Return to Transcripts main page


White House Blames Obama Admin for Flynn Security Clearance; CNN Talks to Trump Critics in Blue States; CNN/ORC Poll: 54% Disapprove Trump's Performance; Trump Speaking At Department Of Veterans Affairs; Propaganda Video Shows Simulated Attacks On U.S.; White House: North Korea an "Urgent National Security Threat". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 27, 2017 - 16:30   ET


KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the other thing, too, is this is one of those stories that now is out of their control.

[16:30:01] And you don't want to waste a whole lot of time or a whole lot of effort out of the White House based on things that you can't control. So, that's why they continued to answer the questions as best they can and then pivot to things they can control. That's why you see so much the flurry of activity in the last few weeks because they are very hypersensitive, I think, to this 100-day sort of judgment they're up against.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What do you make of that, Governor?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, first of all for Trump constantly to blame the Obama administration for everything, including this, I was on the transition team for the Clinton team. You vet people. I don't care where they came from, but especially if they were fired by the previous administration. That should send some antennas up.

He applied for a security clearance in January of 2016. He had just gotten back from Russia when he applied for that. So if he didn't disclose it, which is what he did not disclose on that application to renew, that he had been in Russia, which is why perhaps why it was approved, but honestly, for them to blame the Obama administration is ridiculous. It also speaks to why we ought to have an independent investigation because shoes after shoes after shoes are dropping.

TAPPER: It does seem like this is getting worse for Michael Flynn.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: The original sin though is probably picking Michael Flynn. I'm going to steal Kevin's line here. When the Obama administration fired Michael Flynn, it was probably a clue he might not be a great team player. There was already fighting -- there was already tension with Flynn based on policy reasons, based on the way he ran NSA, even before -- even without the Russia stuff going on as well. He wasn't good at the job can and probably shouldn't have been picked for it.

Now, you are four months into the administration and still dealing with the fallout from picking the wrong person. TAPPER: Is it credible, though, Kevin, to act as though it is the

Obama administration's fault? I mean, look, it is entirely possible the Obama administration made a mistake in renewing his security application in early 2016. Still, at the same time, Michael Flynn was a huge part of Trump's campaign, the Republican National Convention. He was going to be the national security adviser.

I mean, both could be true, the Obama team might have messed up in renewing his security clearance, but it seems a bigger deal the role he played with Trump.

MADDEN: You're right. Looking at it clinically it is not credible. It is a reflexive default position any White House usually has about their predecessors, particularly in the first 100 days like this.

TAPPER: I recall people blaming things on Bush.

MADDEN: Yes. Right.


GRANHOLM: It happens.


MADDEN: But, you know, there were -- there were a number of red flags before, you know, a lot of this information came to light that they should have been aware of and they have to answer for that.

GRANHOLM: And the context for this is so obvious, too. I mean, between -- when you look at the Russian context, when you got Paul Manafort and Carter Page and all of this happening, the fact that it's trying to be identified as an isolated incident as though it is totally separate from everything that's happening with the Russia investigation --

MADDEN: By the way, the base part of, you know, Trump's support, they love the fact he blames Obama on this.


MADDEN: And they believe it.

GRANHOLM: I'm sure, right.

TAPPER: Let's talk about what is going on Capitol Hill with healthcare. Do you think there will be a vote, Perry, on this MacArthur Amendment, this compromise -- healthcare legislation compromise between the conservatives and moderates within the Republican caucus by Saturday?

BACON: No. I think they've sort of been honest with the fact that they're not sure they have it. I think Paul Ryan said we'll have a vote when we have the votes. That's probably the right way to do it, way they should have done it the first time as well. And it sounds like, right now, you've seen a lot of -- what I haven't seen yet is we had about 30 to 40 no votes before, some from the Freedom Caucus but some from members who are either more moderate or from districts that Hillary won in 2016.

The Freedom Caucus joined on this, but I still see a lot of the opponents sort of on the left side of the Republican Party are still there. There are a lot of hard noes, probably more than 25. So, I think they have to get that number down some. There's a lot of people saying no or saying I'm not going to say yes. And until they have those nailed down, they probably shouldn't have a vote.

GRANHOLM: This bill is worse than the first one. And when you think about they're trying to foist it on to governors, governors do not want to create high-risk pools that cause women who are -- have preexisting conditions like breast cancer, for their premiums to go up $28,000 as one study showed.

If you have metastatic cancer, the premiums would go up $140,000. You'd be priced out of the market. Governors don't want that responsibility. They hate this idea. Plus, of course, people still get thrown off of Medicaid.

So, you've got 14 million people out, you've got people with preexisting conditions who are priced out. This is going nowhere.

TAPPER: And now, Kevin, Democrats are saying that if the Republicans have a vote on healthcare this week, that they're not going to cooperate with the government spending bill, which also comes due I think Friday.

MADDEN: Yes. Well, they're a little off message on that. I saw Steny Hoyer said that while Chuck Schumer was on the floor talking about how, you know, the bipartisan nature of the current CR negotiation.

So, look, Perry is right. You could see he didn't exactly offer a qualified opinion there. There won't be a vote by Saturday.

I actually think this process now is actually taking on -- it is more reflective of a normal process, of growing the vote, having House leadership go out there and find a number of folks that are no, but are then maybes and then turn them from maybes to yeses.

[16:35:12] And that is going to take a lot longer than by Saturday.

TAPPER: What do you make -- this is something that happened this week and all of a sudden wasn't happening anymore, which was President Trump talking about how he was going to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA. It was kind of leaked from the Bannon wing of the White House, that they were preparing to do this. Trump did tweets about it and then, all of a sudden, there were phone calls between President Trump with the leaders of Mexico and Canada and now, he was renegotiating.

It seems to me this is what we're going to get a lot of, President Trump saying something very drastic and forceful and then that's not actually what he wants to do. He just wants to get people to come to the table. Do you think that's fair? MADDEN: I think that's right, but I think it is reflective of some of

the dueling sort of parties inside this administration. Trade wars are not something that many of the moderate voices inside the administration want. Trade litigation consistent with what the president has said about getting better deals, sure. And I think this is more reflective, again, of that process.

TAPPER: And could this not be a positive thing, even for somebody who opposes him like yourself?

GRANHOLM: You know, I mean, listen, I campaigned on NAFTA and CAFTA have given us the shafta.


GRANHOLM: So, yes, I know, right?

TAPPER: That rhymes.


GRANHOLM: And it is true, in the Midwest where he won and he came and talked about trade. So, people want to see action on this.

The question is, though, are you going to pull out entirely or get a better deal by renegotiating? People are comfortable with renegotiating as long as we're not giving away the store. So, I think it's fine.

But what I think it does show is that he does -- is so influenced by the last person who talks to him. So he gets on the TV this morning and he says, yeah, I talked to my good friends, you know, in Canada and Mexico, the heads of Canada and Mexico, and I've decided to listen to them.

So, he is very much influenced I think by the folks who have a more moderate perspective.

BACON: What I can never tell, is this a brilliant strategy, is it the art of the deal, or does he not know what he thinks and he's making it up as he goes along? You can't tell from issue to issue --

GRANHOLM: He is making it up as he goes along.


BACON: Some issues, he seems like he has more of a grounding, and I think he thought about trade more than North Korea before he came to the White House.

TAPPER: But in his defense -- and we have to go after this -- but in his defense, I mean, if it gets a renegotiation of NAFTA that, you know, provides more favorable deals for people in Michigan, it's going to be good for him and good for people in Michigan.

Kevin, Jennifer, Perry, thank you so much. We appreciate it. They did not vote for President Trump, but what do voters in

traditionally liberal states think of his first 100 days in office? We're going to visit three of bluest states in the nation, next. It's a latest in our series..

And then, a U.S. defense is reportedly just days away from being ready to stop a North Korea missile and Kim Jong-un already has something to say about it.

Stay with us.


[16:42:17] TAPPER: We're he back with more on politics lead.

As we saw in the latest CNN/ORC poll, more than half the nation is not pleased with President Trump's job performance so far.

People who voted against the president say they are in many instances fearful of losing the country. With the Democratic Party however having no control over the White House or the House or the Senate, fierce opposition and activism are brewing in traditionally Democratic states.

As part of our special week-long series, "Red, Purple, Blue and the First 100 Days", CNN is talking to voters across the country.

Today, our Kyung Lah is in deep blue states ready to battle with the president.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across California's fields --


LAH: -- and its cities --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hundred days of "I can't believe this is happening".

LAH: --- to the East Coast states of Maryland and Massachusetts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, staying out of World War III seems to be the number one priority.

LAH: The blue states where Donald Trump overwhelmingly lost, 100 days into his presidency, fear that they're losing their country, but promising a fight.

The state of California, the largest, bluest state in the union, leading the fiercest opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think he can be impeached soon enough.

LAH: At Millie's coffee shop in the heart of liberal L.A., I meet Alex Martini.

ALEX MARTINI, PHOTOGRAPHER: He frightens me, Trump frightens me.

LAH: For the first time in this millennial's life she's afraid the president will hurt her. She is on Obamacare.

MARTINI: With type 1 diabetes specifically, I cannot physically survive without insulin, and without health insurance, this device is almost $4,000. It is almost embarrassing to be an American.

LAH: I head 400 miles north to California's Central Valley. Trump's immigration policies sowing fear in the fields that feed America.

(on camera): How many people have their papers?

ERIC ROMAN, FARM WORKER: Nobody. Just me. They're scared to go out, scared to go to the store because they think immigration is crawling around.

LAH: Farmer Joe Del Bosque, the son of Mexican migrants, couldn't get enough workers this year, problems that escalated after the election.

JOE DEL BOSQUE, FARMER: When he talks about mass deportations, that makes me nervous. Putting a wall on the border, that makes me nervous.

LAH: And that affects your bottom line?

[16:45:05] DEL BOSQUE: It does, because we can grow the crops but then we can't pick them.

LAH: 3,000 miles away lies Baltimore, Maryland, a majority black city where only 12 percent voted for Trump. On a stormy morning, I meet Melissa Bagley, Baltimore born and raised. Do you think the President has any insight into your life?

MELISSA BAGLEY, NON-TRUMP VOTER: Absolutely not, and I don't think that he cares to.

LAH: Baltimore's challenges, unemployment, crime and budget short falls. Bagley has lived three all of them.

BAGLEY: The fact that young black boys are falling like flies and I've given birth to five of them, my city is screaming out for help. He spoke about being a President for all. I said wow. But he's failed. He's failed according to what he promised. He has failed at this point.

LAH: On the other side of Baltimore works Dr. Crystal Watkins- Johansson, Neuropsychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University. An economic world away, but she too feels shut out.

CRYSTAL WATKINS JOHANSSON, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY NEUROPSYCHIATRIST: From what I hear and what I see I don't think that I'm represented at the table.

LAH: You don't see yourself at the table? What happens to you in four years?

JOHANSSON: I think that's where the anxiety comes from, is because we don't know.

LAH: Anxiety felt from urban Baltimore to idyllic Massachusetts. Every single congressional district in this state voted for Hillary Clinton, a liberal unity awakens activism. Greenfield, it's Sunday and Reverend Corey Sanderson is calling on his progressive Christians to be the country's conscience.

COREY SANDERSON, CHURCH PASTOR: The truth is out there.

LAH: Do you see the church as a force of resistance?

SANDERSON: Yes, I do. I do. He may be underestimating the power in the people and in the - in the sense of resistance against what he's been doing.

LAH: After the service, as church members share pastries and coffee, I meet Kendra Davis, age 21, a music student, whose personal crisis collided with Trump's election.

KENDRA DAVIS, NON-TRUMP VOTER: I actually had an abortion in January this year. I don't want that to be taken away from other women in the future throughout his Presidency.

LAH: Just days after her abortion, she joined the women's march in her town square to defend choice.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: We're going to go live to President Trump who's speaking now at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He'll be signing an executive order to increase accountability at the V.A. Let's listen in.

TRUMP: Making life really great for our phenomenal veterans that I can say. So we're sharing the stage with a lot of great people and a lot of great friends. A couple of my friends are out in the audience today, Ike Perlmutter, Laurie Perlmutter. Where are they? Where are they? Where are they? These are incredible people, incredibly successful people. And they just have an affinity for helping the veterans and for helping David and I want to thank them. Unbelievable. Thank you. Dr. Moskowitz also. And we're going to protect those who protect - and we're going to protect the people that are protecting us. First of all, Secretary Shulkin, and I call him the 100 to nothing man because in a totally obstructionist group of democrats - we say that with affection - he got not only the republicans but he got all of the democrat votes, and he won in a 100 to nothing clip. So I guess - boy, do they know. I hope they're right. You know, I hope they're right.

But David is doing a phenomenal job. He was voted unanimously out of the United States Senate, and he's worked ever since then, day and night, to reform and improve the V.A. I'm also pleased that we're joined by so many members of Congress. We have with us Senators Ernest - where is Joanie Ernst? Where's Joanie? What a tremendous woman. And right from the beginning, she has been - and she knows more about veterans than anybody. Thanks, Joanie. We really appreciate it. Senator Isakson, Moran. Thank you, Senator. Thank you, very much. Senator Moran and Senator Tester, thank you, thank you, thank you all. Thank you, thank you. Along with Congressman Arrington, Bergman, Bridenstine, Dent, Roe and Wenstrup, I look forward to serving our veterans with all of you and I can tell you this group, whether they're democrat or republican, they're here to help and we're going to help, and we're going to make it this so good. It's going to be one of our crown jewels, and it is happening already.

[16:50:26] As part of that process, Secretary Shulkin has carried out a really thorough review, and he had some very inside understanding of the V.A., because he's been here, but a thorough review of the V.A. to uncover all of the problems and challenges that we inherited, of which there are so many. Based on those findings, we're putting plans into place to fix those problems and give our veterans the health care they need and the health care they deserve. And they were so for me during this recent election, and I can promise them - and they know what's going to happen, we're not going to let them down. We have a team, the likes of which has never, ever been assembled. And that includes outside people who are so brilliant and so good, like Ike and Laurie. And they're helping us, and they don't fail. Much work lies ahead, but we will not rest until this job is totally done.

During these first 100 days, which as you know I've been saying this, a very extreme emphasis placed on these 100 days, Joanie. It is not quite as big as they're saying, but we have really laid a foundation. We've had a lot of legislation passed which nobody understands. I think it is 28 bills as of this moment. Somebody said by the time it ends, it is 32 bills and tremendous legislation. But we've already made huge strides to improve the V.A. and the V.A. services. We've imposed new standards of accountability and transparency, including a new Web site that publishes wait times at every V.A. hospital, and this is a website that works. This is not the five billion dollar ObamaCare website. Do we remember that? Nobody remembers that. Does anybody remember the five billion dollar Web site? No, I don't think so. We don't have to remember it anymore. We've implemented same-day mental health services at all 168 V.A. medical centers so that veterans in crisis can find help at the V.A. without any delay.

Last week, I signed the Veterans Choice Improvement Act, very proud of that, so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice and don't have to travel long distances or wait forever for V.A. care. They were waiting on lines for seven days, eight days, nine days, two weeks. Some instances were horrible. They were waiting so long they had a very curable problem and they die before they got to see the doctor. It's not going to happen any longer. Already this year using the choice program, veterans have received 42 percent more approvals, to see the doctor of their choosing. But that's just the very beginning of what we have planned. So much more is coming. Today we're taking another bold step forward. I'm signing an executive order to create an office of accountability and whistleblower protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This executive order makes it clear that we will never, ever tolerate substandard care for our great veterans. With the creation of this office, we are sending a strong message. Those who fail our veterans will be held for the first time accountable. At the same time, we will reward and retain the many V.A. employees who do a fantastic job, of which we have many. And I will tell you, some of the doctors in the V.A., I've heard it from so many people, they're the finest in the world. These are great, great people. We have to get our vets to those doctors, but we have some of the finest doctors in the world. We have also some of the most honest employees, and some of them expose wrongdoing and we will make sure they are protected. We're also calling on the Senate to pass legislation to give the Secretary the authority he needs to ensure all V.A. employees are held accountable for how they treat our veterans. Today's action is historic but it is only the start of our reforms. Our veterans have secured this nation with their blood, sweat, and tears, and we will not let them down. These are our great, great people. We will always stand with those who stood for freedom and who stood for us. They've protected us. They've made it all possible, and now we're going to protect and take care of them.

[16:55:51] So I would like to thank David and his family and all of the people that are working so hard at the V.A.. they haven't had enthusiasm, David was just telling me, like this for many, many years, and the veterans see what is happening because I'm getting so many different messages through all forms of communication, of which we now have many. But they're very, very happy, very pleased with what is going on. So, David, we want to God bless you and your family. We want to wish you a lot of luck. You have a lot of talent but you have a big job ahead. I want to wish everybody Godspeed, and we will do a fantastic job at the V.A., rest assured. Thank you very much. And we're going to sign right now. Thank you very much. Thank you.

TAPPER: President Trump speaking at the Department Of Veterans Affairs in downtown Washington D.C. He's about to sign an executive order that will increase accountability at the V.A., allowing the V.A. Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, the ability to fire employees, also more protections for whistleblowers at the V.A. Let's listen in.

TRUMP: So this is improving accountability at the V.A. Such important steps are being taken.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Let's turn now to "WORLD LEAD." North Korea just hours after the Trump administration called that rogue regime an urgent national security threat, Kim Jong-un's released a new propaganda video showing simulated fiery rocket attacks on the White House and on a U.S. aircraft carrier. This as the U.S. defense system that aims to shoot down North Korean missiles from South Korea is just days away we're told from being activated. Let's bring in CNN Correspondent Will Ripley, he's the only American Journalist reporting exclusively from inside North Korea. He's in Pyongyang. Will, you told us previously that the North Korean government keenly tracks any developments from Washington. Has North Korea responded to yesterday's Senate and House briefing about the danger posed by that country?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you certainly could view this propaganda video as a response, Jake. The fact that they have their (INAUDIBLE) that land-based ballistic missile the land-based ballistic missile and a CGI from the 1980s sci-fi movie genre blowing up the White House and the Capitol and also blowing up the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group. But there's another way to look at this. Propaganda is one thing and actual missile launch is another. And we just haven't seen that from the North Korean regime. I spoke with a North Korean government official who denies the fact that they are dialing back their provocative behavior because of increased pressure from the Trump administration and the international community, but we will have to see what they do moving forward and see how the Trump administration and the rest of the world respond.

TAPPER: Quickly, Will, if you could, when you spoke with that high- ranking North Korean official, did he say anything about the three Americans who are being held by the government there?

RIPLEY: He wouldn't give specifics on their cases but he said they are being treated the exact same way as North Korean prisoners, which of course is concerning because of the U.N. human rights reports which claims abysmal conditions in North Korean prison camps. We hope to get more information on ground when we can.

TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley, thanks so much. Stay safe in Pyongyang. We appreciate it. Be sure to tune in again at 9:00 p.m. this evening for yet another special prime time edition of THE LEAD, looking at the first 100 days of the Trump administration, among our guests U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. I'm Jake Tapper, you can follow me at Twitter @jaketapper or @theleadcnn for our show. We also have Facebook pages. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, accused of a cover-up. The top House Democrat says the White House is protecting ousted National Security Adviser Michael --