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President is ready to talk healthcare; Grieving father of a Navy SEAL killed during a raid in Yemen is demanding answers from the man who had proved it, the president; Crackdown to stop White House media leaks has sprung a leak; Triple shooting is stoking fears about violence against immigrants; President Donald Trump who just spoke to governors who are gathered for a black tie affair inside the White House. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 26, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:09] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: This comes as President Trump faces his most crucial yet since moving into the White House. His first prime time speech before a joint session of Congress is just two days away. Plus a brand-new version of his controversial travel ban is expected also this week.

I want to begin with CNN's White House correspondent Athena Jones.

Athena, it sounds like the President is ready to talk healthcare, but do you think we are going to get more than generalities? Do you think we are going to get specifics?


I'm not sure we are going to get many specifics from the President tonight. We will wait and see what we hear. But we do know this is a huge priority. This is one of his main campaign promises to repealing and replacing Obamacare replacement with the terrific plan that covers everybody at less cost.

This is a huge priority for him, a huge priority for Republicans on Capitol Hill. The problem is that it's also a huge challenge. We have been seeing these town halls being held in districts across the country where Republican members of Congress are being confronted by constituents who are concern about losing access to healthcare. Some of them telling emotional stories.

Ohio Governor John Kasich who actually met with President Trump here on Friday and talked about healthcare, talked about those town halls and the impact they are having on "Face the Nation" on CBS this morning. Take a listen.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Look. I don't understand everything that's going on with these town halls, but what I think it's having an impact from the standpoint of hey, the people are watching. I don't think they mind reform, but don't take everything away.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: And one other point that governor Kasich made, is that look, there are 20 million people who now have healthcare -- health coverage because of the affordable care act. And so, making sure that the new plan doesn't leave any of those people suddenly without healthcare is an important goal.

The problem here is that there is just a lot of disagreement even within the Republican Party. That is something that former house speaker John Boehner point out last week when he said he never should have sold it as repeal and replace. What's going to happen is that they are going to end up fixing it, improving the law, putting a conservative box around it. And the reason that they are not going to repeal and replace it in the sense that they have telling it is because he said in all of 25 years on Capitol Hill, Republicans never ever, ever couldn't agree on a healthcare approach, so.

BASH: He love the candor after they leave. Don't they?

JONES: Absolutely.

BASH: Thank you so much Athena Jones from the White House.

And I want to now bring in David Gergen, CNN's senior political analyst.

And David, before we talk about the President's speech this coming week and other things, I want to talk about news just in to CNN. CNN is confirming that Phillip Bilden, the president's pick for Navy secretary is withdrawing his nomination. And this is the second service secretary to withdraw. Earlier this month, his - the President's pick for army secretary withdrew. What's your reaction?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, one of the things Donald Trump has done is go for very successful people to be in these positions. And that means they usually wealthy and that also means they have got very tangled finances. And apparently the navy secretary nominee couldn't untangled that. He couldn't get past the government ethics, you know, questions to go forward with the nomination.

But I also think it underscores, Dana, the -- something that hasn't gotten much attention, and that is Secretary Mattis, who oversees the Navy secretary and the army secretary, is as seen as sort of one of the real heavy weights in the administration, is having serious conflicts reportedly with the White House over the appointment's process in general. He wants more people who he sees national defense as a bipartisan issue and therefore he is willing to go for Democrats to fill some of these positions. Even (INAUDIBLE) who is often - reported to be Hillary's first choice to run the defense department, that her name has been in play, the White House says doesn't want to go down that track, and right now they are at larger heads.

BASH: Well, I also just staying on this withdrawal from - by the nominee for nave secretary. A little more than a week ago, February 18th, Sean Spicer, White House spokesman tweed out a denial of the CBS report that this exactly was going to happen. Sean Spicer said those people, meaning, the people talking to CBS, would be wrong, just spoke to him and he is 100 percent committed to being the next secretary of the Navy pending senate confirmation.

Now, to be fair, that was over a week ago, but it was pretty clear that there was some concern by this nominee for a while about the fact that it would be difficult for him to untangle himself from his financial holdings.


GERGEN: The Navy secretary -- the Navy secretarial job is one of the most prestigious in government, actually. It is a much sold out job. So it often goes to very successful people. It is too bad that he went down over this.

But you know, talking back to Sean Spicer. You know, you may not want to call everything fake news just because you disagree with it.

[19:05:16] BASH: I'm just going to let that hangout there for a second. Before I move on to my next question after I give it a little amen.

We have seen the President very much in campaign mode, during this early weeks of his presidency over and over again. As you said, talking about fake news, going much further, calling media outlets the enemy of the American people, which he doubled down on this past week, he accused the minority leader Chuck Schumer of crying fake tears, or talked about his electoral votes, calling Democrats sore losers. I could go on and on and on and on.

But looking forward to Tuesday, do you expect that kind of Donald Trump rhetoric, or do you expect him to shift gears and be different?

GERGEN: You know, we have waited so long for Donald Trump to change. And it's very apparent he is not. I think there will be red meat in there for his followers. We know that the draft is being written primarily by Stephen Miller, who was -- had the major hand in drafting that very tough, hard hitting inaugural address. So I would imagine that the tone won't be much different.

What we will be looking for, is he really going to say more about substance because the calendar is starting to work against them. They are losing momentum for example in infrastructure. Report is out in the last 48 hours that the infrastructure bill may not even be considered in a serious way in the next year. You know, that's a draw back from where they had been.

When President Obama went up and gave his first prime time speech to the Congress, back in like February of his first year, probably the same the time. You will recall that from all your days of covering Congress so well, that he not only presented the speech, but he put out a 146-page document, outlining his policies, you know, across the board. And two days later, he sent up his official budget. This administration right now is behind schedule in trying to go to put some meat on the bones, so to speak, (INAUDIBLE) is exactly what they do want in these bills. BASH: So given that and given the fact that you have tremendous

experience, being on the inside, in those White House rooms with the oval office itself, with multiple presidents, Democrats and Republicans, if you were in there right now or if the President calls you on the phone after this segment and said David, what do you think I should do?

GERGEN: With guarantee you that won't happen.

BASH: Just go with it. What would you say? Or if you want to give him a message on television where other people give him a telegraph messages, what is your advice?

GERGEN: What does he have to do for Tuesday night?

BASH: Yes.

GERGEN: I think it's really important to lay out a clear road map of where he is going from here. He with justification is going to stand up there and say here are all the changes I have already made by executive action. And those are things he could do unilaterally.

But he hasn't signed one major piece of legislation go through. And what he needs now is turn from the face of doing unilateral things, to sort of how do you get the Congress to act on these really huge promises that he has made. Because that's going to be a consistent theme. I made the promises in the campaign. I'm going to deliver on the promises, OK.

How are you going to do that? What is going to be - what propositions are you trying to get passed? When are you going to try to get it done?

I think people are going to be looking for more hard answers going forward. Even his followers are going to say, look, we really need to know where we are going. Because he has to keep that momentum. He could lose momentum if he doesn't seize this opportunity to lay out a clear road map and get going on that legislative side of his agenda.

BASH: Exactly. I'm old enough to remember when Republicans were all over President Obama as being the imperial president because he did so many executive actions. So, you know, working with the Congress the way it is supposed to work would be nice. And I'm sure at some point its coming. Let's talk about --

BASH: Don't worry about that. You're still very young. You have got a lot of years ahead.

BASH: Thank you. Thank you. That fishing expedition worked. Thank you for that.

The President is skipping the White House Correspondents dinner. President Nixon was the last president to outright skip it. What are the optics of this?

GERGEN: Yes, right. That's right. President Reagan couldn't go because he was shot. But other than that you have to go all the way back.

BASH: Pretty good excuse, right. So what are the optics of it?

GERGEN: Well, I guess, you know, he takes a short-term hit. But probably save himself from a night that would be very uncomfortable for him. You know, you can understand why he doesn't want to go. But I do think the optics also underscore that the relationship between the President and the press has become extremely unhealthy. Unhealthy for the participants, very unhealthy for democracy. And it really would be nice to see the President, you know, reach out an olive branch here very soon and the press to take it up. Because we need to get -- it's not just Washington needs to hit a reset button, the relationship between the two, between the president and the press really needs to hit a reset button.

[19:10:31] BASH: Yes, it does. David Gergen, thank you for joining me, my friend.

GERGEN: Thank you, Dana. Good to talk to you.

BASH: It is always good to talk to you. Thank you.

GERGEN: Take care.

BASH: And as we were just discussing, President Trump will make his first address before Congress this Tuesday night. You can watch it right here on CNN live. And then stay tuned for the Democratic response and reaction from across the country. Our coverage begins at 8:00 eastern.

And one more programing note. I will be moderating a town hall with GOP senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham on Wednesday night right here on CNN.

And still to come, the grieving father of a Navy SEAL killed during a raid in Yemen is demanding answers from the man who had proved it, the president. His message for the White House and why he refuse to meet with President Trump.

Plus, we are learning about a dramatic new step that the White House is taking to catch leakers. The latest tactics, confiscating employees' cellphones. This and more coming up next.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:00:09] BASH: The father of a U.S. navy SEAL is furious at the White House for ordering what he calls the stupid mission that was his son's last. This weekend, that father is demanding answers. Chief petty officer Ryan Owens died late last month during a raid on al- Qaeda target in Yemen. It was an operation President Trump signed off on just days after his inauguration.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is following this for us. And Ryan, this is the first time we are hearing from the Owens' family

about their son's death. What exactly do they want to hear from the Trump White House?

[19:15:02] RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, the father of Ryan Owens is the one who is speaking out in an interview with the "Miami Herald." And more than anything he wants a full accounting of what happened to his son.

Bill Owens is a military veteran himself and he is questioning the motivation for the mission that killed his son, telling the paper quote "why at this time did that there have to be this stupid mission, when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen. Everything was missiles and drones, because there was not a target that was worth one American life. Now, all of the sudden, we have to make this grand display?

Well, Owens is not the only one with concerns about this mission. Republican John McCain was also critical of its execution and necessity and the days after the problems with the mission were reveal. Now, at that time, White House Press secretary Sean Spicer, evoke the death of Owens as a way to rebut McCain's criticism.

Where in his interview with the "Miami Herald," Bill Owens warns the White House to not quote "hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation."

Now, President Trump did make a special trip to Dover air force base to be there when Owens' body returned to the United States. His father told the Herald that he refused to meet the president - Dana.

BASH: And Ryan, what is the White House saying in response to this?

NOBLES: Well, it wouldn't be surprise to learn, Dana, that the White House is being very careful to not be too critical of the Navy SEAL's father. But this morning on ABC, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders hailed Owens has a hero, but also pointed out that the mission successfully collected very valuable intelligence. Take a listen.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know that he paid the ultimate sacrifice when he went on that mission. And I know that the mission has a lot of different critics, but it did yield a substantial amount of very important Intel and resources that helped save American lives and other lives. And as much as, again, I can't imagine what this father is going through. I think he is -- his son is a true American hero. And we should forever be in his son's debt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President want an investigation?

HUCKABEE: I haven't had a chance to speak with him directly about that, but I would imagine that he would be supportive of that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: And in fact those investigations are already under way, according to the Pentagon. There's a standard set of investigations that takes place after the death of any SEAL and this one in particular will specifically into Owens' death -- Dana.

BASH: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much for that report.

NOBLES: Thank you.

BASH: And coming up, press secretary Sean Spicer is taking it upon himself to try to find and expose White House leakers. We are going to look at the aggressive lines he is taking to find them but those blanks are leaks to the press.

Stay with us.


[19:21:34] BASH: A crackdown to stop White House media leaks has sprung a leak, it seems. "Politico" first reported and CNN has now confirmed that White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently checked his aides' cellphones in an attempt to find the source of an overwhelming amount of information that has gotten out to reporters. He called his staff into his office last week, checked their phones for encrypted message apps and then reiterated his frustration about leaks. Spicer won't comment about the meeting. But we are going to talk about it with our senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter.

Brian, phone checks at the White House?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Not normal. Dana, I actually asked couple of Obama aides getting here for the segment. Did you all ever have your phones checked for leaks? And certainly all White Houses try to keep a little information, but this is definitely unusual. And I think that's true whether you are talking to Bush aides, Obama aides, anybody in or out of government. There are always attempts to stop leaks, but to have all these staff members gathered together to have all their phones checked by White House staffers, it is significant. It shows the measures Spicer and his staffers are trying to take to plug these leaks to try to get a control on some of the information that's been, not just leaking out of the White House, but gushing out of the White House.

BASH: Well, you said you spoke to Obama staffers, was there answer? Was their answer yes, that they were checked or no, this is never happened?

STELTER: No, this is not normal. That yes, there are requirements to comply with various laws. You know, you' have got to turn over your emails and text messages for various reason. But no, you don't get in a room and have your phone checked for leaks on week five of a new administration. Now, clearly, this White House from Trump on down, very concerned by

the anonymous sources who have been leaking both classified information and also just plain embarrassing information about ongoing issues at the White House.

We see Spicer trying to crack down here. But, you know, the fact that this leaked so quickly, you know, firs to "Politico," confirmed by our CNN (INAUDIBLE), it must be another kind of version of embarrassment for this White House, that the attempt to stop the leaks, leaked out.

BASH: Could be or perhaps something that they wanted out there so that people who were not in that meeting --

STELTER: That's devious.

BASH: Just saying. People who weren't in that meeting, who might be talking to reporters in and around the administration but not in the White House might get a message. But, I don't know.

STELTER: That's true. What he did the first time. That's true.

BASH: Let's just change gears to what is going to happen tonight. An unprecedented move for the "New York Times." They are going debut its first ever ad to run during the Oscars. It's actually the first TV ad in seven years at all. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truth is our nation is more divided than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truth is alternative facts are just plain delusional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Locker room talk is harmless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to put the safety of the American people at the top.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is --


BASH: So, Brian, as you discuss and analyze this, I want you to wear two hats, first as our media guru, but also as an alum of the "New York Times."

STELTER: When I was working there, we were not running commercials like that. This is definitely unusual and it comes at a moment when the "New York Times" is trying to gain lots and lots of subscribers. I had the editor on my program this morning, Dean Baquet. He said subscriptions grow every time Trump complains about the paper.

But this is also about more than just President Trump. This is an attempt to capitalize on all of the concerns right now about so-called alternative facts. And you know, during the Oscars, it is the second biggest ad on TV after the super bowl. So, few hours from now, ads on the Oscars can cost upwards of $2 million a spot. So "the Times" decides this is worth the investment, trying to grow its subscriber base even more. And let's face it. I think they know there is going to be some politically themed speeches perhaps during the Oscars tonight. So they are trying to place their ad right in between.

[19:25:42] BASH: Thank you so much for that Segway for our segment after the break.

Brian Stelter, it is great to talk to you as always.

Hollywood's biggest night as we were just talking about is here. It's the Oscars. We are going to talk about it after this break.


[19:29:01] BASH: We are just a few moments away from one of Hollywood's most glamorous nights. One that is supposed to give us a little break from the news cycle and celebrate the finest in films. But if tonight's Oscar's are anything like recent awards shows, it is politics that will be in the spotlight.

To talk about that, I want to bring in Janice Min, owner of the "Hollywood Reporter" and media strategist Marc Adelman.

Thanks, guys, for joining me.

Janice, I want to start with you. Your publication, "Hollywood Reporter" has a story up right now. It's already political. The actors are going to be wearing ACLU buttons?

JANICE MIN, OWNER, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Yes. So everyone is wearing this blue button for ACLU. You saw the biggest name, Ruth Nega, who is nominated for the movie "Loving." You see Lyn Manuel Miranda and his mother coming in the ACLU ribbon. And that's just the warm-up. You have to wait until the show starts. And this is going to be the biggest political spectacle since the conventions. Star after star are going to get up there and have his or her own Meryl Streep moment tonight.

[19:30:01] BASH: And Marc, you live and work Hollywood now. You used to work in politics.

MARC ADELMAN, MEDIA STRATEGIST: I used to be in therapy because of all of that.

BASH: Well, I should say to our viewers, I'm a friend of yours. And we can go in to that for a long time. They don't need to hear that.

But, you know, you know each world's fascination with the other firsthand. But with Donald Trump in the White House, it's really taking it to a level like we have never seen?

ADELMAN: Well, I think that's right. I think everything is sort of bigger and just, you know, huge, as Donald Trump might say when it comes to everything that he does. And you take sort of a community here in Los Angeles, the creativity community that sort of celebrates maybe a lot of things that are seemingly antithetical right now to what the White House is talking about and putting out. And if you look at a lot of what the movies are about this year. You know, there are stories are sort of uplifting, "David and Goliath." And I think we are seeing a little bit sort of a different feel from Washington on that right now.

MIN: But Dana, this is also a perfect tinderbox of Hollywood and Donald Trump. And Donald Trump has been to the Oscars or Oscar parties for seven years. And he loves the red carpet. And if you go back and look at his tweets, he has been probably the biggest critic of the Oscars through the years.

BASH: Janice, hold that thought because I do have his tweets and I want to show our viewers exactly what you are talking about.

Let's just look one from 2014. He tweeted, I should host the Oscars just to shake things up. This is not good.

Then let's go fast forward to 2015. We are talking about now President Trump, folks. Then Donald Trump. Put the glamour and beauty and mystery back in the Oscars and the ratings will zoom. Also, and most importantly, the Oscars need credibility. Sounds familiar.

The White House says that the President will not be watching this tonight. He does have a big black tie event of his own going on as well. But, you know, this is really interesting that he is somebody who not only attended this, as you said, but was kind of a commentator like you guys are.

MIN: Well, you know, he is really a showman at heart. And let's remember, he has produced beauty pageants, "the Apprentice", he actually knows a thing or two about timing, and phasing. And the Oscars is historically a slow show. It has, many, many hours, often exceeding four hours-time or three-hours-time. And it has categories of that the bulk of Americans, the people around the world don't necessarily care about.

So for Donald Trump, who probably has a shorter attention span than some people in Hollywood for this show and maybe people in general, you know, his criticisms might actually have some credence.

BASH: On that note, Marc, you -- I should say, your father is an awards show producer. You sport of have been around it for probably your whole life. So why do you think that this is the second biggest most watched event, second only to the super bowl? Why does this still have an audience in the age of DVR and Netflix and with sort of bite sized viewing?

ADELMAN: No. I mean, look, I think everybody wants to feel part of a moment. And I think the Oscars are still very much a moment that we kind of all share. We, you know, all sort of, I think, have grown up watching these events, watching the academy awards. I think we need a fairy tale right now. And I think these types of shows especially are very good at connecting with that, with art, with humanity. I think we learned good manners together through wonderful speeches. Honestly, listen to the speeches tonight.

And I think, you know, beyond that, these shows are - they are mirrors of sort of what we are all going through in our lives every day. And it's a moment that we can all share together. You want to experience it with people. You want to experience it as it happens, just like the super bowl. And I think that's a big thing.

JONES: Janice, I have to ask you I cannot let you go as I talk politics all the time. And I get enough -- talk to the woman who created who were at best in "US Weekly."

ADELMAN: This is Hollywood royalty.

JONES: Exactly. I know. I can't let you go without talking about the red carpet right now. What's going on right now? Who looks good? Who is missing the mark? Go.

MIN: Well, OK. So I'm going to back up and just say that everyone was expecting sort of a sober red carpet because as someone wrote for the "Hollywood Reporter," how do you get up and say let everyone in or, you know, I stand against him while you are dressed like a parrot, you know, and so in glitters.

So, people were thinking, you know, maybe this is a time for more sober dressing. So far, maybe that is not the case. I think there are some standouts so far. Ruth Nega looks beautiful, her Valentino. Let's see, who else?

ADELMAN: Lyn Manuel.

MIN: Lynn Manuel. (INAUDIBLE). Let's remember, this is a woman I think who is 63. Like a total knockout. The most gorgeous woman maybe tonight on the red carpet.

[19:35:04] ADELMAN: Elegant.

MIN: Elegant. There are really not a ton of mishaps. I think there are going to be two outfits people will debate. One of them is Pharrell, outfit Pharrell whose movie "Hidden Figure" is up for best picture. Pharrell is dressed in, you know, entering into the gender debate, the gender wars, wearing Chanel, all head to toe Chanel. And that closed and Chanel tuxedo. And then the second one, Leslie Man. Very fine actress. She is also the wife of (INAUDIBLE). She is wearing an outfit that I'm sure is going to get like. And I think it is already getting like in social media to belle from beauty and the beast.

ADELMAN: I want to give my Marc Adelman sound bite. We need moments to root for right now. The Oscars are that. So this is it. Come on. Get excited.

BASH: Thank you so much. We are going to leave it there.

ADELMAN: Bye, Dana. Thank you.

BASH: Thanks, guys. Thank you so much. Very insightful. I appreciate it.

And on a very different note, a triple shooting is stoking fears about violence against immigrants, we are going to talk about that coming up.


[19:39:40] BASH: The wife of an Indian man killed in a bar shooting last week says her family always wondered if they were safe in the United States.


SUHAYANA DUMALA, HUSBAND KILLED IN KANSAS BAR SHOOTING: I was always concerned, are we doing the right thing, by staying in the United States of America? But he always assured me that only good things happen to good people.


[19:40:07] BASH: Her husband died and two others were shot and wounded by a man witnesses say yelled at them to quote "get out of my country." The suspect is in jail on murder and attempted murder charges.

Ibrahim Hooper joins me now. And he is the national communications director for CARE, the Council for American-Islamic Relations.

Ibrahim, thank you so much for joining me. And let's just start by talking about the FBI. They are working with local police to try to determine if this was in fact a hate crime that was committed. What do you think, based on the facts that we know, and why do you think it's so important to make the distinction?

IBRAHIM HOOPER, COUNCIL FOR AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: I think it's clearly biased motivated. I mean, it's up to, obviously, a jury to decide. But this individual made reference to, as you mentioned, get out of my country. He allegedly inquired about the visa status of these individuals that were shot. And before he was and apprehended, he allegedly went to a bartender and said I just shot two Middle Eastern men.

So I think clearly, there was a bias motive here. And I think it fits some pattern that we keep seeing in the last months since the election. That the election of Donald Trump really has kind of released the crack and the hate in America. We have seen an unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes and hate crimes targeting other people, because we have seen this often before, where someone is per received to be either Middle Eastern or Muslim and they are attack. We have had Sikh men shot down in the street in the past. We have Sikh temples attacked thinking it was a mosque. We had just, in the Tampa area, we had a mosque arson attack just within the last day. It really is unprecedented and truly troubling in just these last weeks since the election of Donald Trump and Donald Trump has not spoken out against it. Even when six people were gunned down in a mosque in Canada, he didn't speak out.

BASH: You just sort of led me to my next question, which is what do you expect and hope to hear from the President about the kinds of attacks that you're discussing?

HOOPER: I hope to hear our President denounce growing anti-Muslim bigotry, the growing attacks on Hispanics, African-Americans, women, others. I expect nothing, because Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a group of anti-Muslim bigots in the White House, Stephen Bannon, Steven Miller, Mr. Gorka (ph) and others. They have pushed the conspiracy theories of Muslims trying to take over America and the world. And they have pushed to target the American Muslim community and we see the result.

BASH: Well, just because they are not here to defend themselves, I should say that they would say that that's not true. That they're not bigoted. That they just have a different set of political beliefs.


BASH: I'm not going to debate this with you. I just want to say for the record that they are not here to defend themselves on that.

Just one more question about the concept of a hate crime, people might not realize this out there. To be classified as a hate crime is a big deal and that it means that the suspect if convicted would face a different punishment, correct?

BASH: Generally a hate crime will draw, depending on state law, will draw enhanced sentencing. In other words, if you were on the crime of whatever it was, you were to be sentenced to five years, you might be sentenced to seven years. Now, when you have alleged murder for even first-degree murder, it's hard to get a higher personality than that. So sometimes in these cases it doesn't apply as much. But it's just a symbolic message that's sent when state and federal officials designate it as a hate crime. We would like to see that because it pushes back against the rising bigotry in our nation.

BASH: Ibrahim Hooper, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it. And we are waiting on comments from President Trump. We are going to bring those to you after a quick break.


[19:46:08] BASH: Welcome back. We are waiting for comments from President Donald Trump who just spoke to governors who are gathered for a black tie affair inside the White House as we speak. We are waiting for that tape to be ready and we are going to play it for you as soon as we get it.

While we wait, I want to bring back David Gergen, who has been to his share of meetings, black tie and otherwise inside the White House.

How significant is it, David, that he is having, not just his first gala, but more importantly, that he is gathering the governors from all around the country, the chief executives of the 50 states?

You know what? Before you answer, let's take a listen, David. We just got the tape. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Has never looked better, but who knows? I'm sure it's looked very good many times. So Melania, congratulations.

I also want to congratulate and thank a truly great vice President of the United States and his wonderful wife Karen. And whenever you are, Mike, stand up just for a second. Mike Pence.


TRUMP: So I can say that after four weeks, it's been a lot of fun. But we have accomplished almost everything we have started out to accomplish. The borders are stricter, tighter. We are doing a really good job. General Kelly has done a fantastic job militarily. As you know, we have a fantastic team, we have an A-team. And I'm getting some good reports. There's some problems in the world. You know that very well.

But we are very happy with the way things are working. And again, we have made a lot of promises over the last two years and many of those promises already are kept. So we are very honored by that.


TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you. I just want to salute and toast the governors, the great governors of the United States. They have done an amazing job. Such an easy job you have. So easy. But you have done a fantastic job, and your families and wives and everybody's here. I mean I have seen daughters come tonight. I have seen wives, all I know is everybody is lovely, and tomorrow we are going to meet and we are going to discuss things like, perhaps healthcare will come up, perhaps. And I think we have made a lot of progression on that. And we are going to have a speech on Tuesday night. And we are going to be speaking very specifically about a very complicated subject. Everybody is different. Every state is different, and different requirement. But I think we have something that is going to really be excellent.

And as most of you know, Obamacare has had tremendous problems. I won't say in front of the Democrats, I will say it to the Republicans. But we are going to have it fix and we are going to repeal and replace. And I think you are going to see something very, very special. And for all of you, and even tonight, because we have Tom Price with us, if you see something or want to discuss it, we don't have to discuss all friendly stuff, we can discuss a little bit of the health care, we might as well start. But tomorrow morning we are going to meet and discuss health care and whatever else is on your mind. I hear this is a record number of governors, 46, and that's the highest number that's ever showed up to this event.


TRUMP: So with that, I would like to toast the great, great governors of the United States. Thank you.

CROWD: Cheer!

TRUMP: Now I know it's inappropriate, but I would like to ask a friend of mine, I just destroyed his political career, from the other side. A man from Virginia, I have known him a long time. And he's a very good guy. Governor Terry McAuliffe to come up and also, perhaps, make a toast. Thank you. Terry, where are you? Come on, up.


[19:50:17] BASH: I think that's fair that he probably just heard Terry McAuliffe there. But those were some pretty very interesting remarks specifically about what the President is going to talk about on Tuesday night. He said that he is going to talk specifics when it comes to -- he didn't say the word healthcare, but that seemed to be what he was talking about, about Obamacare and what he is going to do with that.

Let's bring back David Gergen, our senior political analyst.

I interrupted you so we could go to the tape beforehand. But as you talk about the substance of what he has said. I also think it is just not worthy that this is the first time we have seen Donald Trump as President, you know, giving a toast as President in the White House to his guests of honor.

GERGEN: I think that's right, Dana. And it's very interesting. Of course he has a room that is enthusiastically for him. About two- thirds of the governors these days are Republicans. About 60 percent or so of members of state legislatures are Republicans. And state chambers, you know, two-thirds of them are controlled at a state level by Republicans.

So this is a - he is in warm company here, and I think he reached out appropriately. But the hard part really begins tomorrow, because there are deep divisions among the Republicans as we well know.

Look at the John Kasich tape that you played earlier today. From, you know, he has been a fan of expanding Medicaid. There are been so many there's been so Republicans who want to block grant Medicaid and reduce the spending.

I think, we are also going to learn tomorrow, Dana, there has been a report out now from "the Times" in the last short while, that they are going to unveil the structure of a budget. And reportedly, "the Times" is saying, there's going to be a surge in defense spending and cuts, pretty much across the board and other programs. So that will be very controversial.

Donald Trump is now moving into this phase, a new phase of his presidency of having to work with Congress, work with the governors, work with other elected officials, especially in Congress who feel they are a co-equal branch, to work through these difficult, difficult issues and see if they can reach agreement.

If the agreement seems farther away today than it did four or five weeks ago, but Donald Trump still has strong leadership potential there in the Congress with both chambers in Republican hands.

BASH: David, standby. I want to bring in Athena Jones, our White House correspondent who was also listening and is doing reporting on the budget that David Gergen was just talking about and of course what's happening inside the White House there - Athena.

JONES: Hi. I thought what was really interesting there, Dana, is to hear the President say, again, that promise once again, something he has been promising for the last year and a half, which is to repeal and replace Obamacare. We heard him make a joke saying that Obamacare has had tremendous problems, I won't say it in front of Democrats, just Republicans, and there was some laughter in the room.

But he went on to say we are going to have it fixed. We are going to repeal and replace it. And we are going to have something special. That's not details. The real question here is what is when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, what is this sort a repeal and replace plan going to look like. It's proven to be from everything we are hearing, from the reporting that we have, that is proven to be a much bigger challenge coming up with something that the people, even just within the Republican Party can all agree on. So he talked about how they are going to be talking about that tomorrow when he meets with governors and other subjects. But I thought that was the most interesting comments from those brief remarks.

BASH: And David, you were just talking about the budget, the "New York Times" reported, CNN is now confirming that the budget outline that the President will unveil will call for a substantial increase in military spending as well as cuts to several federal agencies. Since he is a Republican who is doing his first budget, that's probably not a surprise.

GERGEN: It's not a surprise, but it's going to be interesting they did it the day before this speech to the Congress. That means the President will have to cover it. It's going to be controversial and we are going to start learning how the tradeoffs are very, very difficult in this year and the tradeoffs on the healthcare side. You know, where the deputy press secretary for the White House was on some of the shows today, and basically when she was asked, pressed whether Donald Trump had said he was going to take care of everybody. Everybody will be protected, if she was asked if anybody would lose their healthcare, she danced and dodged as much as she could to leave that wide open.

So we got -- there's some tough, tough issues coming up. And it's going to move beyond the kind of tone of issues we have been dealing with, and the unilateral steps the President has been making to the hard, hard work of governing in a country that is very divided.

[19:55:18] BASH: And in a 30-seconds or so we have left. Athena, what David was talking about, you know, the sort of dancing and dodging, to your point just a minute ago, it is -- there doesn't seem to be, still at this point, a month in and three months after they were erected, a real, clear understanding of how the Republicans are going to move forward on healthcare.

JONES: No, and there isn't. And it's not something the President is acknowledging. I mean, he sounded just like he sounded for months when he promised a terrific plan that would cover everybody. We did Sara Huckabee Sanders danced around, that to David. He has said repeatedly his terrific plan would cover everybody at a lower cost. What's not at all clear is how they are going to do that.

We know that former house speaker John Boehner has said, look, he shouldn't have sold this as repeal and replace because that's not what's going to happen. They are going to end up, in his words, fixing Obamacare, put a conservative box around it. The reason they are not going to be able to do a whole repeal and replace is because Republicans in all his years in Congress, 25 years could never, never, ever, agree on a health care proposal -- Dana.

BASH: Thank you so much, Athena Jones, David Gergen, for digesting what the president just said. Thank you very much for joining me.

And up next on CNN, a marathon "Finding Jesus."

And don't miss a new season of "Finding Jesus" debuting next Sunday only at 9:00 eastern only on CNN.

I'm Dana Bash in Washington. Thanks so much for spending your time with me. Have a great week.