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White House Mute on Active Transgender Troops as Trump Revives Ban; White House Defends Trump Tweets Attacking A.G.; New U.S. Factory to Open by Top Apple Supplier. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 26, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Kicked out? President Trump announces a major change in military policy over Twitter, reinstating the ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. But the White House can't answer the question. What does it mean for transgender troops on active duty right now?
Tweet emotions. The president lashes out on Twitter with new attacks on the attorney general, the acting FBI director, and now a Republican senator with health care reform. Can top White House aides persuade the president to curb his on-line outrage?
Fail and fail again. Another health care bill has just died in the U.S. Senate, with seven Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposing a straight repeal of Obamacare. More health care votes are coming up. Will any of the bills pass?
And nuclear capable? U.S. intelligence now believes North Korea could have a missile able to deliver a nuclear strike within a year. Will Washington move to stop the regime's quest for a weapon of mass destruction?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Right now, the White House is unable to answer questions about the impact of a major military policy change unexpectedly announced by President Trump today on Twitter. He's reviving the ban on transgender people serving in the military, despite his campaign promises to fight for the LGBT community. President Trump is scheduled to speak live this hour.
Also, new attacks by the president on the top Justice Department official. At about the same time the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was at the White House for meetings, the president criticized him for not firing acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who Mr. Trump linked to Hillary Clinton. The White House says the president has been very clear about his feeling towards Sessions and did not see him today.
There is more breaking news. Another defeat for the Senate Republican after it killed Obamacare. Lawmakers have just finished voting on a bill that would only repeal the Affordable Care Act without implementing a replacement. Seven Republicans joined Senate Democrats in defeating the measure. And new tonight: A new prediction about North Korea's ability to
strike the United States with a nuclear weapon. A source tells CNN intelligence now shows the Kim Jong-un regime could have an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States as soon as next year.
We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Congressman Eric Swalwell of the House Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
But let's begin with the president's surprise decision to reinstate the ban on transgender people serving in the military. Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us.
Jeff, the White House can't say what impact this major policy decision will have on active duty transgender service members.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, answers here, specific answers, were in very short supply today to that very question of what happens to transgender Marines, soldiers, sailors already deployed. The White House simply could not say.
Now, all of this coming a year after Donald Trump stood at the Republican convention and said he will do everything in his power to protect LGBT citizens.
But today the White House referring questions to the Pentagon, the Pentagon referring questions back here, and all have the air of someone trying to change the subject.
ZELENY (voice-over): The White House struggling tonight to answer questions about President Trump's surprise announcement, forbidding transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. military.
The president reversing an Obama administration policy with little explanation, saying on Twitter, "After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military."
Those words surprised many at the Pentagon and sparked confusion that new White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had difficulty explaining.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When the president made the decision yesterday, the secretary of defense was immediately informed as were the rest of the national security team. That had been part of this ongoing conversation.
ZELENY: The White House unable to clarify whether transgendered members of the military serving in Afghanistan or elsewhere would be removed from their posts. SANDERS: That's something that the members of defense and the White
House will have to work on together as implementation takes place. This was a military decision. This was about military readiness. This was about unit cohesion. This was about resources within the military and nothing more.
ZELENY: Under persistent questions, Sanders finally said she had nothing else to say about a major policy change.
SANDERS: I'll keep you posted, but if those are the only questions we have, I'm going to call it a day.
[17:05:05] ZELENY: All this as the White House dealt with more fallout from the president's ongoing attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions leaving the White House today, refusing to give in to a withering week-long assault from the president.
At the very hour Sessions was in the West Wing for a routine meeting, not with the president, Mr. Trump leveled another broadside against his attorney general. In back-to-back messages on Twitter, the president criticized him for not removing Andrew McCabe as acting director of the FBI. "Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of the Clinton investigation but got big dollars for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the swamp."
It's the latest move in an extraordinary, yet one-way feud between the White House and top officials at the Justice Department.
SANDERS: Look, you can be disappointed in someone but still want them to continue to do their job, and that's where they are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you want (ph) that job?
SANDERS: I think that I made clear last week, if there comes a point he doesn't, he'll make that decision.
ZELENY: The president's public shaming of Sessions has sparked an unusually intense GOP backlash on Capitol Hill.
From Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah...
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I don't fully understand why the president said what he said, but I think Jeff deserves better treatment.
ZELENY: ... to Senator Richard Shelby who, like Sessions, is an Alabama Republican.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: He's not the president's personal lawyer. He's an attorney general of the United States. He took an oath to the Constitution, not to the president. And I think the president needs to realize that.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: Now, Wolf, this evening, several Republican senators are also raising sharp questions and criticism of that major policy he announced about transgender members of the military.
Senator John McCain, of course, in the Armed Services Committee saying any able-bodied American should be able to serve in their military. So he's critical of that as well as other Republican senators, Wolf.
So this is something that is going to be very controversial going forward, the implementation as well as the politics of this one.
BLITZER: Yes. Lots of criticism of the president's position. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you.
Let's get some more on the concern, the uncertainty sparked by the president's revival of the ban on transgender troops.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's working the story for us. Barbara, again and again, White House press secretary Sanders was unable to say if transgender members of the armed forces currently serving would be kicked out, which is what the president's tweet suggested.
Is there any clear understanding where you are over at the Pentagon right now about what this new policy means?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's really the point, Wolf. There is no understanding. This was the making of military policy, if you will, by the president on Twitter. The U.S. military operates by rules, regulations and military law, directives. None of that, no guidance from the White House about what this all means.
You saw the press secretary say that the White House and the Pentagon will now work together, but the concern is that, for those who are currently serving, estimated between 13 to 6,600, a relatively small number, given the size of the military. What happens to these people? Will they be forcibly booted out, to be clear, from the U.S. military? Will they get -- will they even get an honorable discharge? Will this be legal? What will happen to them?
Perhaps, though, underneath all of this, the most compelling thing that Sanders said was Secretary James Mattis was informed. We do not know if he agreed. We don't know if the joint chiefs were informed, because while all of this was happening this morning, the Pentagon had long -- Mattis had long said he wanted to take six months with the chiefs and figure out a way ahead on all of this.
So the military advice the president had was "Let's take six months. Let's figure it all out." The president this morning rejected that military advice very clearly, put his foot down and said these people cannot serve in the U.S. military.
BLITZER: They had only been deliberating for one month. They still had five months to go. The White House insisted, Barbara, as you know, this is a military decision, citing high costs, unit cohesion. Have you heard those concerns expressed at the Pentagon? STARR: Well, look, we've talked to a number of people. The military
has not offered any comprehensive, if you will, evidence that there is a problem with a unit cohesion. The cost, the reincorporation estimated maybe $8 million in medical costs, compared to the $49 billion in the Pentagon's annual health care bill. There's been no indication.
Could there be anecdotal evidence out there? Yes. Could there be people in the U.S. military who object to this? Absolutely. The military is a reflection of American society.
[17:10:02] But again, the U.S. military operates by rules, regulation and military law. This may be the first time it's been told to operate by Twitter, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thanks very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California is joining us. He's a member of both the Judiciary Committee the intelligence committees. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me back, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to the president's important announcement today on Twitter, banning transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. military. What's your reaction?
SWALWELL: It shouldn't matter who you are, Wolf, only who you are for, and if you're for the United States, you should be able to serve in our armed services. And so this takes us very, very backwards.
He's also wrong about any costs it would incur on our military. The American Medical Association and studies on this show that the costs would be minimal.
And also, Wolf, I just want to tell you the will of the House of Representatives is to oppose this. We voted on a similar amendment last week. That was defeated. And so this is wrong in so many ways, including that he didn't even tell the Pentagon, it seems, about it, or go through any of the formal processes to implement something like this.
BLITZER: You heard all the speculation out there that the president made this surprise announcement this morning on Twitter in order to change the subject from some of the other sensitive issues he's been facing. What do you think?
SWALWELL: Well, that's a very reckless way to govern. There are many important decisions that he has to make right now, including what we do about North Korea, which you mentioned in your opening, as well as how do we get people back to work in this country? He went to an audience last night of thousands of people who are counting on him to deliver better skills, better jobs and a better future, and I don't see any of that. So this is quite a reckless way to lead our country. BLITZER: Let's talk about some other important issues. The president
once again today attacking the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, again on Twitter. If President Trump were to fire the attorney general, what impact would that have on the investigation currently being conducted by your committee?
SWALWELL: Well, I support President Trump firing Attorney General Sessions not for the misguided reasons that he wants to fire him, though. So So I think because he was not forthcoming with the Senate and because he was involved with James Comey's firing, he can't leave the Department of Justice. Now, what this would trigger, though, would be the Senate would have to confirm a new attorney general. And I think this is an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to unite, act as a coequal form of government, and really put some checks and reins on this president.
BLITZER: Do you believe that firing Sessions would signal the president's intent to also fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller?
SWALWELL: I don't know, Wolf. Honestly, I don't want to speculate, you know, without any evidence of that. I just -- I believe that, for different reasons, Attorney General Sessions should go.
And also Donald Trump wants him gone because Sessions won't go after his political opponents and because he took himself out of the Russia investigation. So again, that shows you the intent of Donald Trump with respect to the Russia investigation.
BLITZER: The president also attacked the acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, falsely alleging some financial contributions for McCabe's wife, who was running for office in Virginia. directly from Hillary Clinton. He received funding -- she received some funding, I should say, from the governor, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic governor of Virginia, not from Hillary Clinton.
He's already fired the previous FBI director, James Comey. Do you worry that the president is also now trying to purge the highest levels of American law enforcement?
SWALWELL: He's being a bully, but law enforcement officers in our country, FBI agents, they're not going to be bullied. It's very destructive for morale to really make those false allegations about the FBI acting director right now.
But Wolf, you know, I know that the men and women who serve our country from the street to the agent level, they're not going to be bullied by this president. It's just -- it's bad -- it's a bad look for America right now.
BLITZER: Congressman Swalwell, there's more we need to discuss. There's new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll take a quick break. We'll resume our coverage right after this.
[17:18:30] BLITZER: Here's one of President Trump's top advisers, now a central figure in congressional Russia investigations. Let's get details. Jared Kushner's interview with the House Intelligence Committee, with a key member of that panel, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.
Congressman, you had a chance to question Jared Kushner yesterday at length, along with the rest of the House Intelligence Committee. The top Democrat on your panel, Adam Schiff, says the interview was productive -- his word, "productive." How would you characterize Kushner's testimony?
SWALWELL: I would say it was a good day for the committee. First, Wolf, you know, we're making progress, redeeming credibility and showing independence.
You know, there are a lot of questions about Donald Trump, his family, his team and what the contacts with Russia meant, especially now that we all have read the Don Jr. e-mails. So we made progress on that.
BLITZER: Was he forthcoming, do you believe? Was he honest?
SWALWELL: Wolf, I made a promise that I won't characterize any witness's testimony until we issue the report. But you know, we asked a lot of questions. He answered a lot of questions, and we'll put it all into context with other witness testimony and documents, hopefully soon.
BLITZER: Yes. I think he was there for about three hours, so I assume he answered a lot of questions.
In his statement -- written statement to the congressional committee released on Monday, as you know, Congressman, Jared Kushner had this to say about last summer's meeting at Trump Tower in New York, in which members of the Trump campaign were promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Let me put it up on the screen.
"No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign. There was no follow-up to the meeting that I am aware of. I do not recall how many people were there or their names, and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted."
[07:20:13] Do you have any reason to doubt Kushner's claim that there was no follow-up to that meeting at Trump Tower?
SWALWELL: Well, Wolf, what I will tell you we are seeking to understand is, does it make sense that he did not read an e-mail that set up that meeting, whose subject line was "Clinton, Russia, private and confidential." That he didn't read anything on that e-mail about the Russians offering information to help the Trump campaign?
But the e-mail that he said in that same statement he did read on October 30, ten days before the election, was a spam-like e-mail about candidate Trump's tax returns, and he claims that that's the e-mail he that he read and that he turned over to the government.
So the question here is does it make sense, with respect to all the other evidence that we have right now? And that's what we're seeking to understand, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you believe that Jared Kushner needs to come back, answer more follow-up questions?
SWALWELL: Yes. Three hours was certainly just kind of the tip of the iceberg. We still are waiting for documents to be produced, and certainly other witnesses are providing testimony that will raise more and more questions.
So yes, he told us he will. I'll take him at his word and look forward to seeing him again.
BLITZER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks so much for joining us.
SWALWELL: Of course. My pleasure.
BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more on the breaking political news. How long can the White House dodge questions about the impact of President Trump's tweets?
Plus, an alarming new warning about how rapidly Kim Jong-un's nuclear missile program is making progress.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories right now, including the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, repeatedly dodging questions about what happens to transgender members of the U.S. military. President Trump tweeted this morning, "The United States will not accept or allow transgender Americans to serve in the U.S. military at any capacity."
Let's bring in our specialists. And Bianna, let me start with you. This was a complete surprise, including to a lot of folks over at the Pentagon, and the White House can't answer a simple question. What happens to the thousands of U.S. troops, transgender U.S. troops, currently serving? Are they about to be kicked out?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Yes, as Barbara Starr had mentioned earlier, this had been a subject that had been discussed with General Mattis, and this had six months to come up with an affirmative decision as to what they would do regarding this issue. Obviously, this seems to have taken a lot of people, including the the Pentagon, by surprise.
There's a Politico report suggesting that this had to deal with a spending bill and an argument within the Republican Party as to whether or not they would be funding these transgender operations. Of course, people connecting this to the president and wanting to get his spending bill through and getting some funding for the wall with Mexico.
So if that is the case, one has to wonder to what extent and what degree will the president put his own priorities and his own campaign promises ahead of something that hasn't even been thoroughly planned out, and one can't even imagine what the repercussions of this would be for the military.
Obviously, Sarah Huckabee Sanders sort of filibustering her answer, as well, not knowing the details and wanting to go into greater length talking about it. At one point, even saying that if there were no other questions, that she would actually just end the briefing.
So still, a lot of questions to be asked of the president. Why did he do this now if it was to divert attention away from Russia. If it was to divert attention away from health care, one would think that the event that he's attending now in Wisconsin would be a better way to do that, actually bringing jobs back to the U.S. with an Apple plant.
BLITZER: Yes, he's actually attending an event in the East Room at the White House involving Wisconsin, a plant to be built in Wisconsin. Nia, some have suggested this is simply a political ploy designed to play to his base. His critics are saying that.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and if you think about a particular part of his base, and in many ways, the most fervent part of his base, white evangelical Christians, a Pew poll says that only 18 percent of that group supports LGBT rights. So I do think this -- this certainly played well with his base.
If you think about where his base has been over the last couple of days, upset with this president over his treatment of Jeff Sessions, who has been strong in terms of where -- where conservatives think -- think that conservatives should be in terms of LGBT rights. So I think, in that way, he definitely, I think, curried favor with some of those people who have been very critical of him, or weak over the Sessions thing.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: This White House is full of surprises...
BORGER: ... every day, and our Deirdre Walsh reports from Capitol Hill from Republican leadership sources that the Republican leaders knew that the White House was looking at the transgender military issue but only insofar as to how it related to using taxpayer money for medical treatments. And -- and -- but not insofar as just changing the entire policy.
And so I think they were surprised. I think it's very clear, from Barbara Starr's reporting, that the Pentagon was surprised. We saw that briefing today where questions could not be answered.
And so you have to ask a question: On something of this kind of significance that was being studied at the Pentagon, that the defense secretary said he was studying, why -- why do this and surprise your administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill who, in fact, were just talking about the financial aspect of this?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think in the seventh month now, we're all getting used to the fact that Donald Trump is not going to conduct business... HENDERSON: Right.
CHALIAN: ... the the way that we're used to conducting business...
CHALIAN: ... the way that we're used to conducting business or rolling out policy. That just isn't going to happen. He is going to roll out big policy changes just on Twitter without lining up people in advance of the -- It's just clearly the way he's going to operate.
What was a bit surprising is that, in the time from he tweeted that to Sarah Huckabee Sanders going out at the podium, knowing that she's going to get questions about it, had no answers on the implementation. By that, there were several hours between. Forget that you were surprised it was coming. But then, where -- where are the answers on how it will be implemented? And there are none.
BLITZER: You know, Brianna, as a former White House correspondent, former Pentagon correspondent, I know when there's a major decision, military decision by the commander in chief, and certainly, the commander in chief, the president has every right to make major decisions. The announcement comes from the White House, maybe from the Rose Garden or someplace else.
But then there are extensive briefings, a lot of background work, additional briefings, specifics, over at the Pentagon. The fact that there was a tweet and nothing else from the White House or from the Pentagon, that's highly surprising.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And it speaks to the pattern that we've seen from this administration and this president, sort of catching those closest to him sometimes off-guard, as well. I know when he was sending that tweet this morning, that was the longest ellipsis as people were waiting, "Well, what is he talking about?" There were some reports that even within the Pentagon, and some of the military were concerned that he was maybe referencing North Korea or any sort of military action he was going to take.
So this clearly took a lot of people by surprise, and we're still waiting to hear from the president to follow up on why he decided to tweet and talk about this today. And obviously, to get his perspective on what this means for the military at large.
BLITZER: You know, and very quickly, because I want to move on to some other issues, Nia. But during the campaign, the president often sold himself as a great champion of LGBT rights. How is this going to play on that?
HENDERSON: Well, I mean, you've seen that LGBT groups have complained about where this president and where this administration has been, complaining about Sessions, for instance. And you saw today Log Cabin Republicans also complain about this policy shift from this.
And even other Republicans, right? I mean, Chuck Grassley, people you might not necessarily expect to come out and say, everyone should be able to serve in the military. Joni Ernst, who herself served in the military.
So I think it's sort of -- I mean, we've come a long way, I think, as a culture, and the Republican Party has come a long way in terms of LGBT rights. And Trump himself was someone who was emblematic of that, having someone who was from the LGBT community speak at the Republican National Committee, the convention last summer.
So -- so I think this will -- again, I think a lot of people in the LGBT community not pleased with this president, and this will, I think, add to that.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the future of the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, of the United States. Gloria, once again the president today tweeted some more criticism of the attorney general. The attorney general was at the White House, in the West Wing of the White House, for meetings with other officials; didn't meet with the president.
While he was there, though, the president was tweeting more criticism of him. You know, the West Wing, all of us have been in. It's not a real big place. You could walk into the Oval Office pretty quickly. But it's amazing what's going on.
BORGER: You know, and the president is known to have kind of an open- door policy, much to the chagrin of a lot of his top advisors, that he kind of welcomes people into the Oval Office quite frequently.
And look, it's very clear to me that Sessions doesn't want to talk to the president right now. The president doesn't want to talk to him. The president would like Jeff Sessions, I believe, to probably quit.
And you know, there's -- the Democrats are now openly talking about a so-called recess appointment that the president could do when Congress is out of session, and they're openly saying "We're not going to let that happen," to let Republicans know they might be onto their game here. So it's a -- it's a waiting game.
CHALIAN: I'm not sure many Republicans would be eager to let that happen, either.
BORGER: No, no. John Cornyn just said to Manu Raju it would be a bad idea.
CHALIAN: Right. So it's not just the Democrats who would try to block it. There would be a lot of Republicans who would think that's a bad idea, as well. Never mind the fact that we just haven't seen that kind of recess appointment in the last several years at this kind of high level of a position. It would invite so many problems for him.
Listen, Jeff Sessions has dug in, clearly.
HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.
CHALIAN: He has no desire to go anywhere.
BORGER: He's not quitting.
CHALIAN: He's trying to force the president's hand here, and I think if you listen to Anthony Scaramucci, the communications director, this morning, I think he was providing Jeff Sessions a road map to follow about how to stay in your job. President Trump likes a tough guy.
CHALIAN: Get out there, and Jeff Sessions is going to talk about leak investigations. It was as if, it was like, "Here's the rule book of what you should be doing, Attorney General Sessions, to get back in favor with President Trump."
[17:35:07] BLITZER: He said the president doesn't like guys who have thin skin, so we'll see how that all plays out.
Everybody, stay with us. Don't go too far away. Much more coming up. Additional information we're getting. We'll be right back. Take 5, guys.
BLITZER: The president of the United States now in the East Room of the White House, getting ready to speak. He's announcing that Foxconn, one of Apple's top suppliers, is opening a new factory in Wisconsin. Let's listen in.
[17:40:02] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... very, very closely. We're getting a lot done. Governor Walker has been so tremendous from the first time we announced that Terry even had a small amount of interest in going into this country someplace. And, you know, when you give that to Governor Walker, it's pretty -- pretty much of a done deal.
Ron Johnson, Senator. He's been so helpful to us. The only thing that you haven't heard too much about recently, health care. And I think we're doing OK, Ron. I'm hearing good things. I'm hearing good things.
Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Ross, all of the congressmen. Great congressmen. And senators we have in the audience, thank you very much. And thanks especially to my friend, one of the great businessmen anywhere in the world, Terry Gou.
I would see Terry, and I'd say, "Terry, you have to give us a couple of those massive -- these are massive places that you do such great work with," and he's going to be doing that in a state very close to my heart, Wisconsin. So we're very happy. One of the big job producers anywhere at any time, Scott. So I know it's going to be fantastic for the people.
This is a great day for American workers and manufacturing and for everyone who believes in the concept and the label "Made in the U.S.A." Today I'm pleased to announce that Foxconn, a world leader in manufacturing for computers, communications and consumer electronics, one of the truly great companies of the world, will build a state of the art manufacturing facility for the production of LCD panel products in Wisconsin, investing many, many billions of dollars right here in America, and creating thousands of jobs, and I mean American jobs. That's what we want.
Another big investor in our country, Steve Winwood [SIC]. You stand up. He's raising so much money for our great Republican Party. Andrea, please stand up. Please. Thank you. Thank you, Steve. You did a great job. You've done a great job, Steve. Thank you.
Foxconn will invest in southeast Wisconsin while a larger facility is constructed over the coming years. And that facility is currently under negotiation. It will be about the biggest there is anywhere. The company's initial investment of more than $10 billion will create 3,000 jobs at a minimum, with the potential for up to 13,000 jobs in the very near future.
The construction of this facility represents the return of LCD electronics and electronic manufacturing to the United States, the country that we love. That's where we want our jobs. To make such an incredible investment, Chairman Gou put his faith and confidence in the future of the American economy. In other words, if I didn't get elected, he definitely would not be spending $10 billion.
His great company has seen -- you know, you see exactly what I'm seeing -- our administration's work to remove job-killing regulations. He's been watching. To institute buy American and hire American. And all of those policies, and to pursue the steps necessary to revitalize American industry, including repealing and replacing Obamacare -- we'd better get that done, fellows. Please. Mike, we need that so badly -- cutting taxes, fixing our trade deals and rebuilding our infrastructure. We'll be submitting an infrastructure bill in the not very...
[17:45:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- we need that so badly -- cutting taxes, fixing our trade deals, and rebuilding our infrastructure.
We'll be submitting an infrastructure bill in the not very distant future. We're going to be submitting a tax bill in the very near future.
TRUMP: When this investment is complete, Foxconn has the potential to create more manufacturing jobs than we've seen in many, many decades.
Chairman Gou, I thank you for your investment in the American worker. They appreciate it. They will not let you down. They never let us down. There is nobody like the American worker.
Terry Gou told me that he believes in America. He really believes in America. And that is a great entrepreneur, one of the greatest in the world, by the way. He won't say it but I'll say it, one of the great entrepreneurs of the world. He has a real bond with the administration and with Americans.
Foxconn joins a growing list of industry leaders who understand that America's capabilities are limitless and that America's workers are unmatched and that America's most prosperous days are just ahead. We are going to have some very, very magnificent decades.
Thank you all for being here. Thank you, Terry, and thank you to Foxconn. God bless the United States of America. God bless you all.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So there he is, the President with the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. From Wisconsin, the Vice President Mike Pence. The President announcing a major plant that's going to be built in Wisconsin. There he is. You see the head of Foxconn, Terry Gou, announcing his plant.
It could be a $7 billion plant projected over the years, maybe 50,000 American jobs. The President promised he would bring jobs back, manufacturing jobs, back to the United States. He's doing that with this announcement in the East Room of the White House. A lot of VIPs have gathered there.
Gloria, you got to give the President some credit for this --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BLITZER: -- because Terry Gou, the head of Foxconn, says if it hadn't been for the President, he probably wouldn't be building that plant in Wisconsin.
BORGER: Well, and look, this is what the President campaigned on doing. He said, I'm going to bring these jobs back to America, and that is exactly what he is doing here. And Foxconn is a huge get for the President. You see the state of Wisconsin. This is great for the state of Wisconsin.
We should also point out there are taxpayer incentives involved here, and there are reports of $1 to $3 billion in incentives that Foxconn is getting in return for building this. And so it's going to cost the taxpayer some money, but as you balance it out, it's also going to create a lot of jobs, Wolf.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: A lot of jobs, like you said, in a place --
CHALIAN: -- where he really converted --
BORGER: Yes. CHALIAN: -- you know, what had been traditional Democratic territory
in one of those surprise states of the election and now is working to solidify that politically with this policy.
And I will also say, as I sat there and I watched Scott Walker and Paul Ryan, two people who had lots of choice words for Donald Trump during the course of the campaign, neither one were sort of carrying the Trump flag for quite some time during that campaign, I thought maybe the thought bubbles over their head that I was seeing is, if he would only do this every single day.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. Yes.
CHALIAN: This is what the Republican Party would love to hear from Donald Trump every day, go into the East Room, make an announcement about jobs, stay on message on the economy. Instead of constantly getting in his own way with obsession with the Russia distraction or the, as he calls it, the Russian delusion, the Sessions matter, all of these things.
If he were to do this every day, you would see a Republican Party not hide when reporters are coming up to ask them questions about the President but eager to stand there next to him.
BORGER: And I want to point out one thing. You know, behind the scenes, obviously, Reince Priebus, his Chief of Staff, is from the state of Wisconsin, very close to Paul Ryan. You can see his hand in all of this, in trying to get these jobs into his home state.
BLITZER: Bianna, let me get your reaction. What do you think?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS AND FINANCE ANCHOR: Well, it's something that more than just the President's base but the Republican Party and even those in the Democratic Party across the country could get behind as well.
I mean, not everybody wants to be talking about Russia every day. We certainly don't. And Americans, I do believe, are sick of hearing about it, as important as it is, as important as this sort of tension with his own Attorney General is.
I mean, the more we hear about jobs returning to the U.S., the better news it is for everyone. I mean, this is great news for the President. It's great news for the state of Wisconsin. It's good news for Apple because Apple did take a lot of heat a few years ago with this company in worker conditions in China as well.
[17:50:09] And this goes back to my point earlier, that if the President did want some sort of diversion, you know, this is what you allude to in early morning tweets. This is what you talk about. You don't talk about something that you don't necessarily have a plan readied for, especially something as controversial as banning transgenders from the U.S. military. BLITZER: And he keeps talking about how Wall Street is doing really
well. The Dow Jones, another big day for the Dow Jones. He keeps talking about the low unemployment rate right now. He's clearly anxious to take credit for a lot of these very positive economic developments, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, it's only been six months. A lot of this was credit to his predecessor as well. But having said that, we've had had a pretty good six months, first start of his presidency. And we have sort of seen job growth continue at the rate that it had been. And economic growth, though it could be better, is moving along as well.
So more headlines like this could be useful for the President. Obviously, the President being the President, he started talking about healthcare. He started talking about infrastructure. He started talking about tax reform as well.
So obviously, a lot on his plate there, not all of it good news, especially what's going on in Washington regarding healthcare. But when it comes to jobs and when it comes to a great headline, he's got one right now.
BLITZER: Yes, and he spoke about -- and, you know, Nia, he also spoke in his remarks, now he's going to move after healthcare to tax cuts, infrastructure development. He's got a lot on his agenda.
BLITZER: But this quote from his long interview in the "Wall Street Journal" jumped out at me and a lot of other folks. Let me put it up on the screen.
The truth is the people I care most about are the middle-income people in this country who have gotten screwed. And if there's upward revision, it's going to be on the high-income people. You know, I was with Bob Kraft -- the owner of the New England Patriots -- the other night. He came to have dinner with me. He's a friend of mine. And as he left, he said, Donald, don't worry about the rich people. Tax the rich people. You've got to take care of the people in the country. It was a very interesting statement. I feel the same way.
He seems to be suggesting he's going to lower taxes on the middle class --
HENDERSON: And raise --
BLITZER: -- raise taxes on the wealthy. That's something a lot of Republicans don't necessarily want to hear.
HENDERSON: Right. Bernie Sanders would love and I think a lot of middle Americans, folks in those hard-hit rust belt towns, would certainly like to hear it. And it's certainly the brand Donald Trump that ran on, right, that he was going to stick it to the hedge funds -- hedge fund managers and really look out for the forgotten men and women across the country.
I think, so far, if you look at the plans they've rolled out, particularly on like healthcare, for instance, the rich actually do get a tax cut on a lot of the healthcare plans that are circulating.
So I think this is the President's message, but a lot of the policies that we've seen so far being rolled out, even sort of the kind of talking points of some of the tax reform bullet points and plans, don't really speak to this. So this is something he really wants to get back to --
BLITZER: Do you think he's serious --
HENDERSON: -- get back at the Republicans.
BLITZER: -- Gloria, about raising taxes on the wealthy?
BORGER: We'll see.
BORGER: We'll see. We'll see. Look, you know, he is surrounded by economic advisors from Goldman Sachs. We'll see what their tax reform bill actually is.
We've only seen an outline of it so far. And so we don't -- you know, we don't really know. But he has now said it on the record. I guarantee you the Democrats are going to try and hold him to it.
And I think, you know, in his quote, there is a clear understanding that these are the people who voted for me. And they care less about what is going on Wall Street per se than they do about what is going on in their pocket books and whether they have an effective raise in their jobs and whether they're going to get some tax breaks for the middle class.
So I think he has now put it out there and I think the Democrats are going to say, OK, we're with you. We're with you on this one. And it might be an opportunity to work with him.
GOLODRYGA: But that they --
BORGER: We will have to see.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: They also care about having affordable healthcare as well.
GOLODRYGA: And the President can talk about cutting taxes for the middle class. But obviously, you look at what's happening in Washington right now, and every day, his position changes on whether it's just a repeal or repeal and replace. So I think Democrats can seize on that as well --
GOLODRYGA: -- and say, fine, you campaigned on lowering taxes for the middle class, the middle class also have health bills that they can't afford.
BLITZER: But you know that various Republican healthcare bills do cut taxes for the very, very wealthy who pay a lot of taxes to pay for the health insurance for a lot of lower income folks.
CHALIAN: Certainly, the bill that came out of the House did that.
HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.
CHALIAN: And some of those Senate plans. There's no doubt that those tax cuts are in there. Some of the Senate plans are trying to scale back those tax cuts for the wealthy, but that -- nothing has gotten through the Senate yet.
And by the way, the Republican Party that has stuck with him through thick and thin in these last six months, who have, for a fundamental core principle of the party, has been no tax hikes whatsoever. It will be interesting to see those intraparty dynamics if he calls for tax cuts.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stay with us. Don't go too far away. There is more breaking news we're following.
[17:55:01] Confusion and uncertainty as President Trump reinstates the ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military. Are active duty troops about to be kicked out?
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Out of service? The White House won't say what will happen to as many as 6,000 transgender troops now that the President has banned them from service. We're following the fallout from his surprise announcement that left many in the Pentagon blindsided.
[17:59:54] Twitter Sessions. Mr. Trump refuses to back down from his verbal abuse of his Attorney General, posting a new attack on Jeff Sessions at a time when the two could have easily spoken face-to-face. We're learning more about the internal pressure on the President to stop shaming Sessions.