Return to Transcripts main page
State of the Union
Trump's White House; Interview With Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Interview With Author Ronald Kessler; Hillary Clinton Suggests Sexism In People Telling Her To "Go Away"; Democratic Congresswoman Kept Top Aide Despite Abuse Allegations; FOX Host Takes A Break Following Feud With Parkland Student; "Roseanne" Reboot Prompts Congratulatory Call From Trump. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 01, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trump unleashed. The president says goodbye to a top aide, as he's reportedly told he doesn't need a communications director or a chief of staff. Can President Trump do it all himself? Senator Bernie Sanders will be here to discuss next.
Plus: Speaking out. President Trump replaces yet another member of his Cabinet.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wasn't happy with the speed with which our veterans were taken care of.
TAPPER: And the embattled veterans affair secretary is not leaving quietly.
DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: People are bringing so much politics. There's so much division.
TAPPER: Is he pointing fingers at the White House? Former VA Secretary David Shulkin will be here.
And first look, a new book based on exclusive interviews with the president and his staff, providing a rare inside look into the Trump White House, and offering a surprising take on the first family. We will get the brand-new details in an exclusive interview with the author coming up.
TAPPER: Happy Easter and happy Passover, everyone.
I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C., where the state of our union is spring cleaning.
President Trump continuing to shuffle his Cabinet and top White House advisers, the president spending the holiday weekend in Mar-a-Lago, tweeting "Happy Easter" this morning after playing golf Saturday and dining with FOX News anchor Sean Hannity.
The R&R comes after a week of more high-profile administration departures and firings, the president announcing he wants to replace VA Secretary David Shulkin with his White House doctor, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, and losing one of his most trusted aides, Hope Hicks.
A source telling CNN the president has been advised over the past week that he perhaps doesn't need a communications director at all or a chief of staff, advice the president reportedly listened to, but has neither accepted nor rejected at this time.
The staffing shakeups come as the president made a series of surprising moves, catching his own national security team off-guard by announcing the U.S. would be getting out of Syria very soon.
We will get exclusive insight into the White House staffing shakeup from the author of a new behind-the-scenes book in moments.
But, first, I want to bring in Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
And, Senator, let's start with the president's surprising announcement this week that he's planning to pull American troops out of Syria. As you know, an American service member was killed in an explosion in Syria on Thursday. That's the same day that the president addressed the fight against ISIS at an event in Ohio.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.
TRUMP: Very soon. Very soon. We're coming out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: On Friday night, President Trump then directed the State Department to freeze $200 million in recovery money for Syria.
What do you think? Do you support the president's move to pull out all U.S. troops?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, it's not a yes or a no.
I think we absolutely do not want to get involved in this terrible civil war in Syria, which is so destructive, so destabilizing for the entire region. But I don't know that you can pull out tomorrow.
Our job now is to work with our allies in the entire region. And that is to do everything that we can to bring peace to Syria, make sure that Russia is part of that process. But, absolutely, I do not want to see American troops get stuck in a never-ending civil war, a brutal civil war, in Syria. But, by the way, one of the issues that I and some of my colleagues
have also worked on, where the president is very much on the other side, is that is that the United States has for the last several years been supporting Saudi Arabia in another humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
You're looking at one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, famine, a million people suffering from cholera, people drinking filthy water. And what I and Senator Lee and Senator Murphy have insisted that the time is long overdue for the United States Congress to accept its constitutional responsibility of war-making and not giving that over to the president.
And that's been the case for many, many years. We brought a resolution to the floor. We got 44 votes, which is a good start. But the bottom line is that if the United States is going to get involved in a war, it should not be the president who makes that decision.
It is, under the Constitution, the Congress. Congress has got to reestablish that authority.
TAPPER: Let's stay in that region for one second, because I want to turn to the violent clashes in Gaza over the weekend. You tweeted about this yesterday.
You wrote -- quote -- "The killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response" -- unquote.
The Israeli government called the protests -- quote -- "violent terror demonstrations." The ambassador of Israel to the United States said Hamas fighters were interspersed throughout the crowd, using human shields, and were killed after making -- quote -- "direct attacks" on Israeli positions.
Do you not accept the Israeli's government's explanation?
SANDERS: No, I don't.
I think, from what my understanding is, is you have tens and tens of thousands of people who are engaged in a nonviolent protest. I believe now 15 or 20 people, Palestinians, have been killed, and many, many others have been wounded.
So, I think it's a difficult situation, but my assessment is that Israel overreacted on that. But, again, the bottom line here is that the United States of America has got to be involved in dealing with the terrible tragedy in Gaza, whether it is Syria, whether it's Yemen, whether it's Gaza.
We're looking at the need for the international community, led by the United States, to deal with that situation. Gaza is a disaster right now. Youth unemployment is off the charts. And we are going to continue to see those kinds of demonstrations and protests, unless the world community recognizes the problem in Gaza and brings the Israelis and the Palestinians together to start addressing those problems.
TAPPER: You used to be the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affair Committee. This week, President Trump fired the director, the secretary of the VA, David Shulkin, announced his intention to hire his White House physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, to be the head of the VA.
Take a listen to what your Democratic colleague Senator Chris Coons had to say about Jackson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: The Veterans Administration is one of the largest and most complex federal agencies. And this shows the troubling trend that President Trump has of preferring nominees for his Cabinet or Cabinet members who are personally loyal or who are telegenic, over those who have relevant, deep experience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you share Senator Coons' concerns about Dr. Jackson?
SANDERS: I do, absolutely. But this is part of a broader approach of the Trump administration.
Let us be clear. And Dr. Shulkin made this point in an op-ed the other day in "The New York Times." And the issue is, you have the Koch brothers, the third wealthiest family in this country, who are going to spend some $400 million with their billionaire friends on the coming elections, having enormous power over the Trump administration.
And what the Koch brothers believe is not just that we have to privatize the Veterans Administration. They want to privatize Medicare. And the Trump administration had a $500 billion cut in Medicare. They want to privatize Medicaid. They had a trillion- dollar cut in Medicaid.
They're beginning to go after Social Security. We have a secretary of education who does not believe in public education, a secretary of the environmental EPA who does not believe in environmental protection.
So, what you're looking at under the leadership of the Koch brothers is a massive effort to privatize agencies of the United States government and give them over to private corporations. That is what the removal of Shulkin is all about.
TAPPER: So, you think that Dr. Ronny Jackson is going to be supporting attempts to privatize the VA?
SANDERS: I think, as Chris Cons pointed out, he is -- he has no experience in this area.
But I would strongly suspect that, if you get rid of Shulkin, who opposed privatization, and you put Dr. Jackson in, that is what his mission will be. And I will tell you this. Jake, I have worked over the years with the
American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, and all of the veterans organizations. And, without exception, the major veterans organizations say, we have got to strengthen the VA, not dismember it, not privatize it.
And I will do everything I can as a member of the Veterans Committee not to approve any nominee who is not going to strengthen the VA and who will oppose privatization.
TAPPER: I want to ask you. This week, President Trump has been on Twitter hammering Internet giant Amazon and its owner, Jeff Bezos.
On Saturday, the president tweeted -- quote -- "Amazon must pay real costs and taxes now."
Now, you said this week that you are -- quote -- "absolutely concerned" about Amazon's -- quote -- "extraordinary power."
Do you think Amazon has gotten too big?
SANDERS: Yes, I do. I do.
And I think this is -- look, this is an issue that has got to be looked at. What we are seeing all over this country is the decline in retail. We're seeing this incredibly large company getting involved in almost every area of commerce. And I think it is important to take a look at the power and influence that Amazon has.
But, by the way, when we talk about the Trump administration, I think the most important point to be made, Jake, is that, on issue after issue, they are doing exactly the opposite of what the American people want us to do.
You know, right now, in this country -- we don't talk about it enough -- there are millions of people who are working two or three jobs because wages are much too low. And what the American people say is, raise the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour.
That's what the American people want. I haven't heard one word from the Trump administration on that. I haven't heard one word about really taking on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, so that Americans do not have to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
I am very concerned that they're going to go after -- they go after Medicaid and -- Medicaid. They are going to go after Social Security. You know what the American people want? They don't want to cut Social Security. They want to expand Social Security benefits.
They don't want to give billionaires tax breaks. In fact, they want to ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. So, I would hope, whether it's guns, whether it's Social Security, whether it's prescription drugs, that the Trump administration start listening to the American people, not just the billionaire class and the Koch brothers.
TAPPER: Senator Sanders, always good to see you. Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all of your constituents there in Vermont.
SANDERS: Thank you very much, Jake.
TAPPER: The latest ousted Trump official is not going quietly. Does he blame the administration for what he calls a toxic environment?
Fired VA Secretary David Shulkin will be here next.
And, as turmoil and turnover plagues the White House, a new book is blaming two very surprising figures. The author will be here exclusively with details.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Veterans' lives depend upon this decision. That's what the head of one leading veterans group told CNN, joining a chorus of concern surrounding President Trump's pick of his White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, the second largest government agency.
President Trump says he removed VA Secretary David Shulkin because he -- quote -- "wasn't happy" with the speed of care to veterans.
Will things be any different under a new leader?
Here to respond, the now former veterans affairs secretary, David Shulkin.
Dr. Shulkin, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.
SHULKIN: Glad to be here.
TAPPER: So, I want to start off by just clarifying one point about your departure.
It might seem like a small thing to viewers, but it matters as to the process of who is now supposed to run the department, whether it's your deputy or an assistant secretary.
Were you fired or did you resign?
SHULKIN: Well, Jake, I came to run the Department of Veterans Affairs because I'm committed to veterans, and I'm committed to fighting for them.
And I would not resign, because I'm committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end.
TAPPER: So, you were fired?
SHULKIN: I did not resign.
Let's move to the op-ed you wrote this week just after you were fired.
You said -- quote -- "In recent months, the environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive, that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve. As I prepare to leave government, I'm struck by a recurring thought. It should not be this hard to serve your country."
There are political appointees that made your life difficult, according to sources close to you. The list includes Assistant Secretary John Ullyot at the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as senior advisers Jake Leinenkugel and Camilo Sandoval, as well as, at the White House, Darin Selnick.
All of these are Trump appointees. So, in a way, I wonder, did the Trump White House, did President Trump himself set you up to fail?
SHULKIN: Well, I don't think that this was the president.
The president is committed to improving the care for veterans. These appointees had a belief that there was a different way to do it than I was approaching it.
SHULKIN: Yes, I think that -- I believe that the way that you have to improve care is to work closely with Congress and listen to the veterans groups and make sure that you're doing what the veterans want.
I spent lots of time out talking to veterans. I actually practiced medicine in the VA, caring for veterans. And I was bringing an agenda of change that I thought was getting the progress that we needed.
And some political appointees felt that we needed to be much more aggressive than I was willing to. And so they saw me as an obstacle.
TAPPER: Now, in your op-ed, you accuse these officials of pushing for privatizing VA services because it is -- quote -- "aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans."
So, are you saying that these top aides, who are still working at the VA and the White House, care more about maximizing private sector profits than they do about caring for veterans? SHULKIN: Well, you know, I'm a person that believes that everybody
should be expressing their opinions. We need a dialogue to find solutions.
I have no problem with people expressing different ways of improving the VA. And working with the private sector is something that I believe strongly in.
These individuals, though, when they didn't see that their way was being adopted, used subversive techniques to be able to change leadership at the VA. That's the issue that I have concerns with, because there are good people at the VA working very hard to make the changes that we need for our veterans.
TAPPER: Well, it sounds like really quite a difficult work atmosphere for you and, obviously, we have seen with other people in the Cabinet and the White House.
The president's management style is something we talk about quite a bit. What is it like to work for a president who thrives on chaos, who has appointees who are trying to undermine you, in your view, at your own agency, at the White House?
Does it affect your ability to do your job? Does it affect your ability -- did it affect your ability, the president's chaotic style, to help care for veterans?
SHULKIN: Well, Jake, I have always had a very good relationship with President Trump. He's been clear that he wants to see us do better for veterans. And that's why I was there. So I never had any issues with him.
I do think the way that the political appointees have behaved and some of the ways that they have tried to undermine our progress has made it a difficult environment.
And, you know, what I care about is making sure that this Veterans Administration is doing better for veterans. And it's been a tough environment in which to do that recently.
TAPPER: Your critics say that all of your discussion about privatization is you trying to cover up some of the ethics charges against you.
You have said that the controversy was really all about politics, but former Obama White House ethics chief Walter Shaub called out your behavior, writing in "The L.A. Times," saying: "Deceiving an ethics official is a serious offense for a government employee. Can we agree on that? The evidence is more than enough to warrant Shulkin's termination."
SHULKIN: Well, look, you know, I have been really clear. Everything that I did was done properly. It was pre-approved by our ethics team.
TAPPER: Would you do anything differently?
SHULKIN: I think what the I.G. found, Jake, was, was that a staff member had made essentially some problems in the way that they put the paperwork through.
But the I.G. said I had no knowledge of that. As a Cabinet secretary, you rely upon your staff to handle these details. So, I think that this was a political exploit of this I.G. report in order to accomplish the job of trying to get a change in leadership.
TAPPER: So, you have described Dr. or Rear Admiral Jackson, Ronny Jackson, who's been nominated to replace you, as a friend, as a patriot.
You will say -- you say -- you have said you will do everything you can to help him if he's confirmed.
He has not kind of experience that a lot of people who care about veterans would like to see in a nominee. This is the second largest government agency in the entire country.
Would you encourage, are you encouraging members of the Senate to confirm him?
SHULKIN: Well, look, the Senate has to make up their own mind. And it's important to follow the process, which is to do a proper vetting. And I don't think there should be shortcuts in that.
But I do believe that the president needs somebody that he has confidence in to get this job done and somebody that he's got a good rapport with. I think that's important.
Running the VA is a very tough job. I know that. It's going to take a lot of skill to do it. And I think Dr. Jackson is going to need a good team, because this is a team effort to make the type of changes that we need to fix this system.
TAPPER: But you're declining to officially endorse him?
SHULKIN: Oh, I have said I believe in Dr. Jackson's values. I think that's important. I know that he cares a lot about veterans. And I believe that he will work well with the president.
But this is a big job that has to be thought about carefully, because one of the problems that we have seen in the VA is a constant turn at the top of leadership. And when you're trying to make a change in as big an organization as VA, as big a bureaucracy, you need continuity of leadership.
So, it's very important that the next VA secretary be given a long lead time to be able to make the type of changes that we all believe are so important for this country.
TAPPER: And one last question, very quickly, if you could, sir. President Trump said he fired you because the changes to speed up wait times for veterans weren't happening fast enough.
Do you disagree?
SHULKIN: Well, look, this is the president's call. And I respect his decision.
But we have made tremendous progress over this past year. We have had 11 bills pass with bipartisan support. We have changed the way we do appeals. Since 1930, we haven't changed that. We have a new G.I. Bill. We have an Accountability Act. We now have same-day services. We have major improvements in access. We expanded mental health benefits to other than honorable discharges. And we have expanded it to every service member who leaves the military now.
So, this is a system that has seen major change, major progress. I believe it's getting better. I'm very proud of the men and women who serve in the VA.
We have a lot of work to do, but I think it's been moving in the right direction. And we need the investment to be able to make this system work.
TAPPER: All right, Dr. David Shulkin, happy Passover.
SHULKIN: Thank you.
TAPPER: Thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.
In the White House, there's one powerful player behind the scenes. That's Melania Trump, according to my next guest, who had rare access inside the Trump White House and the Trump family. I will ask how she's been able to sway the president next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
The White House without Hope.
The president's close confidant Hope Hicks left the administration this week, leaving many to wonder who might fill that void, as President Trump appears increasingly emboldened.
My next guest claims insight in this area, having talked to the president for a new book that is out on Tuesday. It's called "The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game."
And here with me for an exclusive preview is author Ronald Kessler.
Congratulations on the book. Thanks for being here. RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE: CHANGING THE RULES OF
THE GAME": Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: So, your book defends the president on a number of fronts, including the Russia investigation, "Access Hollywood, talks about his marriage, how it's clearly going to last. It repeatedly attacks the press.
I want to get to some of the scoops in it in a second.
But, as a larger theme, how should people read it? Is it meant as a defense of President Trump?
KESSLER: I think it's a truthful book. And it says that he will be seen as a great president, just like Reagan, who was dissed by the press, based on results, the record unemployment, getting rid of ISIS.
All these tweets and controversies are going to be forgotten long- term. But, at the same time, there's plenty of negative items in the book and juicy tidbits in the book.
For example, Hope Hicks is the number one leaker. And she...
TAPPER: Hope Hicks or Kellyanne Conway?
KESSLER: I'm sorry. Kellyanne.
TAPPER: Yes, Kellyanne Conway is, in the book.
KESSLER: That while I was interviewing Kellyanne Conway at the White House, she forgot that she was on record, and she started lashing into Reince Priebus.
She said the most mean, cutting and obviously untrue things about Reince. And I didn't include them in the book because they were so unfair. She also lit into Jared and Ivanka, saying that they leak against Steve Bannon.
And I know that White House aides have seen texts that she has sent to other journalists, dissing her colleagues, leaking material. So if you wonder, you know, why there are so many leaks out of the White House, one reason is, Kellyanne is the number one leaker.
TAPPER: A defender of Kellyanne might say that you clearly interviewed -- in addition to her, for the book, you clearly interviewed Bannon and Priebus and Spicer, and maybe it is other people who are saying that about her.
But, instead of getting into the weeds on Kellyanne, I want to ask you about some of the other scoops in the book.
KESSLER: Yes, but this was actually an interview that I had with her...
KESSLER: ... in which she dissed Reince Priebus and Jared and Ivanka.
So, there was no question about the veracity of what was happening.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about your view of some of the other people around the president. You say about daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, you call them Teflon aides.
You write -- quote -- "In the end, Jared and Ivanka would push the most disastrous and foolish decisions of Trump's presidency. They had no understanding of how the basic fundamentals of how government works, how a campaign works, how politics works. Most of all, they had no understanding of the political consequences of their actions."
What are some of the recommendations they made that you're talking about?
KESSLER: They pushed the firing of Comey, which was disastrous. It brought in the special counsel, Mueller.
TAPPER: Why did -- why did they do that? Why did Jared Kushner push that?
KESSLER: Jared said, well, Democrats will love this. This was a political move. And, of course, it turned out not to be true at all.
In addition, they pushed hiring Anthony Scaramucci, who had to be the most absurd hire in the history of the White House.
So, Donald Trump understands that they are problems, has said to them, maybe you should go back to New York, implied that he really didn't want them. But he doesn't fire people. He certainly is not going to fire a family member. So they remain the Teflon aides.
TAPPER: Yes, you have something -- you have a note on page 139. You say, "Despite his persona on 'The Apprentice,' Donald Trump almost never fires anyone himself. Instead, he makes their lives miserable."
One person he's clearly not going to fire you write about quite a bit is the first lady, Melania Trump. You write that she has tremendous impact on policy and strategy, sitting in on key meetings.
Here's what former Press Secretary Sean Spicer told you in an interview about the first lady -- quote -- "She is a very powerful behind-the-scenes force. I don't think people fully recognize how influential she is and what a grounded political sense she has on her own. She always seem to have the pulse on the right move and the right person at the right time. When she weighs in, it's always spot on."
How specifically has Melania swayed the president on any specific issues?
KESSLER: Well, for one thing, she got him to run. He was sort of pussyfooting around about running. And she said, you know, you have to declare your candidacy.
And that's what happened, and he went up in the polls. But, beyond that, she will disagree with him. She will sit in, in meetings with Cabinet officers, and she will disagree with Trump.
Her judgment is spectacular. And we have pictures of her as well which will certainly sell the book.
TAPPER: And you have also -- in terms of Hope Hicks, I want to ask you about her.
Her last day at the White House was on Thursday. She's been one of his closest aides. You write -- quote -- "Donald Trump has told friends that billionaires are constantly asking him to fix them up with Hicks, who is consumed by her work and until recently was never seen with a date. Trump says he refuses."
Beyond her dating life, how do you think the White House is going to be without her there? A lot of people think that she has been a real stabilizing force for the president, because they have been so close and have been -- she's been with him for so long.
KESSLER: You know, she actually pushed the book, I call it a novel, by Michael Wolff, along with Steve Bannon.
So, I don't think that shows that her judgment is that wonderful. You know, everyone loves her. She's -- and she's very enthusiastic about Trump. But, to me, that -- that is not a good sign.
TAPPER: All right, Ron Kessler, thank you so much for being here.
The book is called "The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game."
I should just note, as a journalist, I kind of take issue with some of your criticism of fellow journalists.
But good luck with the book. We appreciate your being here.
Happy Passover and happy Easter to you and your family.
KESSLER: Happy Passover.
TAPPER: I appreciate it.
Major advertisers are fleeing from one FOX News show after host Laura Ingraham mocked Parkland student's inability to get into college that he wants to go to. Now she's taking a short term break from her show. Will that become permanent?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was really struck by how people said that to me, you know, mostly people in the press for whatever reason, like, oh, you know, go away, go away. They never said that to any man who was not elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton talking at Rutgers University about people trying to push her off the stage.
Our panels here with me to talk about this. Bakari Sellers, former Hillary Clinton supporter.
Is she right? Is this a sexist response when people -- I don't know who specifically she's talking about, when people say get off the stage, is it sexist?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do think that they -- you see different treatment between Hillary Clinton and other people who have lost presidential elections.
Newt Gingrich is still running his mouth every single day. You have Mitt Romney who's running for office and doing other things. So, yes, the treatment is different between Hillary Clinton and others.
The fact is Hillary Clinton is one of the most accomplished women we've had on the political stage. Whether or not you want to still listen to her, that's your business but she does have every single right to speak her mind.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I kindly would point out that some of the criticism is coming from female members of her own party like --
TAPPER: Senator Heitkamp --
CARPENTER: -- people like Claire McCaskill, Senator Heitkamp, who are upset with the way that Hillary Clinton demonizes Trump supporters and this idea that she lost the election because of sexism is so backwards. She had more advantages than probably anybody else in the modern political field.
Her connections with her husband, the finance, and the fact that she was a former senator, a secretary of state. And if anything did her in it was this toxic mess of things that were both true and untrue related to her e-mails that she never got a hold of. That's not sexism.
SELLERS: Hillary Clinton is not above criticism.
CARPENTER: Of course not. Yes.
SELLERS: You can criticize -- you can criticize her for what she says but my point is that she has every right to say it.
SELLERS: Hillary Clinton can be part of the scene. She can be a part of the stage.
Now the biggest foils the Republican Party has are Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. So it may not help many Democrats but my point is she has every right. She has given her life to public service. She can say what she wants to say.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As a former presidential loser, yes, I'm all for her being able to go out there and speak. And I'm all for as someone who has -- who sees her as what Bakari says, it's a real liability to Democrats. And I think the more she is out there speaking the better it is for Republicans in this general election.
TAPPER: Nina, is she a liability for Democrats for her to be talking out there?
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, depending on what she says, I agree. She has a right to speak any -- this is America. People have a right to speak but when you're criticizing the voters as Amanda pointed out, even states like my state of Ohio, when she said that the state's that voted for Mr. Trump were not as dynamic so it's really what she says that is causing angst within the Democratic Party.
But absolutely. She is accomplished. She has every right to speak like any other American does but it is what she is saying that is the problem.
TAPPER: Something else causing angst in the Democratic Party, Democratic congresswoman Elizabeth Esty came under fire this week after it was revealed she chose to keep on her chief-of-staff even after learning of abuse allegations against him. Her hometown newspaper called her conduct -- quote -- "appalling" and wrote -- quote -- "Elizabeth Esty will likely spend the next several days to defending her failure to take strong steps to protect a woman who'd been threatened and bullied by a member of her own staff by blaming the system and talking about the good she's done in Congress. She shouldn't. She should resign."
Should she resign?
SELLERS: Of course. I mean, that's an easy call. I don't think this is a partisan discussion at all.
I mean, I've looked at some of the allegations that came out, threatening, the death threats, the abuse the -- and --
TAPPER: By her chief-of-staff.
SELLERS: By her chief-of-staff --
CARPENTER: Abused a staffer in their own office. Yes.
SELLERS: It's one thing -- it's one thing to vet those claims and give someone a chance to explain themselves but even after you do that and not take the steps after, you're not -- you can't be responsible for everybody on your staff, however when it's brought to your attention you have to stand up and take positive changes.
CARPENTER: Yes. We have the whole #MeToo movement to support women but the ugly truth is that many of these terrible things that happen are enabled by women like her. She was aware that her chief-of-staff -- I mean, keep in mind in a congressional office, your chief-of-staff is someone who runs everything. This isn't somebody you don't know about.
This guy said he was going to kill a staffer, punched her in the office and yet this woman still turned a blind eye to it, gave him pay good positive letter of recommendation. And so what I want to hear from her, she should resign, absolutely, but I want to know the honest truth why she valued this man more than a staffer because that will be very instructive, it will be ugly, but in order to move past these things we need to figure out how she rationalized that.
TURNER: And just standing up -- you know, she is, you know, right there with the whole #MeToo, but not the people in her office.
So she definitely -- it was an epic fail, a fail of leadership. She used the same system that now the women in Congress, we know that 22 -- the 22 women senators got together and said, listen, leadership, do something about this. This process, the report sexual harassment shouldn't take so long but yet you have a representative who's a Democrat holding up the same things and holding up her male staffer in a way that is unacceptable.
SANTORUM: Well, I think what you're hearing here is the reality is that the reaction to this is going to be a politically nonstarter for her.
I mean, all of these decisions whether (ph) to (ph) resign (ph) or (ph) not (ph) are (ph) based on what you do in office is ultimately dependent upon how the public and your colleagues view it and it sounds to me that both colleagues on both sides of the aisle are going to -- are going to -- are going to push for her resignation. She can't stand.
TAPPER: Another big controversy over of the last week is -- has to do with FOX's Laura Ingraham going after David Hogg who's one of the students from the high school that was brutalized by gun violence on February 14th. She sent out a tweet making fun of him for not getting into some of the colleges.
Now we should point out he's 17 or 18 years old. But he has been very outspoken and very critical of the NRA and other groups.
Take a listen to what Hogg had to say after Laura Ingraham criticized him. And she did -- we should also point out she did apologize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOGG, SENIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: When people try to distract like Laura's trying to do right now from what the real issue here is which is gun violence in America, it's not only sad, it's just wrong.
From a journalistic standpoint I would say that she needs to be more objective and needs to stand down. Because I'm not the issue here. The issue needs to be gun violence in America but what she's trying to do is distract from that and I hate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So Senator Santorum, at least seven of her advertisers have pulled out of her show after David Hogg went on Twitter and started naming her advertisers, presumably for a boycott and she's now on what FOX called a preplanned Easter vacation.
Do you think that there's an overreaction to her tweet?
SANTORUM: Look, the reality is she made a mistake and she shouldn't have done that. It's part of what I see as a real problem in American politics which is the demonization of people, the personalization of politics.
It's just -- you know, I understand that the president does that and sets in my opinion a very poor example. We shouldn't follow it and that goes for both sides.
The demonization over the last week has been on both sides of the aisle and really there are important issues to discuss here on school violence and the reality is we should keep it to those issues and stop the personal petty attacks. It's not helpful.
TAPPER: Do you think, though, that -- I mean, she did apologize. She said she was sorry. Does that not matter anymore?
TURNER: She's a grown woman going after a teenager and poking fun at him not even challenging his position on gun violence but going after him personally. She apologized but I think that apology was more I got caught and now my advertisers are leaving my show more than being genuine, but the point is you have a grown woman.
And I agree with the senator. This toxic environment that has been created and not just because Mr. Trump is in office, it is just -- if you're on social media it gives people license to say whatever they want to say about people and it's wrong.
CARPENTER: Yes. I just got to say it's Easter. It bothers me that the apology was couched in terms of being in the spirit of holy week and now we're supposed to believe that this was a prescheduled vacation because of Easter.
If it wasn't a Christian nice thing to do during holy week, it's not a Christian nice thing to do during any other week either. And so if she is really sorry, she should express that but I still question if she's doing this just because the advertisers walked and what the FOX News' position is on this because -- you guys are right.
This mean spiritedness that is oozes out of the system especially from right wing talkers it's turned me off for a long time. I think other people recognize that and it takes advisers to bring it to their attention, then I'm for it.
SANTORUM: -- talkers to by the way.
TAPPER: I'm going to play devil's advocate one more type, does it not matter at all that she apologized? I mean, is that irrelevant here?
She -- we so seldom see people acknowledge that they did something wrong. She did. She said -- she said that she wished that she hadn't done it.
SELLERS: Jake, I still don't -- I can't believe Laura Ingraham actually has a show. I'm kind of at a point where -- I'm there. She apologized.
Look, you know, with free speech in this country, also comes consequence. You have the right to say anything you want to say but there also are consequences to those actions. And so those advertisers are pulling out and I think rightfully so and I don't think she'll be back on TV after this preplanned vacation.
SANTORUM: I disagree -- I completely disagree with that. Laura, made a mistake, she apologized for the mistake. She has a long track record of responsible journalism and she'll be back.
SELLERS: She also has a long track record of xenophobia and bigotry (INAUDIBLE).
TAPPER: In any case let's end this on Happy Easter to all of you.
SANTORUM: Happy Passover.
SELLERS: Happy Passover.
TAPPER: I hope you have a wonderful day to you and your family. Appreciate it.
Americans are invite approximating "Roseanne" back into their living rooms. But there's one new reason why President Trump maybe shouldn't be completely celebrating the return of his on-screen and real life supporter. That's next.
[09:52:50] TAPPER: Everyone loves a reboot, and while Roseanne Barr was greeted with a ratings home run, another season and even a call from President Trump, actress Roseanne Barr's tweets are not getting the same reception. Some seeming to reference unhinged conspiracy theories out there and more leaving us to wonder if the return of Roseanne and its huge ratings could actually boost the president's own support.
ROSEANNE BARR AS ROSEANNE HARRIS CONNER: Thank you for making America great again.
TAPPER (voice-over): President Trump has a new favorite TV show.
TRUMP: Look at Roseanne, I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings.
TAPPER: And the former television star is taking credit, telling a crowd of his supporters in Ohio that the show represents them.
TRUMP: And it was about us.
TAPPER: But can Roseanne's support and the monster ratings perhaps also give the president a boost. The sitcom's titled character is a total unabashed Trump supporter.
LAURIE METCALF AS MARJORIE JACKIE HARRIS: How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?
BARR: He talked about jobs, Jackie. He said he would shake things up.
TAPPER: And Roseanne Barr who ran in 2012 to be the Green Party's presidential nominee is now a proud Trump voter in real life.
BARR: I think Trump's stealing my act. That's why I like him.
TAPPER: Offering what's being billed as a rare relatable network television portrayal of the white working class.
BARR: First let's say grace. Jackie, would you like to take a knee?
TAPPER: The show is already rallying Trump country. Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio delivered the debut's highest ratings. But some critics say the fictional depiction is a Hollywood fantasy, whitewashing Trump supporters as socially liberal, showing for instance Roseanne standing up for her gender fluid grandchild.
BEN SHAPIRO, HOST, THE BEN SHAPIRO SHOW: The actual theme of the show is that the only reason you would vote for Trump is for non-cultural reasons. All right? The show is one big lie about Trump.
TAPPER: The real-life Roseanne has come under fire as well for giving voice to a darker side of the far right, conspiracies involving child sex trafficking for instance. So far Barr has left those debunked plots out of her mainstream show. But whether the Roseanne reboot can win President Trump new supporter understanding remains to be seen.
For now the Conner household sounds a lot like America.
METCALF: I should have tried to understand why you voted the crazy way that you did.
BARR: And I should have understood that, you know, you want the government to give everybody free health care because you're a good- hearted person who can't do simple math.
TAPPER: A mysterious train, a high stakes meeting, a lavish banquet, all part of Kim Jong-un's surprise visit to China. What might the trip mean for the North Korean leader's meeting with President Trump? That's next.