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Trump Admits Missing His Old Life; Interview with Sen. Chris Coons; The Effect of Trump's Tax Cuts; Interview with Rep. Lou Barletta. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired April 29, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:19] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world on this the 100th day of Donald Trump's young presidency.

Everybody is eager it seems to give him a grade. I'm more concerned with what the first 100 days tell us about the 1,360 still to come and I'll explain.

Plus, instead of attending the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner with what Steve Bannon calls the opposition party President Trump will become the first president in 36 years to skip it. Instead the president is holding what sounds like a reelection rally here in Pennsylvania.

The president of the Correspondents Association just interviewed the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office who told him he misses his old life. Jeff Mason is here.

Salena Zito of the "Washington Examiner" also interviewed the president. She writes that she found him, quote, "humble."

This week he tried to make good on the promise of the biggest tax cut in history, but what would his one-page memo do to the deficit?

And North Korea causing more trouble on day 99, firing another ballistic missile. I will ask Senator Chris Coons how we should respond.

But first today it feels like the end of a semester. Everybody it seems has a grade for President Trump's first 100 days and how he fairs, well, that depends upon the proctor. According to a recent CNN-ORC poll his approval rating is a modern low at 44 percent, but a "Washington Post"-ABC News survey shows that 96 percent of those who voted for him they'd do it again. And 85 percent of Secretary Clinton's voters they'd vote for her again.

So it does seem like there's too much subjectivity afoot. My question is what can we learn about what's to come in the next three and three quarter years based on what we've seen thus far? At the beginning it seemed he'd governed by placating some of the rigid interests that he'd cultivated to win the nomination. He surrounded himself with some very conservative influences, Jeff Sessions at Justice, Rick Perry at Energy, Scott Pruitt at EPA, Betsy DeVos at Education, Ben Carson at HUD and of course Steve Bannon ever present at his elbow. And make no mistake, the impact they have on regulations, on climate,

the environment, will be very long lasting.

Trump also delivered on his pledge to appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice from a list of 21 that was drawn up by the Federalist Society during the campaign. But then his travel ban was stymied by the courts, his attempt at repeal and replacement of Obamacare it failed despite the control of both Houses, because the Freedom Caucus balked. No funding has been earmarked for the infamous border wall and tax reform thus far consists of just one page with 200 words containing only seven figures.

And as the president's accomplishments wane and his approval rating tumbled his positions have softened. In fact, the only constant thus far has been inconsistency.

On just one day two weeks ago President Trump reversed course on five different significant issues, NATO, the Export/Import Bank, Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, interest rates and no longer defining China as a currency manipulator. And now you can add NAFTA and Syria, even golfing to that list.

It's confirmation that we've elected a president lacking an ideological core, not a bad thing, which should come as no surprise when considering he is a former Democrat who donated to Senator Hillary Clinton and whose personal life sometimes seems at odds with the values espoused by his evangelical supporters. Mostly the man who wrote the "Art of the Deal" he wants to win.

The Sunday after he was elected my column in the "Philadelphia Inquirer" had this headline, did nation just elect a compromiser-in- chief? And in it I wrote, "His awkward reference to the New Testament during a campaign appearance at Liberty University evidenced a lack of devotion to beliefs that certain of his supporters hold dear. Some saw a shallow attempt to ingratiate, I'd like to think I heard words from a man who wasn't a true believer but is a dealmaker, a pragmatist who knows how to sell and close a deal and maybe what we'll get in the White House is a compromiser-in-chief." One can hope."

When you put aside all the bombast, the tweets, the impulsivity, the fixation on election results, the constant ranker, the war with the media which believe me isn't easy to put that all aside, but maybe that's what the future holds, more deal-making.

[09:05:00] I'm inclined to agree with a column that Gerald Seib wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" this week that the president's single greatest asset is that he, quote, "isn't the product of the traditional party system but rather that rarest of things in Washington, a genuine free agent."

Looking forward, Seib wrote, "The more important question is whether it's too late to adopt a different approach. The answer, of course not. After fewer than 100 days have passed. As noted, the president and his team already are pivoting toward a more centrist approach on some fronts." Well, I think Seib was right and given that that's where most of the

country is it would be a step in the right direction were it to continue.

Now to mark the 100th day of his presidency tonight Donald Trump is holding a campaign-ish rally here in Pennsylvania instead of attending the White House Correspondents' Association annual fundraising dinner in Washington. It's the first time that a president won't be there since 1981 which was only because President Reagan was in the hospital at that time recovering from his gunshot wound.

Joining me now Jeff Mason. He is not only the current president of the White House Correspondents' Association, he is the Reuters White House correspondent. He and his colleagues just interviewed the president as did the "Washington Examiner's" Salena Zito, who's attending her first ever correspondents' dinner tonight. She's also just launched a program on Sirius XM Radio, that's a good thing. It's called "Main Street Meets the Belt Way."

Hey, Jeff, you created so much news with that interview given the ballistic missile firing in North Korea last night. I want to begin with this. It's a piece of audio, something that the president said to you, I want to roll tape and then I want to know from you what was his body language. Play the tape.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there's a -- there's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.


SMERCONISH: What did you make of that, Jeff?

JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: Well, his body language, Michael, was very simple really. He was sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office and he was very serious, very straightforward, and I think he meant every word that he said. So it was -- it was in the context of a broader discussion about North Korea and about China, and though he said that he was interested in pursuing diplomacy and that's certainly the message that the administration gave this week, it is clear that this administration is seriously considering military options if necessary and that was sort of the crux of what he said there.

SMERCONISH: Jeff, I have noted that he's not treating Kim Jong-un the way that he is treating a political -- domestic political opponent here at home. That impulsivity that I referenced a moment ago seems gone and that's probably a good thing in dealing, although he did tweet last night, and lean on the China relationship a little bit. Speak to that issue, the way in which the president treats Kim Jong- un.

MASON: Well, he's very careful really when speaking about Kim Jong- un. And that's not necessarily a characteristic that applies to all of the things that he says. Right? Sometimes he is a little bit more impulsive. I think you're right to say he's been careful about Kim Jong-un. In fact, he braced him a little bit in our interview saying that look, it's not easy for a 27-year-old to take over a regime from his father, referring there to the current leader.

So that was kind of a surprising thing to say, too, in the context of discussing a possible military conflict with North Korea, but it does suggest that he's trying to be careful. We also asked him very specifically, do you think this man is rational? Is he a rational actor? And President Trump said he didn't know. He had no opinion on that. So he could have said, no, this guy isn't rational at all but that was not the choice he made.

SMERCONISH: One more question for you and then I will turn to Salena. This response that he gave on the subject of his old life fascinates me because I've been wondering for 100 days is he having a good time? Is he in over his head? Does he enjoy it? Is it what he expected?

Play that sound and then, Jeff, you can walk us through it.


TRUMP: Well, I love my -- I love my previous life. I love my previous life. I had so many things going. You know, I actually -- this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a -- I'm a details oriented person. I think you would say that, but I do miss my old life. This -- I like to work, so that's not a problem, but this is actually more work.


SMERCONISH: I'm floored that he thought it was going to be easier. Jeff, you're the one who elicited the response. Reply.

MASON: This is more work. It was a really interesting response and he was talking in context of what he missed about his old life. We asked him that. And he talked about missing driving, he talked about being surprised at how little privacy he had even though he made a note of saying I was famous for a long time and didn't have that much privacy before either but there is even less now. And then he just -- yes, he said that clip that you just played in which he articulated the fact that he was surprised this ended up being more work than his previous life and that was surprising to us as well to hear him say that.

[09:10:08] SMERCONISH: Salena, you also scored an Oval Office interview for the "Examiner" this week. For both you as well as the Reuters reporter the president was talking about electoral college maps. If I'm not mistaken your interview, Salena, came first. Give me the context of the maps.


SMERCONISH: Give me the context of the maps. The picture I'm going to show is actually the three sets that were put out for the Reuters reporters. Go ahead. ZITO: Well, the Reuters reporters were right behind us. Our -- my

interview went first. And in context I had gone in there and asked him about that and that's part -- those questions are for my book. I was talking to him about counties and so he brought the map out and started talking, you know -- he and I went back and forth about the counties that he won and ones that he flipped from Obama to Trump. So we were having that discussion.

SMERCONISH: So, in other words, the data was at his fingertips already for your conversation. So now when Jeff shows up with his colleagues the president has got it top of mind because the way in which I saw this get repeated down the lane was as if the president reached in his top drawer and said to the Reuters gang, hey, let me show you these maps I've got.

MASON: It's actually interesting to me to hear Salena say that that was something that you were specifically talking about in your interview as well.

ZITO: Yes.

MASON: That explains a little bit more of why he had them on his desk.

ZITO: Yes.

MASON: But I will say in context during our interview we were in the middle of a discussion about President Xi of China and President Trump interrupted himself in that conversation and handed out those maps. So --

ZITO: And that's vintage Trump, right?

MASON: Right. Right.

ZITO: I mean, that's what he does. He bounces all over the place. We also had sort of the same discussion about North Korea and about, you know, how his life has changed. And, you know --

SMERCONISH: Hey, gang, I've got to get in a question about tonight.

Salena, tonight I envision there will be a split screen on this and other stations where he will be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the, quote/unquote, "opposition party" is going to be at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Why is he coming to Harrisburg, Salena?

ZITO: Well, you know, for him this is a great way to celebrate his 100 days. Even though he says 100 days should not be, you know, a big deal and then he says it isn't. You know, it's a great place for him to feedback off of the people that voted for him. He enjoys that. He mentioned that during our interview, that he likes going out there, he likes talking to people and he typically doesn't just do a rally.

In my experiences covering him he'll meet with people in the back or he'll meet at some place beforehand and talk to people, and then gets out there and gets to talk about his accomplishments in his own words without the filter of us and he enjoys that.

SMERCONISH: I wish you both a good night tonight. Salena, are you wearing the boots to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner that you wore to the Oval Office? Inquiring minds want to know. Put that picture up. Here they are.

ZITO: I have them on now.


ZITO: I have them on tonight and I will have them on tonight under my gown, and I've had them on since every president that I've interviewed since H.W. Bush.

SMERCONISH: I don't know. Jeff Mason may impose a dress code. I don't know if they're going to be cool with Jeff. We're going to find out later this evening.

Hey, guys, thank you. I wish you both a good night tonight.

MASON: Thank you.

ZITO: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I think we've got a bundle already having come in. Hit me with something, Catherine. What are we got?

Tweet, "Do you have anything positive to say about POTUS? Anything positive at all without being sarcastic?"

Hey, Lee. Lee, did you just listen to my commentary? I am getting hammered already in social media. This is astounds me. For being too complimentary to the president because in the five-minute commentary I just delivered I'm giving the man credit for changing positions, not being rigid and not being an ideologue. I think that is total fairness. And at the same time I'm noting his impulsivity, his war with the media, the tweet craze and all the other stuff so it's all there.

Still to come on the 99th day of the president's first 100 North Korea launched another ballistic missile. One day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told NPR that the U.S. was open to direct negotiations with that rogue nation.

Senator Chris Coons is in the on-deck circle. He sits on the Foreign Relations Committee.

And President Trump has had 100 days to get that top priority of border wall with Mexico funded and started. How is that going? Not too well I guess if Rush Limbaugh is no longer in your corner.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: It looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico.



[09:19:20] SMERCONISH: The North Korea narrative has shifted dramatically in the last couple days. On Wednesday most of the U.S. Senate traveled to the White House for a classified briefing. On Thursday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told NPR the U.S. was open to direct negotiations with the rogue nation. That was a reversal of the no negotiations position that he had taken just a month prior.

On Friday President Trump requested that South Korea pay for the THAAD missile defense system which the U.S. is installing there and then of course later Kim Jong-un conducted another ballistic missile test.

That caused President Trump to send this tweet. "North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly respected president when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad." Exclamation point.

[09:20:06] Joining me now to discuss this and more, one of the senators at the Wednesday White House briefing, Delaware Democrat Chris Coons who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Hey, Senator, I want to put that tweet back on the screen, if I may, from last night. Read the tea leaves. What do you think the president is trying to do here when calling out North Korea for having I will say embarrassed China with that launch?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, I think, Michael, what President Trump is doing here is recognizing that his only constructive path forward on North Korea is to engage China. To make sure that China sees this as being as much their problem as our problem. So his tweet is complimenting President Xi of China and trying to up the ante by attacking the leader of North Korea.

Frankly this is no longer reality TV. This is reality and dangerous reality. And I think the way to conduct diplomacy here is not through Twitter but through leadership by the National Security team at the Trump administration. I came away from the briefing at the White House encouraged that virtually every senator came and that we got a thorough briefing on the challenges that we face and that the path they're choosing is diplomacy first rather than military action.

I do think we face some significant challenges and this is exactly the wrong time for the Trump administration to be proposing a nearly 30 percent cut in the funding for our State Department. I think President Trump will discover that having a network of successful career ambassadors around the world who are the leaders of our foreign service, mobilizing our allies around the world in opposition to North Korea will be a really valuable asset as we try and stare down Kim Jong-un.

SMERCONISH: Is China the only means of communicating with North Korea, I mean, shy of Dennis Rodman? And I'm not trying to be flip. It seems like no one else has this guy's ear.

COONS: It is truly a hermit kingdom. Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, is very isolated from the rest of the world and China has a stronger and better and more reliable contacts with North Korea than any other nation. In fact, if China were to turn on North Korea it would be very hard for the regime to survive. So this is a moment of great leverage.

Earlier in this show, Michael, you called President Trump possibly the compromiser-in-chief and I will complement him that on this one area he has made significant reversals from his campaign positions on China. I think in no small part because he has recognized that confronting North Korea is the biggest national security challenge that we currently face and he is going to need China's partnership in getting this done.

SMERCONISH: I also noted that Secretary of State Tillerson has had a change of position relative to direct negotiations or conversations with the North Koreans. Give me your view on that issue. Should we be if the opportunity presents itself speaking directly with Kim Jong- un?

COONS: I think we should negotiate directly. It's important that we have forward deployed military assets to make it clear we're prepared to defend our anxious allies in the region, South Korea and Japan. I think it also needs to be clear that we are willing to negotiate as long as North Korea stops its provocative acts. They don't conduct further nuclear tests, they don't conduct further ballistic missile tests.

And I think this most recent missile test although not a big you can success for North Korea is a reminder that Kim Jong-un is completely unpredictable. President Trump as a candidate said he would be unpredictable in foreign policy as our national leader. I think this is the setting that will challenge him to be more predictable and to lead with a more steady hand as we confront North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

SMERCONISH: Could you in any scenario support a first strike by the United States? Could there be some risk of a nuclear act by North Korea that would cause Chris Coons to say we need to move first?

COONS: Well, we are not there yet and I'm not going to address the hypothetical, but I do think we have to take seriously the prospect that Kim Jong-un has nuclear weapons, is developing ballistic missile capability that could reach beyond South Korea and Japan and hit American territory and that he has publicly stated an intention to attack the United States. So I think all of us in the Senate need to be prepared to step up and take on our constitutional responsibility which may in some cases be to support military action.

SMERCONISH: I find it interesting that you as a Democrat said earlier that you found value in that White House presentation and I mention that because to some according to the reports they said there was nothing new there and they thought they'd been used for a photo-op but Chris Coons is not in that category. COONS: Michael, I criticized the Trump administration for lots of

different things, for the failure to make progress on some of their key campaign commitments, not least of which is to drain the swamp and to lead a more ethical administration, I think there's lots of conflicts of interest. I have opposed them on their healthcare agenda, but in this, I think this is a circumstance where it's our role to be nonpartisan and to work this concert.

[09:25:10] I don't think it advances America's national security interests for us to be sniping at each other about where a briefing occurs or exactly who briefs us. I think it is constructive for the president's entire National Security team to take time with the entire Senate, answer our questions, and for all of us to have the opportunity to show resolve in facing this very significant threat to our allies in the region and potentially to the American homeland.

SMERCONISH: Hey, finally, you made my week this week. You sent me an e-mail telling me about your trip to Uganda and South Sudan where apparently the reach of CNN International is strong. Quickly, tell my audience that story.

COONS: Well, Michael, I was in Uganda with Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, visiting refugee camps on Good Friday and then I traveled up to South Sudan, the country from which all these refugees are flowing. It's a country divided by terrible brutal conflict and the President Salva Kiir is largely responsible for this.

I was in his office meeting with him, he was a tense and difficult meeting because I was confronting him on his failure to make progress in negotiating a peace or resolving the conflict and I was confronting him over his actions to block humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of starving South Sudanese.

He had a TV on during this entire meeting and about halfway through your face came on and the SMERCONISH show started, and I had to suppress a smile. As we walked out, the ambassador said, what was that all about? And I said well, it was truly odd to be in Juba, South Sudan, one of the most remote and difficult places I've ever been and to see the smiling face of my friend Michael Smerconish from the United States on.

Yes, you're watched all over the world, Michael, even in Juba.

SMERCONISH: I'm told -- I'm told that we're the number one show in the demo in South Sudan but I'm not sure that I'm proud of him watching.

Hey, Senator, thank you so much for being back.

COONS: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: One tweet quickly, Catherine, if we have time for it. Hit me with something. And then we'll move on.

"Smerconish, we are living in the movie 'Wag the Dog,' another bad job report, and North Korea better look out."

Yes, we're going to get into the economy next, as a matter of fact. I've got two great guests. So let me turn my attention to that because coming up on the president's first 100 days that we are marking he made his tax proposal known. It was just one page long, 200 words, only seven figures. What to make of it? We will get into that in a conversation next.


[09:32:03] SMERCONISH: Continuing now our in-depth look at the Trump administration's first 100 days, what does the economy really look like so far?

The stock market booming, economic growth, though, has slowed to a trickle, total economic output increased to just 0.7 annual rate from January through March and consumer spending posted its worst performance in more than seven years.

This week President Trump handed out a one-page tax reform proposal which was only 200 words long, contained just seven figures. Analysts say the vast majority of benefits could be seen by the highest earners and largest holders of wealth but with no further details released it's hard for any typical taxpayer to know how this will impact them or the national debt.

Joining me now to discuss, quite the match-up, the top economic advisers to Presidents Obama and candidate Trump. Austan Goolsbee was President Obama's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and is a professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School. Stephen Moore was former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign and is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, plus a CNN analyst.

Hey, Stephen, it is 2017 and guess what's back en vogue? Put it up on the screen. The laugher curve, which I think now sits in the Smithsonian. Cut taxes, you will spur economic growth but of course the question remains at what price to the deficit?

Here is my question to you. Do Republicans only care about the deficit when the Democrats are in office?

STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER TO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I was going to ask that of my friend Austan Goolsbee, do Democrats only care about the deficit when Republicans are in office? Because we had a $10 trillion increase in the debt under Barack Obama and now we're seeing Democrats all of a sudden they are fiscally conscientious.

But look, I think the big issue here, Michael, is you just nailed it. I mean, the economy has slowed down, something happened in March and April where the economy had been picking up under -- since the Election Day and hit a wall. I think partly that was when the healthcare bill failed investors and businesses got very nervous about whether Trump could pull off this tax cut.

The business community, workers, investors want this tax cut to happen. I think it's a must for Trump to happen and I think it will create the kind of jobs that Americans want and it's the reason that -- one of the big reasons Donald Trump got elected.

SMERCONISH: Austan, I want to show you a quote from Senator Pat Toomey of my home state of Pennsylvania, a fiscal conservative, someone who came out of the Club for Growth. Look at what he said. "Rather than conforming," pardon me, "to arbitrary budget constraints the president's plan rightfully aims to jump start investment which will produce significantly more revenue for the treasury over the long term than any revenue neutral tax plan could generate."

Isn't that a concession by Senator Toomey, yes, the deficit is going to grow if we move forward?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS UNDER OBAMA: Yes, of course it is. I mean, this -- the proposal that Donald Trump put forward this week is just utter quackery, everyone knows that. If you look at it. This will cost more than $2.5 trillion. It will create a gigantic unprecedentedly large loophole for extremely rich Americans to just convert their income into what are so-called pass through entities and they will receive a tax rate of 15 percent.

And I think there is a strategic miscalculation by the president that I don't think he realized and I haven't see remarked on which is I believe he just torched his own people in Congress who have been trying for the last several months to square this weirdly shaped semi- circle that he gave them in the campaign. He said, I want to do all these things in the tax system and they've been trying to figure out how to pay for it.

And by offering a one-page, 200-word plan that cuts everyone's taxes by trillions of dollars, I think he torched them. There will be no efforts in the Senate now to come up with a pay for for this $2.5 trillion thing because everyone wants the Christmas present that they've been promised by Donald Trump. So I think this makes his job a lot harder not easier.

SMERCONISH: Stephen, I think he's saying that the negotiating position for the GOP just got more difficult but go ahead and respond to Austan Goolsbee.

MOORE: Well, I disagree with Austan. First of all, I met with the Senate Republicans the day that Donald Trump announced that plan and they were fairly ecstatic over this. That finally Donald Trump was getting going on this tax cut.

Now, look, Austan and I both want to see the economy grow faster, we want to see more jobs and higher wages. And one of the principles here, Michael, is as you know we have the highest business tax rates in the world. It just puts America in an uncompetitive position. My goodness, we have a higher business tax rate than Sweden, than France, than Russia. Socialist countries have lower tax rates than we do. It puts American in an uncompetitive position, it sucked jobs out of the United States when our businesses moved to places like Dublin, Ireland, where the tax rate is only 12.5 percent. We believe, and I'd love Austan's response to this, that if you get

those rates down -- and by the way, President Obama proposed a reduction as you recall, Austan, in the business tax rate, it didn't happen unfortunately, but you get those rates down I think that sucking sound is going to be, Michael, those jobs and businesses coming back to America and that's what it's really all about.

SMERCONISH: Austan, you can respond, but I want you to talk about in addition to what Stephen just raised, is it only about tax policy? It seems to me there are many more intangibles that govern whether the economy is go to grow. Go ahead.

GOOLSBEE: Look, Michael, that's exactly correct. A, the U.S. has the highest rate on the books and our companies do not pay that rate. If you look at how much corporate profits are as a share of the economy, they are the highest they've ever been and the actual taxes paid by American companies are below average for high income countries.

If you look around the world, as you say, there are far more factors than taxes involved. The lowest tax rate in the world of countries that have corporate taxes is Uzbekistan, the region that has the lowest taxes is Europe. Neither of those are blowing the doors off it in terms of growth and I think if you look in the United States we need to make investments in our own people and their education levels and training levels. Those are critical investments.

Cutting taxes for the biggest corporations and the highest income people in the United States didn't work when George W. Bush did it, didn't work when the state of Kansas did it, and it's not going to work now. We don't have the luxury to spend $2.5 trillion on a thing that's been proven not to increase the growth rate.

SMERCONISH: Austan Goolsbee, Stephen Moore, to be continued. This is the start of a long conversation. I appreciate both of you being here.

GOOLSBEE: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Still to come --


TRUMP: Do not worry. We are going to build the wall. OK? Don't worry. Don't even think about it.


SMERCONISH: If his administration President Trump has not built that wall. I'm going to talk to one of the congressmen trying to figure out how to fund it next.


[09:43:42] SMERCONISH: On this the 100th day of his presidency President Trump seems no closer to building that wall on the Mexican border that he promised would be a top priority, but at a gathering yesterday of the NRA he said it's going to happen.


TRUMP: We'll build the wall. Don't even think about it. Don't even think about it. Don't even think about it. That's an easy one. We're going to build the wall. We need the wall. I said to General Kelly how important is it? He said, very important. It's that final element. We need the wall.


SMERCONISH: My next guest has been doing his part to help it along, Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Lou Barletta, is one of the congressmen who introduced the Border Wall Funding Act, legislation that seeks 2 percent fee on all money transfers that are headed south of the border.

Hey, Congressman, nice to have you back. At what point will you get nervous and say, geez, he's been in office for X months or X years and we still don't have the wall?

REP. LOU BARLETTA (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not nervous at all. You know, this is a man, Donald Trump, who has proven that he's going to keep his campaign promises. He hasn't backed off of them at all. And in fact, listening to his speech yesterday obviously he's taking it head on. You know, his first 100 days has been filled with a lot of other issues like healthcare and tax reform. What I'm trying to do is just give them another idea, give the president a little help on how we can do it.

[09:45:06] SMERCONISH: Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday voiced some exasperation at the lack of progress. Let's both listen and then you can respond.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: It looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico.


SMERCONISH: Respond to that, Congressman.

BARLETTA: Well, I don't think he's reneging at all. Listen, the illegal crossings on the southern border is down 73 percent in his first 100 days and he hasn't even laid down one brick. I don't know of a president that would have the ability to do what he has been able to do, so someone who has been an illegal immigration hawk as myself over the years I'm pretty happy with what this president is doing and there is no doubt in my mind that we will get the wall and the fence and security along that southern border done.

SMERCONISH: You know, I'm glad you brought up that figure because to some that says, see, we don't need the wall and as a matter of fact yesterday at the NRA the president himself addressed that issue. Play the tape.


TRUMP: We've already seen a 73 percent decrease -- never happened before -- in illegal immigration on the southern border since my election.

You see what they're doing, right? So why do you need a wall? We need a wall.


SMERCONISH: But it is a good question, right? I mean, if it's down 73 percent, I mean, maybe it's him walking with a big stick that is keeping people from trying to come into the country illegally at the rate that they did previously.

BARLETTA: He's right, we need a wall and unless we change the rules that Donald Trump can only be president for eight years, you know, what happens after him? We need the wall.

SMERCONISH: OK. But that's the argument, Congressman Barletta, that you're making, right? If Donald Trump is there then they're going to be afraid to cross but there'll come a day, four years, eight years, who knows when that Donald Trump is no longer president and that's the day that you're worried about.

BARLETTA: Exactly. I'm worried about what happens afterwards. You know, it has been clear that he's keeping his word but he's not only talking about, you know, people that are coming into the country illegally taking jobs and obviously affecting the economy, but he's talking about stopping the drug cartel from coming in as well. So I think he has a real good idea of what we need to do to protect our country from terrorist threats, from drug cartel, from people that are coming in for other reasons.

You know, the wall is necessary, the fence is necessary, using technology is necessary. I've been down to the border a number of times, there are 65 tunnels at the time that I went down that the drug cartel are using to smuggle people and the president is taking it right on. And you know, this man is a builder and I think he understands what he's doing.

SMERCONISH: OK. Final important subject and that is the who pays subject. The president tweeted, put that up on the screen, Catherine. He tweeted earlier this week on this issue and he said, "Eventually but at a later date so that we can get started early Mexico will be paying in some form for the badly needed border wall."

I referenced at the outset, Congressman Barletta, the introduction that you made of legislation relative to payment. And I wondered by introducing that legislation aren't you in a way acknowledging that you don't think Mexico is ever going to pay for that wall?

BARLETTA: No, actually Mexico will be paying for the wall. $54 billion, Michael, leaves the United States economy and goes to country south of the border. Almost half of that goes to Mexico. That's a pretty good deal. I was a mayor and, listen, if I could have money coming into our economy without providing any services for it, I don't know what country that wouldn't want that. So, no, they would be paying for it in the fact that all this revenue that would be pouring into their economy without providing services would dry up.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Lou Barletta, you are dismissed to head to snaps. Thank you for being here.

BARLETTA: Michael, I brought a box here for you. So just in case I knew you were going to ask.


SMERCONISH: I didn't know you were going to bring it and you didn't know I was going to mention that. Anyway, good to see you. Thank you.

BARLETTA: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: It's a great pizza for the uninitiated from the hometown where my parents are born and raised.

Still to come your best and worst tweets. That was funny. Like this one. "Are you so lenient because of his non-actions policy or behavior impacts you?"

Michael, you know, it's so funny. At the outset I deliver a five- minute commentary. I try and give you my assessment of the way the 100 days have gone and the first tweet that comes on the air is the person who says, why are you always hammering him? Why don't you say something, anything positive about Donald Trump? And then you see it in a different way.

[09:50:01] And here is my point. People hear and they see what they want to hear and what they want to see. We need more independent thinking, OK? Think outside the box. Get out of your bubble. But thank you for watching.

I'm back in a second.


SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for watching and for following me on Twitter and at Here's some of what came in during the course of the hour.

First from Facebook. "After 100 days the give him a chance time is over." David, that is not what I'm saying. I'm being critical. I'm not saying let's give him a chance. I've seen enough in a hundred days. I don't like the bombast. I don't like the behavior. I don't like the war with the media. I don't like all of those things. All of the impulsivity.

But what I noted. Go back and watch my commentary. What I noted at the outset is I like that he's not rigid in his thoughts and changing his opinion is OK with me especially when he's getting away from ideological extremists. That's what I said.

[09:55:06] Next Twitter, please. Alrighty. "Smerconish, Christians know that Trump has their back. The real story is after 100 days of trying you can't destroy him."

Hey, Bradley Rowland, I'm not trying to destroy the president. I'm the guy who said at the outset of this administration I want him to succeed. I meant it then. And I mean it now. Not out to destroy anybody. Just trying to keep it fair. That's what I'm doing. Another one, please.

"Smerconish, I miss Trump's old life, too." Hey, Charlie, you know what I was thinking? This is a guy dying to sleep in his own bed. Remember he used to fly all the way across country, you know, just so he could sleep at Trump Tower. I don't think he's been back since he's been sworn in.

I'm out of time unfortunately. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I can't wait to see you back here next weekend.