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Treasury Secretary Asked for Government Jet for Honeymoon; Trump at Risk of Losing Base Over Dreamers?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of his supporters calling it downright betrayal today, nicknaming him Amnesty Don, if you check out Breitbart.

The president and Democratic leaders, both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, all agreed that they would move forward with DACA. That's the program that allows undocumented immigrants who entered as children to remain in the U.S., about 800,000 of these dreamers, but at what cost?

Both Pelosi and Schumer say DACA will not be linked to border wall funding. And, at one point today, the president seemed to be on board.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're building four different samples of the wall to see which one we're going to choose and the wall is going to be built. It will be funded a little bit later.


BALDWIN: Just a short time later, he repeated at least four times that there will be nothing on DACA unless he gets the wall.


TRUMP: We will only do it if we get extreme security, if we get not only surveillance, but everything that goes along with surveillance, and ultimately we have to have the wall. If we don't have the wall, we're doing nothing.


BALDWIN: Let's go to CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.

Phil Mattingly, what are Republican leaders on the Hill saying about all of this today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, despite what we heard from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Paul Ryan, the speaker, the Republican leader in the House, saying there's not only no deal, there weren't even negotiations.

These were just discussions that occurred last night over dinner, over Chinese food, some chocolate pie, too, Brooke, obviously very important note there. And it's very interesting to see, because what Democrats took coming out of that meeting was that there is an agreement on the parameters of the deal, essentially how the protections of DACA participants would be put into place, and in exchange Republicans would get a boost in border security funding.

But Democrats, Brooke, are saying the baseline for the protection of DACA participants would be something called the DREAM Act. Now, what does the DREAM Act entail? It involves a pathway to citizenship, which obviously has been a huge problem and a huge issue inside the Republican Conference for years.

This is something I asked Speaker Ryan about. Take a listen.


MATTINGLY: Did the president shed any light on what his preferences would be? And also do you think something like the DREAM Act, would you support that or would your conference support that?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What I'm going to do is negotiate with colleagues. What I'm going to do is get consensus with our members.

And no offense, Phil, but I am not going to negotiate through the media. That is not in our interests. That is not how legislation is drafted. So, we're going to do is get our consensus and we're having the conversations with our members right now while we negotiate a compromise, which there will be a compromise. We believe this will occur.

And this compromise will include border security and enforcement so that we don't wind up with another DACA problem 10 years down the road.


MATTINGLY: A couple things I want to impact there.

Frist, obviously, very disappointing the speaker did not want to negotiate future legislation with the media.


BALDWIN: Appreciated that. No offense, Phil.


MATTINGLY: We would all have a lot of scoops if that were the case, but two things.

First and foremost, the speaker saying there will be a compromise, that underscores what I have heard over the last couple of days before this meeting, which is Republican leaders understand there is a deadline. Republican leaders are very supportive of figuring out some solution to the DACA issue. They want no part of 700,000 individuals being deported or at least threat of under deportation.

But the speaker also made another point here. Whatever the president wants to talk about in meetings with Democrats, it's Republicans who control the House and Republicans who control the Senate and Republicans and the Republican Conference that need to get comfortable with whatever a final deal is going to be.

Again, Brooke, the parameters aren't exactly a secret. They would be border funding, border security funding and it would be some type of protection for DACA, but the specifics, the details of those parameters are extremely important, and haven't been fleshed out yet. I think that's what we have been hearing from Republicans all day.

Whatever Democrats say, Republicans aren't there yet. There's no deal yet, and according to the speaker, not even negotiations, just discussions -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Discussions, right.

Phil Mattingly, thank you. Good to see you back on my TV again.

Exactly how outraged is the president's base? Here is Iowa Congressman Steve King.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Something is going to have to get reversed here with this president's policy or it will just blow up in his face. I mean, this was a straight-up promise all the way through his campaign. What it means is the base believe him. They won't be able to defend him anymore.


BALDWIN: With me now, CNN political analyst Brian Karem. He's executive editor of The Sentinel Newspapers.


BALDWIN: Brian, listen, you hear all these different versions of there's a deal, maybe there's a half-deal, definitely there's a deal, definitely not amnesty. What's the deal with the deal?

KAREM: Well, the deal with the deal is the deal that you always have with the White House. They're about as acquainted with reality and facts as a blind man is acquainted with sight.


KAREM: What's the deal today? Who knows. What's the deal tomorrow? Who knows.

The fact is he reached out to the Democrats because he's desperate for a victory, a legislative victory somewhere. Of course, he's going to anger what's left of the base. Much of the base has already abandoned him. What's left stripped down to its barest raw minimum are people that can't get him reelected in those numbers alone.


So he's going to have to reach out at some point in time and try and build bridges, unless he's content on being a one-term president. So his reaching out to Democrats -- and, by the way, what Schumer did and what Pelosi did afterwards, circumventing the process and putting out a press release about what was said and done in that meeting was actually kind of brilliant, politically, because now they have kind of painted him into a corner.

And so you have Sarah Sanders coming out moments later saying, no, no, the wall's still on the -- we're going to build the wall.

And I have got news for you. The wall's never going to be built. It can't be built. It's physically impossible. I mean, that's the one thing that the base, they have never been able to rectify the fact that geographically you can't do it. Between Del Rio and El Paso, Texas, is that wonderful area, it's beautiful. It's called Big Ben.

And building a wall there would be like building a wall across the Grand Canyon. It can't be done.


KAREM: What exactly are they going to build? They have never really been able to determine what they're going to build.

BALDWIN: It's a totally valid question. We heard different questions of the president saying for now we're going to put together pieces of the wall that existed. We know all about that.

KAREM: Right.

BALDWIN: But let me take you back to a point, yes, the brilliant strategy of the Chuck Schumer/Nancy Pelosi statements last night. Everyone loves a good off-mike moment. And so apparently Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was just caught talking about this meeting last night with the president. This just happened today. Let's listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: What we said is exactly (OFF-MIKE) Here's what I told him. I said, Mr. President, you're much better off if you can sometimes step right and sometimes step right. If you have to step just in one direction, you're boxed.

(OFF-MIKE) Oh, it's going to work out, and it will make us more productive, too. OK. On this thing, we have got to wait and see...


BALDWIN: OK. So I know it's kind of muffled, but the bottom line is, you know, he likes us. He likes me.

KAREM: He really likes us.

BALDWIN: He really, really likes me.

KAREM: His Sally Field moment.

BALDWIN: Totally. So,

I mean, we laugh, and I don't know how that will sit with the president and his overall strategy, but there's been much discussion today about the sea change from the White House now.

Maybe the president thought, all right, these last eight months, I haven't gotten any huge wins on the scoreboard legislatively, so you know what, if I need to do a deal with the Democrats, I'm going to at least talk to the Democrats about doing a deal.

KAREM: Well, that's true. There's been no question that he's frustrated with Republicans, who have been very good over the last seven or eight years at poking holes in things, but as far as governing, they haven't really been able to do it that much.

And it's kind of frustrating for this president, who -- and any president, for that matter, who has to sit there and listen to legislators poke holes in things and never really do anything. And he has kind of put them on notice that they have to do something. And for the Republicans who love to cheer and scream and yell and rant and rave, they haven't been able to legislate very well. And they're in the majority.

That's the ultimate question is, can he get enough Republicans along with Democrats and build bipartisanship? Now Sarah Sanders comes out and says that he's done more for bipartisanship in eight months than Obama did in eight years. And that's as disingenuous as anything else that comes out of the White House, but actually, if he can pull it off, then it will be one in the win column for him.

BALDWIN: Chocolate cake and Chinese food.

KAREM: Chocolate cake. Can't beat it.

BALDWIN: Who knew?

Brian Karem, thank you.

KAREM: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

President Trump this hour, he is returning to the White House after visiting Florida for a firsthand look at Irma's destruction and personally hearing from these hurricane victims.

A crowd chanted USA, USA as President Trump handed out food to people who live in these badly damaged areas, especially this mobile home community in Naples there. The president with this message to Floridians struggling amid all of this destruction.


TRUMP: Well, we love the people of Florida and they went through something that I guess the likes of which we could really say nobody's ever seen before. They have never seen a category like this coming, because you came in really at a 5.

All you have to do is look at what happened in the Keys. But we love these people. And we're going to be back and we're going to help.


BALDWIN: Let's talk it over with CNN contributor Dave Halstead. He's a former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Dave, nice to have you on.

How did the president do today?

DAVE HALSTEAD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he said the right things. The most important thing he did though was sign that major disaster declaration which releases funds into the state.


There's two primary categories. One is individual assistance. The other is public assistance. And that brings that money into the states. It will bring into the counties and start getting everything back up and running.

For right now, we're in the life-sustaining mode. You saw him at places where citizens are being fed. Water is being delivered. FEMA has millions and millions of shelf-stable meals that are en route to Florida, en route to those impacted areas, millions of gallons of drinking water.

So, life-sustaining is the issue right now. But it's important that he shows his face, that of the vice president, to show how concerned they are and to try to reassure the citizens.

BALDWIN: He talked about getting people up and running. Something like 2.5 million people still don't have power and the president addressed that today.


TRUMP: So, your power is -- literally, Rick, it's going on as we speak. It's going way ahead of schedule, weeks ahead of schedule.


BALDWIN: I mean, you know, Dave, I mean -- let's just get a reality check. When we hear ahead of schedule, you know, obviously, he wants to be optimistic and he knows way more about any of this than you and I do at the moment, but how long does this kind of thing really take to turn back on?

HALSTEAD: Well, again, there are going to be homes without power for many more weeks past the deadlines that have been set.

The issue is we keep focusing on Florida Power and Light. Granted, they are the large dog in the hunt. But there are dozens and dozens of private utilities and they need to be on the same page as the president to make sure they're pushing to get that power restored.

Listen, the power companies are here. In fact, four miles from my house is a staging area of 150 Con Edison vehicles going into that impacted area. But a lot of the grid is going to have to be rebuilt. A lot of it was flooded with saltwater. So all of those systems, the transmission, distribution lines have to be checked. There's hundreds if not thousands of homes that can't receive power.

Each one of those have to be cut off to make sure that once the grid is back up and running that we don't have live electrical going into the buildings that can't, quite frankly, receive power. While I applaud the president in his wanting to get the message out, my concern is, is that those deadlines are going to come and we're still going to have a lot of people without power.

BALDWIN: Yes. yes. You would know. Dave Halstead, thank you.

HALSTEAD: Yes, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up here, Amnesty Don,just one of the names the president has been called in the wake of his dinner with Democrats last night. Is the president at risk of losing his base? We will talk to a conservative talk show host for his take on the president's change in strategy.

And honeymoon phase over. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin under new scrutiny for requesting a government jet for his European honeymoon, his explanation as some accuse him of being downright tone-deaf.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. Watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Here's a phrase that's been coined today, Amnesty Don. Breitbart coining this new nickname for the president after Democrats say they are working on a DACA agreement with President Trump after dining at the White House.

Lest we forget, former White House strategist Steve Bannon is back in power at Breitbart. Accusations of the president embracing amnesty catching on today as some conservatives are saying the president betrayed a campaign promise.

So let's bring in Rachael Bade, congressional reporter Politico, and conservative radio host Dale Jackson.

Dale, do you feel betrayed?

DALE JACKSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Absolutely. I'm not a big Donald Trump fan. I never was, but one of the things I was behind is the fact that he was going to do away with DACA.

And when he said he was going to do away with DACA, he didn't mean he was going to do away with it and then ask Congress to make it law, so, yes, that's a betrayal.

BALDWIN: And, so, as a result of the betrayal, I'm talking to a lot of people who are reminding us this is a man who was a Democrat for many, many years before becoming a Republican. I understand you wrote on Facebook today, you wouldn't be surprised if what?

JACKSON: I said yesterday that I wouldn't be surprised if he switched parties. It was kind of tongue in cheek, but let's look at what Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are actually doing.

They're servicing one of their biggest donors. He supported Democrats for years and now here they are trying to pull him out of a situation he doesn't want to be in. He needs a win and he's having a hard time getting it with Republicans because DACA is amnesty. And there's no other way to put that.

But here comes Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to do just like they did with the debt ceiling and bail him out. That's exactly what's happening here. They're serving one of their constituents.

BALDWIN: Rachael Bade, it's fascinating hearing this spectrum of opinion on what the president has done with this dinner last night and then add to it, we were talking about the hot mike moment over on Capitol Hill where Leader Schumer is essentially caught on mike channeling his best Sally Field and saying, he likes us, or he really likes me. How's that going to play?

RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO: Not well with conservatives.

Look, there's a bromance going on right now, no doubt, between the president and Chuck Schumer, but I think that right now this whole reaction you're seeing from conservatives, the blowback, that's why on Capitol Hill we're seeing leaders basically try to walk back this deal.

The White House, some sources in the White House also saying the same thing, right? Speaker Paul Ryan came out and said, there is no deal. We heard Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy say something about how Democrats tricked Trump, and basically are trying to give him a way to sort of get out of this tentative framework he struck last night about pushing the wall to a further deadline down the road and doing some sort of codification for the dreamers to allow them to stay here long- term.

But, see, look, there's a problem here. And that is, Trump not only said this to Schumer and Pelosi. He also, according to sources I have spoken with, floated this to a bunch of lawmakers earlier in the day. He doubled down on it during a tweet last night.


Now, could he change his mind? Very well, he could. And I know for a fact my Republican sources are telling me that they're going to try to get him to push for the wall as part of a DACA fix.

You have the House right now, a lot of conservatives mad at him. They're trying to push him further on the right with this and hoping he backs out of this agreement.

BALDWIN: Quickly, Dale, do you want that wall?

JACKSON: Absolutely, but I also know Donald Trump is a pathological liar, so who knows what he's going to feel tomorrow and what he's going to try to pull off. The guy needs a win. That's all he's going for here and he has no ideological core. He was just better than Hillary Clinton.


Dale Jackson not holing back. Rachael Bade, thank you so much.

Coming up next here on CNN, new details coming to light that the treasury secretary looked into getting a government plane to use for his honeymoon, and now there is an internal investigation.



BALDWIN: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin blurring the lines between pleasure and business.

Again, the Treasury Department says while planning his European honeymoon over this past summer, Mnuchin asked the White House if he and his wife could use a government jet.

Mnuchin said he wanted the jet so that he could have secure lines of communication while he was abroad. He later withdrew that request. And now these investigators are telling CNN that they will be reviewing all of Mnuchin's government-related travel requests, because this isn't the first time he and his wife's travel have, shall we say, raised some eyebrows.

Let's talk this over with CNN contributor Larry Noble. He is general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. And also with me, CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett.

So, good to see both of you.

And, Larry, just again, to be clear, Mnuchin never actually followed through with getting this jet. Nevertheless, the request was apparently made. How brazen would this sort of a request have been vs. his excuse that he wanted a secure coms line? LARRY NOBLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's pretty brazen. They're only

supposed to use the military jets when it's absolutely necessary, and the fact that the answer came back that we have other ways to have secure communications shows that, you know, this wasn't a serious -- a really serious effort to protect the government interests.

What this was, was an effort to use a private government jet, an Air Force jet, to go on his honeymoon. You know, one of the ironies of this is that his wife got into an Instagram battle with somebody else and made a comment saying, I bet you think that the government paid for our honeymoon or travel, laugh out loud, laugh out loud.

Now it's apparent that she said that because she already knew the government had rejected their request for that travel. It's a pretty brazen attempt. And it fits into other things they have done, such as the question why they went to Kentucky during the eclipse.

BALDWIN: Right. Right. Right.

NOBLE: It seems to be looking at the government resources as something they can use for their own benefit.

BALDWIN: On some of that, Kate Bennett, you have new reporting on some of this Mnuchin stuff. What are you learning?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know, the point here is, what we don't know is Louise Linton. We don't know her very well. We don't know Mnuchin very well.

But we do know that she likes luxury things. She enjoys -- she did a story for "Town & Country" right before her wedding detailing the diamonds she planned to wear before the ceremony. This is a woman who felt comfortable tagging the thousands and thousands of dollars that she was wearing in designer clothes.

She's an actress. She runs a production company. The couple has recently moved to a large home in Washington that she's apparently integrating herself within the social scene here. You know, this optics wise is not great timing. Her husband is now part of the government. He's working on tax reform, of all things.

So there's sort of this brazen contradiction between what has happened now twice in terms of making headlines and what his real day job is.

BALDWIN: But, so, to Kate's point, Larry, you know, when you look at the full picture, and you alluded to the Fort Knox/Eclipse/Kentucky trip, right, in the government jet, and this request for this European honeymoon and a government jet, and the whole wife tagging fancy, fancy designers and it just begs the question, is the man tone-deaf?

NOBLE: At the very least, he's tone-deaf.

I think what you're seeing here is a very different view of the world than most Americans have or are capable of having. It's a view of the world that you take what you can get, that these services are there for me and I will use them, you know, regardless of what the actual rules are, and regardless of who's paying for them.

I have to say that the tone for this administration is set at the very top. There seems to be just this idea that it's not a question of what we should do, it's not a question of what norms are, it's not even a question of what the law is. It's a question of what we can get away with.

And so, you know, it's the whole thing of, well, I can ask, I can try, if I don't get caught, I get away with it. I think it's the whole tone of the administration that it's tone-deaf to how average Americans live and it's tone-deaf to what the ethics rules are and what they're about.

And I think we're going to see this continue to happen unless they have a real change of heart about what their role in government is.

BALDWIN: Well, as we have been reporting, there is now an internal investigation over this honeymoon jet request.

We will stay on it.

Larry Noble, thank you.

Kate Bennett, nice to see you.

Coming up next, we do have breaking news now involving the president talking to reporters on board Air Force One as he's making his way back to Washington, made news on a variety of topics, including what we were just discussing.

Stand by for that next.