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First Family Hosts Its First Easter Egg Roll at the White House; Dems Fight to Flip Red Seat in Georgia Special Election; Neil Gorsuch Takes the Bench; Impact of Trump's Foreign Policy on U.S. Markets. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 17, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Military in this great nation and servicemen and servicewomen all around the world who are keeping us safe. As we renew this tradition. Thank you for joining us. On behalf of the president and Barron, we wish you a great, fun and beautiful days coming ahead of us, and Happy Easter. Thank you. God bless.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Happy Easter and have a great, great time. Have a great day. Thank you, folks. Thank you very much. I'm coming down. I'm going to be joining you. Thank you very much. My whole family's here. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the president of the United States and the first lady speaking in the South Lawn of the White House along with the Easter Bunny, who remained silent during those remarks right there. But it was interesting to see the president and first lady for the first time hosting the Easter egg roll, which is a big, big Washington event.

Thousands of people look forward to this every year. They come to the White House, kids, military families, members of Congress, local schools. They flood the South Lawn to be a part of this.

Also an interesting sight right there, Barron Trump, the Trumps' 10- year-old son who lives up in New York City, goes to school in New York City. I believe this is his first public White House event, at least that I can remember, since the inauguration itself, the first time we've seen him there as part of the festivities.

Our Kate Bennett is on the South Lawn right now in the throng of people right there. And this was interesting to see. I don't know that we've seen Mrs. Trump yet host a White House-specific event quite like this, Kate.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, John. This is her first big public event. She was very welcoming. She said the president actually thanked her personally, as we heard, saying that she's worked really hard on this for a long, long time to get it just right. You mentioned Barron. He is here today. And actually, a couple of the events that are around the lawn today are inspired by Barron Trump's likes. One of them is soccer. So there are members of the D.C. United soccer team down lower on the lawn, doing some drills, so you can hang out there. And another thing that's interesting is there is a coding station with

Minecraft, which is another, I guess popular activity with Barron Trump. o, you can go down there and learn how to code and play some Minecraft.

But there are lots of different activities. As you can see the crowd's really filled in to come watch the president and the first lady speak on the porch there.

BERMAN: And one of the things we've seen in the past is we've seen President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, when they were in the White House, they would read to kids. They would take part in some of the physical activities on the lawn itself. Unclear whether or not we will see that from the Trump family, but one thing we will see is they will work on cards to U.S. troops there.

We can see the cameras trying to get a glimpse of the president right now. You can see the top of his head right there. Not much more of the president.

Kate, we will keep our eye on the South Lawn of the White House. If the president and first lady get involved in any of the activities there, please let us know. We'll come back to you there.

In the meantime, I'm joined by CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, also with us Alice Stewart, a CNN political commentator, Republican strategist, Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University.

I don't know if any of you have ever lived or worked in D.C. Alice, I think you're the most likely to have spent time in Washington, D.C. Just tell our audience how important the Easter egg roll is to sort of the culture and society of Washington.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, living here now, I can say that it's more of a fun event for parents to bring their kids to. And certainly, it's starting off to a great start today. There is still the big mystery surrounding today's ceremony. Who is in the bunny costume? Sean Spicer, Melissa McCarthy? We will -- that remains to be seen.

But, look, this is something that is a fun tradition, that presidents and their families have enjoyed doing. A lot of White House staffers and those in the administration have the opportunity to bring their kids. I think there's been little too much emphasis put on whether or not they will be prepared for this event, but clearly, it's off to a good start.

BERMAN: I agree with you. The nation's security and nuclear deterrent does not depend on whether or not there are 20,000 wooden Easter eggs ordered in time.

Julian Zelizer, some of the pageantry surrounding the White House, things like the Easter egg roll, historically do matter. There is a sense of continuity from one administration to the next. JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Yes,

this in particular matters. It was always a sign of the openness of the White House. It was a moment for people to come in and to surround the grounds in the way that they don't ordinarily. And it's less than it was before. I mean, we live in an era of national security requirements that limits what we can do. So I think that's how it matters. And it matters for the first lady.

It's often been a place we see the first lady and we hear from her. And in this case, given that she's been relatively absent from the first 100 days, I think that was just something notable.

[10:35:03] BERMAN: All right. Bakari Sellers, I'm going to spare you commentary on the Easter egg roll. And we should note, it is an Easter egg roll, not an Easter egg hunt. For whatever reason, during the Nixon administration, it became a roll, not a hunt.

But, Bakari, if we can, I want to shift gears to another subject right now, which is sort of presidential travel, what the president has done and where he has chosen to do it, his first 85 days in office, because he's actually gone fewer places than past presidents. President Trump just visiting seven states in his first 85 days, no foreign trips. This compares to President Obama, who at this point had been to nine different states and done one international trips.

And George W. Bush actually covered the first eight months of the administration. At this point, he'd been to 23 states. He'd been a lot of places. So what does this say to you that the president isn't doing quite as much traveling, Bakari?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, first and foremost, I do want to say that the images that were coming from the White House today were glowing with the first family, the first lady, and Barron Trump, so I was really pleased to see that. But when we're talking about his travel or the lack thereof, I think that it's a direct correlation between the fact that he has no major legislative accomplishments to show, either.

In your first 100 days, you have this honeymoon period, where in fact, he has both Houses, the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, who are controlled by the Republican Party. However, his inability to pass or get close to the finish line on any major pieces of legislation is indicative by him not going around, building support in these states for his priorities.

Donald Trump cannot pass legislation in Mar-a-Lago and Washington, D.C. He has to go out and build this public sentiment in his favor, and he simply has not done that. I don't know if it's going to get any better because we have these special elections and if these special elections remain close or Republicans actually lose one, you'll see Republicans run away from his agenda even quicker than they are now.

BERMAN: Just so you know, we are looking at pictures from the South Lawn of the White House. And all the Trump kids appear to be there. I see Donald Trump, I see Eric -- Donald Trump Jr., I see Eric Trump, I saw Tiffany Trump just there before. Not Ivanka or Jared Kushner. Of course, Ivanka Trump is Jewish so I don't know if she's taking part in the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn or not, but many of the Trump kids there taking part. And the president himself taking part in some of the festivities there, to be sure.

Professor Zelizer -- oh, that actually is the ceremonial whistle that begins the Easter egg roll. That is something that every past president has done it well -- as well. So just saw that right there.

Professor Zelizer, on the subject of presidential travel it may be that this president doesn't need to travel as much. You know, he may or may not have things that he's selling, what Bakari Sellers was talking about there, but he seems to be willing, and perhaps in some cases able to sell it from the White House or Mar-a-Lago.

ZELIZER: I think that's right. A big part of it is the lack of a legislative agenda, but the other part is a president who's trying to do this, to try to sell himself and his policies and ideas through Twitter, through television, through social media, rather than some of the more traditional mechanisms. And we don't know, the verdict's out if that will work, but I think he's very invested in continuing some of what he did in the campaign as a mode of governance.

STEWART: John?

BERMAN: I keep on looking down at the picture right there. I'm not taking my eyes off all of you. I'm just trying to see if we can get a sense of what the president is doing.

Alice, you can jump in on that, but I also wanted to ask you, Alice, about the other major political event, besides the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House, that's going on the early part of this week, and that's the special election in Georgia to fill the seat of Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services.

You are actually from the Georgia 6th as it were. You know that this is a race that people are watching very, very closely. You know this is a seat that has been held by Democrats from the '70s, and it's a race that Republicans are nervous about right now.

STEWART: It is, and it is going to be a fascinating race to watch. But here's the key, the Democrat in this race getting certainly a lot of media attention, a lot of star power coming down, but that didn't help Hillary Clinton and he has to get 50 plus one tomorrow. And if he's not able to do that, which I don't believe that he will, he's not going to win in a runoff with the Republican.

Right now we have several good Republican candidates between Handel Gray and many others, and they're looking very strong. So I see this going into a runoff, and that's not going to be helpful to the Democrat. And they're trying to make this a national referendum on Donald Trump, and trying to show that people across this country are frustrated with Donald Trump, and so far we're seeing they're saying not so much. We're OK with how this leadership goes.

And one quick thing on the presidential travel. Ari Fleischer made a great statement in "The New York Times" today talking about the use of Air Force One. It's not -- you don't fly around as president to get frequent flyer miles. You do it to make a point.

BERMAN: Right.

STEWART: And to Bakari's point, he hasn't had any great successes or victories to date with regard to health care and tax reform, but I think once he starts ticking those off, we will see him out and about much more. And right now he's communicating through Twitter to his followers.

BERMAN: Bakari Sellers, on Georgia 6th, you know, Democrats don't get a participation ribbon.

[10:40:02] He may do better, Jon Ossoff, than past Democrats have done in that district, but without a victory there, will Democrats really have anything to point to?

SELLERS: No, I think your premise is fundamentally flawed. If you look at Kansas, where we didn't win, we made up 20 points, and that's in extremely, extremely deep red Kansas. As we move here towards Georgia and then look at Montana down the road, and even in South Carolina in the Fifth Congressional District, you'll see Democrats play and play extremely hard in these traditionally deep red states.

If we continue to make up 15, 20 points, then that doesn't bode well for Republicans in the midterm elections. You know, I don't have the same consternation, although Alice did bring up a good point about the runoff, which I believe will be held in June, if, in fact, Mr. Ossoff doesn't get to 50 percent plus one tomorrow. But I will tell you that there are some weak candidates on the Republican side in that race, and I do feel as if even if it is a runoff, there will be enough momentum and a good chance for a Democrat to win in that race.

This isn't over, and Democrats are fighting all over the map, even in red country, and that's due to the weakness of President Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Well, I may be fundamentally flawed, but I'm fundamentally grateful to have you here, Bakari Sellers, Professor Zelizer, Alice Stewart, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

STEWART: Thank you, John.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, there is a new guy in a new job. The junior justice of the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, he's on his first day hearing cases. What's on the docket? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:46:45] BERMAN: All right. We do have some breaking news. It is Neil Gorsuch's first day hearing cases for the Supreme Court, and the junior justice, we just learned, has already asked his first questions in oral arguments.

Joining us, Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue. What were the questions? What was the case? Tell us what happened.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Neil Gorsuch for the first time, he came out wearing his robe. He sits on the far left wing of the bench, right next to Justice Sonia Sotomayor. He came out and sort of looked at the crowd a bit, seemed to be taking it all in for a minute. The chief justices welcomed him and then he thanked his colleagues for all his help -- their help in the last week or so. And then a very technical case began about employment discrimination and about 14 minutes in, suddenly, he asked a series of very technical questions. At one point, he said, look, I'm sorry to ask so many questions. This is my last one.

So but this week, besides the arguments today, is an important week for the court. On Wednesday we have a big religious liberty case coming up, and conservatives will be watching Gorsuch on that. He has a paper trail in the Lower Court, which makes them feel like he will rule in their favor, eventually.

And this week we'll also get some opinion. And if the justices are 4- 4 in any of the cases that they've already heard, they're likely to ask for re-argument and so that Gorsuch then can hear these cases and he can perhaps give the deciding vote.

But most importantly, John, this court, after more than a year as being short-staffed, is now back to full strength with Gorsuch on the bench, John.

BERMAN: All right, Ariane de Vogue for us at the White House -- sorry, at the Supreme Court. Ariane, thanks so much.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, all of a sudden we've got new language from the president toward trade and China, and we're getting new market reaction this morning. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:52:29] BERMAN: All right, this was moments ago at the White House. President Trump on the South Lawn. This is the Easter egg roll, the Trump family's first Easter egg roll. You can see the first lady there.

Just a few minutes ago, the president and first lady welcomed the thousands of people, including children, military families, children from Washington, D.C., schools, you know, the families of members of Congress, to the White House lawn for this celebration. You can see him now signing some "Make America Great Again" hats there as well. Some of his adult children are there. Barron Trump, his young son from New York City, who still lives and goes to school in New York City. He is down for this celebration.

This was the first big public event that the Trump family and Mrs. Trump has hosted at the White House. We're keeping our eye on that as they enjoy the celebration. All right, the stock markets, they are up to start the week. Not far

from investors' minds, apparently, the president's approach to foreign policy.

The president wrote this weekend, "Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens," he writes.

CNN Money's Cristina Alesci joins us now with our "Market Update." And you know, the one thing that investors have been afraid of from the beginning is the possibility of a trade war. Any step away from a trade war with China viewed as positive by investors.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's a major policy reversal, probably disappointing to Donald Trump's base that he has stepped away from this idea of calling China a currency manipulator. But as you said, investors do find it encouraging because they don't want the U.S. to launch any kind of trade war that would result in retaliation, in making it more difficult for U.S. companies to sell goods into China. That would be, obviously, very bad for major U.S. corporations that do a lot of business in China.

But investors are cautiously optimistic. They are looking out and seeing a lot of geopolitical risk out there and they're unsure of how the administration may handle that. Very reassuring this morning that Vice President Pence out there saying the administration will take a peaceful approach to North Korea, but that is a situation that investors are watching right now.

Also big question marks, obviously, around the Middle East. You'll remember when we -- when the U.S. launched strikes into Syria. The market did dip a little bit. It was a short-lived dip, but it did react. And also major questions in Europe. The rise of populism there is something that investors are paying very close attention to. There are elections in France that investors are focused on right now.

[10:55:07] So a lot of unknowns for investors. I would put today's mood as cautiously optimistic. And potentially, the shift away from sole focus on domestic policy to a more global perspective for investors at this point -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Cristina Alesci for us in Washington with one eye on the markets, one eye on policy. Thanks so much, Cristina.

Still to come for us, residents in five states on alert. There is a manhunt right now in five states for a man who apparently posted the video of a murder on Facebook. Shockingly, this morning authorities say that this suspected killer could be in a lot of different places. We'll have an update next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.