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Report: White House Says Trump Jr. Meeting About Adoptions; Trump Invites Some Senators to Talk Health Care Tonight; White House Defends Trump and Ivanka Brands During Made in America Week. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 17, 2017 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe that net neutrality is important and an open internet is important to the economy?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As you noted the FCC is an independent agency, I would refer to them with respect -- I am not addressing net neutrality specifically

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you get back to it?

SPICER: I will definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Ukraine government reportedly went into damage control mode in an effort to make amends when President Trump won the election after according to a statement by administration officials -- the DNC to undermine is his candidacy. Is this an issue that was discussed during President Poroshenko's visit to the White House in June? And how is the president discussing with it?

SPICER: Actually, that's an interesting question. I will have to get back to you, I do -- I mean obviously, there's been a lot more interest in recent days with respect to what the DNC did in coordination with the Ukrainian government to try to collude and achieve a goal of having someone removed, which ultimately did happen. So, I know the collusion has definitely gotten a lot more attention, so I'm not sure it was necessarily topical at the time, but now though there's been renewed interest, I'm glad to look further.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did it have any -- it wasn't I would be my only point is at the time of the visit, I don't think it was as topical as it is now. Now we have a report of a transcript you have a conversation in which he asked her to quote will unquote fix his popularity so he gets a better reception. Do you have any reason to doubt the accuracy of that transcript, that that conversation took place?

SPICER: I believe that -- I'm not going to comment on leaked, rumored leaked conversations, I will say he was pleased to accept her majesty's invitation and looks forward to visiting the United Kingdom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the president's view of that -- and there are certain conditions -- SPICER: I would refer you back but that being said the president has

been clear in the past with respect that any type of conditions that would have to be met are clearly far away from where we are now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the White House been monitoring the demonstrations in Venezuela?

SPICER: We obviously are concerned about that. We've been watching what's going on. We congratulate the Venezuelan people for the huge turnout in the referendum and the unmistakable statement that they made and delivered to their government. We condemn the violence inflicted by government thugs against innocent voters and efforts by the government to erode democracy in Venezuela. We once again call for the constituent assembly of July 30th to be canceled and for free and fair elections to be scheduled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Iran, a senior commander in Iran's revolutionary guard said today that the United States designated the group a terrorist organization and if applied these sanctions, it would be perilous to U.S. forces in the region. Do you have a reaction to that?

SPICER: I don't think our forces will ever be -- what was the word?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peril.

SPICER: I think our forces are the greatest fighting machine in the world, and we'll do everything we can to protect our country and make sure we extinguish any threats we face. Thank you, guys. Hope to have you get a good look at what's going on outside. Thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you release the senators' names later?

[END WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING - AUDIO ONLY]

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: All right, you have listening to Sean Spicer in the White House press briefing off camera. A lot to unpack here. So, I am going to bring my panel, Brian Stelter, let's start with up. Break it down for us. What does Spicer say about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Certainly, on the key quotes from this off- camera briefing was that Spicer is saying there's nothing we know of that would lead anyone to believe Trump Jr.'s meaning was not about adoption policy. You all recall eight days ago the initial statement from Donald Trump Jr. about the June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer, it was primarily about adoption policy. Since then there's been many revisions to the statements, we've heard much more about what came up in the meeting. More importantly, what was said in the e-mails about what the meeting was supposed to be about. The president himself today on twitter said, most politicians would go into a meeting like that one in order to get info on an opponent. So, Spicer seems to be contradicting the president's one words. The president says this meeting was about getting information on Hillary Clinton, that's what the e-mails also showed, but Spicer kind of twisting himself here saying, we don't know this meeting had anything to do with anything except adoption policies. I think, Pamela, it is just going to put more and more scrutiny on to what actually happened in the room?

BROWN: I mean, Chris, aside from contradicting the president, Spicer's comment is just flat-out inaccurate.

CHRIS CILLIZZA: That is right it is probably false. Pam. We know from the e-mails between Rob Goldstone and Donald Trump Jr., Goldstone said this is -- eventually, they were going to talk on the phone and then there was going to be a meeting with a Russian lawyer who in Goldstone's words had, quote, incriminating, unquote information. That had been part of Russia's efforts to help out Trump, his father win the election. There's just no way -- in addition to, as Brian rightly points out contradicting what the president of the United States, Sean Spicer's boss said, this morning, the e-mails that his son sent and received directly contradict this story. This is though Sean Spicer is now holding a press conference, days after that initial Donald Trump Jr. saying, well, this was only about adoptions. Forgetting the whole rest of the week in which it became clear it wasn't just about adoptions.

BROWN: You put the e-mail exchange aside, either the second or third statement, there were a couple follow-ons. He was specific about what the, quote/unquote incriminating information wasn't in that e-mail chain. He said in the statement it had to do with Russia funneling money for Democrats, so clearly something was discussed beyond what was in the e-mail chain. Go ahead.

STELTER: I think what Spicer is trying to argue, hey, we were promised dirt, we went to the meeting, we didn't get the dirt, all we talked about was adoptions. I think that's what he's suggesting here. I don't think most of the American people believe that. We still don't know everybody who was in the room, we don't if there was someone taking notes. There's a lot we don't know about this meeting, and of course, we don't know if there were other meetings after that. There's been denials about

that, but the credibility of the White House just sinking lower and lower when you have Spicer making thinks kind of strange statements.

BROWN: S.E. CUPP, your reaction?

S.E. CUP, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Let's not forget in addition to all the statements and the emails in an interview Sean Hannity, Don Junior also said it ended up being a waste of time, a waste of 20 minutes. What would have made it worth his time?

[15:35:00] Well, actually getting that incriminating information, so there again you have Don Junior admitting the point, the hope was to walk out with getting that incriminating information, he didn't get it, so it was a waste of his time. Sean Spicer today seem to be saying the equivalent of, as far as we know Lance Armstrong didn't cheat. We know he admitted to cheating. We don't have to carry the charade on anymore. It's out there.

BROWN: The White House clearly wants to put a stop to this narrative, but coming out and denying something we all know to be true will only make it continue. Danielle Brian, you are from the project on government oversight, this comes after the president defended his son again today as we've gone talking about, saying it's politics, does this surprise you? Does surprise given the legal implications, he is still tweeting about this?

DANIELLE BRIAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: It certainly doesn't surprise me that he is still tweeting because he's made it clear that is what he is going to keep doing. But certainly, the legal implications are significant when it comes to Jared Kushner who of course has a security clearance and is a member of this meeting not reporting the fact that he was

there. That is a significant issue that I think is much more important than Donald Junior having been there.

BROWN: Chris Cillizza, is it politics?

CILLIZZA: What it is really, Pam, it is politics but what it is really is trying to spin an unspinable situation and creating an alternative-fact reality. There's not a debate that in the e-mail exchange that Donald Trump Jr. released. Even if you think the media is fake, Donald Trump Jr. released these e-mails. It is very clear that unless he didn't read the e-mails from Rob Goldstone, which his responses suggest he did. He knew the nature of this meeting and that's why he was going.

To his point he was disappointed there wasn't more there. Remember, love it, we'll use it later in the summer if what you wind up saying it was true to Goldstone's. So, the idea that Donald Trump Jr. thought he was going to a meeting of primarily or only about adoptions, it's just not the case. In fact, yes, the conversation became that, but the reason the meeting took place was because this Goldstone promised there was something out there. It is over and over we see this with the Trump administration.

Brian did a really good job of documenting, I am trying to document, we all are. They're saying things that are just provably false. On the one hand, we think this, and on the one hand, they say that or a difference of opinion. It is over and over we see this with a Trump administration. I think we all are trying to document it. They're saying things that are provably false. On the one hand we think this, and on the one hand they say that or a difference 6 pin. There's no difference of opinion form the fact is Donald Trump Jr. exchanged these e-mails. And in those it makes clear what this meeting's goal or least why it happened and what it was about. That shouldn't be a debate. Unfortunately, somehow it is.

BRIAN: One of the things you saw, Spicer spending some time emphasizing the question about the DNC and Ukraine trying to sort of shift the focus over there. And I think that is part of where they are going, this idea it is just politics. This is also happening on the Democratic side as well. I think at the end, what this comes down is The ethics laws that we have surrounding a lot of these matters are

just not good enough to capture real foreign attempts to influence our politics are not being captured by the existing rules and laws. STELTER: And the president's own FBI nominee said, if you got this e- mail or this call you are supposed to then call the FBI and report it. So, it is not politics as usual, but if we think it is politics as usual, the president ran on an anti-politician platform. Right now, it feels like he has a lot of swamp gunk on him. You know what I mean? He says he is going to drain the swamp but now he is saying it's just politics. And that came through also in the Made in America week. All those questions about Ivanka Trump's products and other Trump products made overseas, we heard from some deflections from Spicer, not really able to take this question on. He was saying it is inappropriate to talk about Trump's businesses, which I think ethics experts would say, it is inappropriate to talk about that from the podium. However, the key question I thought the reporter asked was, is it appropriate for the president to essentially advertise his private businesses using his Twitter feed. The president frequently does that talking about what golf club or golf resort he's at. We didn't get an answer from Spicer about that. It's an uncomfortable question for this White House during Made in America week.

BROWN: And we are going to have a robust discussion about that later in the show. But S.E., I want to bring you in on health care, which is of course another big headline today. Trump is hosting some senators tonight we just learned. What is your reaction to that, what do you expect?

CUPP: Hard to say what to expect. It's a little ninth hour, and there's, you know, considering big picture Republicans should have been working on this for the last eight years.

[15:40:00] Little picture we're into 100-plus days and there's not a lot of consensus among Republicans in the house and senate on what this thing should look like. I think it's always good when a president reaches us out to either of these two bodies, President Obama was rightly criticized for not doing that enough. The problem is I don't know how involved Trump has been with the policy. It's clear at least Sean Spicer believes the president has been very involved in the politics and on the phone, but if the president's fingerprints are not on the actual policy, it's going to be very difficult for him to move certain senators very interested in the policy, because that's what their constituents are telling them about back home. It's going to be a tight rope for him. I'm not sure there's quite enough time for him to make these hard sells when the policies are so specific and complex.

BROWN: And Chris, Republicans are delaying this vote, does this extra time help Mitch McConnell, hurt Mitch McConnell. What's your view on this?

CILLIZZA: Let me say neutral to bad. I don't see a way that it helps, because the reality, Pam, is that I think there are some Republicans hoping that whatever version -- the version that the senate Republicans have sent to be scored by the CBO which we expect maybe tomorrow, we thought today, maybe tomorrow, is going to miraculously show that it actually -- more people are insured, and it cuts the deficit by more. I think it is very unlikely to be radically different from the first scored CBO report. There's nothing new that's going to build momentum. The reason I say

new as a negative is I just think the longer it is out there, the clearer it is, every poll you look at, every story that you see from a local newspaper suggests that this is not a popular bill and it is a bill that a lot of people out in the country have significant doubts about.

So, that is the issue, let's say Donald Trump is the great persuader which is how he billed himself. I don't know the case that he effectively makes for this bill. I think it's not popular in Alaska, in Maine, in Ohio with a lot of these senators who will need to be for it. I don't think his personal persuasiveness overcomes that plus his 36, 37, 38, 39 maybe percent approval rating. So, it's not clear to me what he is actually selling because I think S.E. is right, he's not really selling the policy. Because he has made clear he's not terribly engaged in the policy.

BROWN: Thank you so much, everybody. Really interesting discussion, and the other big headline from that briefing, the White House defending Made in America week, despite the president's history in business, he is expected to speak any moment. In the meantime, we want David Fahrenhold to join us, he is CNN contributor and reporter for "The Washington Post." Also with me Drew Harwell, who is the national business reporter from "The Washington Post," who just wrote an article about Ivanka Trump's use of foreign factories for her clothing line. Welcome to you both. Drew, I was reading your article. Your reaction from what you heard from Sean Spicer about having Made in America week when so few products from the president's companies and really none from Ivanka's company comes from the U.S.

DREW HARWELL, NATIONAL BUSINESS REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It is interesting because Sean makes the point that is against made in America. He makes this contradictory argument that the White House is saying which is that in America it is not easy just saying let's do it all here, I mean there are business considerations. There are in some case the machinery isn't here to do those things like making clothes here. The skilled labor is not here. And maybe the demand is not here. American shoppers have gotten use to paying a certain amount of money for clothes and other items and yet that is the reason why the reality is more complicated than the sound bite of made in America.

BROWN: So, David, what do you make of this, the fact that the White House is hosting this theme week of Made in America when the president's own company doesn't make products in America?

DAVID FAHRENHOLD, CNN Contributor: I think they are hoping that people won't pay attention to that second part of what you just said. People will hear the Made in America part, see Trump sitting in a fire truck on the front lawn of the White House today talking companies that do make things in America. And not pay attention to the fact that the president, his daughter's own company are examples of as Drew said examples of why this is so complicated. Trump sold this during the campaign as we're just lazy, stupid, we make bad deals, that's why we don't make things in America.

[15:45:00] Obviously, the answer is much more complicated as his own company illustrates. I'm glad this is getting some attention. This shows how hard this is, and it is not just a matter of waving your hand and saying OK, make it in America.

BROWN: Drew, tell us more about your reporting. Do any products made by Ivanka's company come from the U.S.? Has the company been forthcoming about where the products are made?

HARWELL: None of them, none of the clothes or shoes or handbags are made in the U.S. They have never been made in the U.S. We tracked them back to five different countries across Asia, including India, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. These are low-wage companies where labor rights are much more limited, and the company was not really that forthcoming with where the factories are, or even where the countries are that they're getting them from. We had to trace them back. Not a ton of transparency with the company.

BROWN: Just for context, is that unusual, not to be transparent about the countries where products are made or the factories.

HARWELL: It is pretty unusual. There's been an increasing sort of push over the last couple decades ever since the Nike sweatshop scandal and the Kathie Lee Gifford scandal, about let's share more information about how these goods are made, so customers know this isn't exploited labor that is creating these clothes I want to buy. Yet the Ivanka Trump company is so different from that, that they are not sharing where the factories are. They say they have a very strong code of conduct, but don't really say what they're holding factories to. There's not a ton we can know, and the company is not really sharing a lot on how they're treating their workers.

BROWN: And the defense from the company is that the reason it hasn't, you know, made some changes up until now is because it was newer, it was smaller, and it would be very difficult to have production in the U.S. because prices would skyrocket and it would obviously hurt business. David, so big picture, companies of Ivanka did move production to the U.S., what would happen? I mean, what would the reality by? If you could just boil it down for us.

FAHRENHOLD: I think the reality is if they could do it, if they could get the kind of skills, the kinds of machinery they needed, their goods would cost a lot more, and maybe people would be willing to pay that, in order to have goods made in America. Maybe there would be quality differences, but certainly it would cost

a lot more. That's why they don't do it. In a marketplace of cheap clothing, theirs would stand out as highly priced. And it might not sell, that's what would happen. I think to avoid that is the reason they haven't shipped anything back to the U.S.

BROWN: We're just looking at president Trump there getting ready to make a speech on "Made in America." I just wanted to ask you, Drew, as I pointed out defenses from Ivanka Trump's company is that it's a newer and smaller company. How does it stack up? How does it compare to other newer and smaller companies when it comes to production in the United States?

HARWELL: Yes, the defense falls flat because there are lots of younger companies and smaller companies who have made the choice to be more open about where their factories are, share a little bit more about where their goods are coming from. And there are lots of companies that are bigger and maybe more established that do lots of things that, you know, customers and labor unions appreciate. They appreciate knowing that their goods are being made in the right way. So, you know, it's not exactly something that stands up to question.

There are choices that the Ivanka Trump company has made in the past that, you know, sort of allowed this lack of transparency to happen, and the company says they're making some improvements now, that they're going to hire a consultant to sort of tell them what would be the better way to act in business, but the company has been going on for a couple of years, and meanwhile, Ivanka has sort of grown her own profile, so you have to wonder, why were these steps not taken before.

BROWN: I want to bring in my colleague Cristina Alesci. Christina, I'm told you have some new reporting. It looks like instead we're going to listen to Vice President Mike Pence. I'm just for direction but it looks like we'll listen and hear.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And thanks to the leadership of a president that believes in American manufacturing. Welcome to "Made in America" week here in our Capitol. You know, it's the greatest privilege in my life to serve as vice president to a president that always puts America first and puts American manufacturing first.

[15:50:00] Our president knows that America is a nation of dreamers and doers and makers, and since the moment of this administration, we've taken decisive action to promote and protect what he calls those three beautiful words, "Made in America." In fact, this president signed more laws slashing through federal red tape than any president in American history.

Under President Trump's leadership, we've been fighting for trade that's both free and fair so that American businesses and American workers can compete and win with companies anywhere in the world. In fact, as we were just talking down the hallway, just last month, thanks to the president's leadership, American beef is now being shipped to China for the first time in 13 years. We've been unleashing American-made energy, rolling back the clean power plant, approving the Keystone and Dakota pipelines. And when he did so, President Trump took executive action to make sure new pipelines in America would be built by American workers using American steel. [ applause.

Thanks to the president's leadership, American manufacturers haven't been this optimistic in more than two decades. And the confidence of American farmers is soaring to near record levels. We'll continue to fight every single day to ensure our country continues to make the best machines, grow the best food and design the best technology in the world. Because President Donald Trump knows that "Made in America" will make America great again. So, with gratitude for his leadership and admiration for his unwavering confidence in the boundless capacity of the American people, it is now my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce to all of you the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mike. And, you know, Mike, it is true that as I walk through the halls, we saw so many great companies. But the gentleman who was in charge of Omaha Beef, they do beef, he hugged me. He wanted to kiss me so badly. Because he said our business is a whole different business now because you've got China proved. The other administrations couldn't even come close. And I told him, you know how long it took? One sentence. I said, President Xi, we'd love to sell beef back in China again. He said, you can do that. That was the end of that. Right?

Sonny, the great Sonny Purdue. So, we're very happy. But we're here to celebrate American manufacturing and showcase all the products of the 50 states made in the USA. Made in America, but made in the USA. We're going to start doing that again. We're going to put that brand on our product because it meets us the best. In just a few moments I will say what we've done over a short period of time and what we're going to be doing over the next six months will be incredible. We've signed more bills, and I'm talking about through the legislature, than any president ever. For a while Harry Truman had us, and now I think we have everybody, Mike. I better say "think," otherwise they'll give you a Pinocchio and I don't like Pinocchios. In just a few moments, I'll be signing a presidential proclamation week and make today "Made in America" day. Every member of my administration shares the same goal, to provide a level playing field for American workers and for American industry.

And we are providing it much faster than other countries would like. So, it's been real. Maybe most importantly of all, they stay right here in the USA. In the audience, today we have skilled workers, we have business leaders whose American-made goods we're proudly displaying all over the White House and outside. I saw fire engines, I saw tractors from caterpillar, I saw some incredible machinery. We make it right here. We thank you for being here. We're honored to showcase your creations, and I will say they've really taken on and some of you have built names that I know of for so long, and congratulations, right? You in particular. What a great job you've done. Thank you very much, and I saw you on television this morning. You are fantastic.

I don't know what you're doing exactly, but you could always have a second career. You did a great job. Thank you very much. American workers, farmers and innovators are really the best in the world, we know that. And what we're doing is displaying those talents. You construct and harvest the products that fill our homes, feed our families and defend our nation and enrich our lives. I want to make a pledge to each and every one of you. No longer are we going to allow other countries to break the rules, steal our jobs and drain our wealth, and it has been drained. It has been drained.

You're going to see a lot of things happening over the next six months statutorily and through the legal process. It takes a while to get it set so you're allowed to do it. You're not allowed to do it, but we've now mostly fulfilled all of that, and over the next short period of time you'll see things announced that you won't even believe for our country and for selling product in our country and making product in our country, and things that are great for American jobs. You're going to be seeing that happening really quickly, because we are totally set up.

[15:55:00] And the hard part now is done. It is a long, horrible process, but we're also going to get rid of some of that process for the future. But we're going to stand up for our companies and maybe, most importantly, for our workers. For decades Washington has allowed other nations to wipe out millions of American jobs through unfair trade practices. Wait till you see what's up for you. You are going to be so happy. This painful exodus of American jobs, and I've been talking about it for years, was also marked by a period of sluggish growth, falling incomes, surging welfare and shrinking participation in the work force. Clearly, it's time for a new policy, one defined by two simple rules. We will buy American and we will hire American, right, governor?

My administration is removing the burdens and regulations on your part so you can compete, thrive and grow. How many of you have noticed this so far, because it's a big, big difference, right? That's a big, big difference. People are coming up to me, they can't even believe it. We took the farmers' land away --