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Trump Visits Boeing; Trump Pushes America First; Trump Pick Turns Down Job; Senate Confirms Pruitt; Cruz Calls for John Bolton; Comey Holds Classified Briefing; Top Officials on Reassure Europe Mission. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 17, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Rant, diatribe, restart - you know, you name the noun here - news conference that hit many of the controversies he's currently facing. President Trump is now focusing on what many say is the reason he won, the economy and jobs. His whole mantra, America first.

Moments ago, he became the first sitting president to actually visit Boeing's campus there in North Charleston, South Carolina. The president helping unveil Boeing's brand new 787-10, the Dreamliner airplane. And there the president praised the corporation that he once accused of overcharging the government. Remember that tweet just a couple months ago about canceling a Boeing order?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My focus has been all about jobs. And jobs is one of the primary reasons I'm standing here today as your president. And I will never, ever disappoint you. Believe me. I will not disappoint you.

I campaigned on the promise that I will do everything in my power to bring those jobs back into America. We wanted to make much easier - it has to be much easy to manufacture in our country and much harder to leave. I don't want companies leaving our country, making their product, selling it back, no tax, no nothing, firing everybody in our country. We're not letting that happen anymore, folks. Believe me. There will be a very substantial penalty to be paid when they fire their people and move to another country, make the product and think that they're going to sell it back over what will soon be a very, very strong border. It's going to be a lot different. It's going to be a lot different.

You've heard me say it before, and I will say it again. From now on, it's going to be America first.


BALDWIN: While the president is applauding Boeing for keeping jobs in the United States - live pictures, I'm being told, of the president. He's already, I think, what is this, is he still at the Boeing plant or is this Air Force One? I can't quite tell. So many planes. Maybe he's just checking out the new Dreamliner. Who knows, until you guys let me know. He is - oh, it is the Dreamliner. OK, thank you so much. He's having a tougher than expected time filling one of the top jobs

of his inner circle, the national security adviser, which has been vacant after Michael Flynn tendered his resignation earlier this week. The White House is indeed pushing back on reports of why retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward rejected the job. And we'll get into that here in just a second.

But first to Jason Carroll, who is there in South Carolina following the president.

I mean you felt it. You were in the crowd. I heard, you know, huge support for him. I mean the whole America first. The mantra buy American, hire American. It does well for him.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really did. And in many ways, Brooke, this reminded me of - very much of a campaign speech that we heard, in fact, when we were in South Carolina almost a year ago to the day for the primary. I mean he did thank the state of South Carolina for giving him that win. Thanked the now governor, then lieutenant governor at the time, Henry McMaster, who came out and supported him. You remember Nikki Haley actually supported Senator Marco Rubio.

So much thanks to give out here. Thanking the Boeing folks. And really talking about a promise that he made on the campaign, to make it America first. That really went over well with the crowd.

I spoke to a woman, Brenda McManus (ph). She's worked at Boeing for 10 years. She said she actually slept in her car overnight so see could see the president here today.


CARROLL: The president who's now just gotten off of the 787-10 and is still there on the tarmac.

She said she felt as though he did really well talk about jobs. I asked her about that press conference yesterday. She said, look, she said, I'm a die-hard Republican. I like it when he talks about jobs. I don't like it when he tweets so much.


BALDWIN: All right, Jason, thank you.

You know, this is one of those venues. It just reminds me of campaign rallies. You went to so many of with the backdrop of the plane, you know, the mega rally, the crowds.

Let's talk a little bit more about this. I've got a couple more voices I want to bring into this conversation. CNN's senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN Political commentator Ana Navarro, former lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Andre Bauer, and CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar, who has just been named associate editor and columnist at the "Financial Times."

So welcome to all of you.

And, Rana, let me just turn to you. I mean you and I were chatting - as we stay on these pictures of the president - you know, Boeing, you - in your book -


BALDWIN: You wrote about the Dreamliner. You wrote about the supply chain. You know on - let's just be on balance.


BALDWIN: On the one hand, this is awesome for America, and South Carolina, and jobs.

FOROOHAR: Yes. No, absolutely.

[14:05:03] BALDWIN: But it's not as awesome, perhaps, if you dig a little deeper.

FOROOHAR: Well, it's very mixed. And that's the truth about the manufacturing story and about the American economy in general. I mean the Boeing 787 is actually one of the most complex global supply chains ever known, you know, to aviation and to manufacturing industry.

BALDWIN: How do you mean?

FOROOHAR: Well, there are so many different countries. I mean there are dozens and dozens of countries where these parts are being made. They're coming in and out. And, by the way, if you think about the president's proposed import tariff, that would really hurt a company like Boeing that gets so much of its supply chain from overseas. If you think about products being taxed every time they comes into the U.S.

That said, I think the president is actually being incredibly savvy about riding a trend that was actually happening in U.S. manufacturing. Since 2010, there have been jobs coming back to the U.S. for a lot of different reasons. On the one hand, companies realize these supply chains are very complex and that exposes them to political risk. I mean think about what's happening in the South China Seas right now. You don't n necessarily want to be bring a lot of parts in and out from there. You think about consumers wanting products faster, wanting things nearer to them so that they can get those products in stores faster. All of that is supporting a trend that the president is taking credit for but actually was already happening beforehand.

That said, there is a lot the administration can do to help. I think that cutting regulations, I think that creating an environment where manufacturing can flourish would be a great thing.

BALDWIN: Andre Bauer, this is South Carolina, your home state. How did he do? ANDRE BAUER (R), FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA: He did

good. He's right down the street from my house about seven miles. This is where I grew up. He did a great job.

This is his message. He can stick to any other message he wants, but this is the one that really unites Americans. It makes you feel good about our country and about the opportunities.

South Carolina has been very blessed in the last few years, especially in the manufacturing sector. As a matter of fact, Boeing had a vote this week as to whether to unionize and overwhelmingly they voted it down. They're happy with the way they're being treated. They're excited about how it's changing your community. And we have so many, you know, good folks moving into our area and it's expanding and growing. And so for him to hit this message home - and I heard you talk about, you know, the tariffs and how that would impact Boeing. Hopefully Boeing will look more and more at hiring companies within the state of South Carolina, or at least in the country, to get more and more of those parts made at home as he eases regulation and eases taxes and tries to make it easier for people to create new opportunities for manufacturing all over our country.

BALDWIN: Here's what I'm wondering, Ana Navarro, what, you know, you and I talked yesterday when we listened to that entire press conference, which you said was brilliant, that he totally baited us and that it was a phenomenal performance. I mean he jumped on Twitter and was saying congratulations and wants to do it again. Then you look at, you know, today, and this is reminiscent of those airplane hangar campaign rallies. He's going to be at another rally tomorrow in Melbourne, Florida. I mean, big picture, is this how the president gets his mojo back?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, what we saw between yesterday and today, though, is Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, right? Yesterday he was all over the place. Today he was actually focused on the relevant subject matter in front of him, Boeing. He actually sounded presidential. It might be the first or second time in 29 days he sounds presidential. He didn't talk about the Electoral College vote. He didn't make up stuff about 3 to 5 million -

BALDWIN: He did talk about winning South Carolina in a landslide.

NAVARRO: Yes, but he didn't talk about the 3 or 5 million, you know, illegal aliens voting.

BALDWIN: Right. True. True.

NAVARRO: He didn't talk about fake news. He actually stuck to message. He stuck to script. He read the teleprompter and he did very well. I would tell the people in the White House, instead of building a wall between Mexico and us, build a wall around the White House and do not let Donald Trump in. Keep him on the road. That's where he's happiest. He's been coupled up in the White House without Melania, without friends, obsessing over Don Lemon at CNN and every news program and just stewing like a caged lion. Let the guy loose.

BAUER: I'm getting Ana a 2020 Trump sticker for the back of her car.

BALDWIN: Look, I have no worries (ph) -

NAVARRO: Don't go crazy. Don't go - don't - don't go crazy, Andre, on the -

BALDWIN: Oh, my gosh. Nia, what do you think?

NAVARRO: Not in this lifetime, baby.

BALDWIN: Do you -

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, I think everyone is exactly right. I thought he was in fine form today. That was his crowd. Those were his themes.


HENDERSON: He - I think he was on message. He had that phrase, new American future. He talked about America first, you know, and winning. And you're going to get sick of winning because we're going to be winning so much he said. So I think this was a good look for him. And I think he'll - we'll see a similar Donald Trump tomorrow in Florida when he's got another rally.

This is what he needs. He needs that energy. Kellyanne Conway has talked about this, the crowds being his oxygen. He's been deprived of oxygen being in Washington, as Ana said, reading those papers and just real naval gazing, I think, too much about himself, too much about the chaos around him, even though he denies that chaos. So I think this is a good look for him. I think -


HENDERSON: The key still for him is, how does this Donald translate into governing in terms of what needs to get done on the (INAUDIBLE) with nitty gritty (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: Well, let's talk about - let's talk about that. On just more substance, you know, on what we just mentioned with Harward, the fact that - and let me just be precise in your reporting because we know he turned down the, you know, the Flynn job, the national security adviser job. This is apparently, according to our reporting, a friend says it's because the White House seems so chaotic. The White House denies that says it was, according to a statement, about committing to his family first. So does, you know, what we saw, Nia, from that massive news conference yesterday, is what happened with, you know, Harward, and also Flynn and Puzder this week, does that negate all of what he tried to accomplish yesterday, do you think?

[14:10:32] HENDERSON: You know, I mean, let's face it, I mean the majority of what's happened to him over these last four weeks hasn't been good. I think the one bright spot is Neil Gorsuch.

BALDWIN: Yes. HENDERSON: But everything else, all the chaos, all the leaking from

his own staffers sometimes and really giving a portrait of a man in over his head with people around him who are in-fighting and looking for control and looking to put themselves in positions so they can be in control. And that was apparently a concern of Harward, this idea of whether or not he could bring his own team in. I mean in some ways this last four weeks was an advertisement to people who might want to work in the White House, right, and we know that there are all of these deputy positions in these cabinet departments that haven't been filled. So this is the picture -

BALDWIN: Right, the number two job.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean this is the picture of a working environment and so far it hasn't been so good for people who might be looking to work in this White House.

BALDWIN: Andre, let me just ask you this, because, you know, because of what happened with Harward, the president tweeted, quote, "General Keith Kellogg, who I've known for a long time, is very much in play for NSA, as are three others." You know, this makes me go back to all those live pictures we saw out of Trump Tower in the (INAUDIBLE) days of the presidency when he would bring, you know - he would trot people through and everyone would take a look at who might be the AG, who might be the state - you know, secretary of state. Is this an example of sort of floating a trial balloon publicly on Twitter?

BAUER: You know, it could be quite possibly. That's a good suggestion. But, again, I think we ought to go back to the conversation. So many folks that would be unbelievably qualified to help us in so many avenues he wants are looking at it and going, do I really want to give up my personal privacy and the pay cut to go into these fields. I mean Donald Trump is picking some of the best and brightest in our - when you look at people like Tillerson, for him to make that sacrifice to come to government work, it's a big sacrifice, especially given -

BALDWIN: But at the same time, what an honor. I mean you're in - you're working for the president and the administration.

BAUER: Well, no question. I give you that. But, again, a lot of people aren't willing to sacrifice and give up their - when you see what you get drug through with the United States Congress and what some of these folks have had to expose themselves to, God, I just go, it's amazing we get such qualified people that are willing to make that sacrifice.

BALDWIN: Ana, what do you think?

NAVARRO: I think he's tweeting about Kellogg to distract us about Harward. You know, I - you know - you know me, I'm a skeptic. Every time I see something out of Donald Trump, I think he's trying to distract me from something else. So I need to keep my eye on the ball.

It is incredibly rare for somebody to turn down a presidential appointment, a White House staff appointment. Somebody like Admiral Harward, who's served for 40 years, these people have public service, that kind of conviction and vocation for public service in their DNA. It is very strange for this to happen and I think it does speak to, am I going to be able to bring my own team? Are people going to be back stabbing me? Just what kind of team of leakers do I have to work with? Am I going to have gravitas and authority in the White House? And why do I want to deal with it when for the first time in my life I'm actually having money and my wife is actually spending time with me and enjoying it.

So I think, you know, it's a very legitimate question. People are wondering, is it worth the toil, is it worth the wear and tear and giving up what we have to go into a White House that is in chaos. What he's doing with the Kellogg tweet, he's distracting us from the fact that he got turned down by the first girl he asked to the prom.

BALDWIN: From the woman who says build a wall around the White House.

Rana Foroohar, just listening to all of this, final thought from you.

FOROOHAR: You know, I'm going to go back to the jobs issue because in some ways I think that that's what's crucial here.


FOROOHAR: You know, I think that what's happening, the debate that we're hearing now, the one part of this I really do like unequivocally is the debate we're hearing around fair trade. I think that that's really -

BALDWIN: It's a good thing to be talking about that out loud.

FOROOHAR: It is a good thing. And I will give Donald Trump - I agree with many - have problems with many of his policies and have agreed with very little of what he's done so far, but I will give him credit, very few people were talking about the fair trade debate and about shifting the terms of globalization before he and, you know, on the left, to be fair, Bernie Sanders started talking about it, and it's a good debate to have. And it's a debate we're going to see more of as companies like Boeing are, you know, thinking about where they're going to put jobs in the future.

BAUER: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes, yes. Andre and Nia, and everyone, of course, Rana and Ana, thank you all so much. It's a great conversation. Thank you very much.

NAVARRO: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up here, breaking news involving President Trump's nominee to run the EPA, Scott Pruitt, surviving a late effort by Senate Democrats to block his nomination. Senator Ted Cruz reacting to this and more. That's ahead.

[14:15:12] And, back in campaign mode, is President Trump stealing a page from his summer of '16 playbook, leaning on the style that landed him if the White House in the first place? Why this weekend's rally, the first of Trump's 2020 campaign, as some are saying.

Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The U.S. Senate has just confirmed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. An agency Pruitt himself has sued multiple times over. An agency Republicans definitely want to reign in, claiming that eight years under President Obama has led to dangerous activism, hurting businesses and the economy.

Manu Raju is up for this, our CNN senior congressional reporter.

And, Manu, on this first. We know that the Senate vote comes a day after a federal judge ruled the Oklahoma attorney general's office must turn over thousands of e-mails related to Pruitt's communications with fossil fuel companies. What's the story there?

[14:20:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. This actually comes right after this confirmation vote happened, a 52-46 vote in which two Democrats crossed party lines to support Mr. Pruitt, one Republican voted against Mr. Pruitt's nomination. But he will get the job.

And as soon as he comes into power, thousands of e-mails will be released after this open-records lawsuit was filed by a group trying to get information about his communications with industry groups during his time as Oklahoma attorney general. We don't know what's in those e-mails, but when they do come out, expect it to be rather controversial, especially at a time when he's been criticized by folks on the left, environmental groups, of being too cozy with the industry that he is now charged to regulate.

Now, Brooke, this comes as Donald Trump is trying to fill out the rest of his government. He's having a hard time in one area, that in the area of national security adviser. We know last night the retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward turned down Donald Trump's offer to take that position. But now Donald Trump is getting some pressure to name some other people for that job, including John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador, who's a conservative, loved by conservative hawks, neocons, but also does not - is not supported by some people in the more libertarian wing of the Republican Party. Now, one person who's pushing John Bolton is Ted Cruz of Texas, the former campaign rival of Donald Trump's. I just spoke to Cruz moments ago. Here's what he said.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: One person I think would be very, very strong is John Bolton. John is someone who is very well known here on The Hill. Republicans and Democrats know John Bolton well. He's someone who understands the world. He understands the threats of radical Islamic terrorism. He understands the threats of an overaggressive Putin. And at the same time, I think he has demonstrated an understanding that we should be reluctant to use military force, that we should do so only when absolutely necessary. And so I think there are lots of good people that are being considered, but I think someone like John Bolton would be a terrific choice.


RAJU: Now, I asked him about those concerns about some folks like Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is furiously opposed to John Bolton getting any position of the State Department as he's being considered there, and he said that he views things differently than Rand Paul does and he believes that he would be aligned with Donald Trump's.

But it dos raise a question. Donald Trump opposed the Iraq War. John Bolton was a strong supporter of the Iraq War. How would they reconcile that? But, nonetheless, John Bolton, we see, pushed on some quarters of the Republican Party and Bolton's spokesperson also declined to comment about whether or not he's interested in that job, Brooke.

BALDWIN: That's a possibility. The president floating other possibilities on Twitter. We'll watch that.

Meantime, tell me why James Comey, the FBI chief, is on The Hill today, Manu?

RAJU: Well, he's holding a classified briefing with senators right now. This, of course, comes after those questions stemming from the reports from CNN and "The New York Times" about those contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign during the time of the presidential election. Now, Comey, of course, has come under a lot of criticism from Democrats in particular for not discussing or disclosing any of this information, what some Democrats call explosive information about coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government at that time. So expect in this classified setting to get some questions from Democratic senators about that, about this issue.

Now, we don't know exactly what they are discussing, because this is a classified briefing. But we will talk to senator afterwards to see what they can disclose and whether or not Comey says anything that contradicts what Donald Trump said yesterday -


RAJU: That nobody that he knows of talked to - from his campaign talked to Russian officials during the election, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. That is key. Manu, incredible reporting again this week. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.

RAJU: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Vice President Mike Pence set to arrive in Germany within the hour to begin a so-called reassurance tour around Europe. So what does that mean for U.S. allies? We'll talk about that. Also, President Trump set to give his first campaign-style rally since

the inauguration tomorrow in Florida. Are we seeing more of a candidate Trump and how is this going to look for him, coming up.


[14:28:55] BALDWIN: A mission to calm some of the nerves of jittery U.S. allies in Europe. That is what top White House officials are doing right now. You have the defense secretary, James Mattis, in Munich for a security conference. Vice President Mike Pence just left Joint Base Andrews this morning and is expected to land in Munich within the hour. And you have the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, also in Europe, meeting with world leaders at the G-20.

So, CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is with us there live in Munich.

And, Nic, I do really want to get to how these world leaders are reacting to that massive press conference of the president's from yesterday. But first to the news today. You know, President Trump has been - and also when he was a candidate - quite critical on NATO, saying not all the countries are paying their fair share. With Vice President Pence arriving, what do they want to hear from him? What assurances are these leaders looking for?

[14:29:49] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They want to know that the transatlantic alliance, that NATO and also the close economic and - ties between Europe and the United States still exist. They want to know that President Trump isn't going to strike some kind of deal over their heads with President Putin in Russia. But take Angela Merkel, the German chancellor here. She'll be speaking at the same time as Vice President Mike Pence will be speaking. They will have a conversation together.