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Trump Looks For Big Wins As Milestone Approaches; Trump Rips "Ridiculous Standard" For First 100 Days; One-on-One Interview With Attorney General And Homeland Security Chief; Secretary Kelly: Government "Now" Enforcing Immigration Laws; "Dreamer" Case To Be Heard By Judge Trump Slammed; Trump Wants $1.4B For Border Wall In Spending Bill. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 21, 2017 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Right now, the Donald Trump White House is on the clock, ticking down to the 100-day milestone of his administration, and a gauge every president faces on how they capitalize, how well they have capitalized on the momentum from their election win.

We're at day 92. Now front and center, health care, for one, has gone from repeal and replace to reject and now revive, maybe, with signs of a possible breakthrough in the works among Republicans on the Hill. Can the president deliver on his promise to throw out Obamacare in the next eight days?

Meantime, another key campaign promise dealing with illegal immigration sharing the spotlight in a very big way today as well with a possible government shutdown looming, will the president get the money to fund another of his marquee promises, the border wall?

We've got a big interview with two key cabinet members of the Trump administration to talk about what's been done, what's left to do. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, they have been touring and assessing the border situation this week. They will be joining me live in just a moment. We have a lot to discuss.

First, with me now, CNN political director, David Chalian, and senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns. Joe, first to you. President Trump on this 100-day bit, if you will, this morning he's suggesting the 100-day mark is now an unreasonable standard.

In a tweet this morning, he wrote this, "No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days -- and it has been a lot --" including the Supreme Court, he points out, "media will kill!" What's going on here, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, that is his standard, and it's certainly changed as he's seen just how difficult it is to get certain things through the Congress.

Look, what's going on right now on Capitol Hill is this attempt to get a do-over on the health care proposals that the Congress and the president have been working on.

And the question, of course, is whether they can do it in time to show some substantial progress before the end of the president's first 100 days in office.

A lot of questions about that, especially about whether 18 to 20 conservatives who wouldn't vote for the bill before might vote for the bill this time, now that it's been revised.

So, we'll see. There's a lot of work going into the weekend, including a conference call that's scheduled tomorrow among House Republicans to try to get their ducks in a row.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you, Kate, right next door to the White House here at the Treasury Department, the president is expected to sign some documents today. Among them, he's trying to take on one of the issues he talked about so much on the campaign trail.

That would be reform of the Dodd/Frank financial law that affected Wall Street in 2010. There are a number of provisions of that, and he'd also like to take a stab at tax reform, too, ordering a review on things related to taxes from the last year of the Obama administration. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, that's the view from the White House right now. Joe, great to see you. Thanks so much.

All right, so, David, on this 100-day mark, as Joe's laying out some of the promises that were made and then how many were kept, it wasn't just anonymous White House sources that have been saying that they were laser focused on 100 days. Here's just a sample of President Trump himself.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I am asking the American people to dream big once again. What follows is my 100- day action plan to make America great again. Just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of a Trump administration. Ethics reform will be a crucial part of our 100-day plan as well.


BOLDUAN: So now, is he trying to manage expectations?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, imagine if -- do you think that tweet would have gone out this morning if he was at 57 percent - 58 percent approval, maybe even 60 percent approval and had gotten some major legislative accomplishments through the Congress?

BOLDUAN: That's a good point.

CHALIAN: I don't think so. So, he clearly doesn't want this sort of report card next week. He's right in the sense that it is a false contract --


CHALIAN: And we go nuts about it. There's no -- it's not like the world implodes after 100 days if you don't get something done in that time.

BOLDUAN: There's nothing constitutional that says he has to report on his successes on day 100.

CHALIAN: No doubt about it, but as you just played, Kate, he bought into the contract, he set markers for it. So, of course, he should be judged by it, and it is a sort of window of time that we have looked to sort of take stock of where things are with a new president.

[11:05:00]And so to act like it's just ridiculous after he said that he made a contract with American voters about what he would accomplish in that time, I just think, you know, that's just a little too hypocritical. Then he's --

BOLDUAN: And from our reporting, I mean, is then -- like, the communications staff in the White House, David, they care very much about the 100-day mark. There was meetings being reported about where they all came together to try to figure out how to brand what's been accomplished in the first 100 days. Do you think with this tweet the president has undermined that effort?

CHALIAN: Again, I think that he is trying to serve his immediate purpose of somehow dismissing what he anticipates will be pretty bad or middling report cards come the end of next week when he hits that 100th day.

I do think, though, not just a branding strategy we heard from inside the White House, but it's part of why they're doing this big, huge push for health care 3.0 without any real clear path that they're going to get a law on the president's desk in that time frame to repeal and replace Obamacare.

I don't see how that could possibly happen. So, this push to have this major accomplishment because of the 100-day mark, it's now the second sort of false deadline that the president has put on health care that hasn't been going his way.

BOLDUAN: As you point out, it is kind of a made-up deadline. FDR came up with it. Do people still care about it? You know what, David, I'm going to let you ponder that because I'm going to go to San Diego now. Great to see you, David. Thank you so much.

Let's talk more about the first 100 days and what's going on right now, a lot of news. We'll go to San Diego right now where Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, they have been on a tour of the border with a focus on immigration, of course. Gentlemen, thank you so much for your time.

Mr. Attorney General, you said in an interview this week, and I want to make sure I quote you perfectly, that you were amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.

You're talking about the federal judge in Hawaii who halted the travel ban. There's been a lot of response to your comment, just one here from Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, who tweeted this at you, actually -- "Mr. Attorney General, you voted for that judge, and that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect." Were you disrespecting the judge, Mr. Attorney General? The senator thinks so.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, I wasn't criticizing the judge or the island. I think it's a fabulous place. I've got a granddaughter born there. But I've got to tell you, it is a point worth making that a single sitting district judge out of 600, 700 district judges, can issue an order stopping a presidential executive order that I believe is fully constitutional, designed to protect the United States of America from terrorist attack. And I was just raising the point of that issue of a single judge taking such a dramatic action and the impact it can have.

BOLDUAN: Do you wish you had phrased it differently now?

SESSIONS: Pardon me?

BOLDUAN: Do you wish you had phrased that differently now?

SESSIONS: Well, I don't know that I said anything that I would want to phrase differently. No. We're going to defend the president's order. We believe it's constitutional. We believe there is specific statutory authority for everything in that order that he did and he has a right to do and to protect this country.

It only delayed six nations who have had real terrorist connections for 90 days in the immigration process. He directed the entities of our government to review our present policies to make sure we're not admitting any terrorists.

I think that's a perfectly reasonable thing for the president, who has all access to intelligence, defense information, other kind of information that none of the judges in America have.

BOLDUAN: Secretary Kelly, if I could move on to you. You're on the border highlighting the progress the administration's made curving illegal immigration. Yesterday, you said that nothing had been done in the last eight years in terms of real enforcement of the border. What did you mean by that?

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Like I said, nothing's been done in the last eight years to truly enforce the border rules and regulations, not to mention many of the immigration laws inside the United States. This is my second trip to the border while down here, second trip to San Diego.

While down here, I've met with local law enforcement. I was in El Paso yesterday, met with the mayor. I met with the mayor of McGowan, Texas, earlier. This is all about safeguarding the southwest border, but at the same time, and this is critical, making sure that the free flow of legal movement of people and commercial interests north and south happen, and we're dedicated to that.

[11:10:06]Mr. Trump has made that one of my marching orders, and not to get in the way of trade north and south, and again, the normal movement of legal personnel, people moving north and south.

BOLDUAN: But Secretary, your own agency has put out stats showing that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants were deported or sent back under Obama. Even in a single year, it was 400,000 in one year. He was even called the border-in-chief by Latino groups. How can both of these things be true, nothing was done, and he was considered that?

KELLY: Well, nothing was done truly to secure the border legally. That's why you had so many individuals coming north, and consequently, so many captured and sent south. One of the great things about what the president has done in his first 100 days, although I'm not so sure -- I'm not particularly hung up on that 100 days, but what he has done --

BOLDUAN: He doesn't seem to be either now.

KELLY: -- to make it clear -- yes -- to make it clear that -- well, this is a long game. This isn't a short game. This is a series of things we'll do over the next eight years. But the point is that those that would come up here illegally have decided to not make that dangerous trek as we secure the border.

So, the fact is that we have fewer and fewer and fewer, a radical reduction in the last two months of illegal crossings. So, yes, I mean, under the Obama administration, they turned back a large number of individuals.

But that's because it was a very, very open border, almost, and certainly, once in, most illegals that moved into the United States, generally speaking, once they got into the interior of the United States, they could stay, disappear into the population.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Attorney General, sources are telling CNN the Department of Justice has prepared charges to seek the arrest of Julian Assange. Has new information come to light about Assange? Because a lot of folks are wondering what's changed, why now?

SESSIONS: Well, we're not commenting on any investigation that may or may not take place in the Department of Justice. I am concerned and have made that clear for some time now that we are having way too much leaks as providing, inflicting real damage on our nation and our national security.

We've got to have much more - discipline within our governmental structure, and we've got to be aggressive against those from the outside who penetrate our systems.

BOLDUAN: Are you looking for ways to try to charge Assange?

SESSIONS: Well, we are always trying to do our duty under the law, and under our policies, I don't confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

BOLDUAN: But he is still -- regardless, he is still hiding out in that Ecuadorian Embassy, Mr. Attorney General. He's untouchable while he's there. Do you have any indication that that is changing, that he's going to be leaving or be forced out?

SESSIONS: I'm not going to comment on the status of that just to say that I understand my responsibility, and that is to use what such powers as I have to protect legitimate security interests of the United States. We've seen too many breaches, and hopefully, we'll be able to strike back against those who violate our systems.

BOLDUAN: Should folks be concerned that this would also open up news organizations like CNN or "The New York Times" to prosecution?

SESSIONS: That's speculative, and I'm not able to comment on that. I think I understood your question. I'm having a little difficulty hearing.

BOLDUAN: I'm so sorry. I'll keep trying to annunciate, Mr. Attorney General. Secretary Kelly, ISIS has now claimed responsibility for the attack in Paris yesterday. The administration's travel ban puts a temporary hold on people from six countries. No European country is on that list. But in light of this attack being carried out by a French national, should France be added to the list?

KELLY: Well, again, it wasn't a travel ban, it was a travel pause in certain countries that had been identified by the Obama administration and then confirmed by the United States Congress --

BOLDUAN: So, should they be added to the travel pause?

KELLY: -- a travel pause -- stay with me here. A travel pause so that we could get our arms around increased vetting. There is terrorism throughout Europe and the Middle East. We're on top of the threats, and over time, we'll take whatever measures to protect the American homeland, and that includes aviation travelers from Europe, the Middle East, to the United States.

BOLDUAN: Do you think there should be a review, if there should be visa requirements for European countries like France in light of this?

KELLY: Well, right now, most of the countries of Western Europe are visa waiver countries. They come to the United States for limited periods of time very easily, and right now there's no -- I have no plans to change that arrangement.

[11:15:00]BOLDUAN: Attorney General, the case of the so-called dreamer that is now before the judge, the same judge that Candidate Trump attacked, saying that he couldn't fairly preside over Trump's case during the election because of his Mexican heritage -- do you think Judge Gonzalo Curiel should recuse himself?

SESSIONS: I think the judge -- that first recusal will be his decision. I know of no reason at this point to expect anything other than we get a fair day in court. I fully intend to defend General Kelly and his team for the work they've done, and we expect that any federal judge that hears it will hear it objectively and according to the law and the facts.

BOLDUAN: Secretary Kelly, just yesterday you said the construction of the border wall would begin by the end of the summer. Do you have the money in place? How much of the wall is expected to be constructed and where?

KELLY: What I said yesterday, we hope to begin construction by the end of the summer. Clearly, as I said yesterday, we're not going to build a wall in an afternoon. So, one of the reasons I've come here with the attorney general, and I've been down here before and I'll continue to come down to the border, is to talk to the people that really know the problems of the border.

That is my people in DHS, particularly the Customs and Border Protection people, but just as importantly, the governors of the states, if they're willing to see me, local legislators, members of Congress, if they're willing to see me.

But certainly, the local mayors and the local law enforcement, to get a sense for what they want. I was in El Paso yesterday, had a great conversation with the mayor of that city along with the chief of police, got really, really good ideas about their feelings towards the wall.

And like anyone, what they want, the border communities want legal passage back and forth, whether it's goods and services or individuals. So, we're taking all of that into -- under consideration, and then we will commence construction of the wall in those places first that make sense, and then build out from there.

BOLDUAN: Do you have an idea --

SESSIONS: I'm excited, you know --

BOLDUAN: -- what section first?

KELLY: Where the CVP tell us it's most important. So, we're putting that together now into a plan, and that's where we'll start.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Attorney General, I'm sorry, go ahead.

SESSIONS: We've made great progress under General Kelly at the border. The lowest month of entry last month in 17 years, but we're not there yet. We do need that wall, and we want to bring this down to virtually zero.

We want people in America to know that we've secured the border and we have a lawful system of immigration, one that we can be proud of and that serves the national interest.

You know, we admit a million one each year to permanent residence in America. We are a generous nation, so do not come here illegally. Things will not work for you. Make your application and wait your time. BOLDUAN: Since you brought it up, Attorney General, one final question. Leaning on your time in the Senate, are you concerned that money, if requested, for the border wall that would go in the government funding bill would threaten a shutdown? Do you think it's worth it?

SESSIONS: Money in the bill for what purpose? I missed that.

BOLDUAN: To build the wall. Are you concerned --

SESSIONS: For the wall?

BOLDUAN: -- of it threatening -- yes.

SESSIONS: I think Congress will provide the necessary funds and there will be ways to fund this wall, and I believe we've got to do it, and it's a final step to moving from the success we've had so far to a permanent system where we can be proud of and ending the lawlessness.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Attorney General, Secretary Kelly, thank you so much for your time.

KELLY: Thank you.

SESSIONS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much for your time, Gentlemen.

Coming up, a breakthrough or another bust in the making? The White House wants a new health care bill before the 100-day mark. Can Republicans in Congress deliver and come together?

Plus, for the fourth time in four days, Russia flexes its military might, flying nuclear-capable bombers near the U.S. border. What are the Russians doing? What's the message? And what will the U.S. do to respond?

BOLDUAN: And it's the case now front and center in the battle over illegal immigration. This young man says he was wrongfully deported. Homeland Security says the facts are very different. His lawyer is joining me live.



BOLDUAN: President Trump is about to hit the 100th-day mark in office benchmark with no legislative big wins so far. I've been talking to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and of course, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly about the big issues in this first 100 days, and we had a lot to get through.

Let's discuss what I just discussed with the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security. With me now, Tony Blinken, CNN global affairs analyst and former deputy secretary of state, and deputy national security adviser under President Obama. Laura Jarrett is here. She's CNN justice reporter, and Chris Cilizza, of course, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large. Guys, thank you so much for being here.

I want to kind of get what you found most interesting there. I assume, Tony, you'd probably take issue with how Secretary Kelly described what he believes was done or not done with regard to immigration in the last eight years.

He said, despite the fact that the president did deport and send back a lot of illegal immigrants, he doesn't think that he did anything truly effective at the border.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think the numbers belie that in both directions. That is to say that under President Obama, we did send back a lot of people here illegally who were criminals and engaged in criminal activity, and that was the right thing to do.

And second, border enforcement was probably at its highest level ever, and we saw that we had a net outflow of people, not a net inflow of people. So, I think some of what he said doesn't really bear scrutiny with the facts.

The other thing that struck me, Kate, is a very good question you asked him about whether there should be some kind of pause on visas from folks coming from Europe out of concerns for terrorism, because as you rightly pointed out, we've now seen a number of attacks tragically, this most recent one in Paris.

[11:25:08]And the countries that are actually the subject of the visa pause or visa ban, whatever you want to call it, have not resulted in any terrorist attacks that have killed Americans here in the United States.

So, it does raise a question of a double standard. It raises a question of what kind of message you're sending and how that message is being received.

BOLDUAN: Laura, on that front, on the travel ban front, what are you hearing in your reporting? I mean, it is a very legitimate question. This is a French national. ISIS claimed responsibility for this attack yesterday, and it raises, of course, the question, if the point is, try to protect American citizens from terrorists coming over and being able to come over here very easily, should they consider France being added to that list?

And Secretary Kelly, you know, he did not answer that. He obviously made it clear that he doesn't think it's under consideration at this point, but it creates a problem.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. I mean, you raised a really interesting question, given, obviously, last night's incident. But for all intents and purposes, all iterations of this travel ban have been on hold since February 3rd, so they've had quite a bit of time if they wanted to make some changes, they could. Now, obviously, they rolled out the second iteration not that long ago, and it was quickly blocked, but the only country that was removed from the original list was Iraq. There was no addition of any country, like France or any other European nation, and there appears to be no indication that that's under consideration.

And so, you have to wonder what the thinking is. If the entire goal was to try to figure out what can we do to curb terrorism and to curb violence in the United States from people coming abroad, what's the plan there when this has now been on pause for over two months?

BOLDUAN: Yes, and how to get it right and make sure that it will pass legal muster. Chris, on Hawaii --


BOLDUAN: -- it's a comment that the attorney general made to "The Mark Levin Show," and it is a lot of people talking, some people calling it a dis, some calling it dismissive of the judge. Obviously the senator from Hawaii, a Democratic senator, saying that he's basically disrespecting the judge. The attorney general, though, did not back down, said his intent was not to disrespect the judge at all. He was just making a point.

CILIZZA: yes. I listened very intently to the words he used, because remember, we know Donald Trump was not happy with Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself after it came out that he had met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, right, that he viewed it as a concession that didn't need to be made and thought that weakened Sessions.

What it read to me is that Jeff Sessions is sort of following the Donald Trump mode that he has read the tea leaves that you don't -- what he didn't say, Kate, was I'm sorry. And when you gave him the opportunity, should you have used different words, he didn't really answer that question, because Donald Trump doesn't want him to say sorry or to apologize.

He views this as political correctness run amok. You say what you think and you stand by it. Don't ever back down. It's a sign of weakness. So, Jeff Sessions, at least, I think has internalized that, because he had every opportunity to say, you know what, the words I chose distracted from my broader point, I should have -- but didn't, and I think that's very noteworthy.

BOLDUAN: One thing that definitely made my ears perk up. I mean it was great to have them and speak with them about many issues, but also on the issue of the first 100 days and the fact that the president this morning seems to be suggesting that's a ridiculous standard, even though he's talked about it over and over again and kind of laid out a 100-day plan, is when Secretary Kelly, he talked about the first 100 days. And I don't know if he corrected himself, but making kind of the side note that he doesn't have to think himself that it matters.

CILIZZA: I think he caught himself, because look, the truth of the matter, Kate, and it's not partisan in any way, shape or form, they were singing off the 100-day song book until this morning.

I mean, Donald Trump earlier this week had talked about he's gotten more done in 90 days than anyone else. Go back to October 2016, he gives a speech in Gettysburg where he says the election will be a referendum on his 100-day plan.

So, yes, I think the homeland security secretary caught himself, because the talking points have changed. Now the 100 days doesn't matter and is a ridiculous media construct, which it's not.

FDR is the one who came up with the 100 days concept, because Donald Trump I think understands, ultimately, that in the first 100 days, he's not going to get done nearly what he expected or hoped for, and now, therefore, using that as a measure is not -- is without a point.

BOLDUAN: It's now 200 days. I'm going to lay down the new marker. I'm the new FDR! I'm setting the new standard!

CILIZZA: Let me say, if they're right --

BOLDUAN: It is made up.

CILIZZA: It is a totally made-up thing.

BOLDUAN: I know, I know.

CILIZZA: But we didn't make it up. FDR did after the great depression.

BOLDUAN: I know, but everyone thinks -- we do love a countdown clock. We didn't come up with this countdown clock. Tony Blinken, we did not. Tony, what did you make of, yes, of course, the attorney general is going to be careful in speaking publicly about any kind of plan to bring charges against Julian --