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Transgender Protections Rolled Back; A Big Day For The Right At CPAC; Tempers Flare At Republican Town Halls; Democratic Party Leadership Debate. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Dave Briggs. Good to see you, my friend.


BRIGGS: Welcome back from your vacation.

ROMANS: Thank you. Welcome to the anchor chair.

BRIGGS: Thank you very much. Well, schools and students face heightened uncertainty this morning after the Trump administration withdraws federal guidance on transgender bathroom use in public schools. The White House has dropped an Obama directive that ordered schools nationwide to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. The new administration kicking the question back to the states but is offering no new guidance, even as it declares that students do remain protected.

ROMANS: The ACLU not buying that. The ACLU slamming this decision. Here's the statement. "Revoking the guidance shows that the president's promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. School districts can and must continue to protect transgender students and all students from discrimination. School districts that recognize that should continue doing the right thing. For the rest, we'll see them in court."

Even within the administration, not everyone was on board. The move faced strong opposition from one key figure. Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny has the latest.


JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, good morning. The White House issued new guidance on Wednesday about the transgender bathroom issue that was so controversial in the last year. Now, essentially, they issued a directive to states to disregard what President Obama did last year by calling for extra federal protections for students who are in transgendered schools and using transgendered restrooms.

Now, the Trump administration did not put out a new executive order, they simply put out a statement from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education advising people to ignore the guidance from President Obama from last year. The White House put out this statement last night. I'll read it to

you. It says, "As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes the policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level. The joint decision made by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local with input from parents, students, teachers, and administrators." So, of course, that is the statement from the White House last night.

This is very controversial in some circles here. They believe that President Obama's guidance to schools to protect students -- these extra protections -- is needed. Now, interestingly, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, parted ways a bit with the new attorney general, Jeff Sessions. They had a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday where Sec. DeVos, I'm told, argued strenuously to have more protections for students. She issued her own statement last night saying it was the moral obligation of the government to help protect students.

Now, important to note, this is not taking away any protections, it simply is taking away the federal guidance of what to do, saying this should be in the hands of the states -- Christine and David.


ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thanks, Jeff. The biggest national gathering of conservatives shifts into high gear this morning outside Washington. The Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, welcoming top Republicans to the podium today. GOP figures once viewed as fringe are ready to address this gathering, not as fringe but as members of the White House staff.

Tal Kopan is leading our digital coverage of CPAC. She joins us live from Washington with the latest. An incredible lineup today, including Betsy DeVos who we were just talking about, who seems to have been, you know, at odds with the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on this transgender policy.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, you're right. It's going to be a heavy lineup today at CPAC. And, you know, for years, CPAC has been sort of the gathering of the opposition party. That has been the position that Republicans have been in throughout the Obama administration, which lasted eight years, and it's going to be really fascinating to watch the evolution from the conservative ideology being sort of the opposition to now being the governing philosophy.

And we're going to hear from lots of White House officials today about how they see that playing out. You know, Senior White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway will kick things off. As you mentioned, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which is going to be very interesting in the wake of this decision and reports of a bit of daylight between here and the Department of Justice on this.

Probably the marquee event is going to be Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon putting a show of force and a show of unity together on stage for the White House. Vice President Mike Pence, who is a conservative darling. And, of course, another conservative darling representing the Senate, Ted Cruz.

But we're going to be hearing a lot of instead of, you know, sort of what's going wrong, which is what we've probably heard at most of the CPACs for the past several years. We're going to be hearing, you know, what conservatives think will be going right over the next four to eight years. It's going to be a very different tone and so we'll watch as these folks who are sort of the conservative pulse -- the base -- really sort of transition to being the governing party and how they walk that line.

BRIGGS: And the big moment tomorrow when President Trump, the first, first-term president to address CPAC since Reagan, so that will be the --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: -- headliner tomorrow morning when we hear from President Trump. So, a welcoming crowd there at CPAC. Not the case at town halls nationwide, Tal, as we've seen growing anger towards congressmen. Here's a sample of what we heard yesterday.

[05:35:15] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: Why on earth are you planning to defund Planned Parenthood? It looks like the first step in pushing women back. I want to tell you something. I'm 82 years old and I, and millions of women in this country, will not be pushed backwards.


ROMANS: You hear that -- you hear that person talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. You know, Sean Spicer, the president's spokesperson, addressing this in a press briefing yesterday about what he says is going on here.


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. But there, obviously -- there are people that are upset. It is a loud group -- small group of people disrupting something, in many cases, for media attention -- no offense. It's just -- I think that necessarily just because they're loud doesn't necessarily mean that there are many.


ROMANS: Tal, what do you make of -- you know, there's been a lot of comparisons to the Tea Party movement -- you know, the grassroots Tea Party movement a few years ago that -- this is coming really early on, though. I mean, that sort of happened in the summer. This is -- this is February.

KOPAN: Yes, that's right. And, you know, those of who are on social media are very much aware that happy, content people tend to be fairly quiet -- ROMANS: Yes.

KOPAN: -- and the people you hear from tend to be the ones who are angry. So, you know, it's not entirely unsurprising that the angriest folks in the country are the ones who are most motivated to come out to these town halls. You know, I'm not sure if there's such a thing as a professional protester. It is absolutely true that there are groups who are trying to make it easier for people who want to go to these town halls to find them and get there and know what to say. I mean, you know, one man's professional protester is another man's organizer.

But it's going to be fascinating and the question is, what is the goal, you know? If the goal of these activists was to embarrass some of the lawmakers, I mean, mission accomplished. It's painful to watch some of these images. You know, I think of Mitch McConnell just sort of standing there as someone yells in his face. I mean, that's an indelible image to forget.

But if the -- if the goal is actually to influence policy, the jury's still out on that. I think their hope is that if they're noisy enough and persistent enough that when these lawmakers go back to Washington and start to weigh what policy decisions they want to make, they at least won't be able to forget what they heard in these town halls.

BRIGGS: Well, Christine, you mentioned that labeling of manufactured -- paid. That's kind of the line that Robert Gibbs --


BRIGGS: -- you know, in the Obama administration used initially as well regarding those Tea Party uprisings.

ROMANS: That's true.

KOPAN: All things boomerang.


BRIGGS: Let's shift to some more anger about this transgender bathroom policy. The president, in a sense, kicking this issue back to the states. You mentioned, Christine, that Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, appears to be at odds with Jeff Sessions. She might also appear to line up with President Trump who, as a campaigner said this to NBC about this very issue.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.

MATT LAUER, NBC HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": So if Kaitlin Jenner were to walk into Trump Tower and want to use the bathroom, you would be fine with her using any bathroom she chooses?

TRUMP: That is correct.


BRIGGS: So look, if you read the tea leaves it sounds like Betsy DeVos was against doing this. President Trump, by many, is a social liberal so how, in fact, did this end up getting kicked back to the states? Is this all Jeff Sessions?

KOPAN: Well, it's, you know, not uncommon for Trump to take a position on a social issue by claiming states' rights. You know, it was really fascinating to watch him evolve over the campaign. He's an inexperienced politician -- that's why many of his supporters love him -- but he doesn't really know -- he didn't know at first how to dodge and duck top issues. And so, we do know that, you know, at one time he was actually pro-choice, you know, pro-abortion rights --

BRIGGS: Right.

KOPAN: -- and another time he's spoken very favorably of LGBT issues. That really runs counter to the Republican orthodoxy. And so, as he's moved to the right on some of these issues we've seen him try to get out of some of the thorniest questions by, instead of taking a firm position, just leaving it as a states' rights issue which, you know, may not be ingenuine, but I think that's what we're seeing here.

BRIGGS: And some feel this timing was about this case -- it will head to the Supreme Court --


BRIGGS: -- likely, soon and they will have the last word on it, Christine.

[05:40:00] ROMANS: A final quick question to you about last night's event on CNN. Dana and Chris Cuomo did this great event with these -- you know, the people vying for -- to run the DNC. Democrats are in the wilderness and they need a leader. The conventional wisdom here is that Keith Ellison and Tom Perez are the two frontrunners here to run the DNC.

KOPAN: Yes, that's absolutely right. You know, we've seen them as sort of the two breaking away from the pack but we don't actually know which one of them is in the lead. And it really interesting to watch sort of the endorsements stack up.

And, you know, whether or not it's merited, Keith Ellison has been -- comes to embody the sort of Bernie Sanders wing of the party -- the really progressive left. Whereas, Tom Perez, who is still a progressive, has most of the endorsements of Obama world, so to speak, and sort of represents that strain of the party. Notice there's no real Hillary water carrier there. It's sort of Obama versus Sanders.

But, you know, you have some of these dark horse candidates, like Pete Buttigieg, who has, you know, some endorsements including Howard Dean. There is a call for a fresh face. It's sort of working itself out and there are -- isn't a huge range of positions that separate these candidates so it's really coming down to a choice of, you know, who people think represents the future of the Democratic Party.

ROMANS: All right, Tal Kopan. Nice to see you this morning. Thanks for all your help. Have a great day.

KOPAN: Thank you.

ROMANS: She's covering CPAC for us so she's going to have a busy --

BRIGGS: She'll be busy.

ROMANS: -- couple of days. Thanks, Tal. To money now. President Trump preparing his first budget proposal and the big focus will be spending cuts.


TRUMP: Our moral duty to the taxpayer requires us to make our government leaner and more accountable. We must do a lot more with less. And we must stop the improper payments and the abuses, negotiate better price, and look for every last dollar of saving.


ROMANS: So where has that -- those dollars of savings going to come from because he said he's not going to touch Social Security, Medicare? So it could mean eliminating programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. It would save a tiny amount of money compared to the long list of expensive promises, like tax cuts for everyone, infrastructure spending, a border wall, increased military spending. Plus, there's no plan to deal with the nation's ballooning debt which the president calls out of control.

Regardless, Trump will bring three big pieces of legislation, we think, next week when he meets with Congress -- a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, a tax reform plan, and that budget proposal. And this morning the new Treasury secretary, in an interview -- an exclusive interview with "The Wall Street Journal" -- says he sees the tax overhaul by August and he thinks he's going to be able to return -- they're going to be able to return the U.S. economy to three percent annual growth.

BRIGGS: How do you -- how do you pay all this, though? That is the massive question.

ROMANS: Well, some folks on the president's team say the economy's going to explode so much, tax receipts are going to come in, and you're going to pay for some of it that way. But that certainly is the question that budget hawks in the Republican Party are asking today.

BRIGGS: Especially when talking about a trillion dollar infrastructure plan that we have heard a little about. Well, the president's new travel ban not coming this week as expected. We'll tell you why.


[05:47:25] BRIGGS: Well, we'll have to wait until next week to see the president's updated travel ban. The White House is postponing the rollout which had been expected this week. The administration, no doubt, taking time to get it right after the bungled rollout of the previous travel ban last month. This time, the White House Counsel taking the lead. Among the big outstanding questions, whether Syrian refugees remain banned indefinitely, as they were in the original order.

All right, let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." My former co-host, my mentor, my friend, Alisyn Camerota joining us this morning.


BRIGGS: Hey, Aly.

CAMEROTA: (Singing "Reunited").

ROMANS: We saw the clip --

BRIGGS: Well done.

ROMANS: We saw the clip of the Vanilla Ice rapping, by the way.

BRIGGS: She did that. She did that.

ROMANS: Oh, my gosh.

CAMEROTA: Does it get any better, Christine?

ROMANS: That was very good.

CAMEROTA: I mean, that was --

ROMANS: Very good.

CAMEROTA: -- his high point. I'm sure --

BRIGGS: That was my peak --

CAMEROTA: It was his peak.

BRIGGS: -- until now.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure --

ROMANS: Emmy award-winning.

CAMEROTA: EASY (sic) START will find -- I mean -- easy? EARLY START will find a way to relive that, I'm sure. But, Dave, we're super excited to welcome you here to CNN.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Aly. CAMEROTA: It's so great to have you as part of the extended "NEW DAY" family. And I know that you're a fan -- which you should know this about him, Christine.


CAMEROTA: I know you're a fan of the Fancy foot hosiery, so at "NEW DAY" we --

ROMANS: Oh, really?

CAMEROTA: -- wanted to get you off on the right foot. You're a man who doesn't shy away from a floral print. We have some fancy new socks --

BRIGGS: New socks.

CAMEROTA: -- here to --

ROMANS: He's got some pretty cool socks on today. What are they?

BRIGGS: Oh, I've got the David -- the David on my feet right now --

ROMANS: Yes, yes, yes.

BRIGGS: -- if you can see those. The David -- I see it right now.

CAMEROTA: I know. We know you like it so this should get you through the first week and we're thrilled to have you, Dave.

BRIGGS: That is a heartfelt gift. Thank you, Aly. I appreciate that.

CAMEROTA: I'll be bringing them into your office. And, by the way, "NEW DAY" is going to be great this morning, also.

ROMANS: OK, great.

BRIGGS: We look forward to that too, as well. Thanks, Aly.

CAMEROTA: Alisyn Camerota, thanks so much. She says such nice things about you and she's got a -- she's got a very (INAUDIBLE) character.

BRIGGS: I pay her well.

ROMANS: All right. The Dow Jones Industrial Average just accomplished something the market hasn't seen since, oh, 1987. We'll get a check on CNN Money Stream next -- 1987.


[05:55:25] ROMANS: All right, it's 5:55 a.m. That means it's time to check on money -- CNN Money Stream. The Dow on an incredible nine- day win streak. What makes it even more impressive, all of these gains -- these are record highs nine days in a row. The last time that happened was January of 1987 when the market hit 12 straight record highs. And what else happened in '87? Oh, it crashed later that year.

BRIGGS: Ah, yes.

ROMANS: Now, analysts do not expect that same fate but we could see 10 records in a row today because if you look right now, futures are ticking higher. The big question now for the stock market, when will tax cuts arrive and when will the Fed raise rates?

Well, the Fed gave us a hint yesterday. It says higher rates are coming fairly soon. That could mean at their next meeting in March, but investors still have their money on May. Regardless, the Fed says one thing standing in the way, uncertainty over President Trump's economic policies. But if those goes as planned and lead to bigger growth the Fed could move even more quickly.

Another sign of strong growth, home sales -- look at this, Dave -- jumping 3.3 percent in January. This is the highest in nearly a decade. The average price -- home price -- is up 7.1 percent over the past year, $229,000.

Apple is upgrading its home in Silicon Valley. The views are spectacular. You can see them right here. This is called Apple Park. Many are calling it the Apple spaceship. The company says it will open to employees in April. It sits on 175 acres and includes a 2.8 million square foot main building made from curved glass. It will be powered by a 100 percent renewable energy. Much of the campus is being framed as a tribute to Apple founder Steve Jobs. He came up with this concept. He died, remember, back in 2011.

Also, Tesla. It says it will finalize locations for up to three more gigafactories. It currently has one in Nevada and a solar plant in New York. Tesla has a long waitlist for some of its models and it's been focusing on ramping up production. That's your money --

BRIGGS: In the spirit of Apple, will that building shatter just like their phones, really easily, or not?

ROMANS: Oh, funny. I don't know. I don't know. That is a pretty cool campus there, I've got to tell you that.

BRIGGS: Yes, it's pretty cool.

ROMANS: Also very cool, we have this -- now that you are here officially, I just have this small token of welcome.

BRIGGS: Oh, you know, I have a present, too.

ROMANS: The EARLY START mug. We fought very hard to actually get our own mugs and so --

BRIGGS: Thank you, Katie. That is a nice present. So, like corn is near and dear to your heart --

ROMANS: Awesome.

BRIGGS: -- as you mentioned earlier, being from Iowa, so I got an assortment of corn products.

ROMANS: Oh, my gosh.

BRIGGS: And I will -- we will throw these in the microwave right now. I will throw down a corn dog. So, some popcorn --


BRIGGS: -- corn cob.

ROMANS: Some actual corn.

BRIGGS: I don't know if that's going to go well in the microwave.

ROMANS: It's a little out of -- it's a little out of season. This is probably actually manufactured --

BRIGGS: I could have done flowers.

ROMANS: It's a product of Mexico, ladies and gentlemen.

BRIGGS: I didn't even check that. Well, you know, some do flowers. I thought corn was more appropriate for the occasion.

ROMANS: That is very sweet. That is very sweet. I really appreciate it. And, you know, every week -- every Thursday we can have gifts.

BRIGGS: Oh, every Thursday? Gift Thursday.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Are we allowed to eat this now?

ROMANS: Yes, I think you are. Dave Briggs, nice to have you here. You're a very fun addition to the show. Thank you for joining us this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: It's great to be here. Thank you for being so welcoming.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BRIGGS: All right. I'm Dave Briggs. Have a great day. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


PROTESTERS: Protect trans students! Protect trans students!

TRUMP: People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration withdraws federal guidance on transgender bathrooms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump has already done a number of things which raise the question of impeachment. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millennials are not the future of the party, they are the now of our party.

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: You work for us, not the other way around.

TOWN HALL ATTENDEES: Do your job! Do your job!

SPICER: Some people are clearly upset but there is a bit of professional protester.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of insurance do you have?


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching NEW DAY. It is Thursday, February 23rd, 6:00 here in New York City. Chris is in Atlanta this morning.

But first, a new controversial action from the Trump administration. Last night they withdrew the protections for transgender students that President Obama had put in place. The White House says schools and states should decide now how to handle this issue.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this comes as Republican lawmakers continue to face angry crowds of constituents in town halls all across this country. Now, as Alisyn said, I am in Atlanta. That's where the Democrats were creating their own heat in a battle over who should lead their party.

This is day 35 of the Trump presidency and we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House -- Joe.