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Unemployment Rate At 18-year Low; Chamber of Commerce Group Airs Ads Supporting GOP Candidates; Trump Denies NYT Report On U.S. Troops In South Korea; Report: Pruitt Staffer Shopped Negative Stories About Zinke; President Trump To Address NRA's Annual Convention. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 4, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:32:42] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: President Trump today boasting about the economy, and for good reason. The unemployment rate is under 4 percent for the first time in 18 years.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought the jobs report was very good. The big thing to me was cracking 4. That hasn't been done in a long time. You'll tell me how long. But it hasn't been done in a long time. We're full employment. We're doing great.


KING: The politics of the jobs report in just a moment. First, though, Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans is here to break down the numbers.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, the big headline here, 3.9 percent unemployment. You have not seen a jobless rate below 4 percent since December 2000, so that marks a new milestone in what has been an aggressive job recovery here. When you look, John, at where the jobs are, 164,000 net new jobs in a month. A little shy (ph) economist for forecasting, but still you've got about 2.7 million jobs created in the 14 to 15 months of this presidency.

Where are the sectors here? Business information services, strong hiring there, 54,000. Health care. Again, you've got low wage and very high wage jobs in health care. We've seen a lot of hiring health care for the past few years. This month is no exemption. Manufacturing 24,000.

Interesting to know, fabricated medals. So a pause in hiring, also in mining was about 8000 net new job. What's important here in this number, 2.6 percent the wage growth, not so strong that it's going to spark inflation fears on Wall Street. What's really interesting about this trend in the labor market, John, is that you're hearing companies say they can't find workers or qualified workers but you haven't seen the wages pop yet. Maybe that comes next. John? KING: We'll keep an eye on that. Christine Romans, thanks.

So the unemployment rate lower than Barack Obama ever had, lower than George W. Bush ever had. The President talking about it. You think he'd be really happy about it, and he is. Here it is on Twitter. Just out, 3.9 percent unemployment, 4 percent has broken then he adds in the meantime, witch hunt.


KING: Why, why, why? And --



KING: Yes. And it's not a question for us. You know, this is what we do for a living. But Republicans were trying to hold the House majority, keep the Senate. This is, you know, this is a birthday gift to them. The tax cuts are working, the economy is something along and they want to talk to witch hunt. They want to talk economy, economy, economy. Why would the President help them?

[12:35:01] MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, because he wants to use this for his own benefit, right? I mean, that's the reason of the twitter. Is things are going well but people are trying to attack me even though it made America great again, right? And we saw him do a similar thing a couple weeks ago. He used the economy to sort of objective to help justify his change on immigration position and whether or not he's going to be letting more guest workers in the country. Because it's fundamentally about Donald Trump and it's not --

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And there's very few people around this President who helps him see beyond the bubble that he lives in, right, both the White House bubble but also the Fox News, you know, sort of Breitbart kind of bubble. If that's what you see and that's what you think America is thinking about and listening to and all of that, that's the kind of tweet you want, right? So that's what he thinks.

KING: To your point, 119 tweets in the past two weeks. Twenty-three on Russia or Michael Cohen probe, 10 on fake news, six to promote things on Fox News, four on immigration, three on jobs and the economy -- four now on jobs and the economy cutting (ph) the President weighing in today.

Again, the Republicans are (INAUDIBLE) about this, because it's a first midterm any price that's always tough. But they think they have good news when it comes to the economy. The pricing won't help them. So now you have Republican ally, it's still early. We're still in the primary season. This is the chamber of commerce spending a boatload of money to try to go into vulnerable House districts and say, pay no attention to the President, the economy is getting better.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks to Conservative leaders like Don Bacon. Nearly 90 percent of American wage earners are seeing more take-home pay. We're adding jobs. And Nebraska businesses are giving bonuses again. With Don in Congress, Nebraska is bringing home the bacon and you can never have too much bacon.


HENDERSON: This is true.


HENDERSON: I mean, what's interesting, you give those numbers there. I mean, six to promote Fox and four to promote the economy there. We'll see what he does when he goes on the road. At some point, he's going to be going out in some of these difficult Senate races and House races and we'll see what the bulk of his speech is.

I think he sort --


KING: Normally Republican groups are spent -- Republican-aligned groups are spending money to come back to Democrats, to contest what the Democrats are saying. Republican groups are being forced to spend money to try to drown out the President.

HENDERSON: Right. And to make the case that the tax cut is actually working. You feel it, America. Don't you? I mean, that's essentially what some of these answers say. It doesn't help them --

SHEAR: The rally in Dallas is going to be a perfect example. It is an opportunity. He's got an audience that said, it's a red state. Like --

COLLINS: Friendly audience.

SHEAR: Friendly audience, whatever. I guarantee that he talks a lot about of the stuff that we've been talking about.


BENDER: I don't know if any candidates who have wanted Donald Trump to come to their district and he's refused.

KING: Not those vulnerable ones anyway.


KING: Still ahead for us, Senator John McCain in his own words.


[12:42:20] KING: Topping our political radar today, President Trump denying a New York Times report would said he's asking the Pentagon for options to reduce American troop levels in South Korea. He also talked about the fate of three Americans detained in North Korea just weeks before he holds a landmark meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.


TRUMP: We're doing very well with the hostages. We're in constant contact with the leadership. We are in constant contact with North Korea. We've actually worked out a time and a place, which will be announced shortly.


TRUMP: Very soon.


KING: Also on the President's plate, discussing ways to boost election security. He met with the attorney general and other top officials yesterday to talk about ways to protect the ballot boxes against foreign influence. Top intelligence officials have been warning Russia again trying to interfere in this year's midterm elections. By among other things, you think social media, the speed propaganda much like it is in the 2016 presidential race.

John McCain in his own words, the Arizona Senate reading excerpts from his latest book, "The Restless Wave", which will be released later this month. In it, the 81-year-old senator talks about his battle with brain cancer and his own mortality. NPR posting the audio


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't know how much longer I'll be here. Maybe I'll have another five years. Maybe with the advances on oncology they'll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I'll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable. But I'm prepared for either contingency, or at least I'm getting prepared.

I have some things I'd like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing and some people I need to see. And I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may. I want to urge Americans for as long as I can to remember that this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.


KING: It's moving listening to that in the sense of, number one, I want to speak to my fellow Americans more, number two, I'm not be here when you hear this.

HENDERSON: Yes. And hearing him, you get a sense of how much he's missed, right, in Washington, in that voice talking about human rights. In some of those message very uplifting about America, and uplifting about wanting to remain here and not wanting to die. So, yes, I mean, really hard in moving to listen to him there. KING: Right. I mean, you went through this with Barbara Bush, and George H. W. Bush, the greatest generation is fading from public service. The Vietnam generation there with Senate McCain are -- whatever your politics. Whatever politics you learn from the generations that are sadly in fewer voices.

We'll keep an eye on the Senator. Obviously, we wish him the best.

[12:45:04] When we come, the mount of allegations and scandals running in the EPA Chief Scott Pruitt growing it seems by the day if not the hour. But does he still have the support that matters most that of the President?


KING: This just in to CNN. The embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will return to Capitol Hill to testify, meaning face tough questions before the Senate lawmakers later this month. He faces a growing list of embarrassing controversies.

Let's take a peek just in the last 24 hours. According to CNN analysis, Pruitt paid himself nearly $65,000 from reimbursements from his two campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general. And the Washington Post reporting, Pruitt's price the overseas trips, getting some planning help from lobbyist and big GOP donors. Then this doozy from the Atlantic. A member of Pruitt's press team has been shopping negative stories about another Trump cabinet member, the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, to try to deflect attention from his boss' bad behavior. I mean, come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to think that --

[12:50:09] COLLINS: This guy has like nine lives. Like none of these scandals will make him get rid of him in this drama (ph).

KING: For those of you watching at home who support whether Mr. Pruitt or the President, just close your eyes for a minute. It is for any other administration. Never mind, if Hillary Clinton were president and the EPA Administrator had 11 investigations, daily headlines and the Republicans are crickets on this, I said handful of Oversight Committee who's saying it's time to answer questions. I mean, really?

BENDER: You do have an unusual presidency here, John.

HENDERSON: You're right. I think that's --

BENDER: These headlines, these accusations that would drive any other, you know, any other president nuts, and it drives the White House staff nuts, hasn't reached that level inside the Oval Office yet.

KING: Because donors like the work he's doing.

BENDER: Donors, and -- yes, and I think Trump friends, too, who are feeling the effects immediately, right, of some of the changes that Pruitt is making and relay those thoughts to Trump, and that's meaningful.

HENDERSON: Yes, and --

KING: It's not the only example but it makes the drain the swamp thing just beyond laughable. I'm sorry, beyond laughable.

SHEAR: But I think also what has saved Pruitt up until now is this sense that like he is accomplishing more than any other cabinet secretary, the agenda, but I think that is beginning to even fray around the edges where you begin to think, first of all, will any the investigations hamper any future efforts that he can do to promote the deregulatory agenda, and is he sort of making the stakes along the way legally in other ways that are going to undermine what is already --

KING: I just want to read from this Atlantic reporting, if this is great, only in Donald Trump's America. "In the last week, a member of Pruitt's press team, Michael Abboud has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets. The stories were shopped with the intention of taking the heat off of Pruitt, the sources said, in the aftermath of the EPA chief's punishing congressional hearing last week."

So, don't get my boss, get the other guy?

HENDERSON: I mean, I think one of the things which Trump -- does he in some ways, see himself in Scott Pruitt, right. I mean, the sort of squirrel of scandal. He mentioned the similar thing with Jackson. This idea Ronny Jackson is just saying, well, I kind of relate to what happen with Ronny Jackson because what's going on with Russia is the same thing that's going on with Ronny Jackson.

So there is a sort of like if I can withstand my scandals and I'm Donald Trump, why am I going to remove this guy who has a similar scandal?

KING: Shell companies with lobbyist to buy homes, big donor Shell (INAUDIBLE) in planning your overseas trips?

COLLINS: Also, I don't know that tactic as it is, as we've seen with this cabinet, there can be multiple people under fire at once. That's happened several times in this news cycle of course.


KING: All right. We'll see what tomorrow brings on Scott Pruitt watch.

Coming up, the President is on his way to Dallas right now to speak to the NRA convention just two months after the Parkland, Florida shootings. How tough? Will we hear anything from the President on gun control?


[12:56:56] KING: President Trump expected to land any moment in Dallas. He's heading there for the NRA's annual conventions, that to speak in the next hour. Stay right with us for that.

Last year remember the President addressed the convention and said, I will always have your back.


TRUMP: You came through for me and I am going to come through for you. You have a true friend and champion in the White House. As your President, I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Never, ever.


KING: This year, though, remember after the Parkland, Florida shooting, it sounded like the President might be wavering.


TRUMP: And they do have great power, I agree with it. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified. They want to do what's right.

It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18. I don't know. Take the guns first, go through due process second.


KING: The President, though, then backing away from that. Remember at one point, he talked he might be asking Congress to raise the age limit. The President didn't do that. He is back off. Now he's on his way on the NRA in an Air Force I. He said it's a great organization. He loves this country and he made a point of noting and we have a record crowd.

SHEAR: And you remember why he backed down from all of those things. It was after meeting in the Oval Office at 9:00 at night with the head of the NRA. I mean, so --

COLLINS: And the chief lobbyist.

SHEAR: And its chief, and it's his lobbyist. That's right. And so, I mean, the truth is he feels very comfortable and -- I mean, he will feel very comfortable in that -- giving that speech. The audience in front of him he thinks is very much at the heart of this base. They spent $30 million the organization di to back his campaign. I think it's highly unlikely that he does anything, you know, to get on their bad side.

COLLINS: And no one is going to bring up that due process comment, which was stunning. If a Democratic president had made that comment, Republicans would still be talking about it to this day, going after hammering him for that. And the President makes this comment, brushing off due process like it's nothing, and knowing there's a word about it more week later. BENDER: The other clip to play here and to remember that should be brought up again and again was not just the due process piece but Trump's promise to make school safety a priority, that was going to be the priority of his administration.

HENDERSON: Yes. Does he make reference to that? Does he talk about having teachers carry guns in school?

KING: It will be interesting to see, because a number of states have taken steps department shooting, including Florida. Rick Scott defends (ph) the NRA. He's a Senate candidate down there.

It'd be interesting to see how that plays out the NRA. We will see if the NRA is willing to support Governor Scott in the middle of his campaign. So it's fascinating. Again, the President is speaking to the NRA up next hour. You don't want to miss that.

Thanks for joining us today in INSIDE POLITICS. I hope you'll get up early Sunday morning, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, we'll be here again too. Jim Sciutto is in for Wolf Blitzer starts right now.