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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump has Signed 27 Executive Actions And Counting; Trump Admin Vows "Biggest Tax Cut" With Few Details; Ivanka: Accepting Refugees "Has To Be Part Of Discussion"; Senators Being Bussed To W.H. For Usual N. Korea Meeting; Cruz Announces "EL CHAPO Act" To Pay For Wall. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 26, 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] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- in education policy. In just moments ago, pen to paper. Executive action number 27, a review of presidential authority to designate giants swathes of federal land as monuments, and as a result, to protect them from development.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're returning power back to the people. We've eliminated job-destroying regulations on farmers, ranchers and coal miners, on autoworkers and so many other American workers and businesses. Today, I'm signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power and to give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The Trump White House including the president himself right there now paying no attention to candidate Trump's scorn. They now brag his 100-day record includes more executive actions than any of his recent predecessors.

Just one of the lessons I guess that running for president is very different than being president. When you are president, you use the powers at your disposal, especially if -- like on health care, you came and get your own party to pass something.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: And not to mention, his own party isn't really calling him on this. I mean, he sort of -- they're saying, well, it would be nice if he went through Congress. But I am old enough to remember the imperial Obama presidency because he has signed so many executive orders, which weren't as many as a lot of his predecessors.

KING: Right.

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: In Trump's defense, most of them is that they're saying, "We want our government to not do this. We want this to not be a federal power." Obama often were to expand federal power. So this is actually a fairly conservative idea of we want to pull the government back. And so I think Trump shouldn't used the phrase the way he did. But the idea that he wants to pull back federal power that Obama expanded, it is the way what he's doing.

KING: But can he -- in the administrative agencies, executive agencies of government do that without big signing ceremonies? Can't the cabinet secretary just say we're not going to do this or we're not going to get involved in that?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Of course. And the fact is that a large number of these executive orders have basically been glorified press releases where they lay out some priorities and say we should look at X, Y and Z and we hope that we can do this in the next. Even the wall in the executive order that the president signed in January was a call for the building of direct agencies to explore how to design and construct the wall. It didn't actually build the wall.

So a lot of these things, it is a lot more sort of movement and motion than it is actual progress. But because they don't have any legislative, major legislative victories they can point to, this is really the only standard where they can sort of put a number on the board and say we did better than, you know, fill in the blank. But to be fair to him, presidents, you know, before they become president, they always criticize the use of executive power.

I remember hearing George W. Bush was, you know, he overreached and Cheney and Bush were, you know, expanding presidential powers beyond all, you know, reasonable level. And, you know, then you become president and you realized there are some things you can't do by yourself or with the Congress. You have to do them by yourself.

DAN BALZ, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think they're symbolically valuable for him, certainly in the absence of legislative victories. They just send a signal to people of the direction he wants to go even if there are, you know, blockages that are preventing him from doing it. But as Julie said, a lot of it is, you know, kind of restating a campaign promise, you know, with a signing ceremony.

And, you know, one of the kind of signature visuals of the first 100 days is Donald Trump at a table surrounded by people clapping as he holds up something he's just signed. Some of those will have some immediate action, but many of them will take weeks, months, years before anybody sees any real impact of them.

KING: Let's move on. Next hour, they're going to outline at the White House the president's priorities for tax cuts. It's not a tax cut plans. It's not all the details, but it is an outline. We know that the Republicans in Congress have been working on this for years and they want to get going on in the weeks ahead.

The president's plan, we're told will have 15 percent corporate rate, that would take $2.5 trillion out of Washington in the first decade, according to estimates and then 15 percent pass through rates for businesses, including businesses that pay the personal, the individual income tax rate. Their rates would drop to 15 percent. Again, statements are that would cost $4 trillion in the first decade. So we had a big Republican tax cut plan.

And the president's argument is cut taxes, stimulate economic growth. That growth will bring even at a lower rate, more tax revenue into Washington. Fiscal conservatives say, "I hope that happens." Maybe that will happen, but you can't prove it's going to happen. And so, how do you blow the deficit up like that? Can he get this plan through this Congress?

DAVIS: Well, I mean, Republicans in Congress who have been working on a plan had a plan that was paid for or at least partially paid for and that was a big priority for them.

Now, whether this president can actually get them to come off of that position and accept this plan or embrace something like it is a big question. I think he will have to do a lot of selling, a lot of going around the country and talking about it and trying to pressure members of his own party as well as Democrats potentially to come on board with it, which seems very unlikely at this point. But, there is -- I am hearing in talking to Republicans and conservatives about this plan the last couple of days an open door to consider tax release that would not be paid for.

[12:35:12] And that would essentially either be temporary or that part of it would just be, you know, paid for through growth that they hope, as you said, materializes and that they might be willing to come off of what has been really an orthodoxy for them for a long time. That you -- if you cut on one end, you have to offset it with something else in order to not, you know, (inaudible).

KING: Some people believe the growth argument, that if you have 3 percent, 3.5 percent, 4 percent economic growth because of a big tax cut, that money will come into Washington. Others believe that even if doesn't that will force us to cut spending.

Fiscal conservatives say that's the argument Rand Paul makes. He write it there in Breitbart where he said "real men cut taxes." And he said, "Revenue neutral tax cuts aren't really tax cuts. It's more like tax shifting. Some will pay more. Some will pay less. And the net effect will be that government will collect the same amount of taxes. No one ever knock doors or made phone calls for revenue neutral tax reform. If you want to drain the swamp, you have to take away money from Washington, and send it back to the people."

That thing is a powerful argument. There are a lot of people in this town who don't like that. They say the government needs this money to spend, you know, to pay for everything you pays for now. But that is a conservative argument that if you really want to shrink Washington, shrink the federal role in government, then chokes it up, give it less money.

BACON: Tax reform is hard. It will be easier than health care for one simple reason. Health care, they were taking things away from people in some way, certain benefits. But this tax cut presumably could reduce -- there's no one -- I can tell in this plan, these tax are going to go up as far as I know. We can go -- by the way, if you talk about raising taxes, then it gets controversial, taking away deductions, raising taxes.

But as long as you're talking about a tax cut for individuals and a tax of corporations, George W. Bush did something very similar and it passed through Republican Congress. I can see even some Democrats voting for this idea.

KUCINICH: And while it is Republican orthodoxy, it's not Trump's orthodoxy. He comes from the business community, which really doesn't -- that they have a different view of debt. The president used to call himself, was it the king of debt.

BACON: Right.

KUCINICH: So, this is something -- it's a very different culture. He's surrounded himself by a lot of business people who are -- and this is also an issue he's going to be very -- every indication he's going to be very hands on because they're interested in it. It's not like health care. Its like, "Yeah, they're taking care of it." This is something where you see him engaged in for sure.

KING: All right. Let's see how this to be plays out. Up next, the administration invites all 535 members of Congress to classified briefings on North Korea. We want to know what will be discussed there.

As we go to break, is Ivanka Trump right here trying to get her father to change his mind about Syrian refugees?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: I think there is a global humanitarian crisis that's happening and we have to come together and we have to solve it and, you know, refugees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to include opening the borders to Syrian refugees --

I. TRUMP: That has to be part of the discussion. But that's not going to be enough in it of itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:41:52] KING: Welcome back. Earlier today on the Senate floor, listen here. Dire are talk from the Senate majority leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MAJORITY LEADERS: The president has made clear that a North Korea that is armed with a nuclear armed missile, a capability they have yet to test is unacceptable to us and threatens our vital national security interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Senator Mitch McConnell there, underlying the urgency for an all hands briefing that will take place in just a few hours. Every single senator tracking down from Capitol to the White House complex. There, four chiefs of the Trump administration's national security team will brief lawmakers on the North Korea threat. Senators expect a lot of answers.

But what's still unclear, just how far is President Trump willing to go to check North Korea's nuclear program. And it's a question that's wearing on Americans. Look, the number is here. A new CBS poll finds only 35 percent are confident in the president's ability to be deal with Kim Jong-un, 62 percent say they are uneasy.

It raises the question this could just be a routine briefing. The administration knows for the past couple of weeks, there's been the stare down. North Korea's having active military exercises today. It had a failed missile launch just a week or so ago. There's talk in a satellite photo show that they're preparing possibly for a nuclear test.

The administration could just be let's get everybody in the same faith (ph), tell them what we know. But some people questioned where the president has said, "If China doesn't help me deal with the situation, we will."

Is the administration -- what is the administration preparing to tell 100 members of the Senate invited to the White House, 435 members of the House that will get briefed later on Capitol Hill, the fact that they're scheduling in sort of raises your alarm with that.

BACON: Yeah, it does raise your alarms and you would think this might be, "Are we going to war? Is he going to talk about going to war?" We don't really know if this is -- we're also in 100 days of Trump and he's trying to, you know, show how executive and leaderly he is (inaudible) too. So I'll be curious to see what's going on here, what the details are.

Also, you know, in Syria, you could argue the Congress it authorized -- in some ways the Congress has authorized fighting ISIS and fighting in the Middle East. It's definitely not authorized fighting in North Korea in this way. Some members are very weary of more military strikes, more intervention without congressional authority. So I think they'll bring it up too, "Is like what are you guys doing and are we going to have a chance to weigh in on this even this meeting or later on?"

DALZ: It would be unusual for administration to bring 100 members of the Senate down to say we are going to war.

KUCINICH: Right.

DALZ: Because we know that the details of this or a lot of the information will leak out afterwards. It may well be that they simply are trying to put up a united front to show North Koreans that this is a country united, whatever divisions may exist politically at home, that the country is united behind the president in dealing with North Korea.

KUCINICH: Or to put pressure on China because that's where a lot of it seems like the pressure from the Trump administration is going, to get China to do something because China doesn't want the United States to act in North Korea. That could create a humanitarian issue there which still going to China and would just create -- they want North Korea to remain stable as possible.

DAVIS: Well, and I think the fact is they're getting a lot of questions from members of Congress about, "OK, what's the plan here? What's the strategy?" Because, as much as he talks about putting pressure on China to actually play a more significant role than they have in trying to defuse the tensions, there's no actual evidence that they're willing to do that.

[12:45:04] And so the question becomes, what is President Trump willing to do that other administrations have not been able to do who have been grappling with this problem for a very long time to actually solve the problem or make some progress on this issue. And I think, you know, definitely the united front is part of that. But he also wants to be seen by members of Congress as having a handle on the situation.

DALZ: And that's -- excuse me, that's one of the potential risks of this, which is if there are a lot of questions that they can't get answers to, then you will hear a chorus coming out of this meeting of, "Well, we still don't understand if they have a strategy." So there's a --

KING: Right. And you heard that even after generally bipartisan praise for the missile strikes on the air base in Syria. But then saying great, that's great, it's about time somebody punched the bull (ph), Assad, but what's this longer term strategy.

Here's how Reince Priebus, the Chief of Staff, put it talking to reporters last night. "Really establishing I think a Trump doctrine in setting some certain lines of where we're not going to allow people like Assad to go, but at the same time making it clear that we're not interested in long-term ground wars in the Middle East." That's his take on what happened in Syria.

The question is about North Korea given the stakes, millions of people who live just south of the demilitarized zone. The thousands of U.S. troops, you know, the thousands of South Korean troops, but also the millions of people who live in Seoul and in the suburbs and with the rhetoric.

North Korea today saying it has conducted and I think we have some video of it. What it said is its largest military drills of all time and they put out a statement saying -- I read a little bit of it. This is kind of typical for North Korea, but it's getting even more muscular provocative here.

"This is just a risky act little short of lighting the fuse of a total war under the present touch-and-go situation on the Korean peninsula. As the U.S. has unsheathed the dagger to stifle the DPRK at any cost, it goes on and on."

Again, we laugh sometimes about this because this is at sometimes a very childish regime. It's a hermit regime. It's an isolated regime, but it's a regime that has tons of conventional artillery and some nuclear weapons.

DAVIS: Absolutely. And I think the concern here is we also have now a very tough talking president, who is willing to say things that other presidents have not been willing to say when he did that interview talking about this and he said, "Well, I'm not going to tell you. You know, we'll have to see what happens."

But then he very pointedly said, "That we now know this was incorrect. We have an armada headed there. We also have submarines." By that, he was alluding to nuclear tipped submarines that the United States has. I mean, he is much more willing to sort of throw threats around.

And so, when you have a president like that in the U.S. and you have Kim Jong-un making these incendiary statements and crazy statements in North Korea, I mean, you could see it escalating beyond what we've seen in the recent past.

KING: And every president is grateful for military commanders who take one for the team. The U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris telling lawmakers on the Hill a little bit (inaudible), he's taking responsibility for the confusion about which direction the Carl Vinson Carrier Group were going taking look for the team. We'll leave it there.

Next, Senator Ted Cruz thinks outside the box for funding that border wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: Those assets from El Chapo will go directly to building a wall and to securing the border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:52:17] KING: Welcome back. Let's end with a little fun. Cute or ridiculous? You make the call. And as you do, remember, your tax dollars pay the people who sit around to do this. Come up with clever acronyms to help sell legislation that way more often than not is more press release than serious policy proposal.

Take this, the "REINS Act", that's R-E-I-N-S. In reality, Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act. Or the "PHEASANT Act." PHEASANT Act, yes. That's short for Protecting Honest Everyday Americans from Senseless and Needless Taxes Act. You wonder why a pheasant hasn't sued the bureaucrat who came up with that one. Now enter the "EL CHAPO Act" or the -- wait, Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act.

If Senator Ted Cruz's brainchild the idea, use assets seized from the drug kingpin El Chapo Guzman to pay for President Trump's border wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Yesterday, I filed the "EL CHAPO Act" that provides that if El Chapo is convicted, you know, the famed Mexican drug lord, the estimates are that his criminal fortune is roughly worth about $14 billion.

Now, coincidentally, the estimates for the cost to build a wall range from $14 billion to $20 billion. And so my legislation provides that if those assets are forfeited, those assets from El Chapo will go directly to building a wall and to securing the border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Voila, your government at work. And --

BACON: You have the Harvard law degree for that for sure.

KUCINICH: It's clever because he also put out a petition that would be clicked if you want to support it and it goes straight to his fund- raising page. So, not --

BACON: Ted Cruz --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You would not, for a moment, think that somebody in this town was seeking publicity to get clicks on a website to raise money.

KUCINICH: Never.

KING: Next, there's gambling in the casino.

KUCINICH: Right.

BACON: Ted Cruz likes Donald Trump's idea since Ted Cruz ran for re- election in 2018. He seems to be like courting Donald Trump more than last year when he wouldn't endorse him. (Inaudible) he was big too. I think that you can see politics playing a big role here for Ted Cruz.

DALZ: We need to find the staffer who came up with it and give that person credit.

DAVIS: Yes. Give him a round of applause.

DALZ: Yeah.

KING: Here's another one for you, the "FRESHER Act," a Focus Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation Act.

BACON: I'm not sure what that would actually do.

(CROSSTALK)

BACON: Was that a Democratic idea or Republican idea? KING: I didn't read that, but that was in New York Times. Well, the "FAIR CREDIT Act," the Fair Allocation of Internal Revenue Credit for Renewable Electricity Distribution by Indian Tribes Act.

KUCINICH: Remember the highway bill, the SAFETEA-LU or the Lu actually was the wife of the member who wrote the bill. So they're

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: I think there's also the MAR-A-LAGO Act, which I'm not going to try to remember what it stands for. But it's about disclosure for who comes and goes from Mar-a-Lago.

[12:55:04] KING: Making available records. It goes on and on and on. Yes.

DAVIS: There you go.

KING: You have --

DALZ: A small industry, isn't it?

DAVIS: I mean, it's funny but it's also an acknowledgment by Ted Cruz that this border wall is not going to get paid for by Mexico. I mean, Trump has been talking about this for months and months and months. El Chapo is as likely to pay for it as the government of New Mexico or frankly American tax payers at this point. I mean, the way things are looking, you know --

KING: El Chapo might be more likely to pay for it.

DAVIS: Maybe the least farfetched in the wall (ph).

KUCINICH: And it's a way to get attention for these bills that will likely go nowhere, but it does -- give us something to talk about.

(CROSSTALK)

DALZ: This may be the high water mark for this bill. You know, this moment. We'll see.

KING: The "WE CARE Act" to end this discussion, the Working to Encourage Community Action and Responsibility in Education Act. We care. How can you be against "WE CARE"? That's the point of this thing.

DAVIS: Yes.

KING: All right, just trying to end on a little bit of fun there. Watching is not always fun. Thanks for watching "Inside Politics". We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Just minutes away from the press briefing, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, he'll outline President Trump's tax cutting proposals.

If you want that coverage, Wolf will bring it to you right after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.