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Trump Backing Down on Wall Funding Demands?; Ivanka Booed for Defending President Trump's Treatment of Women; Did Former Trump National Security Adviser Break the Law?. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired April 25, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM ROGAN, "NATIONAL REVIEW": But he doesn't seem to understand that those issues behind the scenes require a step back and that, when people make comments, his best position to get his policy proposals through would be to actually stay silent, right?
It's -- and, again, it comes back to that sort of impulse drive on Twitter vs. the minutia of American democratic tradition behind the scenes in Congress.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But then is his inner circle doing him a disservice? Shouldn't he have people around him who know how the sausage is made, so to speak, who would say, no, don't say this, no, don't tweet this just to try to protect him?
ROGAN: Yes, but he doesn't listen to them.
He can do what he wants if he's the president, to a degree. And I think that's the great gripe and that's why I think you have seen at the various levels quite of the leaking from the White House in terms of frustration, that they're saying, Mr. President, Mr. President, this is not in your interest. And yet still he goes into the bathroom, whatever, gets out the phone and starts tweeting.
BALDWIN: All right, I have got to wrap this and head into my next hour.
But Susan, and Gloria, and Tom, thank you all very much.
Let's roll. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
We begin with more on our breaking news. The White House appears to now be distancing himself from Michael Flynn, this as the House Oversight Committee revealed today that General Flynn may have broken the law.
Also revealed, the Trump administration has denied a request for documents relating to the payments that General Flynn received from a speech he gave in Russia some years ago.
Here was Sean Spicer just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: But you're acting as if you had no (INAUDIBLE) or ethical responsibility of your own transition. That's all I'm trying to...
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. No. And I guess the question is, is that what...
QUESTION: He wasn't making calls as a private citizen. He was making them as a future national security adviser.
SPICER: I understand that.
And right now to ask the White House to produce documents that were not in the possession of the White House is ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings say there's "no indication" that Flynn obeyed the law when he did not disclose payments that he received from Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else. And it appears as if he did take that money, it was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I believe we, as the Oversight Committee, should be holding a hearing with General Flynn.
I'm seeing the chairman. And we talked briefly about this. And it seems that this is perhaps the purview of the Intelligence Committee. And I understand that. But we need to have the opportunity to ask General Flynn directly why he concealed these foreign payments from the Defense Department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: We do have a statement from General Flynn's lawyer that reads as follows.
"As has previously been reported, General Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of DOD, extensively regarding the R.T. speaking event" -- that was the Russian speaking event -- "before and after the trip. And he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings."
Just to put in perspective for you exactly how big this investigation is broadening, there are now four congressional committees investigating any kind of tie between President Trump's associates and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
They are House intelligence, Senate intelligence, House Oversight, and now Senate Judiciary. So, with me now, Jim Sciutto, CNN chief security national correspondent, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, the White House reporter with "The New York Times."
Good to have both of you on.
And, Jim, to you first. I'm sure you listened to the briefing. You heard how Sean Spicer tried answering the questions on why the White House is maybe stonewalling in these documents requests. He said that the chairman and ranking member have all that they need now.
But is that an acceptable response for the White House to say, we don't have it?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the daylight between the White House and Flynn, the increasing daylight as they try to put space between themselves and him, which appears to be what Sean Spicer was trying to do there, saying, listen, he got his first security clearance back in the Obama administration, when he was director of the DIA, all of the other stuff happened during the transition.
But keep in mind, he was selected by the president of the United States as his national security adviser. When do you that, you fill up a new security clearance form, and on that security clearance form, you're required by law to report payments like these from foreign governments.
And particularly look at this. This was from R.T. It's Russia Today, which is viewed by the U.S. as a Kremlin-controlled media operation and therefore it's something you have got to report. It's 45,000 bucks. That's what he was paid to go there and speaker there in 2015.
He does not appear to do that. So to see both the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, and the ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, standing next to each shoulder to shoulder saying that a law may have been broken here, is very impactful and causes real problems for Flynn going forward.
And that's different from seeing the White House press secretary there saying, well, it wasn't really our thing. That's a difficult argument for them to make, considering how senior Flynn was and that it's their responsibility to vet him as they bring him into the White House.
That's a piece of the conversation, Julie. And isn't the crux of this -- the crux of this would be, why would General Flynn not disclose the speech, the money he made to all pertinent groups as he's filling out this form, this security clearance, or was this just some sort of oversight?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, there's no question that right now the White House is trying to put a lot of distance between themselves and General Flynn.
But the fact is that he worked very closely with the campaign over a period of many months. He was obviously one of the top advisers on the transition. And this was kind of a chronic shortcoming of this transition that we know from other personnel.
BALDWIN: It was?
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: It was, that they didn't pre-vet people. They didn't do the sort of foreplanning, the sort of pre-screening and all of the sort of dotting of the I's and crossing of the T's that many past administrations have done to avoid just this kind of a problem.
Now, obviously, General Flynn was involved from a very early date and so he's not a person who sort of came in at the last minute and they thought, oh, gosh, we have to scramble and figure out who this guy is. He was well known to the campaign. He was well known to Obama administration.
But he did have a lot of very complicated relationships. We now know that he had a speaking engagement in Russia. He had had these ties with a Turkish businessman who also now we hear has potential connections to Russia. There was a lot to check out here.
And to just say the onus was on him personally to get this all taken care of and make sure that he had done what he needed to do, consult who he needed to consult with, and disclose what he needed to disclose, that's kind of a reach for the White House.
BALDWIN: And I think you hit on a perfect point, which is I was just talking to a former general counsel of the NSA, saying, I don't know what's more worrisome, that perhaps he cognizantly didn't disclose this key information as he's filling out the security clearance or whether or not this seems to be a little bit of trend with the Trump team in the carelessness or recklessness of not, you know, dotting the I's and crossing the T's, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Right, or deliberately not mentioning important meetings and contacts.
And as Gloria Borger said in the previous hour, there are open questions as to how forthcoming Jared Kushner has been in terms of listing his meetings.
SCIUTTO: And, listen, I have filled out an SF-86 before. It's a responsibility. And I remember sitting down there for hours and days going over each foreign trip and each foreign contact, as is required by that form, as is required by law when you take positions.
So it's a responsibility. And it appears that certainly General Flynn did not fulfill it.
BALDWIN: What are you looking for next, Julie, in this story? HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: I think I'm looking to see whether it's really
possible for the White House to maintain any sort of distance between themselves and General Flynn and really whether they can stay far away from this, as you put it, sort of an expanding narrative on the Russia investigation, because it kind of died down a bit as the conversation kind of shifts to the first 100 days.
But there are now four different committees investigating. And the really striking thing about today was the bipartisan interest, Republicans and Democrats really raising a lot of pointed questions. I'm going to be interested to see how long the White House can keep up this, it's not our problem, it's not our job to respond to this.
BALDWIN: Julie Hirschfeld Davis, thank you. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Just in to us here at CNN, Mexico hitting back at the White House, saying in no scenario will it pay for the president's border wall. We will talk about the president backing off his demand in this whole shutdown battle.
But, again, you just heard Sean Spicer saying, there will be a wall built.
Also, Ivanka Trump getting booed and hissed at this woman's summit in Germany as she defends her father involving women's issues, his treatment with women. We will show you what happened and how Ivanka Trump responded.
BALDWIN: President Trump is set to unveil his new tax plan tomorrow. And sources are saying he wants to slash the U.S. corporate tax, among the highest in the word, from 35 percent to 15 percent.
And while cutting taxes, yes, that's a Republican precept, so is avoiding debt. And that is why the head of the Senate Finance Committee, Republican Orrin Hatch, is pushing back, saying the 15 percent corporate tax has huge problems because it would increase the deficit and the Democrats would fight that.
Senator Hatch telling CNN -- quote -- "I would love to do that. I'm not sure we can get them down that low."
Also, the White House in its briefing just backed up what the president said today. The president said funding the border wall is still a priority for his budget, despite White House officials saying the president is willing to delay it until this fall, when talks on the new fiscal year begin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Yesterday, President Trump reportedly said that he's going to delay pushing the wall through. And so can you just clarify what the status of it is, happening when?
SPICER: Thank you.
The president made it very clear. I think he tweeted about this earlier. His priorities have not changed. There will be a wall built. It's important to prevent human trafficking, gangs like MS-13 coming into this the country, the flow of illegal drugs, illegal immigration.
There's a national economic safety issue by having a wall that ensures our country's safety. And there's plenty of planning that can be done in F.Y. '17 we're going to continue. Our priorities are clear going into F.Y. '17, the remainder of budgeting for that. And we will continue to ask for more in F.Y. '18.
QUESTION: So, it's delayed for now?
SPICER: No, I didn't -- no, no, no, no. I never -- no one said delayed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: With me, Sabrina Siddiqui, politics reporter for "The Guardian," and finance expert Monica Mehta, who is also managing principal at Seventh Capital.
So, ladies, nice to see you.
And, Sabrina, got some news just as we were actually in that sound bite that apparently the Republican members of Congress have proposed a spending bill that contains not a dime for funding for the president's wall.
So, does that surprise you? Is this just a promise unkept or kicking that can down the road?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, the utmost priority for Republicans on Capitol Hill is to try and avert a shutdown of the federal government by Friday.
And the fact of the matter is that the votes simply are not there for a spending package that includes funding that would go toward the construction of the wall. That was always going to be a nonstarter with Democrats.
And even with majorities in both chambers, Republicans still need Democratic support to pass any spending bill and push that through. We did hear President Trump offer some flexibility by telling conservative reporters yesterday that he was willing to push off the funding for the wall until a later date.
SIDDIQUI: But what this does is, it tees up the same fight into September. And it just hearkens back this idea that the president campaigned in very simplistic terms, we're going to build a wall, Mexico's going to pay for it. That was obviously never going to happen.
And he now has to contend with how to convince his supporters that he's acting upon what he promised he would do.
BALDWIN: All right. So, good news is, hopefully, we won't have to deal with the government shutdown crisis by the end of the week. But we will be having this conversation in September.
Monica, to you on this tax reform piece that he will be rolling out tomorrow. When you hear quotes like that from someone like Senator Orrin Hatch, it just makes me think, is the administration not talking to the Orrin Hatches of the world to get their input when you're trying to cut taxes like this?
I mean, you think about potential ramifications of the debt. What do you think?
MONICA MEHTA, FINANCE EXPERT: Well, I think that you're getting a little bit of the art of the deal.
I think that Donald Trump negotiates the same way my immigrant father does, which is, you give me good deal, yes, I wait for you best price.
MEHTA: Like, I think there's a lot of bluster back and forth.
And I think that is what you're getting. They're going to settle somewhere in the middle. And this is a little bit of theatrics. And Orrin Hatch is right. We do need to know how we're going to foot $200 billion a year. That is what we're talking about by taking the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.
And I think during the campaign, what Trump was really focusing on was, hey, guys, our GDP doesn't look anything like it used to. For the last 60 years, GDP was 3.25 percent. The last 8, 9 years, we're barely cracking 2 percent. For every percent that is missing, that's $180 billion zapped from the economy.
So, the promise was that let's bring taxes down and we will stimulate the economy and we will see growth. But I think what you're hearing from Republicans is, we have heard that before, and I'm not willing to take such a risk without knowing how we can fund at least find part of this.
BALDWIN: Can I just ask, is your immigrant father successful in that task often in doing dealings?
MEHTA: More successful than I am.
MEHTA: He's the one who is going to haggle, if either of us is going to haggle.
BALDWIN: I got you. I got you.
Let me bring in this quote. I always like to quote Chris Cillizza here, who writes all these great pieces for CNN.com. And he talks about this is more on the border wall. He called it a capitulation, Sabrina. But there are other examples of the health care debacle, et cetera.
And his quote was this: "That rapid cycle of demand to capitulation is enough to give you whiplash. But wait. There's more. Trump tweeted Tuesday that his changed position wasn't a change after all, but that ignores the fact that he demanded something that now won't be in the spending bill."
And just adding to that, we have other reporting saying that now Republican senators are saying, hang on, the president is overestimating his leverage. Have you seen his approval ratings? He makes it difficult late in the game to jump in.
How do they deal with that?
SIDDIQUI: There's been this consistent challenge with respect to this administration where they are not closely communicating with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.
This is a president who has control of both chambers of Congress and nearly 100 days in does not have a single major legislative accomplishment that he can hold up and point to as a success. And I think that's part of why you're seeing this big announcement about the tax plan.
I can tell you, Republicans I have spoken with privately believe this is more of a P.R. stunt so he can say, look, I'm trying to act upon my promise to overhaul the tax code, but he's not really bearing in mind that Republican leaders have their own tax plans that don't directly mirror what the White House is at least reportedly unveiling tomorrow.
So, I think that they are not showing a serious interest in how the legislative process actually works. And you might very well see, just as we did with the failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare in the House, President Trump learning the hard way that support from members of his own party is not guaranteed.
BALDWIN: Now you also have this tax that has been slapped on -- 20 percent tax on Canadian lumber.
[15:20:01] And lumber used to build a lot of homes in the U.S., and this is
apparently to try to create a more even, level playing field for U.S. lumber questions. But there are all kinds of questions as to why are we trying to pick a fight with the Canadians over this?
That was actually exactly what Jim Acosta was asking of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: What would you say to the layman out there who says, why is President Trump messing with the Canadians now?
WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: It's not a question of President Trump messing with the Canadians. We believe the Canadians violated legitimate practice. And to the degree we're correct in that, it should be corrected, just like steel dumping from China or any other trade infraction.
SCIUTTO: You're trying to make a point publicly?
ROSS: We make it publicly all the time. It's just that there has been so much general public interest engendered by the two things, the dairy and the lumber, that we felt it was good to clarify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, I know, Monica, the secretary pointed out, listen, this is a point why we need to renegotiate NAFTA. But Canada? What do you think about that?
MEHTA: Look, I think this is actually going to register really well with his voters, because they will view this as here's Trump finally speaking up for me, and I'm the little guy, and my industry, when all of these big politicians have just turned their back on me for 30 and 40 years.
Again, this comes back to leverage. Who has leverage when you have this kind of bluster? You have got the U.S. with a $17 trillion economy. And you have got Canada with a $1.7 trillion economy. They are 10 percent of what we are.
We are the big dog in the fight. And I think, again, if this is a P.R. stunt, I think it's going to be an effective stunt because this will register. There is a big chunk of America that feels like politicians have turned their back on them and they are just not seeing that economic opportunity and this will register as he's fighting for me.
BALDWIN: OK. Monica, thank you. Sabrina, thank you.
MEHTA: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, Ivanka Trump getting booed at this big women's summit there in Germany as she's defending her father over treatment of women. We will show you what happened and what she said about the reports that she influenced the president's decision to strike Syria.
BALDWIN: Ivanka Trump has been a tireless defender of her father.
And today, on the world stage in Berlin in her first overseas trip in her role as assistant to the president, the first daughter acted no differently. While speaking on a panel that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the W20 countries, a women's summit of G20 countries, Ivanka Trump was asked about President Trump's treatment of women, and her answer was met with hecklers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He's been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive. The new reality of...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hear the reaction from the audience.
TRUMP: I have certainly heard criticism from the media.
TRUMP: And that's been perpetuated.
But I know from personal experience. And I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women and their ability to do the job as well as any man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go straight to Kate Bennett, who is live in Berlin.
Kate Bennett, you know, you heard her response to the question about her father's treatment of women. To me, she blamed media. That was lame. What did you make of how she handled that?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to say, the noise came during the panel that was about an hour-long. This was about halfway through.
It happened just when she said my father is and has been a champion of families. And that's when there was sort of a hissing and booing within the crowd. Again, as we saw this now, the moderator stopped and had Ivanka address it right then.
It was a moment that sort of took away this global stage where she was talking about women's entrepreneurship. She was on a pretty formidable panel, as you mentioned, with Angela Merkel, with Christine Lagarde, with the queen of the Netherlands and other business leaders.
This was really a trial by fire situation, so that there was a little disruption and something that maybe she might have to get used to as she steps out on this global stage representing her father and his administration.
I would add, though, Brooke, afterwards, there was an off-camera gaggle with some of the press and she said asked about this moment and she said, politics is politics. And as long as this starts a discussion about the things that she's passionate about, it's OK, it's fine by her. She didn't feel like she was grilled or the moderator was unfair. She sort of just rolled with it.
BALDWIN: Well, there was another piece of the conversation that was also caught off-camera, where she was asked about Eric Trump did this interview recently with the newspaper about their father's decision to strike Syria with his Tomahawk missiles.
And Eric Trump had essentially insinuated that maybe one of the reasons why the president launched them was because he knew his daughter was heartbroken over these just atrocious images over dead children.
And she weighed in on that as well today. Did she not say it was a flawed interpretation?
BENNETT: She did.
She said that the Eric Trump story was certainly not the way that it went down. She said that, like many people, most people, she was appalled and heartbroken and shaken to her core by the images coming out of Syria.
And, obviously, she shared her thoughts, she said, with her father. However, she made it very clear that she had -- that her influence didn't force the president to make the decision to strike Syria.