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Interview with Representative Peter King; McConnell Holds News Conference; Trump Departs for Trip to Boeing Plant in South Carolina. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 17, 2017 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:30:51] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us this Friday. The search continues this morning. The big question at the White House, who will be the nation's national security adviser?

Just a few hours ago the president tweeted, "General Keith Kellogg who I've known for a very long time is very much in play for NSA as are three others."

BERMAN: One person not in play, Navy Vice Admiral -- retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward, who rejected an offer from the president. Our reporting was that he was concerned about the chaos inside the White House.

We're joined by New York Congressman Peter King. He is on the Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman King, thank you so much for being with us. Look, generals, admirals, military people, they often -- -they often follow orders, they often jump at the chance to serve. What does it say to you that Admiral Harward was concerned about the atmosphere inside the White House?

REP. PETER KING (R), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Yes, you know, that may or may not be true. He may have felt it was not a right fit for him. And I can understand that. I think it's not unusual in an administration for people to turn down positions. I think it is important for the president to appoint someone as quickly as possible.

General Kellogg I think is an outstanding choice. General Petraeus will be an outstanding choice. I'm sure there's some others who are being considered. But it is important to get that position filled.

BERMAN: But if he was concerned about hiring staff, for instance, because of the reporting is that --

HARLOW: Bringing in his own team.

BERMAN: He wanted to bring in his own team but the White House was insisting on FOX commentator KT McFarland, among others staying on. You know, should the new National Security adviser be allowed to bring in his or her own team?

KING: You know, there's always a certain friction between who comes in and who doesn't, who has the final say. This is not unusual, you know, for administrations. But I think that should be resolved and it should be resolved quickly. It's up to the president to make sure that it is resolved and that if there are those type of personnel issues, that they not be allowed to delay the flow of the administration.

HARLOW: And Congressman, obviously you have a unique perspective on this because you sit on the House Homeland Security Committee. You are a New Yorker. You know what this city faced and the threat that can come at any time. What does it mean for this nation and security not to have someone in this post? And frankly, the reporting that Kimberly Dozier mentioned on this program, that Petraeus, she's hearing, may not be too thrilled to be a second pick.

KING: Look, again, it's up to the president to get someone. And it is a very key position. I had a great regard for General Flynn, I've known him for a number of years. That is an important position. And again, we have to get it filled, it's as simple as that. And there's a lot of things we have to do. We also have to get, you know, the terror ban order back in place. That's very important, too. And we're concerned about the security of our country. We have to have a better screening and vetting process.

BERMAN: And the president says by next week he will put in a new executive order on that. We'll wait to see what that says.

Congressman, some of your colleagues on Capitol Hill have been watching the president over the last 24 hours, including the news conference, including some of your Republican colleagues, and seemed concerned. I mean, one person told our Tom LoBianco that they thought that the press conference was, quote, "The new normal, we're just trying to manage this blank," and then threw his hands in the air. Is that a sentiment you concur with?

KING: Listen, I appreciate the news conference, maybe it's because I'm from New York, and I'm used to news conferences of Ed Koch, and Al D'Amato, and Rudy Giuliani. I mean, that's the type of thing, you know, we're used to. Donald Trump and I, we both grew up in Queens. New Yorkers fight, I guess, was polished as we should. But I think that resonates with the American people. And also, let's put this in perspective. I think that it was important for him to shoot back at the media, to try to get us back on equal footing, to regain some ground we've lost over the last week.

And you know, the media has made themselves part of the show. Donald Trump is going back at them. I don't think the media should take it so personally. You're in the business, you're in the game.

HARLOW: Look, Congressman.

KING: And it's a serious business. And -- so it's fine. I think it's great.

HARLOW: Congressman, with all due respect, John and I have --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I love -- I love it.

HARLOW: We have pretty thick skin. We brush it off our shoulders, it doesn't bother us.

KING: Right.

HARLOW: But something did strike me that you just said. You said it's good for him to strike back at the media. The thing is, he doesn't work for him anymore. He works for the American people. How is it good for the American people to spend so much time attacking the media?

[10:35:03] KING: Because if he succeeds, the American people succeed. And you can't allow the media to dominate the narrative. Nobody elected the media to anything. You're out there, fine, First Amendment guarantees your right.

HARLOW: Then legislate, right? Then legislate.

KING: But having said that, he's the president of the United States. And for him to succeed he's got to get back on top. He's got to show that he's calling the shots. And he's got to move -- he can't be bogged down by every reporter. You guys have your right to take your shots at him. He has a right to reestablish himself. And in the end, the American people will benefit. It's part of the thesis and the antithesis. We're at each other. And it works for the American people. That's democracy.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the substance of the reporting as opposed to the narrative, which is a word that I think we can all agree is overused. Some of the substance of the reporting particularly on the Russian issue is that members of the Trump campaign were in frequent contact with Russian officials during the election season. The president was pressed on this a lot at the news conference. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: So you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, look. How many times do I have to answer this question?

PACE: Can you just answer yes or no?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. Yes, I know you have to get up and ask a question, it's so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't. I just have nobody no speak to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Russia is a ruse. But, Congressman King, you know, he never at any point said that no one on my campaign or no one associated with my campaign had contacts with Russia. He never addressed that succinct issue. That's still an important question to answer.

KING: No, to me, so far this is not a story. Let me tell you why. I'm on the Intelligence Committee. And we are going to fully investigate Russia and should be. If there's any evidence at all, it should be followed to the fullest extent. But take "The New York Times" story, which is basically a rerun of the story that ran months ago. It talks about three possible people who had some connection with Donald Trump, who are in touched with Russians. Then buried in the middle of the story it says after all this investigation, there is no evidence of any collusion and there's no evidence of any criminal activity. That's where it's at.

And that investigation, I know that Jim Comey is pursuing it, he's going to go forward. As of now there is nothing. Everybody knew that Paul Manafort had business in that area of the world. I guess Roger Stone, who has been a friend of Donald Trump for years. Stone addresses that in his book.

Now again, if there's more there, fine. But as of now, there's nothing. And that's the reality. The fact that Paul Manafort was talking to people in that part of the world, everyone knew that last summer, and he was out of the campaign in the middle of August. And the other one, Carter Page, I don't even know him. And Roger Stone, I've known him for 35 years, Roger is Roger. But again to think that Roger Stone is going to influence an election, I don't know.

But anyway, if there's something there, believe me. I'd take -- as a person who is part of the American democratic system, if there's any influence at all by the Russians, that should be examined, explored, and if anyone is involved, they should be charged and be found guilty.

HARLOW: Here's why it matters. For a number of reasons. Russia is an adversary of this country.

KING: Right.

HARLOW: And the relationship with Russia is incredibly important for national security. Let's listen to how the president addressed that yesterday talking about the words he used, you know, nuclear holocaust. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it's so great. We're very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I've been briefed and I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we're allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: To quote part of that, "The greatest thing I could do is shoot the ship that's 30 miles offshore right now." What do you make of the tone and the words that he choose to address such a serious issue?

KING: Well, that's the way Donald Trump talks. That's what got him elected. I mean, I have no problem with that. Let me just make it clear. I don't think he's going to get anywhere in these negotiations with Putin. I don't trust Putin, I think he's diabolical, I think he's evil. Having said that, nobody did more to advance Russian interest than Barack Obama. He's the one that personally invited Russia into Syria, back into the Middle East 40 years after they were thrown out. That's what caused the refugee crisis.

It was President Obama who's caught on an open mic telling Medvedev in 2012, tell Vladimir, once I'm reelected, I can do things. So -- and it was Hillary Clinton that presented the reset button.

All these presidents and diplomats think they can work with Putin. It all turns out to be wrong. I'm afraid it's going to turn out to be wrong with Donald Trump. But again, he's the president, he's entitled to do what George Bush and Barack Obama both tried to do even though they were unsuccessful.

HARLOW: Congressman Peter King, have a good weekend, thank you for coming on the program.

KING: Thank you, Poppy. You too. Thanks, John. Appreciate it. Thank you.

HARLOW: Coming up fast, you heard it again and again, President Trump going to build a big beautiful wall, his words, on the border with Mexico. But he won't just be facing pushback from his political opponents. What border experts are now telling the White House, that's ahead.

[10:59:53]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: A major development right now on Capitol Hill. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell speaking in just minutes. Our Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with more.

This is very significant. What he's expected to say. What is it?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it will be a combination of things. It will be a discussion about what Republicans hope to achieve with a Republican majority as well as complaints about Democrats' slow walking a number of Donald Trump nominees. But also his criticism of the president himself, criticism that he has leveled in a series of newspaper interviews over the last several days, including one in which he told "The Weekly Standard" that President Trump should stay on message, saying that the president's approval rating would be, quote, 10 to 15 points higher if he allowed himself to stay on message, also saying that his tweets and his comments are, quote, "making it harder to achieve what you want to achieve," a pretty blunt message from the Senate majority leader for the president of the United States to start talking about the agenda on Capitol Hill.

[10:45:14] And of course this coming in the aftermath of that rather meandering news conference from the president yesterday, and something that has caused a lot of Republicans to scratch their heads and wonder if they're on the same page as the White House. So an effort by the Republicans to get back on message as they head into a recess week next week and try to convince the public what they're doing is right, especially as some of those rather feisty town halls as they discuss their plans to repeal Obamacare.

BERMAN: You know, Manu, as you know, the majority leader has given interviews over the last several days on this subject hinting that he thinks the president may be pulling Republicans off message. Did this press conference exacerbate the situation for him? Is he going to be more critical today?

RAJU: You know, he's a very measured, careful, calculating politician. He knows how far to go in pushing the envelope. So I doubt he's going to do anything that will provoke a major controversy or major fight with the president. But we have not seen him on camera yet making these remarks about the president's messaging, his tone, his tweets, his comments about things that are not directly related to what they're trying to do on Capitol Hill. So it will be interesting to see the message that he tries to send to the White House because as McConnell has said in these interviews, that it may be a message privately to the President Trump of the United States but Trump clearly has chosen not to listen to the majority leader.

HARLOW: Right. I mean, Manu, you're right that Mitch McConnell delivering a message to the president will be more measured than perhaps some other Republican lawmakers but the words are going to be important. I mean, he's critical of this president for not, what he says, focusing on the agenda items that they promised the American people.

Thank you, Manu. We'll get that in just moments.

RAJU: Thank you.

HARLOW: You're looking at live pictures of Marine One.

BERMAN: Marine One landing at Joint Base Andrews. The president getting ready to head to South Carolina. He's going to South Carolina to do what he promised during the election.

HARLOW: Yes, jobs.

BERMAN: Do what he promised during the transition. He's going to Boeing. A manufacturing plant there. Meet with the CEO, meet with workers. The goal was to talk about jobs. That's work trip. Then there's the campaign trip in Florida. He's going to hold a rally. HARLOW: A big rally tomorrow. He'll make this trip to South Carolina

but then he's going to head to Florida, obviously Mar-a-Lago, but he's going to hold his first rally as president. And what he says will be -- what we're hearing, I should say, will be a very big rally, a campaign style rally. Remember --

BERMAN: Biggest ever, biggest since the Reagan administration at least. No, look, this actually is a campaign stop. I mean, it is a political stop as opposed to a governmental stop.

HARLOW: But it's what he thrives off of.

BERMAN: It is.

HARLOW: I mean, did behooved him during the campaign and obviously it's what he and the administration thinks he needs right now. The question is, to what end?

BERMAN: Well, and maybe that what he's doing today maybe more of what he needs right now.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Right? To go and actually do the work of the American people, to talk about manufacturing, to talk about jobs, to meet with CEOs, which he has been doing at the White House. It's been overshadowed so much by you know, they don't like this word, but by the turmoil, by the chaos within the administration.

Look, there's no permanent National Security adviser this morning because the president was rejected by Admiral Bob Harward, a man respected on both sides of the aisle.

HARLOW: Yes. So what he's going to do here and what he's done when he's made these visits to plants, from Carrier in Indiana on through Ford, et cetera? Is he going to meet with them? There will be a photo op, you can guess, with the chief executive. He will talk to workers. And he will press the importance of keeping jobs in America.

This is also a company, Boeing, along with so many others, that he has been critical of on Twitter, criticized the cost of things that Boeing makes to the American taxpayer, maybe they'll announce a deal on costs.

BERMAN: It should be noted, Boeing has a lot at stake with a lot of the policies that the president wants to implement.

HARLOW: Huge.

BERMAN: China, for instance. Boeing does not want to see, you know, tougher trade policies with China.

HARLOW: No.

BERMAN: Not at all. They do huge business in China, that's a source of enormous concern. Of course Boeing also makes Air Force One. And the talk about making the new Air Force One, President Trump is about to get on the current Air Force One. You know, the president wants those costs to come way down.

HARLOW: And here we see them opening the door, Marine One, the president about to come out. He's going to board this for a pretty quick trip down to South Carolina. At the same time as this is happening, the vice president is in Europe trying to reassure U.S. allies after that press conference yesterday. But again, the president going to South Carolina, meeting with these workers, meeting with the head of Boeing.

This is a president that ran on a platform of jobs. This is a president who as a leader of a business said I know how to get this done. He is in his wheelhouse today, no question, with this trip.

BERMAN: And you do wonder what the talk has been inside the White House this morning, because you saw the president delivering that news conference, and getting on Marine One right now. You saw him, he claimed to be having fun during that news conference. You saw smiles from his staff during the news conference itself.

[10:50:05] But it received mixed reviews to say the least. Today there are a lot of people in Washington, a lot of people in the media who looked at this and said this is not the type of news conference that is helpful to the president of the United States. You wonder if they looked at that inside the White House and said, we're going to do that. We liked it so much we're going to do it again.

HARLOW: Look, this is what his supporters tell me when I'm traveling around the country and I know to tell you, John, this is what they want. They want a president who is going to fight for their jobs. And remember, jobs at a plant like this in Boeing are good-paying jobs. They're jobs that you can support a family on. These are not minimum wage jobs. They want to see those jobs saved. They want to see more of these jobs because of deals that they believe this president can make. That's what he's going to likely discuss with the chief executive of Boeing and perhaps walk away with a little better price tag on the next Air Force One.

BERMAN: Although this one he's getting into right now still looks pretty good.

HARLOW: Indeed.

BERMAN: The president waving right there. You know, he's getting more used I think to flying on Air Force One. At first he would walk right up without a wave. Now he knows you give the big wave to the crowd right there.

Going to talk about jobs, hopefully not going to criticize the media, that isn't what the people want to hear. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:55:12] HARLOW: The president, moments ago, you see there, boarding Air Force One, headed to South Carolina. He will meet with Boeing's chief executive. He'll also meet with workers at Boeing. Remember, he has that complaint about the cost of Air Force One, we'll see if he can get a better deal on that one.

BERMAN: Of course this comes, yes, as Poppy has said, after talking about the cost of Air Force One for so, so long. There are also issues of China to deal with.

Brynn Gingras in North Charleston, where the president will be today.

Brynn, what are they down there?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy and John, you guys were talking about jobs, right, before the break. Well, the president does come two days after 3,000 workers at the Boeing North Charleston plant had a chance to form a union and unionize. And they overwhelmingly turned that down. Had it gone the other way, that vote, it would have really sent a big message across the country about jobs here in South Carolina.

Of course Boeing came here and a big selling point for them building this North Charleston plant was to build the 787 Dreamliner which the president is coming here to unveil, that enormous plane that Boeing has been talking about, specifically for all the workers here in North Charleston. And jobs of course is something the president said he's excited to talk about. He tweeted about it a few hours ago. So that's certainly something we'll hear while he takes a tour of this plant.

But Jobs is also important, I can tell you, to the people behind me. A lot of them are actually carrying signs still talking about job wages in regards to that vote earlier this week. And we've got about 200 protesters. And I will say North Charleston PD just told me a few hours ago they got a call last night from pro-Trump protesters or pro- Trump supporters, I should say, saying they wanted to rally, too, in response to this enormous rally that's starting to form behind me. And they are located just on the other side of the building. So sort of dueling rallies as we await the president's arrival here in North Charleston.

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely.

BERMAN: We should note, Brynn, that while you were talking right there, we saw the video of the president boarding Air Force One. His daughter Ivanka traveling as well.

HARLOW: Yes. His children.

BERMAN: Jared Kushner and two grandchildren. This is the second consecutive weekend the president, after South Carolina, he heads to Florida. He'll have a really there. But also go to Mar-a-Lago. Second consecutive weekend he has gone to his home down in Palm Beach.

HARLOW: And again that big rally that is scheduled for tomorrow, 5:00 p.m. You'll see it right here. The first rally as president, something he thrived off of while he was running.

BERMAN: Indeed. All right. Thank you all so much for watching. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" is next. Have a great weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Keep your eye on the live TV, folks. A lot of moving parts today. Right there you see President Trump in Air Force One taking off very shortly, taxiing right now, going to North Charleston, South Carolina. He is at Joint Base Andrews right now of course about to take off for that trip. Soon he'll be speaking at the Boeing plant in South Carolina, talking jobs and helping to unveil the company's newest plane.