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Trump Meets With Manufacturing CEOs At White House; GOP Town Halls Underway As Citizens Demand Answers; Soon: Top GOP Senator Faces Citizens At Town Hall; Spicer Echoes Obama Press Secretary On Protests. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: General Motors is investing $1 billion in U.S. plants, adding or keeping 7,000 jobs. It's going to be investing a lot more than that over the next fairly short period. Lockheed Martin has 18 -- they've just announced 1,800 new jobs and U.S. plants, we're doing a great job, and we started negotiating with them a little bit on the F-35. They cut their price a little bit. Thank you very much.

She's tough but it worked out well. I think for everybody. And I think I have to say this, Marilyn, you've gotten a lot of credit because what you did was the right thing, so we appreciate it. She got her price, over 700 million, right, by over 700 million. Do you think Hillary would have asked for 700 million? Oh, boy, I assume you wanted her to win.

But you know what, you're going to do great, and you're going to make more planes. It's going to work out the same or better. Walmart announced plans to create 10,000 jobs and all of those jobs are going to be in the United States.

Sprint Softbank is putting in $50 billion because of our election in the United States over the next four years to create 50,000 jobs. They've been terrific, by the way. And we have many others. Many of you in the room, you know exactly what I'm talking about, we have many, many other companies. And we're very happy.

Today, we have 24 CEOs from the largest manufacturing companies in the country, and even in the world. They represent people just in this room, nearly 1 trillion of sales, and 2 million employees, large majorities of which are in the United States.

They share our commitment to bring manufacturing back and to create jobs in this country, which has been the biggest part of my campaign. I would say the border, big part, military strength, big part and jobs, big part. I don't want to say which is most important.

I guess we always have to say defense is maybe the most important, but many of you take care of our defense. You make great products. Nobody makes the products that we do for military. Nobody. And in fact, a couple of countries who were not allowed to buy from us, I gave them -- hello, Jeff -- I gave them authorization.

You can only buy from us. I want them to buy from us. They were getting planes from other countries and their allies, but they're going to be buying from us from now on. And I just want to thank all of my people. My staff has been amazing.

Gary, as you know, you all know Gary from Goldman, Gary Cohen, and we're really happy, just paid $200 million in tax in order to take this job, by the way, which is very much unlike Gary. He's great. He'll be criticized by the media because he's getting paid $197,000. They'll say he really he wanted that money, which he gave up, I think he gave up. Did you give that up, Gary?

I think so, yes? It was one of those things. That's right. I want to thank -- Wilber has been so fantastic. I've known Wilber for so long and he's a great guy, great negotiator, but a very fair negotiator. He's going to be doing things that the deals we have with other countries are unbelievably bad.

We don't have any good deals. In fact I'm trying to find a country where we actually have a surplus of trade. Everything's a deficit. With Mexico, we have $70 billion in deficit, straight deficits and it's unsustainable. We're not going to let it happen. Can't let it happen.

We're going to have a good relationship with Mexico, I hope, and if we don't, we don't, but we can't let that happen, $70 billion in trade deficits. And that doesn't include the drugs that pour across the border like water. So we can't let that happen.

With China, we have close to a $500 billion trade deficit. So we have to do something. I spoke to the president, I spoke to many people who are working on that very, very hard. We're going to do things that are the proper things to do. But I actually said to my people, find a country where we actually do well.

So far we have not found that country. It's just losses with everybody. I want to turn that around. I want to thank Jared Kushner, who has been involved in this. All of my guys, we have a great team. We have a team of all stars. We've really been given credit for that.

Right now, Rex, as you know he's in Mexico. I said, that's going to be a tough trip because we have to be treated fairly by Mexico. That's going to be a tough trip, but he's over there with General Kelly, who has been unbelievable at the border. You see what's happening at the border.

[11:05:07]All of a sudden for the first time we're getting gang members out. We're getting drug lords out. We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before, and they're the bad ones.

And it's a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you've read about like never before, all the things, much of that is because of people who are here illegally. They're rough and tough, but they're not tough like our people. So we're getting them out. I thought what we could do is maybe we'll start with Ken on the left, and we'll go around the room and introduce yourselves to the press. Lots of media. One thing we have is lots of media, how are you?

One of the few who treats me nicely, one of the few and we'll talk privately without the press. And we'll figure out how to bring many, many millions of jobs, more back to the United States, OK? Ken, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. It's good to be here.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Donald Trump there talking to a roundtable of CEOs in what was described, what was supposed to be a listening session, and you're hearing the CEOs going around the table here and introducing themselves. And Donald Trump just gave some comments there covering a few different topics.

So I want to bring in our panel now. We have CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" political reporter, Abby Phillip, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Doug Heye, and CNN senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju.

OK, so first to you, Abby, as you're watching this, it seemed that there was maybe this not surprising level of comfort that Donald Trump has with CEOs. He's ribbing them over the taxes they pay and their salaries. This seems to be a place where he is very comfortable as he is asserting these claims that he is going -- and a big promise going to bring back jobs.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he certainly is. I mean, this is a place where he's surrounded by people who he's known for a long time, CEOs both inside and outside his cabinet. It's also one of the reasons why the White House tries to schedule the president's day so that almost every day he has a meeting like this.

Where he's sitting around a table with a bunch of people who are job creators that he can talk about what he's doing to bring back jobs, to bring back factories. And it basically is 15 minutes a day where he gets this sort of media coverage here on CNN and elsewhere for his jobs agenda, which is often the most focused the president is in his day.

And it is something that I think that the White House probably would like to do more of, but as we all know, there are a lot of other things that tend to come up and sometimes the president himself is the one sort of changing the subject to something completely different.

KEILAR: Speaking of, I mean, he said there, Doug, he was saying do you think that would have happened if Hillary had been elected. He always seems to be looking back to the election.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I would advise them not to keep looking back, not to keep talking about Hillary Clinton. Really, the campaign is yesterday's news, they won. They won fair and square. Keep focusing on this optics that are very good optics for Donald Trump.

This is a safe space that he's in right now with these CEOs, it's a very different room than, say, if it were filled with members of Congress and senators. He can talk to these CEO's because on their level because he's been there.

The optics that we see, the visuals that we see show Donald Trump doing the job of president, trying to create jobs, which fits perfectly with what his message is. They should keep doing this as often as possible.

KEILAR: Doug, how does he do that if you're looking at the numbers on automation really being the jobs destroyer? He talks about China joins the WTEO and look what happens to all of these jobs. A lot of those were lost because of automation. Those are jobs that he can't bring back. Isn't that a promise that he's in danger of being unable to keep?

HEYE: I think it is a problem for him. Clearly automation has changed the world in so many positive ways. But if you go to communities in this country where the jobs are gone and they may not be coming back, that's a real problem for Trump.

The benefit that he has, though, because he's such a different politician than we've ever seen before, Trump, and I heard this, I was in North Carolina for the past few days, the one thing I heard several times is people saying, at least Donald Trump is trying. He gets a big benefit of the doubt from his supporters in a way that we haven't seen in the past.

KEILAR: That he gets a benefit for trying. So Manu, you heard Doug there saying Donald Trump is more comfortable with CEOs than maybe talking to members of Congress. If anyone is comfortable talking to members of Congress, that will be Manu Raju. So I'm curious, you know, when you talk to Republicans, they're hoping to push tax reform through with Donald Trump. They think that's going to bring jobs.

Are they worried, though, that he overpromises and that they may not be able to deliver in the way that he's saying that he and really Congress will?

[11:10:07]MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: There is some of that concern for sure. Particularly when you add things like building the wall on the border with the U.S. and Mexico and getting Mexico to pay for it, a central campaign promise, but one which a lot of Republicans are not fully on board with.

You add that to the pretty ambitious agenda, they realize how difficult it is to legislate. The things he was talking about in this room are still top priorities of Hill Republicans, including tax reform, a big push, there's going to be a big push for tax reform.

But rewriting the tax code is an incredibly harden endeavor. It's going to span a huge bite on Capitol Hill not just with Democrats, but within the Republican Party and not to mention repealing and replacing obamacare. That is going to happen starting next month, but expect that to take months and months.

KEILAR: Sure. You guys stay with me. We'll listen a little more to Donald Trump talking to CEOs at the White House.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: -- say it again, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) from 3M, good morning.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, great company.

MICHAEL DELL, DELL TECHNOLOGIES: Good morning, Mr. President. It's Michael Dell with Dell Technologies.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Hi, Michael. Nice to see you.

PHOEBE NOVAKOVIK, GENERAL DYNAMICS: Good morning, Mr. President. Phoebe Novakovik, General Dynamics.

ARCHER DANIESL, MIDLAND: Good morning, Mr. President. Archer Daniels, Midland.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Great companies. Great. So Jared, maybe I'll let you take over for a little while. We're going to then go through the room very carefully. We're going to find out how we bring more jobs back and thank you to the press and the media. We really appreciate it and we'll see you later. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: All right. This is the part where the press gets kicked out of the room. Manu, Abby, a part that we are all so familiar with. Let's bring back our panel to discuss this. Something that I found really fascinating there, Abby, was he turned to his right and said to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, I'm going to let you take over for a little bit. I mean, that says a lot about his role in this White House.

PHILLIP: It really does. I mean, Jared Kushner is very much involved in sort of the breadth and the scope of his portfolio is a little bit surprising, because it's not just some of these domestic issues, economic issues. It's also international issues.

And the president is turning to him to be the sort of mediator and the arbiter of some of these meetings. And Jared Kushner himself is a businessman and like his father-in-law, he has a real estate background, has a media background. So they have a lot in common.

There's a lot of trust there. You know, and to Doug's point, the president is in a place now where he can have real conversations about job creation. And in some cases it doesn't really matter whether the outcomes are as rosy as he makes them seem.

What matters more is that he's projecting that he's doing something about the problem. And for some of these CEOs coming out of these meetings, they say we actually do appreciate having a seat at the table and a platform to explain what we need in order to be successful. So, you know, the president is giving them a lot of these avenues. Like I said, virtually every single day to do this. KEILAR: Yes, he gets credit for trying, that's what Doug says people are saying certainly in North Carolina. OK, stay with me, Manu, Doug, and Abby. Town hall meetings are actually under way. We're keeping an eye on them, some of them have been getting quite contention. We'll be looking at that. We'll be back with our panel after a quick break.

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[11:17:47]

KEILAR: Blue state or red state? From California to Kentucky, the wave of fury hitting town halls across the country is showing no signs of letting up. Lawmakers back home are facing another round of volatile crowds as they host listening events with constituents.

Many of those voters are demanding answers for all the promises made by President Trump over everything from Russia, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and building a wall on the Mexican border. Could there be even more fireworks today as more meetings are scheduled from coast to coast?

We are going to find that out soon this hour as Republicans hold town halls in Iowa and Kentucky. I want to go now to CNN's Ryan Young, live in Charles City, Iowa. It appears to be the beginning of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley holding a town hall.

And I know, Ryan, it's actually -- or has been rather quiet as you are as he has been taking some questions. So use your golf commentator voice as I assume the senator is hoping for more of this.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's actually talking as we speak right now, he's addressing a question about the Supreme Court. People wanted to know why the Supreme Court nominee was held at the last time. He is explaining his answer for why he felt it was necessary to hold up that last Supreme Court nominee.

Now a lot of the questions people have been talking about have been health care. They've been talking about the wall, and they've been talking about the economy. We had one woman stand up and say she feels she would die without Obamacare. She wanted to know what he planned to do with the health care initiative.

This has been going on for 20 minutes. He came out 5 minutes early. He has indicated to us that he has other meetings throughout the day, that he will make time to talk to us.

But I can tell you, the people here have been extremely respectful, even when they don't agree with each other, they have been having conversations about what they don't agree about.

I was talking with people in the front row telling me that they feel this is what makes Iowa special. They want to continue to have this conversation and they believe that this is part of the American democracy, working, as you can see, in realtime. He's walking down the aisles as we speak. It's standing room only, people were upset, they actually felt like the room was too small. People in the front got up to give chairs to people who couldn't stand.

[11:20:07]So that's been going very well so far and people are doing these -- a lady just asked about gun control. We'll be here for the next hour or so covering the senator as he talks to the people in his home state -- Brianna.

KEILAR: They have a name for that, Ryan, and a lot of us who covered campaigns know it's called Iowa nice, and we're seeing it in action in Charles City. So thank you so much. Keep an eye on things for us.

It's also important to point out there. There you have a town hall meeting that Ryan said, has been going on for 25 minutes, and it's very calm, even when people are asking questions and certainly disagree with Senator Chuck Grassley on the issues there.

Let's head now to Kentucky. This is where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be meeting with voters just a short time from now. He actually, Deborah Feyerick, who is there for us live, he has seen not quite the calm that we see going on in Iowa when he's met with constituents in the past.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, what we can tell you is that, Senator Mitch McConnell is having small meetings. What he is doing is he's having small luncheons. People are paying to be present at this one at the Chamber of Commerce. You see behind me a rally, a demonstration that effectively spread on social media. People here who are very upset, very angry at Mitch McConnell.

One teacher telling me that she really didn't care for his comment yesterday when he said the losers make policy and the winners go home. They feel that Mitch McConnell is not listening to them.

One of the organizers is Connie Grubbs, a mom who majored in theater. Tell me about why you're here and whether you have been paid to be here.

CONNIE GRUBBS, NORTHERN KENTUCKY DEMOCRATS: I have not been paid to be here. I've spent my own and my husband's hard-earned money to be here today. We secured a permit for the area. We provided for trash receptacles, all of that actually cost us money. So no, I was not paid to be here.

FEYERICK: What is the message that you want to give to Mitch McConnell?

GRUBBS: We're here out here today to speak, we want to hold all of our elected officials accountable to listen to their constituents. Senator McConnell has decided to hold Chamber of Commerce luncheons and no town halls. We've invited him here to our crowd, to take questions from our crowd. We want engagement and a voice in our democracy. FEYERICK: Senator McConnell's press person says that they are in fact meeting with people, business leaders, students, is that good enough?

GRUBBS: It's not good enough. He has been -- the entire state votes. All of the constituents deserve a voice, deserve a meeting, and deserve a town hall. That's one of their jobs. He works for us.

FEYERICK: If you could ask him a question right now, what would those questions be?

GRUBBS: Why are we fighting against environmental regulations when we should be putting more money into clean energy? There are three wind and solar jobs for every fossil fuel job in this country. That alone would help solve some of our problems here in Kentucky.

FEYERICK: What about health care? I see signs here for health care, Russian investigations, listen to Kentuckians, not money, all of these signs in the crowd.

GRUBBS: For health care, the bottom line is there are 45,000 jobs at stake in Kentucky. It's $700 million in revenue for the state of Kentucky if they take away our health care here. I don't understand why that makes sense for the people. What is the decision behind choosing to take health care away from everyday people? Where does that money go?

FEYERICK: Connie Grubbs, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. These are the messages that they really want to take to the senator, but again, he is at a luncheon that you have to pay to get in. But again, he'll take a couple of questions there at that luncheon, but it's a very controlled environment, sort of measured environment. This is where the ones who feel they're not being heard are coming -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Deb Feyerick for us. Also we should point out, Mitch McConnell did have a town hall in recent days. He's one of the members, one of the senators who is out there doing what really is difficult work, considering the opposition he's up against. Deb Feyerick, thank you so much.

Our panel is back with us now. Manu, I want to ask you about this because you can almost in a reverse way flip back to the summer of 2009, which I know you covered, I covered, we were out at these town hall meetings covering Congress, and the reaction that Republicans were having to Democratic members, to Democratic senators.

And I want to play something that we dug up for you. This is the reaction by then White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. We've put it up against the reaction from the current White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer talking about those people voicing their concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the White House's contention that the anger that some members of Congress are experiencing at town hall meeting especially over health care reform is manufactured?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think some of it, yes. I think you've had groups today, conservatives for patients' rights that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there's a hybrid there. I think some people are clearly upset, but there is a bit of professional protester manufactured base in there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:25:11]KEILAR: All right. So first point to make, that was a young Jake Tapper with far less gray hair, I should point that out. Manu, you hear that from both parties. Is this out of the bipartisan talking point playbook, to try to diminish the voices that they're hearing?

RAJU: Yes. And that White House in 2009, the Obama White House, dismissed those concerns to their peril. They lost the House in 2010 and that's one thing that Democrats are warning Republicans about now, is that there is this energy right now on the left, because health care is such a passionate issue.

People feel so strongly about it, which makes it so difficult to get consensus, not just across the aisle but within their own party. Now, one thing it will be interesting to see is how much of those more moderate Republicans in both the House and the Senate, whether or not they are scared off by these very sharp-edged concerns.

Remember, they can only lose 20 votes in the House in order to get something passed in the House, if they don't get any Democratic support, they can only lose two votes in the Senate. So that means that there is really no margin for error.

If more and more of these people come out, and they speak voice of concerns, what does that mean for those more skittish members of the Republican House and the Senate, and if Donald Trump becomes less popular, will he be able to give any political cover to those more moderate members? It's a very difficult issue, we're seeing a replay of 2009 in a lot of ways.

KEILAR: It's fascinating. OK, Doug, I want to get you and Abby in on this real quick. This Quinnipiac University poll that shows Donald Trump with an approval rating down to 38 percent. The big issue is, he's at a net negative of 17 points. What's your takeaway?

HEYE: My takeaway is his effectiveness is based on his popularity in Republican districts. As long as Republicans in Congressional districts approve of him, Congress is going to work with President Trump. You are not going to hear a lot of attacks coming from Republicans. Republicans approve of Donald Trump over 80 percent, that's a better number than George W. Bush had at this point moving into his administration, George W. Bush.

KEILAR: Yes, and that's a good point, Abby, because clearly Donald Trump, one could very easily argue that he is definitely playing to that base. He is not necessarily trying to appease everyone and has come to a conclusion that perhaps President Obama could have, that he can't appease everybody.

PHILLIP: Yes, he's hearing very closely to what he said he was going to do in the campaign and that was actually a message that at that time was considered incredibly polarizing. The other thing to consider with all of these poll numbers is that you have to put them in context.

As a candidate, Donald Trump was historically unpopular. He went through virtually the entire campaign with upside down approval ratings, and he still won. So it just tells you a little bit that sometimes what matters to voters in terms of what they want in the president and whether they want to vote for a particular person or vote for a particular party is not necessarily the same thing as this idea of favorability or unfavorability or approval or disapproval.

I think we have to look a little deeper at some of these numbers and evaluate what people are seeing about, whether they're giving Trump the benefit of the doubt that he's doing what he said he was going to do, especially around jobs, job creation, issues like trade as well.

KEILAR: Abby, Manu, Doug, great insight, thank you guys so much.

You know, one paper is calling the Republicans who aren't showing up to town halls cowardly. I'm going to speak live with the columnist behind that.

Plus backlash after the Trump administration scraps protections of transgender students. Rolling back guidelines from the Obama White House. We'll discuss that.

And he rarely speaks publicly, but just a short time from now President Trump's controversial adviser appears live onstage. Steve Bannon unplugged. Stay with us for that.

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