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INSIDE POLITICS

Police: Facebook Murder Suspect Killed Himself After Chase; President Heads to Kenosha, Wisconsin; Trump's 100-day Agenda; Dems Look to Steal House Seat in GA Special Election. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 18, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:02] CHIEF CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND POLICE: Yes, that's the way they're equipped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know anything about (inaudible)?

WILLIAMS: No, we don't have that information. Again, as soon as we get the real finite details of this, we'll get it out to everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll be talking with the Office of Public Affairs to make sure we have the pertinent information to give to be able to give you guys a little bit more of an update. Like we said, very early in the investigation, the joint information center for media is still open and it will stay open and as we have more information and it's timely, we'll continue to put that out. So thank you.

WILLIAMS: And one thing before we leave, you know, the marshal hit on it. There were dozens and dozens of officers. Not just here in Cleveland but around this country involved in this.

And I definitely want to thank them. I don't think we could have gotten to a resolution this quickly without their help. And definitely without the public's help. That's always crucial in incidents like this.

So I want to thank our men and women out there in law enforcement and definitely thank the people around the country that called in. Again, almost 400 tips on this that we had to follow-up on. And that just shows the vigilance of the people in this country.

(Off-Mic)

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, the RNC was a big test for us, but we had these partnerships long before the RNC. I mean, I've known Steve (ph) for over 10 years, I've known Pete (ph) for over 15 years. Eric (ph) from ATF, Drew (ph). I mean, we worked together in the city for the last 20 years.

So, a lot of people talked about us coming together. We're always together. You know, I call these guys and they're there just like that and vice versa. So there is no disconnect with law enforcement here in Northeast Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you worry about all the attention this has gotten that there could be a ripple effect and other people might be encouraged?

WILLIAMS: No, we're not. We're not even putting that energy out there. I think everybody has learned from this. I think the people on social media kind of know the power. And I think they know the harm it can do.

So we've talked before about people not living their lives on social media, and being truthful in social media. And not harming people via social media. And, you know, this is a prime example. This is something that should not have been shared around the world, period.

And, you know, our kids, although they should not have seen this, I'm sure a lot have. You know, they need to take this as a lesson. We can't do this in this country. We just can't do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In that vein, have you or any of the other law enforcement officials involved had direct conversations with Facebook about how to prevent this particular incident, how to prevent it in the future?

WILLIAMS: I have not had personal conversations with any social media outlet. We have direct connections with them. But I'm sure this is something that's on the radar maybe of some of our political leaders, you know, our city, state, and federal leaders out here to have those conversations not just with Facebook but all social media. All right, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Chief Calvin Williams there in Cleveland, Ohio, wrapping up a press conference. Dramatic breaking news just came in to us the last hour. The suspected Facebook murderer found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. That as police approached his car near Erie, Pennsylvania.

You see the picture there, 37-year-old Steve Stephens. Authorities spotted the killer this morning in a McDonald's parking lot. They got a tip in Erie, Pennsylvania. Authorities then giving chase.

We're just getting a new video here from one of our affiliates of the crime scene where Stephens was found earlier today. We're also just getting reaction from the victim's family, Robert Godwin. One of his daughters (inaudible) putting out this statement just moments ago. "All I can say is that I wish he had gone down in a hail of 100 bullets. I wish it had gone down like that instead of him shooting himself."

Other family members have been much more conciliatory even (inaudible) here on CNN they would forgive him and hope he would get the help that he needed. CNN's Deb Feyerick is with us, she's in New York, she's been covering this crime since this horrendous murder first posted on Facebook on Easter Sunday.

Deb, as you listen through that, you've covered many of this over the years. So what jumped out at you from the press conference with the early information we received from the police there? DEBORAH FEYERICK: So one thing certainly was the gratitude that this did end peacefully as it did but that there wasn't a larger shoot out, that Stephens rather than turn on police perhaps, death by cop instead. Once he knew that he had been found that he stopped and he shot himself. And this happened just as officials, police officers were approaching that vehicle. So it ended quickly.

[12:35:01] And according to somebody who heard this, they heard a loud bang and then silence. And so there was also a sense that, look, the authorities really did want to bring this individual in. This isn't -- this unlike others that I've covered. This isn't one of those where there was this -- there was clearly a sense of urgency, but they were trying to coax Steve Stephens into turning himself in.

They always referred to him as Steve, you know, Steve. Now, we heard sort of a difference that they wanted to see if they could possibly get him help or at least have him surrender. Now, what's going to happen John is that they've got -- this investigation is far from over. What they do have to do is now they have to figure out where he was.

They have to retrace his steps because Stephens when he went on this sort of -- when he fled after this murder, he basically did threaten to kill other people. In his words, he wanted to kill as many people as possible. He told his mom that he was suicidal, that he did want to kill other people. He'd even said that there were others he'd killed before Mr. Godwin.

So they need to figure out and make sense of what it is he said and separate the fiction from the fact to determine exactly whether in fact there is anyone else who may be out there. But the fact that he was found in his car, the fact that it did resolve itself as it did after 48 hours of great uncertainty and that no one -- no other sort of law enforcement, that they weren't injured. Certainly it gives them great peace of mine. But clearly everybody is still mourning the death of 74-year-old Robert Godwin. So they've got a road ahead of them to figure out exactly where he was.

KING: Deb Feyerick, thanks. I want to bring in Art Roderick, our CNN law enforcement analyst. And Art as you listened there, the mayor of the (inaudible) said they still don't know if anybody harbored him or not. The police say they need to get up to Pennsylvania to talk to the Pennsylvania state police.

Just from an investigative standpoint as you listen, what are your -- how did this unfold? Sounded like textbook police work. A tip from a citizen, police followed it up, they chased the car and then the self- inflicted wound. What's your biggest question after listening to the information we have so far?

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think the big thing is, you know, the one benefit is he was in the vehicle that was put out on the "be on the lookout" so that's a good thing. In other words, he stayed in that vehicle. So there possibly will be evidence of the homicide that he committed against Mr. Godwin. But also what he been doing? Has he been sleeping in that car the past three days or did he actually stay at a cabin, at a residence? Was somebody helping him out? I think from the press conference the first thing I took away was a huge sense of relief from law enforcement.

I mean, this has been stressful for law enforcement over the past three days. They haven't gotten much sleep. They've been constantly running down as you heard Chief Williams talk about the 400 leads. But you also heard Marshall Elliot (ph) talked about how this really expanded to the whole country and how they handled leads in different states.

So I think with Cleveland Police Department heading over to the crime scene now at this point, it's going to be piecing together what exactly happened over the past 72 hours since he committed the homicide at 2:00 p.m. on Easter day.

KING: Art Roderick, appreciate your help. This is breaking news unfolding. We'll continue to stay on top of this. Cleveland police saying the Facebook murder suspect has been killed in Pennsylvania. More information to come. We'll keep on track of that.

Up next though, we'll turn to politics. President Trump took off this hour for Wisconsin. That's one of those blue states that he turned red as the 100-day mark of the Trump presidency nears. He hasn't had many wins when it comes to his agenda here in Washington. What's his message on the road?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:42:39] KING: Welcome back to Inside Politics. Pictures here, the president of the United States getting aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews just outside of Washington, D.C. He is on his way to Wisconsin, one of the big blue states he turned red last November that propelled Donald Trump to the presidency. Mr. Trump returning this afternoon to blue-collar Kenosha to say thank you and to sign an executive order aimed at delivering on his "Buy American, Hire American" campaign promise.

All on track is the case you'll hear from the president later this afternoon. But a little more than a week from the 100-day mark, President again turning to an executive action there in Wisconsin because not one major Trump initiative has passed the Congress. ObamaCare repeal failed miserably. Tax reform and infrastructure still on the drawing board. And like climate change, subject to big internal administration fights.

Even a down payment on the promised border wall is in doubt as Congress scrambles when it returns next week to pass a spending bill to keep the government running. That lack of legislative process beginning to take an early toll on the president's already tenuous political standing. Look at this, just 45 percent of Americans now view this president as a man keeping his promises. That's a giant 17- point drop from two months ago.

With me today to share their reporting and their insights, Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, John Yang of the PBS NewsHour, and the Washington Post's Ashley Parker. What do we make of this? The president getting out of the road. It's an important (inaudible), 12 days from a 100 days.

More executive actions though Dan. He cannot say we repealed and replaced ObamaCare. He cannot say we passed the Trump infrastructure plan. If you look back at the Obama presidency, the George W. Bush presidency, the Bill Clinton presidency, all had at least one marked key legislative achievement in the first 100 days. This president it looks like unless he pulls a rabbit out of a hat will have none.

DAN BALZ, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes and it's -- you know, it's the most significant failure of the first 100 days that he has to recognize. I mean, through the executive actions, and they are limited in what they can do and they take time as he's found out with the border -- with the travel ban, you can point a direction. And he's clearly tried to do that.

He's done on foreign policy in the last few weeks. He's done it on others. But in terms of a big legislative agenda, he has been, he has been -- he's come up short on that. And he's going to have to reckon with how he turns that around in the second 100 days.

KING: And how does he deal with the challenge that any president has to deal with. You're trying to balance your agenda, deal with different challenges. He won Wisconsin, he won Michigan and he won Pennsylvania in part because he promised he was going to be tough on trade.

[12:45:06] It was China he reeled on it all of those states including in Wisconsin where he will be today. But now the president says, listen, China is helping me with North Korea. This is no time to start a trade war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't soften my stance. Look, China came to the United States, the president who is I really developed a very good relationship with. I think he's a terrific person.

He understands it's a big problem. He's working on it. Now, what am I going to do? Start a trade war with China in the middle of him working on a bigger problem frankly with North Korea? And so I'm dealing with China with great respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Will the blue-collar voters who made him president, who maybe had traditionally voted Democratic who decided to vote Republican, will they give him that grace? (Inaudible) OK, he's got a big real problem so I have to wait.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's an interesting question. You saw in that interview, you also saw him in a tweet say much the same thing. You know, on the one hand he's being very honest sort of openly admitting he was using currency manipulation in China, on trade policy as a bargaining chip with North Korea.

On the other hand, I think it fixes some of the authenticity and honesty that voters appreciate in the sense that they're willing to let him make a deal. On the other hand, I think he does need to keep his promises and especially on an issue like trade. This is a promise that involves other countries, but has felt acutely at home in people's pockets. And at the end of the day that is always what people end up voting on. Whether they turn on him or a bit if he doesn't deliver, I think that's a risk.

JOHN YANG, PBS NEWSHOUR: And you see that partly today, what they're doing today with the executive order, trying to turn to things the blue-collar workers would appeal to blue-collar workers. But if you scratch the surface of this executive order and a lot of others, there's not much there, there. Today's executive order on buy American is something that could be accomplished with a phone call to the commerce secretary. But they've chosen this sort of symbolic action of signing an executive order because it looks like something's happening. It looks like action is being taken.

KING: And it's essentially another study. Look around the government, find out why agencies sometimes use loopholes to buy other products. Report back to the commerce secretary as you know. That's -- again that's how government works sometimes, but it is not what Donald Trump the candidate promised when he said I'm going to go to Washington and I'm going to change it.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, it's not during the swamp, it's not big and bold. It's not immediate action in the way that Bannon talked about as well, that they would come to town immediately and shake things up. I think it's very much a surprise.

I mean, if you look at sort of the after hours of that election where Hillary Clinton loses, huge upset, there was so much thinking in terms of what this Trump administration would do. He would have the Congress, both Houses, and you thought -- I think we all thought there would be sort of immediate things that happened and some successes. But you look at what congress -- how it's made up, only 52 edge for Republicans in the Senate and sort of a feuding fractions of the Republican Party in the House.

It's not going to get any easier. I think in some ways he is obviously talking to his base. They do see these actions and sort of motions, but not a lot of movement on this.

KING: And if you look historically, we could show you some few numbers of presidential approval rating at this point in their first 100 days. Donald Trump at 39 percent approval rating right now. Just look at the chart whether you're looking at Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, all of them significantly higher than this president.

And one of the interesting things is will they do ObamaCare repeal when they come back from congressional recess? Republican (inaudible) consensus there. What about tax reform? What about infrastructure? We'll try to link those two.

The Democrats think this president is weak. Right now, listen to Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader on this issue of China. He knows the president is in trouble. He wants to keep him in trouble.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: The president makes a promise, signs an empty executive order that won't help the life of a single American worker. Smiles at the cameras and goes right back to helping out the special interests and leaving America's workers out to dry.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: He is weak at the moment, close to the 100-day mark. But I keep remembering the campaign when candidate Trump was counted out, when candidate Trump was low in the polls, when people said candidate Trump can't do this. Is there a formula or are they working on a formula, do they have a plan to, OK, it took us a while to get used to Washington to figure out how this town works but now we're going to do "x"?

PARKER: Well, one that it's interesting, there's been sort of a question in Washington and even among some of his allies as, you know, why is he doing this. For instance, rally in Wisconsin instead of doing rallies where he -- either went out and tried really hard to sell health care for instance or tax reform or infrastructure or whatever it is he turns to. I think part of the plan that goes a little unnoticed that there is sort of a cosmic emotional play for Donald Trump which is that he is better when he is going out into the country, doing this campaign style rallies and getting that adulation from his base. So this may not make a ton of sentence from a strategic standpoint. I think they feel like if the president is in a good mood it can often help them get other things done.

[12:50:02] KING: The staff is keeping (inaudible). It's an interesting to note. They -- it's an interesting point. Feeling good doesn't necessarily get things done. Now, we'll see as this plays out. The president will have those events (inaudible) for you right here this afternoon if he goes to (inaudible).

Up next, it's a congressional seat last held by Trump cabinet member Tom Price. Before that, held by Newt Gingrich. Can a Democrat really win a big special election right now, today in Georgia?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Every political pro involved in a Georgia special election today expects 30-year-old political newcomer Jon Ossoff to get the most votes. Ossoff is a Democrat so that in itself would be a big deal in a congressional district known for sending conservatives like Tom Price and Newt Gingrich to Washington.

But the big question is whether Ossoff can crack 50 percent. If he does, he's Congressman Ossoff. If he doesn't he'll be in a two-month runoff campaign against whoever comes in second. President Trump rooting for a runoff.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: Only you can stop the super liberal Democrats and Nancy Pelosi's group, and in particular Jon Ossoff. If you don't vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care, and flood our country with illegal immigrants. I need you to get out to the polls tomorrow, April 18th, and vote Republican.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Never mind. The Republicans have the majority, Ossoff couldn't do any of those things by himself even if he wanted to. But the president trying to (inaudible) up Republican turnout. Ossoff knows this is a giant test of anti-Trump sentiment and he knows it's best if he lets others say that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, I appreciate the president's interest in the race although he's misinformed with respect to my priorities. This race is about local economic issues here and values that unite people in the community in Georgia before it's about the national political circus. Everyone is looking for national implications, but all politics is local.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's why millions of dollars have flooded into that district because it's about economic development in this state's congressional district, right?

HENDERSON: Yes, exactly. I mean, millions and millions of dollars to get Samuel Jackson taping a radio ad there. Everyone is focus on this and seeing this as a referendum on whether or not a sort of Democratic resistance can actually mean anything at the ballot boxes. So far they came up short obviously in Kansas. They came close but still it was short.

So, we'll see. I mean, you know, I've kind of memories of Wendy Davis and folks like that being the next big thing in the Democratic Party and able to turn these red areas blue. And typically they come up short.

KING: Today is his best hope though right Dan? (Inaudible) it doesn't mean he can't win it. If anyone can do anything in today's politics, Donald Trump has proven that. But in this district to get 50 percent today is his best chance, isn't it?

BALZ: That's probably right. The national committee for an effective Congress sent me some stuff yesterday. They looked at 54 elections between 2002 and 2014 and analyzed the results in those -- in that district. There's only one Democrat of those 54 races who got 50 percent of the two-party vote. [12:55:02] Their conclusion is this is not a marginal district. If he were to win or even come close in the second round, they think it's a good sign for the Democrats going into 2018. But today is his best opportunity.

KING: Today is his best opportunity. And the Democrats say we came close in Kansas. If they come close again, will they have a morale let down even if historically. You look and say it's better than to expect. Will they have a morale let down if they're going to win?

YANG: I think it's going to be -- there is a very big part of the Democratic base that is so fired up to oppose Donald Trump in any way they can. I think that's going to continue. But there's a long time between now and the 2018 elections. It is -- it's an ice age away. Now that's just a lifetime. Anything can happen. We don't know what things are going to look like in 2018.

KING: We (inaudible).

ASHLEY: And I think one thing to keep in mind that this is, you know, one race in one district in one state in an off year. No matter who wins we shouldn't read too much into it. But that said, everyone absolutely will. That's why you see the president getting engaged.

KING: Contest of perspective (inaudible). Thanks for joining us on Inside Politics. I want to thank my group for their patience during the breaking news. We'll see you tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer up after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We begin with --