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Trump Hones Gun Control Reforms; Trump Speaks to Governors; Melania Trump Speaks to Governors' Spouses. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:15] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

We're waiting to hear from the president of the United States. He is speaking, as we speak right now, at the White House, meeting with governors, sharing his proposals on gun control with dozens of governors from around the country who are meeting here in Washington. Again, we expect video of those remarks any minute.

We also are going to hear this hour from the first lady, Melania Trump. She, too, will be offering her views on gun control in a rare, public speech. We'll take you there when Melania Trump starts to speak.

A bit, what we know from reporters in the room of what the president has told the governors so far. He has told them he will ban so-called bump stocks and he will do it himself through executive action if the congressional won't do that through legislation. The president also says that over the weekend he sat down with two top officials of the National Rifle Association and told them something must be done after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida, 12 days ago. The president also says he's considering reopening some mental institutions, mental health institutions, that have been closed in the United States in recent years.

Meanwhile, CNN has learned that President Trump and the House speaker, Paul Ryan, spoke on the phone this weekend about gun controls. Again, the question is, what will the specifics be going forward? From our indications so far from the reporters in the room, the president has not mentioned, as he did last week, a proposal to raise the age limit from 18 to 21 for buying at least rifles. We'll see as the president's remarks continue as we wait for the tape.

With us to share their reporting and their insights this day, Julie Pace of the "Associated Press," CNN's Mana Raju, Michael Shear of "The New York Times," and Molly Ball with "Time."

It is fascinating what we've heard so far from the president, that he's in apparently a freewheeling discussion. Among those in the room, the nation's governors. A lot of this would be up to the states. The state front and center at the moment, Florida. Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, is in the room. He has put forward a proposal. I think -- am I right here, that the big question in Washington is, will the president settle on a specific plan, send it up to Congress and stick with it? Because you can't say, I want to do background checks unless you say which background check proposal you want to do. You can't say on one day I want to raise the age limit and then drop it the next three times you speaking publicly, because then it will not happen on Capitol Hill. How important is it the president get very specific and very consistent?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": It's more important than ever. This is a dynamic that we've seen play out on immigration, on other issues, on The Hill, where the president will make a statement, seem to come out in favor of a proposal and then either back off it, change his position or not really lobby lawmakers aggressively to make sure that they follow through.

And for Republicans in particular, on an issue like guns, it is going to be -- it's going to be difficult no matter what the president does, but it's going to be almost impossible to imagine that Republicans, on their own, take up this issue if they don't have real clarity from the president about what he supports, what he's willing to sign. And, frankly, if he's going to put political pressure on them to fall in line with whatever he does put forward.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And what did he mean last week when he said comprehensive background checks? I mean this is a party that, by and large, rejected doing expansive background checks just a few years ago after the Sandy Hook shooting, under the Manchin-Toomey proposal. Is the president going along those lines? Is he going even further than that? And how will he convince his party to come along with that? We need to hear specifics from the president, because his party, in order to give cover to a lot of these members who are worry about their primary challenges, he needs to come out and be very clear about what he supports and give those guys political cover. If he doesn't, the chances of getting anything done, very slim.

KING: And yet we would not be having this conversation with the urgency and the intrigue that we're having with if the president wasn't talking about it so much. He could have shut up and shut down. He could have said, I don't think gun control is the answer here. He could have been more silent as the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill prefer just not talk about this.

So the president is forcing the conversation. I guess the challenge is, when will he settle with himself, I guess, about what he wants to back and then will he be consistent?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": I mean will Trump be consistent? The answer to that is always no.

KING: Right.

BALL: That is something he is consistent about., He's consistently inconsistent.

But I think this is a case study in both the pro and the con of a president who's not a professional politician, right? I mean the -- I think what's so appealing about someone like Trump, who's not schooled in all of the political talking points, is you see in him what you see in the American people, the urge to do something.

You know, the parties are separated in their camps. They have particular partisan proposals that they're going to follow on a party line. You see Trump embracing things that don't -- that straddle the partisan divide. He's embracing some gun control measures that are not popular among Republicans because he's relatively oblivious to the whole partisan divide on these things, but also embracing things like arming teachers, that are not at all popular in the gun control crowd, right?

And so that is part of what people like about Trump, that he is not beholden to those partisan divides. But then you have the downside of that, which is, he's not a policy wonk.

KING: Right.

BALL: He doesn't do specifics. And he doesn't really do presidential leadership when it's an issue that's uncomfortable for his party, whether it's health care, immigration, gun control. Those are hard issues for Republicans. And we have not seen Trump take the lead on them in a way that would actually move his party to do something specific.

[12:05:12] KING: Well, is it a coordinated -- we're about a minute away from hearing from the president at the White House with the governors. Is it a coordinated effort at the White House? Are they having policy meetings about a proposal (INAUDIBLE) The Hill, or is this all being driven by the president in his public remarks and in his Twitter feed and when he goes from meeting to meeting?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's definitely the latter. And I -- and I just think we should make the point that even though there's this sort of hope -- great hope in some corridors that he will break from his party on all these issues, at the end of the day, he tends to revert back to where the party line was.

KING: Yes.

SHEAR: He reverted back on immigration. He revered back on health care and tax cuts. And so I think the great expectation is likely that he'll do the same here. But there might be a lot of talk. But, at the end of the day, what you're going to see is sort of run of the mill Republican talking points ultimately carry the day.

KING: Right.

What has made this different so far is he student survivors. We heard another one this morning, a young girl who just recovered from her injuries. It's remarkable when you hear them. And we'll play that later in the program after we hear from the president. That's one thing.

National polling right now, 70 percent in a new CNN poll say they favor stricter gun laws. After Las Vegas it was 52 percent. So the numbers are definitely up there as well. So you have the national polling. It doesn't affect house districts.

But let's listen now to the president of the United States at the White House meeting with the nation's governors.


Thank you very much.

And I want to thank our vice president for that really lovely introduction. That was very nice, Mike, and I appreciate it.

This is a time of great opportunity for our country. We've created nearly 3 million jobs since the election, a number that nobody would have thought possible. You go back and take a look at what they were saying just prior to the election, nobody thought it was even possible.

And we've done many other things, as you know, and I won't go over them because I want to be hearing from you today. But many other things that, frankly, nobody thought possible.

GDP, 3.2, 3, 3. I think we're going to have another really big one coming up this current quarter. Maybe a number that nobody would have thought would ever be hit.

But I think we're going to have a very good number because of the stimulus, because of the massive tax cuts, that we're all benefiting -- whether you're Republican or Democrat, you're benefiting tremendously from those tax cuts.

Apple's investing $350 billion in the United States. And you look at what's going on, it's really quite something. You just read, a week ago, Exxon is now coming in with $50 billion. And many, many companies.

Also, something that nobody expected, they're also coming in with massive bonuses for their workers. Nobody thought in terms of that. We know that everybody's going to get a lot more income, and we've seen that as for February 1st. Everyone's saying, wow, I have an extra $250 in my paycheck, and that's pretty good stuff. So we knew that was going to happen. We didn't know that hundreds and hundreds of companies, millions and millions of people, were going to be getting large bonuses because of what we did.

And one of the things we're working on is fair and reciprocal trade deals. We're not being treated fairly. You, as governors, are not being treated fairly. And when I get too tough with a country, you're always calling, oh, gee, don't do that. But I must say, it's more senators and congressmen and women, that call -- you haven't been calling so much. You want to see great deals.

But we have to make the deals fair, you know. With Mexico as an example, we probably lose $130 billion a year. Now, for years, I've been saying -- for the last year and a half, I've been saying $71 billion, but it's really not. And they have a VAT tax of 16 percent, and we don't have a tax.

And at some point, we have to get stronger and smarter, because we cannot continue to lose that kind of money with one country.

We lose a lot with Canada. People don't know it. Canada's very smooth. They have you believe that it's wonderful. And it is, for them. Not wonderful for us; it's wonderful for them.

So we have to start showing that we know what we're doing. World Trade Organization, a catastrophe. China became strong. You look at it, it was going like this for years and years. Hundreds of years, it was going just like this. I'm a great -- I have great respect for President Xi, by the way. So I'm not blaming them. I'm not blaming Mexico. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm blaming us, because we did such a poor job for so many years.

TRUMP: I'm not just talking about President Obama. I'm talking about many, many, many presidents, for 30 years, 35 years.

But World Trade Organization, makes it almost impossible for us to do good business. We lose the cases. We don't have the judges. We have a minority of judges. It's almost as bad as the Ninth Circuit. Nothing's as bad as the Ninth Circuit.


It's almost as bad.

Speaking of that, DACA is going to be put back into the Ninth Circuit. You know, we tried to get it moved quickly, because we'd like to help DACA. I think everyone in this room wants to help with DACA, but the Supreme Court just ruled that it has to go through the normal channels, so it's going back in, and there won't be any surprise.

I mean, it's really sad when every single case filed against us -- this is in the Ninth Circuit -- we lose, we lose, we lose, and then we do fine in the Supreme Court. But what does that tell you about our court system? It's a very, very sad thing. So DACA's going back, and we'll see what happens from there.

So we want fair trade deals. We want reciprocal trade deals. Scott Walker has a wonderful company called Harley Davidson in Wisconsin, right? Great. So when they send a motorcycle to India, as an example, they have to pay 100 percent tax -- 100 percent.

Now, the prime minister, who I think is a fantastic man, called me the other day. He said, "We are lowering it to 50 percent." I said, "OK, but so far, we're getting nothing."


... 50, and they think we're doing...

(AUDIO GAP) favor. That's not a...


... I'm talking about.

It's a great company. When I spoke with your chairman, or the president of Harley, they weren't even asking for it, because they've been ripped off with trade so long that they were surprised that I brought it up. I'm the one that's pushing it more than they are. But it's unfair.

And India sells us a lot of motorbikes, so when they have a motorbike -- a big number, by the way. They have a company that does a lot of business. So they have a motorcycle, or a motorbike that comes into our country, the number is zero. We get zero. They get 100 percent, brought down to 75, brought down, now, to 50. OK. And I wasn't sure -- he said it so beautifully. He's a beautiful man. And he said, "I just want to inform you that we have reduced it to 75, but we have further reduced it to 50." And I said, "Huh." What do I say? Am I supposed to be thrilled? And that's not good for you people, especially as -- as governors. It's just not -- it's just not right. And we have many deals like that.

Now, with all of that being said, let's talk China. Because China, we probably lost $504 billion last year on trade -- $504 billion. I think that president Xi is unique. He's helping us with North Korea -- who, by the way, wants to talk as of last night. You heard that. They want to talk. And we want to talk also, only under the right conditions, otherwise we're not talking. You know, they've been talking for 25 years. Other presidents should have solved this problem long before I got here. And they've been talking for 25 years, and you know what happened? Nothing.

The Clinton administration spent billions and billions of dollars. They gave them billions. They built things for them. They went out of their way, and the day after the agreement was signed, they started -- they continued with nuclear research. It was horrible. The Bush administration did nothing, both. The Obama administration wanted to do something. He told me it's the single biggest problem that this country has. But they didn't do anything, and it would have been much easier in those days than it is now. I think most people understand that.

But we've been very tough with them. China's been good, but they haven't been great. China has really done more, probably, than they've ever done because of my relationship. We have a very good relationship, but president Xi is for China, and I'm for the United States.

And Russia is behaving badly, because Russia is sending in what China is taking out. So China is doing pretty good numbers, but Russia is now sending a lot of stuff in. But I think they want to see it come to an end, also. I think everybody does. Talking about tremendous potential loss of lives; numbers that nobody's ever even contemplated, never thought of. TRUMP: So they want to talk, first time, they want to talk, and we'll see what happens. That's my attitude. We'll see what happens. But something has to be done.

Today I want to hear your ideas on a number of critical issues. But most importantly, we want to discuss the public safety in schools, and public safety generally. But school safety, we can't have this go on.

I'm grateful that Governor Rick Scott is here, and we thank him for his leadership in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Parkland, Florida, horrible. Our nation is heartbroken. We continue to mourn the loss of so many precious, innocent young lives. These are incredible people. I visited a lot of them.

But we'll turn our grief into action. We have to have action. We don't have any action. It happens. A week goes by. Let's keep talking. Another week goes by. We keep talking. Two months go by, all of a sudden everybody is off to the next subject. And when it happens again, everybody is angry and let's start talking again. We've got to stop.

By the way, bump stocks, we're writing that out. I'm writing that out myself. I don't care if Congress does it or not. I'm writing it out myself, OK.


You put it into the machine-gun category which is what it is; it becomes essentially a machine gun, and nobody's going to be able -- it's going to be very hard to get them. So we're writing out bump stocks.

But we have to take steps to harden our schools so that they're less vulnerable to attack. This includes allowing well trained and certified personnel to carry concealed firearms. At some point, you need volume. Now I don't know that a school is going to be able to hire 100 security guards that are armed. Plus, you know, I got to watch some deputy sheriffs perform this weekend. They weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners, all right. The way they performed was, frankly, disgusting. They were listening to what was going on, the one in particular. He was then -- he was earlier, and then you had three others that probably a similar deal a little bit later, but a similar kind of a thing.

You know, I really believe -- you don't know until you test it, but I think -- I'd really believe I'd run into -- even if I didn't have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that too, because I know most of you. But the way they performed was really a disgrace.

Second, we must confront the issue of mental health, and here is the best example of mental health. This kid had 39 red flags. They should have known. They did know. They didn't do anything about it. That was really a bad time, I have to tell you.

Nobody bigger for law enforcement than I am, but between the people that didn't go into that school and protect those lives and the fact that this should have been solved long before it happened, pretty sad. So we have to confront the issue, and we have to discuss mental health, and we have to do something about it.

You know in the old days we had mental institutions, had a lot of them, and you could nab somebody like this because, you know, they did. They knew he was -- something was off. You had to know that. People were calling all over the place. But you used to be able to bring them into a mental institution, and hopefully he gets help or whatever, but he's off the streets. You can't arrest him, I guess, because he hasn't done anything, but you know he's like a boiler ready to explode, right? So he's -- he just -- you have to do something. But you can't put him in jail, I guess, because he hasn't done anything. But in the old days you'd put him into a mental institutions, and we had them in New York, and our government started closing them because of costs.

And we're going to have start talking about mental institutions, because a lot of the folks in this room closed their mental institutions also. So we have no halfway. We have nothing between a prison and leaving him at his house, which we can't do anymore. So I think you folks have to start thinking about that.

Third, we have to improve our early-warning response systems, so that when friends, family and neighbors do warn the authorities about a violent or dangerous individual, action is taken quickly and decisively. Look, you had the one mother, if you remember in Connecticut, you saw how horrible that was. She was begging, begging to take her son in and help him do something, anything, he's so dangerous, and nobody really listened to her. And he ended up killing her, and then the rest. You know what happened. It was a horror. But she was begging to do something about her own son.

Recently, you had a grandmother that got to see the notes of her grandchild, and she reported him, and they nabbed him. He's was ready to go in for a school, it looked like. She reported him. And there the law enforcement did a very good job.

TRUMP: Fourth, we must pursue common-sense measures that protect the constitutional rights of law abiding Americans, while keeping guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. And, fifth, we must strive to create a culture in our country that cherishes life and condemns violence and embraces dignity.

Now, with all of that, over the weekend, I cannot believe the press didn't find this out. I can't believe it. I think they're getting a little bit -- I could never use the word "lazy." You don't want to say that. We don't want to give them any more enthusiasm than they already have.

But I can't believe they didn't' figure this one. Because I had lunch with Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox and David Lehman of the NRA. And I want to tell you, they want to do something. And I said, "Fellows, we've got to do something. It's too long now, where we've got to do something." And we're going to do very strong background checks, very strong. We're going to do background checks. If we see a sicko, I don't want him having a gun. And, you know, I know it was a time when anybody could have -- I mean, even if they were sick, they were fighting. And I said, "Fellows, we can't do it any more."

There's no bigger fan of the Second Amendment than me, and there's no bigger fan of the NRA. And these guys are great patriots. They're great people. And they want to do something. They're going to do something. And they're going to do it, I think, quickly. I think they want to see it.

But we don't want to have sick people having the right to have a gun. Plus, when we see somebody's sick like this guy, when the police went to see him, they didn't do a good job. But they have restrictions on what they can do. We've got to give them immediate access to taking those guns away, so that they don't just leave, and he's sitting there with seven different weapons. Got to give them immediate access.


Don't worry. You're not going to get any -- you won't -- don't worry about the NRA; they're on our side. You guys, half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There's nothing to be afraid of. And you know what? If they're not with you, we have to fight them every once in a while. That's OK. They're doing what they think it right.

I will tell you, they are doing what they think is right. But sometimes, we're going to have to be very tough, and we're going to have to fight them. But we need strong background checks. For a long period of time, people resisted that. But now people, I think, are really into it.

And John Cornyn -- great guy, senator -- Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, hopefully, are going to work on some legislation. I hope you guys -- they started already.

In fact, John has legislation in. We're going to strengthen it. We're going to make it more pertinent to what we're discussing. But he's already started the process. We've already started it.

And the other thing, we need hard insights. We have to have hard insights. So just in concluding, we have tremendous things happening. The country is doing well, and then we have a setback like this that's so heart-wrenching. So heart-wrenching. And we have to -- we have to clean it up. We have to straighten it out.

You know, it's wonderful that we're setting records on the economy. We're setting records. Black unemployment at an all-time historical low. Hispanic unemployment at a historical low. Women unemployment at an 18-year low -- eighteen years. And actually, I did very well with women during the election. Nobody wants to give me credit for that, as you know. But -- and I'm very proud of that. To me, these are incredible statistics.

And very importantly, we're doing -- our companies are doing well, the fundamentals are beyond what -- literally beyond what anyone's ever seen. This isn't a bubble.

You know, there was bubbles in the past, because these companies were valued and nobody understood where -- where is their money? Where's the money? And these are really strong companies we're building now. We have tremendous underlying value.

I want to bring the steel industry back into our country. If that takes tariffs, let them take tariffs. OK? Maybe it'll cost a little bit more, but we'll have jobs. Let it take tariffs. I want to bring aluminum back into our country. These plants are all closing or closed.

Recently, we put a tariff on washing machines because we were getting killed, believe it or not, on washing machines and solar panels. That was two months ago. You have to see the activity on new plants being built for washing machines, and for solar panels.

We had 32 solar panel plants. Of the 32, 30 were closed and two were on life-to-life resuscitation. They were dead. Now, they're talking about opening up many of them, reopening plants that have been closed for a long time.

TRUMP: And we make better solar panels than China. One of their knocks were that the solar panels were lousy. They weren't good. We make a much higher quality solar panel.

So after two months we're opening up at least five plants, and other plants are expanding on the washing machines, which by the way it sounds, like, sort of a little hokey to say washing machine -- it's a big business. It's a very big business.

But then you look and you see -- like I won't mention -- I won't mention countries. I would never do that. But how many Chevrolet's are in the middle of Berlin? How many Ford's are in the middle of Tokyo? Not too many. In fact, Ford sort of closed up their operation in Japan, because they couldn't get cars in there.

I spoke to Prime Minister Abe, another great friend of mine. He's a great person. But I said, listen, you're sending us millions of cars and if we send you one and if we make it so perfect -- they actually told me a case where they made this car so good, this was -- they spent a fortune. They had the best environmental, the best this, the best skins, the best everything you can have in a car -- the best safety. They brought it in, and after inspections that lasted forever it was rejected. You see that's a form of tariff, too. Maybe that's a more deadly form of tariff. That, to me, is just as deadly as 50 percent, and 25 percent and 100 percent in many cases.

So, we're going to straighten it out. We've already started. I mean the first year is just -- we laid the seeds. You know, a lot of it is statutory where you can't do anything unless you go through a process. Well, now through our great team, we've gone through that process.

Many of this -- in other words you'll do a rule, you have to wait 90 days. That's sort of what's happening with the bump stocks. I'm waiting for the next process, but it's gone. Just don't worry about it. It's gone. Essentially gone, because we're going to make it so tough that you're not going to be able to get them. Nobody's going to want them anyway.

You know, bump stocks, you shoot rapidly but not accurately. I don't know if you have ever heard what a bump stock does. The bullets come out fast, but you don't know where the hell they're going. That's why nobody even really too much came to its defense.

But he used it in Las Vegas. He was using bump stocks in Las Vegas, as you know. So, we're getting rid of them.

So, you're going to ask questions. I'm going to help you folks. We're going to get all of the thing that we want to do, whether it's transportation, whether it's safety, whether it's law and order.

One of the things that the past administration would not do is give this incredible equipment that we have, excess military equipment, wouldn't give it to your police. Would not give it to your law enforcement. They didn't like the idea, the administration, of armored vehicles. I guess maybe they'd rather have -- look, why wouldn't they want them?

People were in danger, people were being killed, people were being shot, people were being hit with rocks during some bad times in some rough places, and we've given out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of our excess military equipment to your police forces.

And I will tell you every time I go to one of your cities, they come up to me, the police, and they say, thank you so much for that equipment; we feel so much safer. Where they can go in armored van up to a site and not worry about being shot or hit in the head with a rock.

And, to me, it's common sense, but you know, what can I tell you. But I will say this, you are -- you're group really appreciates it.

So, with that, I'm going to ask Brian to say a couple of words, and then we'll go around, we'll take some questions. Maybe we'll have Rick Scott come up second. And, I'm here as long as you need me. Let's get it all out.

We want to help the governors. We want to help our states and we want to make our schools safe.

Brian, please.


GOV. BRIAN SANDOVAL (R), NEVADA: Mr. President, thank you. And I truly appreciate you, I appreciate all the members of the cabinet. On behalf of all the governors, I want to thank you for your hospitality and the first lady's hospitality yesterday evening. It was an extraordinary night and truly a privilege to be able to visit --

KING: We're going to take a break from this event at the White House. This is the president meeting with the governors. But First Lady Melania Trump, speaking to a luncheon of the governors'

spouses. We're told she'll talk gun control. Let's listen.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Able to spend time together at the spouses' luncheon, and I'm honored to host all of you today.

[12:29:51] Before I begin, I want to be sure we take a moment to reflect on the horrific shooting in Florida. Our continued thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected by such a senseless act. As a parent, I cannot imagine the kind of grief and tragedy like that brings.