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY WITH CHRIS WALLACE")

STEPHEN MILLER: That power was delegated to him explicitly by Congress and adheres to him under his Article 2 powers under the U.S. Constitution. This is a judicial usurpation of power. It is a violation of the judge's proper role in litigating disputes. We will fight it.

MARTIN: A judicial usurpation of power - do you share Stephen Miller's concerns about the judiciary's ability to rule on this?

FLORES: If you look at what the Boston judge's decision on this same case, the Boston judge agrees with what Stephen Miller said - said the powers are broad and they are not reviewable by the courts. And prior courts all the way up to the Supreme Court have upheld the law. Again, I'm talking about a USC 1101 and particularly Section 1182(f). Those powers are very broad, and they are not reviewable by the courts. So in the view of many of us, we think that the 9th Circuit overstepped its bounds.

MARTIN: Congressman Bill Flores, a Republican from Texas, thank you so much for your time this morning.

FLORES: Thank you.

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