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Budget Deadline Looms for Border Wall at Issue; Trump Speaks with Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut; Dems, Some Republicans Balk at Wall Funding Debate; Trump to Highlight Regulation Cuts, New Jobs. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2017 - 10:00   ET

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


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[10:00:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow. It is the beginning of perhaps the most important week yet for the young Trump administration. If you ask the president, the 100-day mark is a ridiculous standard, but that doesn't mean the White House isn't pulling out all the stops with all hands on deck to make it as action- pack-looking as possible.

BERMAN: All hands, much action, but no real legislation. This first 100 days has been a legislation victory-free zone for this White House. A new polls show the president with the lowest approval numbers of any president at this point in the modern era. I believe what we're going to look at right now is some live pictures of President Obama? Yes? We have the president and Ivanka Trump speaking to the International Space Station right now with Peggy Whitson, who as of today has been in space more days than any American astronaut ever. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- people. To join us from orbit aboard the International Space Station, Commander Peggy Whitson and Colonel Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson has been setting records, so we're going to talk about that very soon.

I'm here in the Oval Office along with my daughter, Ivanka, and Astronaut Kate Rubins, who recently returned from space and from the space station. Together, we are being joined by students all across America, thousands and thousands of students who are learning. They're learning about space, learning about a lot of other things. And they're watching this conversation from the classroom and all over, we have astronauts and we have everybody. We're flying right now 17,000 miles per hour. That's about as fast as I've ever heard. I wouldn't want to be flying 17,000 miles an hour, but that's what you do.

Peggy, Jack and Kate, I know that America's students are thrilled to hear from you. But first, I want to say that this is a very special day in the glorious history of American space flight. Today, Commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut, 534 days and counting. That's an incredible record to break. And on behalf of our nation, and frankly, on behalf of the world, I'd like to congratulate you. That is really something. And I'd like to know, how does it feel to have broken such a big and important record?

PEGGY WHITSON, NASA AUSTRONAUT: Well, it's actually a huge honor to break a record like this, but it's an honor for me basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make this space flight possible and who make me setting this record feasible. And so, it's a very exciting time to be at NASA. We are all very much looking forward as directed by your new NASA bill. We're excited about the missions to Mars in the 2030s.

And so, we actually physically have hardware on the ground that's being built for the SOS Rocket that's going to take us there. And of course, the hardware being built now is going to be for the test flights that will eventually get us there. But it's a very exciting time and I'm so proud of the team.

TRUMP: Great. And what are we learning from having you spending your time up there? I know so much research is done. I'm getting a glimpse of some of it right here in the Oval Office. What are we learning by being in space?

WHITSON: I think, probably, the International Space Station is providing a key bridge from us doing -- living on earth to going somewhere into deep space. So, on those Mars missions, we need to better understand how microgravity is really affecting our body, and we need to understand it in great detail. So, many of the studies are looking at the human body. We're also looking at things that involve operations of a space vehicle on these long-duration missions and the technological advancements that will be required.

For instance, on a multiyear Mars mission, we're going to need to be able to close the life support system. And that means, we, right now, for instance, are taking solar power that we collect and using it to break apart water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen we breathe, of course. We use the hydrogen, combine it back with the CO2 that we take out of the air, and make more water.

[10:05:04] But water is such a precious resource up here that we also are cleaning up our urine and making it drinkable. And it's really not as bad as it sounds.

TRUMP: Well, that's good. I'm glad to hear that. Better you than me. I will say, Colonel Fischer, you just arrived. And how was your trip? Complicated? Easy? How did it go?

JACK FISCHER, NASA ASTRONAUT: Oh, sir, it was awesome. It made even my beloved F-22 feel a little bit underpowered. It was -- you know, I launched it at a Russian vehicle with my Russian friend, Fyodor Yurchikhin from Kazakhstan, you know, got the immediate perspective change as we got to orbit and I saw that frail, thin, blue line of life around the earth. Six hours later, we're docked to the station. The next day I install an experiment in the Japanese module that's going to be looking at new drugs and how we can make those drugs for muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's, multidrug-resistant bacteria, all sorts of things. A couple hours later, I watched our crewmate, Thomas Pesquet, a Frenchman, drive a Canadian robotic arm to capture a spaceship from Virginia carrying 3 1/2 tons of cargo and science that's going to keep us busy for the next few months, and dock that to the station.

Sir, it's amazing. Oh, and then, you know, now I'm talking to the President of the United States while hanging from a wall. It's amazing. The International Space Station is by far the best example of international cooperation in what we can do when we work together in the history of humanity. And I'm so proud to be a part of it, you know. And it's also just cool. Like, yesterday I had -- well, there you go. There is our resident space ninja doing the gravity demonstration. And yesterday morning, I had my coffee in floaty ball form, and sir, it was delicious. So, it's awesome.

TRUMP: Tell me, Mars, when do you see, timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule? And when would you see that happening?

WHITSON: Well, I think as your bill directed, it will be approximately in the 2030s that, as I mentioned, we actually are building hardware to test the new heavy launch vehicle. And this vehicle will take us further than we've ever been away from this planet. So, unfortunately, space flight takes a lot of time and money. So, getting there will require some international cooperation to get it to be a planet wide approach in order to make it successful, just because it is a very expensive endeavor, but it is so worthwhile doing.

TRUMP: Well, we want to try and do it during my first term, or at worst, during my second term, so we'll have to speed that up a little bit, OK?

WHITSON: We'll do our best.

TRUMP: I know you will and I have great respect for you folks. It's amazing what you do. And I just want to introduce another great one. Kate Rubins is with us today and she has been so impressive at research and so many other things having to do with NASA. And Kate, I understand you're the first person to sequence DNA in space. Can you tell us about that?

KATHLEEN RUBINS, NASA ASTRONAUT: Yes. So, that was actually just this last summer and it's a real example of what we can do with technology and innovation. We've gotten a sequencer down to the size of your cell phone and we were actually able to fly that on board the space station and sequence DNA. It's not just the technology demonstration, but we can actually use that to do things like detect microbes on the space station, look at astronaut health. We can easily use that in earth- based settings, too, to look for disease outbreaks and to do rural health care as well.

TRUMP: That is fantastic. That is really great. I saw some of the work and it's incredible. You know, I've been dealing with politicians so much. I'm so much more impressed with these people. You have no idea.

Now, speaking of another impressive person, Ivanka, you've been very much interested in this program. Tell us something about it.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Hi, Dr. Whitson. First of all, congratulations on your incredible milestone today. You may know that my father recently signed the Inspire Women Act to encourage female participation in STEM fields across all aerospace areas and really with a focus on NASA.

[10:10:00] So, encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM careers is a major priority for this administration. And today, we are sitting with an amazing example of how Dr. Rubins and you, Dr. Whitson. So, I would love to hear from you. What was the impetus for you to get involved in sciences?

RUBINS: Yes. So, when I was -

WHITSON: Actually, I -

RUBINS -- 15, I went to a conference -- and that was very inspiring for me. It was sort of the beginning of recombinant DNA and understanding biology, so just that exposure to scientists and the kinds of things that you can do with science and technology and innovation.

IVANKA: Amazing. Dr. Whitson?

WHITSON: For me, it was actually the Apollo program was my inspiration and that was when it became a dream to become an astronaut. But I don't really think it became a goal until I graduated from high school, when the first female astronauts were selected. And seeing those role models and with the encouragement of my parents and various mentors in college and graduate school. And when I started working at Rice, that's what made it possible, I think, to become an astronaut. And it took me a lot longer to become an astronaut than I ever really wanted it to take, but I do think I'm better at my job because of the journey.

IVANKA: You're an incredible -

HARLOW: There you see a history-making astronaut, Dr. Peggy Whitson speaking along with the President of the United States. And interestingly, not the vice president by his side, you have Ivanka Trump, his daughter, by his side, along with another renowned astronaut, Astronaut Kate Rubins. The president made a funny, a really good funny. --

BERMAN: This was highly, highly entertaining. Dr. Whitson, who again, has spent more days in space than any other American -

HARLOW: Any other American.

BERMAN: Was explaining how they are now developing science to convert urine to drinking water.

HARLOW: And she said it doesn't taste that bad.

BERMAN: And the president, a renowned germophobe, said to the astronaut on the Space Station "better you than me." It was funny. It just was. There was another exchange there, also of note, the president was talking to Dr. Whitson about the U.S. goals to get to Mars at some point -

HARLOW: And he said, hopefully in my first term. If not, it has to be in my second term.

BERMAN: Which is a wildly aggressive, I think, schedule to get to Mars.

HARLOW: Can you fact-check that one for me?

BERMAN: No one thinks the United States or mankind is getting to Mars anytime in the next eight years.

HARLOW: But really, just take a moment because this is a remarkable moment in history when this woman has spent more time in space than any other American, man or woman, getting her due honors today in giving a fascinating interview with the commander in chief.

BERMAN: Congratulations to Peggy Whitson for that, really, really fun to see this, our best to her up there. She's there for another, I think, more than 100 days.

HARLOW: She said, what did she miss? She did an interview with our Rachel Crane. You can see it on CNN.com. She said a hot shower and some home-cooked food.

BERMAN: And - you know, maybe something else to drink, just saying.

All right, let's go to Joe Johns at the White House right now, because beyond this conversation, this other worldly conversation, the president has very earthly concerns, Joe, for this weekend, an ambitious schedule.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: My thought exactly. Very down-to-earth concerns, you might say, which include trying to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week. Most of the time, discussions like this run along very predictable patterns, especially given the fact that Congress just got back from a long break. Typically, they would just put together a very short spending package until they could figure out how to fund the government for a longer period, but this has been a very, if you will, unpredictable first 100 days.

And it's been complicated by the fact that the president wants very much to put a border wall along the southern border and he would like to have money in any spending bill to pay for that. The Homeland Security secretary speaking on "State of the Union" over the weekend talked about this a little bit.

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JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straight forward about his desire and the need for a border wall. So, I would suspect he'll do the right thing for sure, but I would suspect he will be insistent on the funding.

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JOHNS: Now, beyond the border wall, this is just going to be a very, very busy week and we have a graphic to show you some of the things that are going on. You already saw Peggy Whitson, the interview with her at the International Space Station. On Tuesday, tomorrow, he's got remarks at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum. Wednesday, he's going to outline that big tax reform plan and perhaps give us some idea about the new rates he'd like to see, also hosting a briefing on North Korea. Thursday, a meeting with the president of Argentina and then on Friday, signing some executive orders on energy and also remarks at the National Rifle Association. Finally on Saturday, a big rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to mark the first 100 days, the end of it. So, quite a week on tap for the President of the United States. Back to you.

[10:15:02] HARLOW: All right, Joe Johns at the White House. Back down- to-earth, as you said. Thank you so much, Joe.

The president's insistence on funding a border wall, a wall that he did say Mexico was going to pay for, finding a difficult time winning friends and influencing enemies. While Democrats are wholly united against it, some Republicans even balking, fretting about this possibly risking a government shutdown. Sunlen Serfaty is on the Hill with more. -- They're in a pinch if they want to try to get this.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Poppy. And as you smartly point out, Democrats are united in saying there is essentially absolutely no way that they will support the spending bill that includes funding for this wall. But notably, increasingly, we're seeing some Republicans start to send the message that the administration in essence back off of this, fight this fight another day. They know that they need Democrats to sign on to this spending bill get it passed and to avoid a government shutdown. So, we're seeing that rhetoric setting up this big week on Capitol Hill. Here's a little bit from both sides.

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SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think that's a fight worth having and a conversation, a debate worth having for 2018.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Once the government is up and running and stays up and running, then we have to just fight this out over the next year.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: The Democrats do not support the wall. The burden to keep it open is on the Republicans. The wall is in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise.

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SERFATY: Now, beyond the fight over the wall funding, there are still a number of other disagreements and key sticking points that they have to work through this week. Only four days until that midnight deadline on Friday to pass a bill. Now, aides on the Appropriations Committee say they are making progress, but most likely, the reality of where this is all headed, according to multiple sources up here on Capitol Hill, is that they will need to pass some sort of stop gap funding measure, potentially for a week, potentially for a little longer, John and Poppy, essentially buying them more time.

BERMAN: All right, Sunlen Serfaty for us on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much. Sunlen, you know, it's interesting, the president trying to push through this border wall funding. He's doing it from a historically low position in the polls. Polls which the president always says are fake, unless they say anything good about him.

HARLOW: Plus, out of the shadows and back into the political spotlight, former President Barack Obama returning to the public stage today. Will he address the current president directly? What will he say? That's straight ahead.

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[10:21:28] BERMAN: All right. President Trump, he wants funding for his border wall to be part of a spending deal that the House, the Congress needs to vote on by Friday night at midnight, else the government shuts down.

HARLOW: Joining us now, Adam Brandon, CEO of FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group dedicated to helping activists, their description here, fight for lower taxes and less government. Patti Solis Doyle is back with us, CNN political commentator and former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign manager in 2008 and Doug Heye, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist. Doug, I have to start with you -

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Uh- oh.

HARLOW: -- because of the colorful language that you chose to use so early this Monday morning in your notes describing your take on this week ahead. That is arguably the most important for the young Trump administration thus far. You're fed up. You and your fellow Republicans, you believe that this president is largely to blame for the inability to get anything done. What does this week bring?

HEYE: Well, it brings a whole new set of questions that are questions that Republicans certainly have dealt with before, but a totally new territory where we have a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican White House. That means we should be able to get a lot of things done. Not only has that not happened, but clearly, we're in a situation where we may not be able to fund the government at the end of the week, which is an appalling signal for Republicans to send.

And is why Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are telling their members and senators, we're going to have real problems in 2018. And that ultimately for politicians is their prime directive, getting re- elected. We're concerned about it already. That says bad things for Republicans moving forward. BERMAN: So, Adam, you know your organization has been part of spending discussions, spending battles, you know, many times over the last several years. Is the border wall funding a fight worth having this week in the midst of everything else in your mind?

ADAM BRANDON, CEO FREEDOMWORKS: Well, this is one of the president's priorities. I personally want us to focus on getting the health care bill back through over to the Senate and then also start moving on fundamental tax reform. That is such a pivotal, key issue to get done this summer. But the president ran in one on having border security and what's happening is in negotiation, he's offering the Democrats more spending on their priorities so he can get spending on his priorities. --

BERMAN: But it sounds like you're saying -- it does sound like you're saying, all things being equal, you'd rather not be where the focus is this week.

BRANDON: I think any time you're talking about a shutdown, it's kind of silly season. There's too much - too many other priorities to get into. But I think the real story with the shutdown is not the shutdown, it's that if Democrats refuse to negotiate with the president, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a fundamental change in Senate rules and that is a big deal.

HARLOW: What are you saying?

BRANDON: That they already changed the rules -

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HARLOW: You're saying simple majority. You're saying that they could change like they did to get Gorsuch into -

BRANDON: Correct.

HARLOW: Legislation?

BRANDON: I think what you're looking at - what you're looking at right now is a situation where the president saying, OK, we'll give you more money for your spending priorities. I'd like some money to match for my spending priorities on the border so he could keep his campaign promise. And if the Democrats just say, go pound salt and walk away, you may see a change in Senate rules.

HARLOW: Adam, I would just note, that this is a president who promised the American people that Mexico would pay for the wall. So, when you talk about a promise on the campaign trail, he never said that the taxpayers would be funding it and that's what he's asking for now.

Patti, to you, this new polling ahead of these 100 days shows, you know, a pretty historic low for this president in terms of modern presidencies go, 42 percent approval, but 96 percent of his supporters, 96 percent of the people who voted for him would do it again. This kind of polling, these kinds of numbers got this president into the White House. Why should he care about these numbers now? [10:25:00] PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER HILLARY CLINTON 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Look, I'm not surprised that his base is still very much with him. You know, they were with him through Mexicans are rapists. They were with him through women are pigs. They were with him through McCain's not a war hero. They were even with him, you know, when he bragged about groping women.

So, it's not surprising that his base is solid. But what should concern him and his administration is independents are not with him. Two-thirds of independents, you know, disapprove of this president. And what's even more concerning is, look, he beat Hillary because his base was strong, but also because she was not able to really energize the progressive base.

Now, we see that progressive base incredibly energized. You know, we see it in the marches. We see it at the town halls. We see progressives calling their members of Congress. Those are the two things that should be concerning this president.

BERMAN: And Patti, to Adam's point. Do you then think that the Democratic Party, it'd be more advantageous to just be the party of no, even though, you know, it may shut the government down? Should the Democratic Party say, hey, look, you know our base loves this, we're not going to engage in any deal-making with you, Mr. President?

DOYLE: No, I don't think we need to be the party of no. We need to actually get things done, because the other reason Trump won is because people were fed up with Washington -- and their paralysis and not being able to get anything done. But let's work on things that we can agree on -- infrastructure. You know, Chuck Schumer was on morning TV today saying that they sent an infrastructure bill to the White House two months ago and haven't heard a peep. So, no, we can't be the party of no, because I think voters will get frustrated. But we also -- President Trump and his administration needs to work with Democrats on things that they can actually agree on.

HARLOW: So, Doug, to you. I mean, what Adam is bringing up here is this Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, floated this idea, this proposal on Friday that, perhaps, if the Democrats for every dollar - the Democrats give to funding the wall, they would give to a dollar to funding Obamacare. Do you think that's a bad idea? If Democrats don't do that, is that Democrats being the party of no? Do you see it as Adam sees it?

HEYE: You know I'm more concerned with how Republicans controlling government govern themselves and then govern the country. And if we're talking about a dollar for the wall and a dollar for Obamacare, if you're a conservative Republican who wants limited government in less spending, you're going to lose in that scenario. Because what we see is a government spending that continues to grow out of control. And even if we pass a CR at the end of the week, which I think is most likely scenario that will be continuing to fund Obama projects and Obama priorities in a Trump administration.

Republicans have to show that they can govern themselves and govern the country. And if we can't, we're going to have big losses next November, which is going to make anything for Donald Trump even harder. We will definitely not be getting to Mars by 2018 or in the next eight years under that scenario.

BERMAN: I don't think that has anything to do with Trump or anywhere else. The Mars thing wasn't going to happen in either direction. But Adam, you know in our hands right now -- and I just stole that off of Poppy's desk -

HARLOW: I'm glad you're trying to make sense of that.

BERMAN: This is -- there's a 12-page document that the White House just put out trying to frame the first 100 days. Of course, President Trump has called the idea of trying to grade an administration's first 100 days ridiculous, however, they're trying to work the rest here in the meantime.

And Adam, you know, he's cutting regulation that has to do with parting with the private sector, economic growth, job creation, et cetera, et cetera. Supreme Court is on here as well. From your perspective from where you sit -- and again, FreedomWorks, you know pushes Republicans and pulls at the same time and it's not you don't give blanket support to everyone here.

BRANDON: Right.

BERMAN: You know, on a scale of one to ten, how successful has this administration been in the first 100 days?

BRANDON: Well, the number one issue when we talked to folks was the Supreme Court. So, for a lot of our base, already he's kind of -- met the standard that people expected when they voted for him. But I kind of look at -- I'm going to judge this presidency when the snow starts to fall on these other bigger issues like Obamacare and fundamental tax reform. If you get fundamental tax reform right, you're going to have 3 percent or 4 percent economic growth and that will take care of your political problem in 2018.

So, I don't want to get caught in the first 100 days, this and that. What I want to look at is this summer, when you look at these big pieces of legislation, making sure we have broad and aggressive tax cuts. So that we actually get the economic growth that we need heading into the fall and we can say good-bye to 1 percent economic growth that we had under Obama.

BERMAN: Only problem with your metaphor, the snow will likely not fall on those plans in the summer, just saying. It's a weather issue there, but I do get your point.

HARLOW: Thank you to our meteorologist John Berman, thank you Adam Brandon, Patti Solis Doyle, Doug Heye, great panel as always, nice to have you, guys, with us.

BERMAN: All right. The Ohio Governor John Kasich, he is never shy to speak his mind. He gets a big chance to do so tonight, "America United or Divided?" See the question mark there at the end? This is a live CNN town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper, that's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

An American citizen is being detained right now in North Korea by the government there. Is Kim Jong-un, the reclusive leader, they're using this man you're seeing on your screen as a bargaining chip? And can the United States get him back?

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