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Secretary Rex Tillerson Presses for New U.N. Sanctions on North Korea; Interview with Representative Scott Perry; Trump Thought Being President Would Be Easier; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 28, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: This is more clarity. I mean, Tillerson has said himself, he's not a guy that's used to dealing with the press, and I think in the interviews that we heard from him, there was some ambiguity there. Like, sitting down with North Korea for talks, that started to sound like something different than the prior administration has said in terms of the U.S.'s willingness and under what conditions, but today, sitting before the Security Council, he made it very, very clear. It's almost as if he wanted to clarify the comments that he made in that interview last night, today saying that North Korea needs to take concrete steps, meaning away from denuclearization and towards a commitment to doing that, before the U.S. is ready to sit down with them to talks.

Also, you hear him wanting to balance this very much because one thing that you hear complaints about or confusion about, especially from people around the world, is, you know, what is the U.S. policy, not just on North Korea, but on a lot of things. When you hear from some people tough talk sounding like almost a focus on the military option, constant mention of that, and then in statements that come out of the State Department, you know, about North Korea, it seems to be very much focused on diplomacy.

So, here, he wanted to strike that balance. He did mention the nuclear option, but he said you know, that North Korea's actions and the U.S.'s commitment to holding it accountable would be backed up by a willingness to use military options, if necessary. He wants to put it out there, but he also wants to couch that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Chris Cillizza, you know, Michelle brings up a good point here, the language, the type of language used by the secretary of State is what the United Nations is used to. That was diplomatic talk. That was something that they can relate to. What they're hearing from the White House and President Trump is very, very different than what they're used to.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, John. What I was going to say is what I was most struck by is the difference in tone from Donald Trump in the Reuters interview to Rex Tillerson in front of the United Nations Security Council, two very different. One, the traditional tones of diplomacy, the other, not even close, really, to the traditional tones of the White House or the presidency. The traditional tones, I guess, of Donald Trump sort of openly engaging in hypotheticals about what might happen in North Korea militarily. Again, the thing that is difficult is who is guiding the policy? Is

it the secretary of State? Is it the president? Is it somewhere in between? The other thing that I was struck by just from a visuals perspective, Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, who have been publicly on the different sides of things, like Syria -- what should we do, what our goals are -- Nikki Haley sitting right behind Rex Tillerson in full support.

BERMAN: Right. Which, of course, is traditional when the secretary does go to the United Nations, the ambassador sits behind, but this is in the wake of a "New York Times" report that the State Department wants the ambassador -- the ambassador to the U.N. to clear her statements before saying that. We'll leave that aside.

Kimberly Dozier, I'm going to give you the difficult task of putting yourself in the mind of Kim Jong-un right now, the North Korean leader. How does he view, do you think, what was just said today?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, last night he heard the left and rights of what this administration might be able to offer him, either war or President Trump with his somewhat sympathetic portrayal of a young leader taking on a tough job. He was signaling, we can treat you with respect, if you behave in a responsible fashion. Then Tillerson has followed up with the details, signaling not just North Korea, that we can offer you the carrot of aid, rather than the stick of military force, if you just show us some good-faith efforts towards denuclearizing.

But there was also a message there, a very specific message to banks that are doing business with North Korea that we will come after you, even if it means third-party sanctions.

BERMAN: Third-party sanctions now very much on the table as of this morning.

Thank you, one and all.

Again, the U.S. secretary of State at the United Nations right now telling the world, the failure to act now on North Korea will have consequences, not just for North Korea, but again, also for perhaps businesses and other states that don't stand up and take action right now.

A lot going on this morning. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:38:20] BERMAN: All right, this morning, Republican House leadership has delayed a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Delayed again. Will there be a new vote soon? That is the key question. Are there enough votes there? That another key question.

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Freedom Caucus, also sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is pertinent for us this morning. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thanks for the opportunity.

BERMAN: Let me ask you first your reaction to the delay of this vote on the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

PERRY: To tell you the truth, I really don't see it as a delay. I'm not sure where that came from. I think we're working towards it, but there are really discussions about when we should have the vote, even so, because we want to make sure that not only members of Congress have had enough time to consider the policy, but the American people have as well. And while we think we might be getting closer to something, there also needs to be a time for everybody to take a look, take a read and formulate their opinion.

And so, I don't know that there was ever a deadline set where we're saying we're delaying the vote. We're working towards it and we have been since we started this thing or since we kind of fell off the tracks a little bit a month ago or so.

BERMAN: Fair point. It doesn't seem that the votes are lined up just yet. You have a number of more moderate Republicans, including people from your own state, Charlie Dent down the road from you, who are opposed to the current bill because they are concerned about what it means for folks with pre-existing conditions.

(CROSSTALK)

PERRY: Some of those same folks --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

PERRY: Some of those same folks have been opposed all along. This amendment, so to speak, has really made no difference in that regard. So I think it's fair to point that out as well.

BERMAN: Sure, but it hasn't made it any better. It hasn't brought them on board.

PERRY: Right, right.

[10:40:02] BERMAN: So if you don't have enough votes to begin with, you've got to do addition, not subtraction.

PERRY: Right. You're absolutely right, but so far -- like I said, they weren't a yes before. It has brought people on board. Maybe not everybody and maybe not certain people, but it has brought people on board. The question is --

BERMAN: It has.

PERRY: -- have enough people come on board? What will it take to get them on board? And maybe it's just a circumstance of informing themselves. This legislative language really didn't come out in earnest until I think Tuesday or so, so it's now Friday. That's three days. Health care is really personal and important to every single person, including people in Congress, and they want to make sure it's not about getting it done on time, it's about getting it done correctly.

BERMAN: That's a great point, Congressman. You are on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

PERRY: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: And we did just have a big speech on North Korea from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson basically saying the world needs to get on board, and if we don't take action, the United States, it could have catastrophic consequences. The president also talked extensively about North Korea in an interview he did with Reuters, and he spoke about Kim Jong-un, the dictator, in terms that were surprising to some people. "The New York Times" called it "grudging praise." I want you to listen to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's 27 years old. His father dies. He took over a regime. So, say what you want, but that's not easy, especially at that age.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: What do you make of that observation? And would you ever speak about the North Korean dictator in those terms?

PERRY: Well, I think that the president's trying to appeal, not knowing the leader of North Korea, but he's trying to appeal to his personal side and the difficulties of running his country. Now we see it as a police state, literally, a prison state, but if you were born there and you grew up there, you might see it very differently. I think the president's trying to show that there's a path forward, that there can be respect for his circumstance and his position, but also letting the leader know there's a left and right limit.

And so I think in his own way, Donald Trump is very carefully trying to navigate the minefield of we would like to do something and we would like it to be diplomatic, if possible, but you can't continue, young leader, on the course that you're on, or there are going to be very dire consequences.

BERMAN: So North Korea obviously a national security issue.

PERRY: Right.

BERMAN: Your congressional Web site, though, says, quote, "I sincerely believe that America's greatest national security threat is our ever-growing national debt."

So, Congressman, if the president's new tax plan adds to the national debt, is that threatening our national security?

PERRY: I think -- I would say it does not help from the standpoint we have to be able to afford to defend ourselves and to project power to protect national interests around the globe. And every step that we take away from that is problematic.

It's a balancing act, to be sure. We have to make very tough decisions. Just because we might be going further into debt, it might be to embolden -- correction, that's not the right term. To enhance our military capabilities and thus increasing our national security. So that might be the answer. And if it's short term, if it's short- term debt, at least we can find our way out of it. So we're -- look, we're going to be very careful about how we proceed with the tax plan, with national debt.

It remains a concern, as it should be for every single person, whether it has to do with Defense spending, domestic spending or otherwise. We have very difficult choices in a dangerous world, and that's what we're talking about holistically.

BERMAN: The plan as it stands right now from the White House would eliminate deductions for state and local income taxes. Pennsylvania, your state, has a state income tax.

PERRY: Yes.

BERMAN: Anywhere from 3 percent to 4 percent. If you take away that deduction, would that be a tax increase on your constituents, Congressman?

PERRY: Well, I think many people would view it as that. What we'll have to decide is, are the reductions in the rates enough to make up for individual deductions for different things, whether it's charitable contributions or whether it's your state and local taxes. And I just threw charitable contributions in there as an example. I think that's one of the things that's kind of off the table, but I think people will have to look at the aggregate to see, is your tax bill more or is it less, and including simplicity.

Is it simpler? Can you just fill out a form, as opposed to the trouble of keeping all kinds of documentation and then going to your accountant? If there's a value in that, you have to consider those things as well. So we're just going to ask all constituents to be mindful of that, to consider those things, and also to understand this is just the president's offer, so to speak. This is where he'd like to go.

The Congress is going to have a lot to say about this, and we really haven't gotten into this in earnest right now. So once we do I think the plan will look very differently -- very different than it does right now, just as the president's first offer.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Scott Perry. Really interesting discussion. I really appreciate your time, sir.

PERRY: Thank you, sir. Thanks for being here.

BERMAN: All right, this morning we have a pretty candid admission from President Trump. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He thought it would be easier. We'll talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:49:20] BERMAN: All right. You're looking at live pictures from the U.S. capitol, the floor of the House of Representatives. They are voting right now to keep the U.S. government open for another, what, like five, six, seven days? Until the middle of next week or so, so they can vote to keep it open for another six months.

Your government at work, folks. But no, this is a vote to fund the government to make sure there's not a shutdown at midnight tonight. By all indications, this will pass, and they will launch a bigger deal for several months next week. We will keep our eyes on that to make sure as the morning continues.

In the meantime, the president of the United States has done a number of interviews leading into his 100th day in office. That is tomorrow. He said a number of things, including that the job is harder than he thought.

[10:50:02] One of the people who sat down Salena Zito, a CNN contributor, also a "Washington Examiner" reporter and "New York Post" columnist. Also joining us, Maeve Reston, CNN national political reporter.

Salena, let me start with you because you were with the president yesterday and of course we've all heard him say that the job, it turns out, is not as easy as he thought it would be. What struck you in your discussion with him?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, he also made a very similar comment to me during our interview, which went a little over 40 minutes. And you know, there was context associated with that. He talked about the seriousness of the job and how that every decision that he makes, it's not like when he made a deal, you know, in business. It involves great, you know, thought. It involves -- sometimes it involves lives and communities.

And so that seriousness, that, you know, that heaviness in your decision making is something that he's never had to deal with as a businessman. And so, in that context, he told me, essentially, something very similar.

BERMAN: We just saw some pictures of you, some photos taken from inside the Oval Office there. Always a pretty intimidating place to go in and do an interview, so we appreciate, Salena, the fact that you're talking to us about what we went on inside. We talked to some other journalists who had similar interviews with

him, and the president took out his map from the November election. And he's very intent on talking about his electoral victory still, showing reporters, showing everyone the red states, the red areas in this country here. That's something that's very important to him. And you picked up also on his sort of dedication to his voters.

ZITO: Yes, absolutely. Well, the map's sort of been my fault because I was talking to him also about the book that I'm working on as I'm driving across the country. So we were discussing sort of the regions and the precincts and the congressional districts, you know, that he had visited and ones that he had flipped from Obama to his candidacy.

You know, he -- for him, it remains incredibly important to stay connected to those voters, and that's why he believes that going to Harrisburg on Saturday night as opposed to going to the Washington Correspondents' Dinner is much more valuable to him. You know, those are the people that, you know, they broke a, what, 30-year cycle of voting for Democrats for president. That area turned out very large for him and he wants to continue to go back and visit with them, but also, I think he really enjoys their reaction to him, right? He loves that feeling that he gets when he goes to a rally.

BERMAN: And Maeve, you were just talking about that. You said that would be a fascinating place to be tomorrow night.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: \Yes, absolutely. I think a lot of us would rather be in Pennsylvania. The thing that is so interesting about the map and the fact that he's still showing reporters the map at this point, I talked to so many people who had gone in and met with him over the first 100 days who said that that was often the first thing that he would talk about when people would come into the office. You know, with members of Congress, he was always going back to how much he won their districts by during the health care debate.

He still is so kind of obsessed with his victory. And you know, I think it does sort of point to the fact that there have been very few legislative -- no legislative accomplishments in this administration, and he's very concerned about his image and the legitimacy of his presidency, and you know, the effect on his gilded brand. And it's just really fascinating.

BERMAN: So you are part of this new CNN effort, our first digital political magazine called "State." And you have some great writing in it. And you make some great observations about the atmosphere inside the White House over these first 100 days, an atmosphere you describe as paranoia.

RESTON: Yes. I mean, there is -- you know, there is a lot of paranoia, but what I think is so interesting, and this goes to Salena's point earlier, is that the transition for Donald Trump has been so hard in part because in the business world, his style of management where he pits people against each other and he invites conflict, et cetera, he brought that to the White House, and that's not necessarily, you know, the easiest way to govern. And I think he's coming to learn that. And so we talked to a lot of people about that evolution over time for him. But clearly, he is still learning the ropes and just beginning to find his footing a little bit.

BERMAN: And Salena, you actually had some of those aides walk into the Oval Office toward the end of your interview.

ZITO: Yes. It was really interesting. So when I went to walk in, his daughter, Ivanka, was walking out. And towards the end of our interview, I turned to her -- I didn't even notice that they had been there for a bit.

[10:55:03] I turned around and Vice President Mike Pence was there, Reince Priebus was there, Kellyanne Conway was there. And I have to say, despite all of these reports about tensions in that White House, you know, they were laughing and joking. It was surprising to me there was a very positive energy coming out of that room.

RESTON: I think there is the positive energy, you know, at times, but it's also fascinating that you would have half a dozen aides sitting in on these interviews and coming in.

BERMAN: That's right.

RESTON: I mean, it's very unusual. He loves an audience, obviously, and he feeds off that, even in the Oval Office.

BERMAN: Maeve Reston, Salena Zito, great to have you with us today. Thanks so much.

Salena, congratulations on your interview. Maeve, congratulations on the new digital magazine. You can check that out in "Slate." This is a new digital magazine from CNN Politics. You can find it at CNN.com/state.

Moments from now, President Trump leaving the White House. He's going to Atlanta. He is speaking at a -- the NRA national convention. We're covering it all live. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Breaking news from Capitol Hill. Any minute now, the House is expected to put its stamp of approval on a short-term spending bill to keep the government up and running. But do not, please --