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Interview with Representative Steve Stivers; Manhunt Intensifies for Facebook Murder Suspect; ICE Air Takes Deported Immigrants Back to Mexico; Trump Administration Might Miss Tax Reform Deadline; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 18, 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] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Congressman Steve Stivers of Ohio.

Congressman, thanks for being with us. It's your job to re-elect Republicans, to get new Republicans in office. So as you look at this special election taking place today in Georgia, scale of one to 10, 10 being the highest, how nervous are you?

REP. STEVE STIVERS (R), NATIONAL REPUBLICANS CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: You know, I'm a little nervous. I'd say I'm about a three or a four because special elections are special. It's about who turns out the vote. And the early voting numbers started out skewed very Democratic. They came back to where now in early voting about 41 percent of the electorate was a Democrat, 41 percent Republican, 18 percent independents, most of those probably Democratic-leaning independents.

So I expect the early voting numbers, when they come out about 7 percent about 7:00 p.m., 7:15 p.m., we could be down, but I feel like Republican members or Republican constituents in this district have a chance to control the fate by deciding to show up and vote today.

And so I feel like it's going to be OK. We've heard a lot of interest. You know, it's a little sunny and cloudy this morning in the 6th District, and I hear it may be a little rainy later today, but I think our Republican constituents will be showing up to vote. And I feel OK. But they're special elections, so you want to be a little nervous.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Got a weather forecast in the mix there. Thank you for that, sir. Look, this is a seat that has been in Republican hands since 1979. This is a political novice, as Jason Carroll just reported, a 30-year-old guy who's attracted a whole lot of attention, including from celebrities and a whole lot of money.

What message does it send you that this is even close?

STIVERS: Well, it's a special election, Poppy, and, frankly, they're always special, and it's about who gets excited. And early on, Democrats got very excited, but we've focused our energy because we have 15 Republican candidates, on just getting Republicans out to vote. We didn't pick a candidate. We just said we want you to go out and

vote and have your voice heard. And Jon Ossoff knows if this goes to a runoff in June where he's one on one, he's going to have a much more difficult time because Republicans will coalesce around whoever that runoff candidate is tomorrow morning, so I --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: You --

STIVERS: Our job is to --

BERMAN: We do understand that it's a special election, which makes it special, but you also have told us that Democrats and independents were excited early on. And I guess we're wondering, is -- has the president dampened the excitement on the Republican side, or what challenges does President Trump pose to you? Is it, what? According to Pew today, 39 percent approval rating? That's the lowest of the last six presidents at this point, by far. So is he a drag on your candidates right now, sir?

STIVERS: I don't think he's necessarily a drag on our candidates, but you have to remember, this fall, in November, last fall, this race was a one-point race. So this district is not a big blowout district. It's one of those suburban districts that kind of go -- can go back and forth, even though it's been in Republican hands a while.

President Trump only won it by one point, so I don't think he'll be a drag on the ticket. And as long as Republicans show up today, and they've got a lot of choices, 15 choices today, then I think we'll be OK and we'll make it to a runoff. And you know, it's early, but I feel pretty good about how things are going to go today, but we have to make sure our people show up.

HARLOW: Look, you note that this was a close district in the presidential race, and it was, but if you look at Kansas in the special election there last week with the Republican winning but just by seven points in a district that the president took by 27 points in November, you know, your answer works for Georgia, but does it work across the board? Is this president a drag on Republican candidates potentially across the board?

STIVERS: Well, every district is different, Poppy. And frankly, we didn't need to pay for a blowout in Kansas. We just needed to win. It's not about -- we didn't need to cover the spread, we just needed to win. And we invested a little money to make sure we won.

HARLOW: A lot more money than the Democrat did.

STIVERS: The Democratic National Committee was absent in that race and we made sure we won and we did win. A win's a win. It's just like a football team, it's not about whether they cover the spread, it's whether they win. And we won last week and I feel like a win today is moving to a runoff. And I think we're going to do that. And if the people around the country want to help us as we do this, I hope they'll go to NRCC.org and help us as we're trying to make sure we keep the House Republican over the next two years.

BERMAN: No participation ribbon, as you say, in electoral politics, at least not usually. If I can ask you a question off Georgia 6th for a minute.

STIVERS: Sure.

BERMAN: On health care in particular. Look, the president and the Freedom Caucus, they have been at odds occasionally over health care reform. And one of the things the president said, at least on Twitter, is he hinted that he may, you know, campaign against or speak out against Freedom Caucus members when they run for re-election.

[10:35:01] Your job is to get these people re-elected. So how does that complicate things for you when the president's speaking out against your own members?

STIVERS: Well, it may complicate things. And you know, I ran, John, on a platform that said, I would support all of our dues-paying members. And so if they're dues-paying members to our organization, we'll be there to support them. You know, I hope all those guys that are thinking they might be targeted choose to pay their dues.

BERMAN: So, pay up now, else we may not be there to back you up.

Congressman Steve Stivers from Ohio, great to have you with us. Appreciate your time, sir.

STIVERS: Great to be on. Thanks so much. And -- thank you.

HARLOW: All right, still to come for us, the search continuing for a killer. A nationwide manhunt while the family of the victim sends a surprising message to the suspect. An update next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:40:13] BERMAN: All right. New development in the nationwide manhunt, this morning police said they have received nearly 400 tips from all over the country in the search for an Ohio murder suspect and they insist this investigation has not stalled.

HARLOW: Steve Stephens is accused of murdering an elderly Ohio man on Easter Sunday and then posting the video of the killing to Facebook.

Our Sara Ganim is following the latest from Cleveland. And we did just get this update from the authorities insisting, you know, that nothing has stalled here.

SARA GANIM, CNN INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They were insistent that it hasn't stalled, but we also got the impression that they have no credible leads at this point at that press conference just moments ago. They said this is a nationwide search, that tips are coming in from as far away as Texas, but you know, they very much believe at this point that Steve Stephens could be anywhere.

We do know that as we speak, police here in Cleveland are searching every abandoned building in the city looking for him. We also know that a search of his home turned up weapons and other items that police say are useful to their investigation.

Meanwhile, at the press conference, the mayor got emotional talking about the victim's family, that victim great-grandfather, 74-year-old Robert Godwin. His children spoke to CNN last night. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOROTHY CRUMPTON, FORMER WIFE OR ROBERT GODWIN SR.: He was my best friend. We shopped together, did things for each other. He was just my best friend. Beside God, that was my best friend. We decided long time ago that we had six children together, and it's a lot of married couples will never have what Robert and I had.

ROBBY MILLER, SON OF ROBERT GODWIN SR.: Boys need their fathers, and mine was taken away from me. And all I want to see is him brought to justice. I want my family to have closure. It just -- it's a hole in my heart right now. It's a hole in my heart right now. But one thing I do want to say is I forgive him because we're all sinners and we need to share blood of Jesus Christ to save us, and I'm so grateful for that. So if you're out there, if you're listening, turn yourself in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GANIM: Stephens' girlfriend, who spoke to CBS News, also said that she was overwhelmed by everything, the fact that her name was mentioned in that Facebook video, that horrifying video of the killing. She said this. She said, "Steve is a really nice guy. He is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children."

Court documents giving us a bit of a glimpse into Steve Stephens' background, showing financial troubles going back a few years, some judgments and liens against him, garnishment of wages from a landlord at one point. He is now on the FBI's most wanted list. There is a reward out there now $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Billboards will be going up nationwide with his face, with his information, as they continue this search across the country -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Sara Ganim for us in Cleveland. Thank you, Sara, for that.

Still to come for us, it is the airline that no one wants to fly. Its only passengers are being deported. Their story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:47:36] HARLOW: So new numbers this morning on the arrest of undocumented immigrants under President Trump show more than a 30 percent surge. This is according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It also shows the number of those immigrants with no criminal record that are arrested has doubled under this administration.

BERMAN: So how does ICE get people out of this country? And the answer is with an airline literally called ICE Air, funded by you.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) : These are the deported, the repatriated or as President Trump calls them.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are bad dudes. We're getting the bad ones out.

SANTIAGO (on camera): When Trump says bad hombres.

DAVID PADILLA, DEPORTED MEXICAN IMMIGRANT: No. My DUI, that's what they got me with. I was never selling drugs.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): David Padilla is one of 135 Mexican nationals who ride on this flight El Paso to Mexico City. It's a scene repeated three times a week year round.

It's called ICE Air, an airline funded by the U.S. government and run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A fleet of commercial planes flying deported immigrant out of the United States. Each passenger is costing U.S. tax payers an average of $2,000 last year.

PADILLA: It's just -- it's so hard. It just pulls you away with any mistake by anybody. It's so hard. That's my daughter.

SANTIAGO: Padilla explains he was separated from his two young daughters in early March when immigration officials pulled him over on his way to work and took him into custody. He blames President Trump.

PADILLA: I would have been like pulled over the day that happened. Without Trump being in office I think I wouldn't have been able to go home.

SANTIAGO: Others have similar stories. Alonzo Diaz was convicted of a DUI in 2008. This man domestic violence in Colorado, and that's all he would tell us. Twenty-one-year-old Eduardo Hernandez is a convicted felon for his record fleeing and eluding. He's happy to see his family. The last time they saw each other was 13 years ago before he crossed the border illegally into the U.S. with his parents. On the ICE Air flight back --

EDUARDO HERNANDEZ, DEPORTED MEXICAN IMMIGRANT: I know everybody thinks about their family. They're leaving their family, they're leaving their kids, and they're leaving everything behind to start a new life.

SANTIAGO: ICE Air is not listed on the arrival screen. Aboard the flight deportees are provided a meal.

[10:50:02] They're also handcuffed. Upon arrival they carry a take home bag with waters, snacks, paper work along with some personal belongings.

Then there are those on ICE Air like Guadalupe Figueroa. ICE confirmed her criminal record consist only of deportation. She tells us she is not a dangerous criminal and can't understand why she's been separated from her two children in the United States.

PADILLA: They don't treat you like a human being.

SANTIAGO: Padilla who claims ICE off his shoe laces says none of it is enough to keep him from his family in the United States.

(On camera): What do you tell your kids?

PADILLA: That I'll be back?

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Leyla Santiago, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Fascinating. Leyla, thank you for that.

All right, still to come for us, it is complicated. President Trump's quick timeline to try to overhaul the tax code completely. Let's just say you shouldn't take this one to the bank yet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:56:25] HARLOW: Taking a quick look at the market, the Dow opening 100 points lower this morning, slightly recovering those losses, just barely, though, in the red for the day so far. Investors blaming the drop on several factors, namely some earnings reports.

BERMAN: Yes, Goldman Sachs earnings miss. Also tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. And then there is the snap election that was just called for in Great Britain. Right now, by the way, down more than 100 points, so whatever it recovered it has lost again.

All right, so if you like the health care battle, you will love the fight over tax reform, which could be even more problematic on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: That is the reporting from our Phil Mattingly this morning. Add on to that the so-called August deadline. Doesn't look like they're going to reach that for tax reform, so says Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Let's go to Phil Mattingly, he has the latest on the Hill, working all of your sources that only tell the truth. What are they saying?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think you have to look at it through a couple of lenses, guys. First off, there's a reason full-scale tax reform hasn't been done in 31 years, 1986 the last time this has happened, even though Congress after Congress, administration after administration has said this is necessary, simplifying the tax code, lowering the rates, making it easier for businesses to deal with taxes in the United States. That's always a goal. It's just really hard to get there. And I

think what you heard from Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, yesterday acknowledging that his original August timeline was maybe a little bit off base, was him kind of grasping the reality on Capitol Hill here.

Here's where things currently stands. In the House, Republicans have been working on a proposal and have a fairly fully fleshed-out one that they've been writing behind the scenes for the last couple of months. In the Senate, they haven't been as public about where they stand, but they have been working with their colleagues in the House as well. What's lacking right now, and this is what I hear from both House Republican aides and Senate Republican aides, is guidance from the White House.

Now the White House has been working on this, they have been meeting with their House and Senate colleagues on this, but there's no clear point of contacts in terms of their kind of point person is on this. Is it Gary Cohn, the top economic adviser? Is it Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary? Is it Steve Bannon, the chief political strategist? And there is also no real plan going forward.

I can tell you more and more when you talk to people on Capitol Hill, in the wake of health care and the wake of health care's collapse, the White House has made very clear, guys, that they want to kind of take the lead, at least on the messaging side of things on tax reform.

Well, in order to do that, they need to start laying down principles. They need to start laying down markers. And as of now, that hasn't occurred. And I think that's why you saw the Treasury secretary say publicly their timeline is slipping, and I think that's why you hear on Capitol Hill right now that the reality is, if they want to do something as ambitious as tax reform, a full-scale tax reform that Speaker Paul Ryan and House Ways and Means chair Kevin Brady have said they want to do, they need to do, they are dying to do, they need White House help right now. And as it currently stands, they're not getting it, guys.

BERMAN: And there is no White House plan right now. Simply put we do not know where the White House stands on some of these key issues.

Phil, we got about 25 seconds left. If it doesn't happen by August it gets even harder.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No question. And I think your guys' interview with Stephen Moore was really kind of illustrative. Do you scale it back? Do you only do rates? And the reality is, in the House they don't want to do that. They promised this, the president has promised this, but they need cover, they need guidance, and more than anything, they need a plan from the White House to move forward, or at last some central tenants. Until that comes, this is really kind of stalled in place as the writing goes on behind the scenes, guys.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Phil Mattingly for us on the tax beat, a beat that may continue well past August as we're going right now.

Phil, thanks so much.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN," it starts right about now.

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