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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Awaiting Trump's First Speech To Congress; Trump Signaling Major Shift On Immigration; Trump's Guests: Victims Of Crime By Undocumented Immigrants; Jared Kushner, Ivanka More Involved In Tonight's Trump Speech; Aired: 7-8p ET
Aired February 28, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, we are live in Washington, D.C. with the breaking news tonight. President Trump about to deliver a major address to congress and the American people, the biggest night of his presidency so far. Plus, two Arizona teens, their mother just deported on Capitol Hill tonight, they'll come face- to-face with Trump. What will their message be? And is Trump passing the blame for the anti-terror raid that killed a navy SEAL? Let's go OutFront.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. We are live in Washington for a special edition of OutFront tonight. The breaking news, President Trump about to speak to the nation. It is a major moment for the president, the biggest night of his young presidency so far. He must convince the nation of what he believes that he deserves an A grade for what he's accomplished so far. And that congress should back him on his plans for healthcare, immigration, and tax reform.
It is a night of pageantry and politics here in Washington. The president will enter the house chamber making his way down the center aisle, he'll be shaking hands with members of congress, then taking the podium. And while democratic leaders have told their members to be respectful and take the high road, at least one, New York Congressman Elliot Engel who always saves himself an aisle seat to greet the president as he enters the house. He's done it for president of both parties, getting their hours early has said this year no aisle seat and no handshake for President Trump.
Aides are promising an optimistic speech this evening, the theme of the address, the "renewal of the American spirit," but the president has anything but predictable in all eyes worldwide will be on Capitol Hill tonight. That speech begins just a short time from now. As we await the president, Jim Acosta is OutFront of the White House with the details of what we expect to be in the speech. And Jim, the president is signaling a drastic shift at least on one issue, immigration. What are you hearing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. A very dramatic shift for President Trump in this speech. We're expecting to hear from the President tonight in this speech in a joint session to congress. He will be calling for a compromised bill on immigration. We're hearing from sources familiar with the speech tonight. This is a huge shift, as you mention, Erin, because during the campaign this was a candidate at the time who called for a deportation force to round up the nation's 11 million or so undocumented immigrants.
Now we're told, and we can put this quote up on screen that the president is now saying on the record the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides. Now what would this look like? We're told that the outlines of this immigration bill according to sources is that the president would support perhaps a path to citizenship for those Dreamers, those undocumented children living in this country who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and that undocumented people in this country who have not run afoul of the law and are paying taxes could potentially be put on a pathway to legal status, but any way you slice it, Erin, this is a very big reversal for the president and one that we'll be watching closely tonight.
BURNETT: Yes. And he's also of course going to be speaking about Obamacare which right now at least on Capitol Hill seems to be the top priority. He's going to keep a lot of what's in it, too.
ACOSTA: It seems -- that seems to be the case at this point, Erin. We're told and we looked at some bullet points on the president's speech tonight that was provided to us by a source that he will be saying to the country tonight that people with pre-existing conditions should have coverage under whatever they do in terms of repealing and replacing Obamacare. The other big piece of news that we're hearing is that the president and this is according to sources up on Capitol Hill, is moving towards the house republican proposal for repealing and replacing Obamacare.
That proposal, Erin, keeps in place, would keep in place, that measure that allows young adults up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents' healthcare plan, so there are popular items in Obamacare that they are going to keep in place that the president is signaling a willingness to sign on to. One big exception, though, the individual mandate, that is on the chopping block, so not all of Obamacare is staying.
BURNETT: Of course, that's what paid for all of those things but OK, thank you very much, Jim Acosta. I want to go straight to our senior congressional reporter Manu Raju OutFront on Capitol Hill. And Manu, here's the thing, obviously the president is going to be speaking to the American people, people worldwide are going to be watching, but a big part of his speech is directed at his own party that he desperately needs to support him right now.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. That's right. Actually trying to unite his party which is divided over some of these key issues. You mentioned Obamacare, the plan to replace Obamacare actually getting a lot of concretive opposition right now over a centerpiece of that replace plan which would give refundable tax credits to people to purchase healthcare -- health insurance. Folks on the right believe that there's another entitlement program and a a growing number of house conservatives say they are going to vote against that plan.
In addition, this talk about a compromised immigration bill is not going over particularly well with a lot conservatives who want to move first on border security. In addition to that, Erin, Donald Trump's early plans to increase defense spending and cut domestic spending in exchange also getting some pushback on both sides, defense hawks like John McCain want more money for the military but some folks believe that the cuts to the domestic agencies including the top appropriator on the house, appropriations committee, those cuts of domestic agencies could be much too far, so already some pushback within his own party coming as resistance on the left is intensifying. So, Donald Trump already get his agenda through will have to get some sort of coalition and convince even his own party to go along with his plans. Erin?
BURNETT: Which, of course, is why the stakes are so very high tonight. Manu, thank you. OutFront now, David Chalian, our political director, Jamie Gangel, our special correspondent, the former congressman Jack Kingston from Georgia, also a former senior adviser for the Trump campaign. Keith Boykin, former Clinton White House aide, Alice Stewart, former communications adviser for four presidential campaigns and Brian Fallon, the former press secretary for Hillary Clinton's campaign all joining me right now. When you hear our reporters, David Chalian talk about the significance of tonight and what is at stake, not just the democrats issue that he has within his own party, how big of a night is tonight?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You said it at the top. I think it's a very big night for him, certainly the biggest of his young presidency, as you said, and it's because there's so much opportunity for him tonight. There is an opportunity for him and I'm fascinated to watch to broaden out his appeal, or continue to rally his base. I don't know which he's going to end up doing tonight, but that's something I'm watching, that's a big moment and it is also a big moment to take what has been a series of executive actions and comments to the press and actually lay out legislative priorities for the members of congress. Basically say, this is what I expect on my desk to sign. This is how you're going to measure me this year, whether or not I'm a successful president or not.
BURNETT: And Jamie, within his own party there is such a split. Certainly you see it on Obamacare, but you see it on other areas as well. You've been talking to republicans. What do they need to hear from him tonight?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, as important as specifics are that David mentioned, they are really concerned about tone. What Donald Trump is going to walk in, how will he handle himself? Will he -- I can't tell you how many people use the expression stay on message. You know, if we had a dollar for every time we said that we thought he was going to pivot and be normal, we could all retire here today, but that's what they really want, some normalcy.
BURNETT: Some normalcy, Congressman, but, you know, the president is coming out, you know, we heard him today say he thinks he gets an A for what he's achieved so far. He's talked a lot about things that he is doing or has done and he hasn't given the specifics that congress needs to actually pass legislation. Let me just play for you what he said on a whole host of issues. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will be the greatest jobs producer that god ever created, and I mean that. We will have a wall, it will be a great wall. Healthcare is moving along nicely. It's being put into final forms and the new plan will be a great plan for the patients, going to be a competitive plan. The borders are stricter, tighter. We're doing a really good job. We will be substantially upgrading all of our military. Bigger and better and stronger than ever before. We're going to be lowering taxes bigly. The tax cut is going to be major, it's going to be simple and the whole tax plan is wonderful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Aare we going to see those sorts of superlatives, beautiful, wonderful, or tonight are we getting specifics instead?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I think he will be a little bit more specific but remember the state of the union, which this is not, he's not able to give a state of the union address because he hasn't been there long enough, so he can't really brag about everything that he's done but I think he does have a case to say I've done 23 executive orders, I've met with the heads of industry, the heads of state, heads of unions.
I have called on congress to move this and move that, I have repealed some of the regulatory overreaches of the previous administration. I think he's going to talk about that in general terms but the great thing about standing in front of the U.S. Congress is an opportunity really to talk beyond them, to talk to their constituents. I always felt as somebody who sat in the chamber for over 20 of these speeches that we were props. You know, republicans clap at the right time, democrats clap at the right time for their people but the opportunity is to talk about the vision for the next six months and I think he can lay that out in terms of renewing the economy, getting America working again.
BURNETT: So he can do that but, Alice, he also needs to give them some specifics.
ALICE STEWART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Sure.
BURNETT: Right? Because the GOP right now is split, it's fighting amongst itself. For example on Obamacare, so they need to know where their president stands. What exactly is he going to put out there so they can decide whether to get behind them or not. He's not coming in, let's be honest with the strong approval rating or something that gives them incentive to get behind him. He has to give them that tonight.
STEWART: Sure. There's a two prong approach really for a speech like this, the force and the truce. The force is what they will be looking at big picture, making sure that you are optimistic, provide an optimistic vision. Following through on the promises, they say they say their promise keepers is going to remind people the promises that he made and what he's keeping and also that he's drawing the swamp. But other looks at the truce, what details will he give?
They do expect to see some details on Obamacare, looking at the marketplace, making things more affordable, working with governors to make sure people don't fall through the cracks and we need now that he's mentioned comprehensive immigration, we need more details on what he's going to do with immigration and those are the critical things. But I think you have -- you have to do a great job at both in order for this to knock it out of the park.
BURNETT: So the congressman mentions, Keith, the, you know, he can go through while I sign this many executive orders. You know, he can -- he can go through these things. Now, he has sort of already given us a taste of how he perceives himself right now. OK. He gave an interview and here's what he said about the grade that he should get right now. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In terms of achievement, I think I'd give myself an A, because I think I've done great things, but I don't think I've -- I and my people, I don't think we've explained it well enough to the American public. I think I get an A in terms of what I've actually done but in terms of messaging, I'd give myself a C or a C-plus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How honest is that assessment? Look, he didn't give himself an A on messaging. OK?
KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I think he's (INAUDIBLE) fire Sean Spicer with a C for messaging. I honestly think that the idea that anybody would give themselves an A or any kind of grade after being in office for four weeks is kind of preposterous, but if we're going to give him a grade, I'll give him an A for efforts because he's certainly try to do an off a lot in the past four weeks. But what he hasn't done is unify the country.
What he hasn't done has been able to make a legislative agenda that actually sits. At this point President Obama had already signed the stimulus bill, the American recovery act and I think that this president can't just execute -- issue executive orders and expect that to be his legacy. He's got to get congress together but he can't do that on healthcare, he can't do that in the budget, he's got conflict to deal with.
BURNETT: So, Brian, let me ask you. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says democrats are going to behave with dignity tonight, right? And this is going to be a different room that he's used to. It's not a rally. Half the people despised him, OK? And he knows that. That's going to be interesting to see how he actually plays with that, right? He used (INAUDIBLE) but you have Congresswoman Maxine Waters saying she's not going to show up, we just talked about Congressman Engel who says he's not going to even bother to shake his hand. Let me give you his reasoning for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ELIOT ENGEL, (D) NEW YORK: Unfortunately, since January 20th, the new administration has shown no interest in working with the congress on both sides to tackle problems. That's why I've decided not to stand on the aisle of the house chamber to shake the president's hand during the joint session of congress as I have done in the past through democratic and republican administrations alike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is that dignity, is Maxine Waters not showing up dignity?
BRIAN FALLON, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think at this point it really behooves the President to reach out. I'm going to be looking for whether there's some grace (INAUDIBLE) usually you see in the early going, first few minutes of the speech as you're getting warmed up, some easy courtesies that you can extend throughout across the aisle, calling out some of the special guests that you might have.
People that can unite the country represent the best of our values, bring people together. You didn't see it in the president's inaugural address, you didn't see it last week at his CAP's speech. This is a president who feels much more comfortable campaigning than he does leading. I think he's need -- going to need to break from that tonight. And one thing I'll be looking for is -- where is this infrastructure bill? This would have been a great opportunity for him to make that on a campaign pledge and also put the democrats in a really tight spot. The democrats --
BURNETT: Yes. Because they can't -- not applaud infrastructure, right?
FALLON: The democrats are under intense pressure from their base to oppose Donald Trump at all costs. If he were to prioritize the infrastructure bill, it would put them on the hot seat, but right now his united democrats against him, he's made it easy for them.
BURNETT: All right, all of you staying with me through this hour as we await the president arriving on Capitol Hill. Next, excuse me, you're looking at live pictures of Capitol Hill as President Trump prepares for the first address for joint session of congress.
And Melania Trump's guests tonight. We're going to tell you who they are and the message the president is trying to send.
Plus, democratic congresswoman wearing white to Trumps speech in a sign of solidarity. I'm going to ask the highest ranking republican woman in congress whether she supports them.
BURNETT: Breaking news. You are looking at Capitol Hill live right now. President Trump about to address both houses of congress and the American people tonight. It is his biggest audience since the inauguration and a major topic tonight will be immigration. Trump saying today that the time is right for immigration bill as long as there's compromise on both sides which is a big switch. Senior administration official tells CNN that Trump's vision would not include a path to citizenship, which will be a deal breaker, of course, for some on the left but it would allow people who haven't committed serious crimes to stay in the country legally, which would be a move for Trump.
Trump also putting immigration front and center with the special guests sitting with the first lady this evening, Tom Foreman is OutFront. And Tom, when you look at the list of who they have there, it says something very significant. What can you tell us about Melania Trump's guests?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. One of the things it says is that he wants the people in this chamber to think about the potential danger of allowing people to stay in the country illegally, especially if they have a violent criminal record and that will be reflected in the people seated here with his wife. For example, back in 2014 these two police officers, Michael Davis and Danny Oliver were both gunned down by a man that authorities say was in the country illegally had an extensive criminal record, had been deported twice, and yet managed to be here for this horrendous crime to appear.
Their widows will be seated in the box here, Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Beyond that, in Southern California several years ago there was this young man, his name is Jamiel Shaw Jr. He was 17 years old, he was an excellent football player being recruited by various colleges, gunned down and killed just around the corner from his own house. Again authorities say by a man who had trouble by the law who is in the country illegally and even been in jail and yet managed to be here for his crime. His father, Jamiel Shaw Sr., a strong supporter of many of Mr. Trump's policies will also be in the box. Erin?
BURNETT: Immigration a big one, Tom, but there are other guests and they are also making political statements for President Trump tonight.
FOREMAN: Yes. There will be this young woman here. Her name is Megan Crowley. She was diagnosed when she was very young with a serious illness. Her family was told she wouldn't live very long. Her father founded a research company to come up with the treatment. It worked, now she's in college. She's here to emphasize the Trump administration's interest in medical research cutting back regulations that might interfere with that in their opinion and because this is National Rare Disease Day, we you did not know that.
Beyond there, there is this young woman, her name is Daneisha Meriwether, she is a young woman who used a tax credit program in Florida to move in to a private school system to better her education. She is here to underscore the Trump administration's interest in vouchers, charter schools, school choice, one of the things that many republicans in this chamber support. And lastly, you remember the huge fight that's been going on over Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative justice who passed away.
Democrats were certain that his passing meant they would get to fill that seat on the Supreme Court with a choice of President Barack Obama. Republicans absolutely blocked it, now Justice Scalia's widow will be here as a reminder for republicans in this chamber and particularly conservatives that Donald Trump has his own nominee forward now and they have work to do to get that nominee confirmed.
BURNETT: All right, Tom, thank you very much. My panel is back with me. Congressman, let me start with you, because immigration is going to be so crucial, right? He's now saying he wants to compromise. Compromise for him is, I'm not going to deport everybody but obviously, we've had compromises that have been a lot closer to the senator than that that have failed before. What's he going to say tonight?
KINGSTON: You know, I think the first step is going to be saying, listen, democrats, republicans, or independents, we all have to agree that immigration is a problem that our national policy needs to be reworked. My predecessors have tried. I'm asking you as president of the United States to sit down at this table. They're going to be starts out in kind of a call to unity, that would be a great first step, and then he needs to say, listen, I've heard, I've heard the pushback here.
I've tried to focus on the violent illegals, but I know there are a lot of people who got caught in the path. I want to work with you on it. I think if he says stuff like that, he can get people who will listen. But I want toed to (INAUDIBLE) as soon as I get out of there each and every member will be smothered with microphones saying, what did you think? And then if they're in a position where they think they have to agree or disagree, it's going to hurt his ability to move forward.
BURNETT: Well, it is and here's the thing. To move forward he has to dramatically signal tonight, Brian, right? That he has changed, OK? He started a little bit on Dreamers, been more emotional about that, although we all know his true thoughts on that or that there are lot of bad dudes or criminals, his words had been within the Dreamers themselves. Here is what he said on the campaign trail though about immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to have a deportation force and you're going to do it humanely.
Anyone who's entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How does he signal that that is not the Donald Trump who's going to speak tonight, what he's looking for isn't any of the above?
FALLON: Well, this is Donald Trump's tactic which is to give everyone a whiplash and continue to disorient and keep people guessing about the nature of his true position. I think we know who the man is when it comes to immigration based on the statements he made during the campaign. I'm highly skeptical and suspicious of this. I'd love to be proven wrong. He can prove me wrong for all of our skeptics run right away, right now ICE under with blessing and with his approval is carrying out mass deportations on a scale that far exceeds what you saw under President Obama who did prioritize true criminals and people with terrorist connections.
Right now they are rounding up people in churches, a woman was taken two weeks ago in Texas while she was getting a restraining order against her abusive boyfriend in a courthouse, so if he wants to actually introduce the prospect of suggesting that he might be willing to give a path to legalization for these people, suspend these deportations right now. It wouldn't be fair for him in six months to say that these people are eligible for legal status and right now he's rounding them up.
BURNETT: So, you know, this feeds into David what we're not hearing, Jeff Zeleny is reporting the tone tonight is going to be different. All right? Very different, they're saying, not -- the tone will be more optimistic and broad than onerous and dark, a contrast to what they believe the interpretation of course was, widely of the inaugural address. They are saying --
CHALIAN: They think that was a misinterpretation.
BURNETT: They think it was a misinterpretation. But at least they're saying -- at least they're acknowledging that that was the interpretation here. But, you know, they're saying that and then they're saying he is poised to talk directly, this is Jeff Zeleny reporting about the threats of violence at Jewish cemeteries. That, obviously, would be a very significant thing. And when you talk about when people walk out, what is their feeling, what is their tone, what are they willing to say, if he does that, how significant?
CHALIAN: Significant depending how he does it, right? I mean, because we've seen him sort of go down a path here at various times he felt very personally affronted when he addressed this topic when he was questioned about it in back-to-back press conferences, he thought it somehow was a personal affront to him and his electoral victory, then he realized he should come out and say something and he did, then today he was talking to state attorney general -- state attorney general and it seemed confusing about whether or not he thought maybe some of this might be politically motivated to make other people look bad. So, it's not clear where he is on this. If he speaks from his heart, denounces hatred, that's going to be clearly a good and unifying moment for him.
GANGEL: You know, one of the things that will be interesting to see is we've seen how passionate he can be when he says we're going to build a wall or everybody's going to go and then maybe they can come out. There was no confusion about how passionate he felt about those things. I think the question now is, you know it when you see it. Will he express himself on these divisive issues with the same pattern?
BURNETT: And the people who are saying this, Alice, the sources are saying the president may address this tonight, we're referring to the Jewish cemeteries specifically and the suburban Kansas shooting of the Indian man, but there's always a possibility it doesn't make the final cut. Even the people closest to him still do not know what he will actually do when he's out there.
STEWART: Right. There's still (INAUDIBLE) I've spoken with people as of just a half an hour ago and they are still putting the final touches on it. With regard to the overall optimism of it, I would probably venture to say I'm maybe -- Congressman might be with me, I was the only one out there when he gave the inaugural address amongst the crowd with the people, I kind of wanted to get a feel for it. They were inspired. They thought it was a positive speech and I'm just saying that's the crowd he spoke to.
They were inspired, they said that's the man I voted for, that's the man I campaigned for. I'm encouraged because he's going to do everything he promised that he would do. From that standpoint. And -- but that being said, he did get a lot of criticism for those who were not in the crowd and didn't get that feeling. And --
BURNETT: And tonight, it is -- it is that he has to not get angry and lash out at whatever shenanigans there are in the room, right? And the basic shenanigan is the way that this situation is, which is half the people in the room don't stand up and don't clap, right? That's how this works. He can't let that get to him or he'll ruin his opportunity.
BOYKIN: Exactly. That happens all the time. Barack Obama -- President Obama had someone in the republican crowd yell, you lie to him, when he was delivering a speech to the joint session of congress. So there's nothing like that that's likely to happen tonight but this is a guy who's got to realize that he's not just speaking to his base and answering to what Alice is saying. Yes, he communicated well during the inauguration to his followers but he's got to reach the 300 million Americans out there, not just the 60 million that voted for him. And there are more who voted against him than voted for him, so it's time for him to reach out.
BURNETT: All right. All staying with me and next, we're standing by for President Trump on the biggest night of his presidency so far. Obamacare, a big part of the speech tonight. The clock is ticking on Trump's ability to repeal and replace. Can he get his own party onboard? That's the big question.
Plus, two teens blame Trump for their mother's deportation. They're thrown across the country for the first time and tonight, they're in the audience for Trump's speech. We'll be right back.
[19:31:13] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT.]
Breaking news at this hour: moments away from President Trump's first address to Congress live tonight. New tonight, Trump believes Republicans on Capitol Hill are close to a
plan to repeal or replace Obamacare. This is according to an administration official. They say a replacement is ready. Tonight, the Republicans are already coming out to oppose an Obamacare replacement plan that was leaked.
Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.
And, Phil, obviously, this plan is what GOP leadership seems to be behind. What does it look like?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the plan moving forward, with no question about it. And the court (INAUDIBLE) in this, they want to repeal the individual mandate, they want to have health savings account, they want to be able to give states monies for high risk pools. But they also want refundable tax credits to replace the Obamacare subsidies and they want to reform Medicaid. It's those latter two that have become the big issue.
On the Medicaid issue, obviously, there are a lot of governors, Republicans included, who accepted the Medicaid expansion. That is still an ongoing negotiation, to see how that all work out. But it's the refundable tax credits, Erin, that are really creating the problem here on Capitol Hill. Conservatives very wary of this idea, even though many of them supported kind of the basic tenets of it, when Republicans have moved through this on the past.
And what this means right now is this, the conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee are saying that as the drafts that they've seen currently stand, they would oppose this bill. If they shoot this bill down, the effort to repeal and replace essentially dies, Erin. That's how important this actually is.
And that's what you're hearing right now, Republicans are saying what they want to hear from the president tonight is that he's behind their plan. Now, we've been told he's not going to get specific on that area, but this is why this matters right now. If the president backs the House Republican leadership plan, gets on the phone and makes it clear to the conservatives that this is the way he wants to move forward, they believe they will have the green light for this pathway. If that doesn't occur, this could be a big problem, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you.
OUTFRONT now, the chair of the House Republican Conference, Congressman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.
And, Congresswoman, thank you for your time tonight.
The president says the GOP is close to an official plan to replace Obamacare. You're the leadership, how close, weeks, months, days?
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA), CHAIR, HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE: Well, I think it's important to know that we've been working on this for months, years, actually, and we've been working most recently very closely between the House and the Senate, the administration, on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. It's why we as Republicans are really united and it is a top priority for us.
Obamacare has failed. It failed to deliver on the promises, despite well intentions, to -- but unfortunately, we're seeing where the co- pays are going up, the deductibles, premiums, and people are losing their choices. So, we believe that we can do better, that we must do better for Americans.
BURNETT: But you don't have a time frame?
MCMORRIS RODGERS: Yes. We do. We've had a time frame. We've been on track to fulfilling that time frame. You're going to be seeing us moving the specific legislation through committee in an open, transparent way, starting next week.
MCMORRIS RODGERS: And we're going to keep it going. Both in the house and the Senate, and our goal is to have this done within a few weeks.
BURNETT: OK, within a few weeks. That is a specific time table.
Now, you do have some within your own party, though, who are fighting you right now. The House Freedom Caucus members are seeking out strongly against the plan you've been working on, the House leadership replacement plan. They want a full repeal, period. Mo Brooks is among them.
Here's what a couple of them had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: We need to simplify it to the best simplification, repeal Obamacare, send it to the states, let the 50 states do it as they wish.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: We have to do what we told voters we were going to do. Do what they sent us here to do, and that was not to keep parts of Obamacare. It was to repeal it and replace it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you say to them? They say anything short of 100 percent repeal is a nonstarter.
[19:35:02] I know you, for example, want to keep some of the popular parts of Obamacare, like allowing adult children to stay on their parents' plan. They are Republicans you just heard. They say no.
MCMORRIS RODGERS: You know, last year, we put a bill on the president's desk to repeal Obamacare. It passed with all the Republicans supporting it, the House and the Senate, the president at that time, President Obama, vetoed it. That is the base from which we are starting this year. That bill protected those up to age 26. It protected those with pre-
existing conditions. We've always said that when the Republicans offered an alternative back in 2009, when Obamacare first passed the House, we had those provisions in our bill.
So that is the base bill. We believe it's very important that we are providing a smooth transition to this new system, and so we are putting as much of the --
BURNETT: I want to interrupt you though, because pre-existing conditions and adult children up to 26, those are core parts of Obamacare. So, I mean, we can play semantics, but the truth is, you're keeping the core of Obamacare.
MCMORRIS RODGERS: I think it's important to know those have always received bipartisan support, as I said, they were in the bill that we put on the president's desk last year that repealed Obamacare. That was -- we included the pre-existing conditions up to age 26, the preexisting conditions. They were in the Republican alternative the night that Obamacare passed. They have always enjoyed bipartisan support. That has not been an issue.
BURNETT: So, the House Speaker Paul Ryan today talking broadly about health care and beyond said, and I quote him, "We are host if Republicans don't tackle like Medicare and Social Security." The president, though, has said again and again he will not cut Medicare, he will not cut Social Security.
Here he is taking Paul Ryan on directly.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, Paul wants to knock out Social Security, knock it down, way down. He wants to knock Medicare way down. I'm not going to cut it and I'm not going to raise ages and I'm not going to do all the things that they want to do.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Where do you stand, Congresswoman, do you support your speaker or your president?
MCMORRIS RODGERS: Ha, ha, ha! Well, you know, what I think is really what we need is budget reform, and because when you look at the way that we budget at the federal level, within the federal government, all the budget battles that we've had are only with one-third of the federal spending. We only look at the discretionary, because two- thirds of federal spending is mandatory.
And I don't believe that is wise. I don't believe that is providing accountability for hard earned taxpayer dollars. And so, I think at the end of the day, we need to look at budget reform so that Congress exercising the power of the purse is actually looking at all of the federal spending. Right now, we have a big portion of it that is off limits, and I don't believe that that is providing accountability or transparency to taxpayers. BURNETT: I notice, Congresswoman, that you are wearing purple, and I
say that because your Democratic female colleagues, many of them are wearing white, and one of them says for this reason, I quote her, "To unite against attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century."
Do you support their decision tonight?
MCMORRIS RODGERS: You know, I think this is an important time for us to be coming together, and I'm looking forward to hearing President Donald Trump deliver a very hopeful, positive, unifying speech to this country. We need that.
Typically, when a president is elected, you have that coming together as a country, which we haven't had, and I'm hopeful that people will listen to his message tonight, and that they'll be willing to come together, find the common ground, so that we can do the work, the important work that the people expect us to do.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congresswoman. I appreciate your time tonight.
MCMORRIS RODGERS: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, as we count you down to the moments of President Trump's first speech to a joint session of Congress, in tonight's audience, there will be two Arizona teens separated from their mother when she was deported to Mexico. What will Trump say to them?
And Trump may address the anti-terror raid that killed a Navy SEAL. Is he passing the blame to the generals tonight?
[19:42:29] BURNETT: Welcome back to a very special edition of OUTFRONT live from the nation's capital tonight. Breaking news, moments away from president Trump's first address to congress, and in his speech tonight, Trump may signal he's open to immigration bill. This could be one of the biggest things we hear.
A senior administration official telling CNN the president has an idea about a bill where undocumented immigrants who haven't committed any serious crimes can stay in the U.S. illegally. Of course, the word "serious" is what this all would come down to, but it could have changed the fate of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, the mother of two who was deported from Arizona, making her the face of Trump's immigration crackdown.
Tonight, her two children are actually going to be there, in the room, in the audience when Trump speaks.
Polo Sandoval is OUTFRONT.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jackie and Angel Rayos Garcia are packing light for their first trip to Washington. It's the first plane ride of their young lives. Tonight, they'll sit in the House chamber on Capitol Hill, 2,300 miles from their Phoenix home to face President Donald Trump, the man they blame for deporting their undocumented mother back to Mexico.
Jackie and Angel's father can't go further than airport security in Phoenix, unlike his son and daughter who lack legal status in the U.S. and lives with the constant fear of deportation. All he can do is offer his blessing and the promise he'll be here when they return.
Guadalupe Rayos-Garcia is the children's mother at the center of the controversy. We first met her in Sonora, Mexico, earlier this month, just after immigration officials acted on a 2013 order to deport her. The 35-year-old was arrested in 2008 and later pleaded guilty to making up a Social Security number on a job application. That's a nonviolent felony.
Nonetheless, immigration and custom officials detained Rayos-Garcia. She's now living in Mexico while Angel and Jackie are in Washington to confront the president.
(on camera): I mean, you're here now, in the shadow of the Capitol. What's going through your mind before tonight?
ANGEL RAYOS-GARCIA, SON OF DEPORTED MOTHER: Well, I'm pretty determined, you know? Like it's crazy like realizing we came all the way from Mesa and we're here, we're in the Capitol, and we're ready to see Trump, see what he has to say.
SANDOVAL: Angel and Jackie were invited to the president's address to Congress by Arizona representatives, Ruben Gallego and Raul Grijalva, Democratic lawmakers considered these kids the face of families affected by Donald Trump's immigration policies.
JACQUELINE RAYOS-GARCIA, DAUGHTER OF DEPORTED MOTHER: I feel determined to keep on fighting, not just for my family, but the other families behind us.
[19:45:00] SANDOVAL: President Trump insists the focus of his executive orders on immigration are about security, but removal orders have now expanded.
TRUMP: We're getting some very, very bad players out of this country, drug lords, gang members, heads of gangs, killers, murders, we're getting them out. That's what we're focused on. The press isn't covering that, unfortunately.
SANDOVAL: In another hopeful sign, a senior administration official told reporters today the president wants an immigration bill that would not deport undocumented people who haven't committed any serious crimes. For now, Jackie and Angel know the reality of the U.S. government allowing their mother back into the U.S. soon are slim. Today, she remains south of the border celebrating a birthday without her kids.
J. RAYOS-GARCIA: I want her to know that I miss her and happy birthday.
SANDOVAL: And today, Rayos-Garcia is still in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, she is by her mother's side, Erin. I had a chance to speak to her husband while in Phoenix, Arizona, yesterday. He tells me that she will be watching President Trump's speech tonight. As you can imagine, she will keep a close eye on the crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of her children. The last time she saw them, Erin, was two and a half weeks ago after she was deported to Mexico -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Polo, thank you.
And next, President Trump's first major address, as you can see, a beautiful night here in Washington, a very warm night here in Washington. I wonder if he'll bring that up.
President Trump may speak about the covert operations in Yemen that killed a Navy SEAL. Tonight, will he pass the blame to the generals? Wait until you hear what he said earlier today.
And the thing Trump cares about the most, his numbers. How does his approval rank among presidents after five weeks in office? John King is OUTFRONT at the magic wall.
[19:50:17] BURNETT: Breaking news, we're waiting the president, his first joint speech to a joint session of Congress. He's going to be, obviously, on Capitol Hill speaking. This is a pivotal moment for the president, the most important moment of his presidency so far, and a chance to reset his relationships with voters after 40 days in office.
We also now are just getting some excerpts of what the Democrats will be saying in their rebuttal later tonight. It will be the former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.
And I want to go to our panel and talk about that right now, because we anticipate, David, that the president is going to talk about the raid in Yemen. He's going to talk about national security. The Democrats are going to hit that head-on.
Here is from the excerpts that we have, what the former Kentucky governor will say, "When the president attacks the loyalty and credibility of our intelligence agencies, the court system, the military, the free press, and individual Americans, simply because he doesn't like what they'll say," he will emphasize that, "he is eroding our democracy. And that's reckless."
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Pretty strong words, and this is what we were talking about at the top about tone. So, here is the Democrats picking on all the sort of institutional disruption that the president has been trying to accomplish since he's taken office and they are throwing down the gauntlet here saying you're eroding our democracy. How -- whether or not he embraces that kind of posture tonight or
actually tries to address it in a way that broadens out his appeal, I think is one of the key things to watch tonight. This is all about the kind of tone that he says.
BURNETT: And in a sense, Jamie, he has an advantage. I mean, you know, we're going to get excerpts from his speech, too, but he goes first. He can see this. He can adjust to it.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, the question is, someone who works with him for a long time once told me he picks fights even when he's winning. So, what I'm curious about tonight is, does he know he's won, will he reach across the aisle, will he try to ignore some of this noise and stick to his tone?
BURNETT: And we also are getting an excerpt here, our first excerpt from what the president will say. Brian, on immigration, he is going to say by finally enforcing immigration laws we'll raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone.
That is, if he is looking for a compromise, he's fully committed to his executive order to enforcing the laws on the books.
BRIAN FALLON, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it would be a welcome step if we saw him moderate immigration, however, the politics will be thorny for him.
BURNETT: But all he's done so far were executive orders. You're upset about deportations, is enforce laws on the books. There hasn't been any law.
FALLON: If he tries to -- if he tries to make a proposal, make a pitch out there, he's going to be running against a Republican base that he needs right now on health care reform and on tax reform, and on the left, they are not going to settle for anything less than outright citizenship. I'm not sure who's going to be pleasing with this halfway proposal.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And that's one of the things he'll mention when he's talking about this immigration, the new proposals that came out today, it has to be give and take. Both sides have to come to the middle with regards to this, but as Erin said, what he's asking for with regards to these ICE agents, he's asking them to enforce existing laws, and I don't see what the problem is with that.
And this goes in line with what we heard him talk about in the budget plan. It's about national security and public safety, and he's going to be able to tie those in together on why he's allocating money, where he's allocating money, and it's all about national security, which is good.
BURNETT: As we take a break, one more excerpt from the president coming out, "Tonight, I'm also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare." So there you have it. You're looking at live pictures of Capitol Hill as the president gets ready to deliver these words and so many more later on this evening.
As we count you down, Trump's approval ratings as he walks on to Capitol Hill tonight, though, are at historic lows, the nation will be watching. There is one bright spot, though, for Trump tonight, and John King is at the magic wall.
[19:57:13] BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures of Capitol Hill, where President Trump is about to give his first address to Congress. Members from both parties and, of course, people from across this nation all waiting to hear his message. It is a crucial moment in his new presidency, and it comes as he faces an approval rating well below 50 percent.
John King is OUTFRONT.
And, John, how does that approval rating compare to past presidents at this time?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, not so well is the quick answer when you look back at the most recent previous presidents. Let's take a look at those numbers. The past six presidents, their approval rating on the night of their first address to a joint session of Congress. President Trump at 44 percent, and you can see looking across the board, lower than any of the past six presidents. Ronald Reagan was at 55 percent at this point. George H.W. Bush 51 percent, Bill Clinton, 51, George W. Bush, the high, 62 percent, early on his first term. President Obama at 59 percent, despite the big financial crisis back then.
So, the president, the numbers don't lie, remarkably, historically unpopular as he prepares to speak to the joint session of Congress and the American people on this big night.
Now, obvious, that makes it more difficult, A, to convince Democrats to come his way, and, B, even to keep Republicans on the fold as you see these internal party fights on issues like health care and on tax reform. This is a disadvantage for the president, something he hopes to improve on tonight with his speech to Congress and the American people.
But he does have one big thing working in his favor, the economy. Look at the unemployment rate now, 4.8 percent. Go back, remember when President Obama first addressed the Congress, the unemployment rate back then early 2009, 8.3 percent, on its way higher, past 10 percent. Then over the last six years, you've had a steady drop down.
This helps the president enormously. Yes, he might personally be unpopular, but his policies are actually more popular than him. What the president is betting on that this gets better, not only the unemployment rate, but the growth rate. The president saying this morning in that interview with Fox News, if growth can come faster, then more money comes into Washington, the American people are more happy, and guess what? Washington has more money for tax revenue, so he can cut taxes and fund military spending increases at the same time. This a big advantage for the president.
Something else to keep in mind, who's he really talking to tonight? Yes, the members of Congress, the American people watching at home, but see the red, America? This is the House map from the 2016 election. These red districts, those are the people who sent Donald Trump to Washington.
His first priority is to keep his base. He knows he needs Republican unity on health care. He needs Republican unity on tax reform. He needs Republican unity on other big legislative battles like potentially immigration reform, even the money to build his wall.
Would he like to change some minds in blue America? Of course, he would, but priority number one, especially because of that narrow Senate Republican majority, because of the differences in the House Republican family, priority one for this president, keep his support in red America as high as possible so that he can twist some arms in the Republican side and pass his agenda -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Obviously, a lot he must accomplish tonight. John, thank you.
And our special coverage of President Trump's address to Congress continues now with Anderson Cooper.