Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Set to Hike Military Spending in Budget Outline; Father of Slain Navy Seal Demands Investigation; Bush: The Media Is "Indispensable To Democracy"; Trump To Call For Military Spending Hike. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:04] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Any minute now the White House will release President Trump first budget outline. It is more (INAUDIBLE) you might say. What could possible go wrong?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: What could go wrong?

BERMAN: Too soon also I think. We're told the budget will include big hikes in military spending, big cuts to some domestic agencies and no cuts at all to social security or Medicare.

HARLOW: Not a cent folks. All this comes as President Trump gets ready to deliver tomorrow nights big prime time address the joint session of Congress. The tone of that address -- we're hearing that's going to uplifting an optimistic, not what we heard in his campaign style speech on Friday.

This week is shaping up to be critical and the administration effort to diverse the spotlight from the recent turmoil and create a whole new narrative.

Let's bring in Joe Johnson this morning at the White House. Good morning Joe.

JOE JOHNSON, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. This is an early peek at what the White House is thinking ability in terms of this budget blueprint, nothing final. But as you said, there are a few bullet points already.

Number one, they're going to trying to increase defense spending big time. At the same time, they're going to be cutting a lot of other agencies apparently. And doing their best to maintain the status quo, we're told, on some of the big entitlements, Medicare and Social Security for example.

Meanwhile, last night, speaking to the National Governors Association, the President also trying to build some excitement around approaching a way to deal with one of his signatures promises on the campaign trail, that of course would be the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: As most of you know the Obamacare had tremendous problems. I won't say in front of the Democrats, I'll just say it to Republicans, it doesn't work. But we're going to have it fixed and we're going to repeal and replace. And I think you're going to see something very, very special.


JOHNSON: Meanwhile, the House dealing with some more nominee drama this morning, Philip Bilden, the nominee for Secretary of the Navy has now withdrawn his name from consideration, apparently siting problems with his business interests.

So, a lot for the White House to do today, of course they're expected to meet once again with the National Governors Association and some of the top Republicans from Congress coming over to the White House to sit down with the President in advance of his big speech tomorrow. John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, Joe Johnson for us at the White House. And we should say we are expecting to hear from the President within a half an hour speaking to the Governors as Joe Johnson just said. And we could hear shortly about what his exact budget blueprint will be.

Let's discuss with CNN's Military Analyst, retired Major General Spider Marks and CNN Senior Economic Analyst Stephen Moore, he's also a distinguished visioning fellow at the Heritage foundation.

General, I want to start with you. When you hear big increases in military spending, as a military man, what big increases, general, does the military need?

MAJ GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. AMRY (RET): John, thanks for having me on this morning. I think what the military must not do -- I hate to answer the question by saying what we shouldn't do first, but we just can't simply pile on, on our current capabilities. We have learned the military, our military has learned over the course of 15- plus years and combat of what we do well and what we don't do well and what our future requirements.

We are seeing every day in combat what those future engagements look like, will look like and what success our enemies will have going against us. So the military across the board and all the services have some very distinct capabilities that they need to address.

For example, the army I would suggest needs more ability to put boots on the ground, to increase the number of soldiers that can affect operations on the ground, when things aren't as clear as you'd like them to be, when the intelligence apparatus may not give better insight.

So, what's the best collector? The best collector is somewhere on the ground. The navy and air force have to be able to provide an anti aerial denial capability. Our advisories can't fight our aircraft, can't fight our navy but they can deny us through other means such as air defense capabilities, the ability for the United States to penetrate and influence operations in these multiple dimensions. Certainly the Marine Corps is a capability that must be able to launch very quickly, very rapidly over the horizon, so those capabilities need to be addressed. We learned this over the course of years. That's where the spending needs to go.

HARLOW: All right. So do the math for us. Stephen Moore you are a senior economic adviser on the campaign. You know how these numbers work. You spend a lot more on the military. You cut taxes, you do no touch, not a set, entitlement. How on Earth does this not blow a hole in the deficit?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, first of all, I agree with the general, you just don't want to throw money at the military without a good plan in terms of how it's going to be spent. And we do spend, by the way, more money at the federal level on our National Defense and military than Germany, Russia, China and England combined.

[09:05:04] So we already have a gigantic military. You want to make sure that money is being spent wisely. Now, the question you ask Poppy is the tough one. How do you get the numbers to add up?


MOORE: There are couple things. First of all, I do agree with Donald Trump something he always said in private and on the campaign trail. You've got to get the growth rate up. We've only been growing at less than 2 percent for the last five or six years. We need to get the growth up to three percent to four percent.

If you do that, that helps a lot in terms of getting --

HARLOW: But if you don't?

MOORE: -- a lot more revenue into the government. But you're going to have to make it -- if he wants spend, you know, hundreds of billions of dollars more on deference over the next five or six years. And he wants to spend more on infrastructure, that means just about everything else, Poppy, is going to have to get cut.

And I've seen -- I've had a little bit of sneak preview of some of these numbers, and my colleagues at the Heritage Foundation put a lot of these numbers together for the Trump administration. It means there's going to be significant cuts in a lot of these domestic agencies. They've really looked for areas where you can find waste and duplication.

And by the way, one statistic that I know Trump wants to go after, $160 billion a year in erroneous payments under programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, earned income tax credit. That's a way to significantly reduce spending without hurting the people who need the money.

BERMAN: So Stephen, first of all, you know, I know that the President -- everyone wants growth at 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent or 6 percent. MOORE: Yes.

BERMAN: This budget blueprint apparently is assuming 2.4 percent, which is yet at that level. So there's that. Let me ask you, I mean do you think long-term that this is sustainable without cuts to entitlements?

MOORE: That's a great question. And the answer is probably not. Probably at some point, you know, in the next few years we're going to have to get very serious, John, about how do we really rein in the costs. So of Medicare and Social Security especially Medicare by the way because health care costs have been exploding so much.

Now, I would make this point though, John. If the Trump plan works, and we don't quite know yet what it's going to be in terms of what they're going to repeal Obamacare with, but if you can really bring down the inflation and health care costs, that saves a lot of money in Medicare and some of these other programs.

So, that's going to be a key. But I would throw that challenge to some of my friends on the Democratic side of the aisle. They are eager for Trump to say, oh, I want to cut social security and Medicare, so they can throw those T.V. ads on CNN showing Republicans throwing grandma off the cliff. How many times have been seen that. Republicans have not.

I think wisely they have not fallen into that trap. I think to solve those problems, John, of Medicare and Social Security, you need true bipartisanship from both parties to take the lead.

HARLOW: General, before we let you go, we want to ask you about something else. It's obviously making headlines this morning. General McMaster, the new National Security Adviser is clearly on a different page than the President is when it comes to terminology and identifying our enemy.

He told the National Security counsel is team over the weekend he thinks the term radical Islamic terror is unhelpful and he also said Russia is not our friend. Is that problematic? Because that is something that the President said time and time again, pointing the finger at Hillary Clinton, she won't use that terminology.

MARKS: Well, what we see is that formation that has some senior folks in this administration that have used language different from our President begins to increase. I think what H. R. McMaster is saying makes perfect sense. Clearly we have a challenge with a religion that a percentage of it has been hijacked and in the name of that religion bad things are happening around the globe.

I think we would all agree to that. It's not an entire indictment of that religion. We would all agree with that. What general McMaster is what we would see Secretary Mattis say and other folks say which is, look, the President is pushing us in a certain direction? We, members of the cabinet who are practitioners, we have to make this happen. We're the ones that you're going to deal with. Let us try to approach this in a way that allows us to maintain communications with friends and to make sure our enemies understand that we won't abide their behavior. But truly what we need to be able to do is build this alliance, continue to build an alliance because we're not going to solve these problems by ourselves.

MOORE: Can I make one quick point? John, in relation to the question you asked earlier about, you know, how are you going to make all these numbers add up? And general just kind of reminded me of this.

Let's not forget one of the proposals that Donald Trump has put on the table which is quite controversial, especially on the other side of the pond, is making some of those NATO countries pay the United States more for the military assistance and the defense we give them. And a lot of Americans think that's a good idea. I believe we can probably raise tens of billions of dollars if those countries paid their fair share.

BERMAN: Stephen Moore advising and extending his remarks. General, Stephen thank you so much.


BERMAN: Appreciate it guys.

[09:10:01] POPPY: We appreciate it guys.

All right, as early as today the Pentagon will submit this plan to try to achieve what the Obama administration could not, the defeat of ISIS. Remember the President made that 30-day promise. Bringing the new plan the in 30-days, will tomorrow marks that 30-day deadline.

BERMAN: And it comes as the White house is facing stinging criticism from the father of a Navy SEAL killed on that anti-terror mission in Yemen. Last month William Ryan Owens became the first combat death under the Trump presidency.

And today his father is calling for an investigation into that raid. CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning John and Poppy. Another Gold Star father very much struggling with his grief, very much wanting to know more from the U.S. government about what happened to his son.

So let me read you a couple of quotes from this military dad about what he wants to see the administration do. And I want to quote Mr. Owen. He says in an interview with The Miami Herald, "Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration, the Trump administration. Why? For two years earlier there were no boots on the ground in Yemen. Everything was missiles and drones because there was not a target worth one American life. Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display." And he goes on to say, "Don't hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation. I want an investigation. The government owes my son an investigation." Well, Mr. Owens appears to be looking for is more than investigation into the White House decision making, why did they decide to pursue this mission in Yemen?

And we've asked a number of officials this morning. They point to what they pointed to when this happened. It was an idea, a mission originally conceived broadly as a Yemen mission during the Obama administration. It was up to the Trump administration in its early days to decide to carry it out. They are investigating number of matters related to this, but whether this Gold Star father will find all the answers he's looking for remains to be scene. John, poppy?

HARLOW: Right, Barbara Starr, thank you very much. Remember there was the back and forth between McCain and the administration about whether or not this was a success or not. And can you call it a success when you have a death like that and injuries.

We have a lot ahead this hour. Still to come, as the President kicks off a big, big week, a huge pretty unprecedented crackdown we've learned on those leaks coming inside the White House.

BERMAN: And then, talk about a shocking ending may be the best Oscars telecast ever, because of this ending which turned out to be the biggest mixup ever. Up next.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to show you live pictures of the White House. Any minute now we're expecting to hear from President Trump. He is meeting with the nation's governors and he could announce his new budget plans. That happens any minute.

Next hour, he meets with top health insurance executives. He will be discussing Obamacare. Tomorrow night he delivers his first address before a joint session of Congress. On Wednesday, we could get a revamped travel ban. All this as the White House is trying to crack down on leaks to the media.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Quite a week ahead. Certainly a lot to discuss with our panel, Karen Tumulty is the national political correspondent for "The Washington Post," Angela Rye, our political commentator and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Jeffrey Lord joins us, CNN political commentator and contributing editor at the "American Spectator." Nice to have you all here.

And Karen, let me begin with you. What a week it is. John just outlined it. Now it's time for the meat on the bones, right, and granted they are political foes. But I think Rahm Emanuel made a good point having worked in the White House under the last president saying there's a really big difference, he said at the "New York Times" this weekend, between motion and action.

Now it's time for action come tomorrow night. We're hearing that some Republican leaders really want the president to finally put specifics to his Obamacare plans and getting behind the leading plans on the Hill right now. What should we expect?

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, that's right. This is the virtual equivalent of a "state of the union" address, when the president traditionally spells out his laundry list of things he's going to do for the American people, that he wants done for the American people.

This cannot be a speech about Donald Trump and his battles with the media or about Donald Trump's electoral victories. People will be listen for specifics. Don't forget, by this time in the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama had already signed into law his economic stimulus infrastructure package.

And by this time in his presidency, George W. Bush had already very much laid out the details of his tax cuts. So while the president has talked about having done a lot of action at this point in terms of the nuts and bolts of getting things through Congress, there really hasn't been a lot.

BERMAN: So Karen just brought up the media and what the president has been saying about the media. Jeffrey Lord, a few moments ago, we heard from former President George W. Bush. He don't hear from him a lot unless he's talking about his painting and he was talking about more than his painting this morning. He was talking about the president and the media. Listen to what he said.


FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive. It's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.


BERMAN: He also said, Jeffrey Lord, it's hard for the United States to go to other countries of the world and say, hey, you should have a free press when the leader of our country is cracking down on the press here. Pretty remarkable comments from the former president.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't think -- and I love President Bush. I don't think what he's saying and what President Trump are saying are all that different.

BERMAN: Hang on. President George W. Bush did not call the media the enemy of the people. That's something that President Trump has said.

[09:20:04]LORD: Well, first of all, John, let me stop you right there. Neither did President Trump. He said the fake news media. He said the fake news media. There's a considerable difference there, number one.

Number two, what President Bush is saying, I think the mistake made in the Bush administration and Karl Rove admits it, is that they didn't answer the press, that they just took all their blows from the press and were silent on the deal.

This, therefore, led the American media to get the impression out there that Bush lied on Iraq and all that sort of thing, which was not true. So you really do have to get out there and be very aggressive and present your case and challenge the media which is what President Trump is doing.

And again, he said in that tweet, the fake news media, not the media, is the enemy of the American people. There's a considerable difference there.

HARLOW: He pointed his finger at us, and "The New York Times" and others. Angela, John and I are fascinated by this "Wall Street Journal" poll over the weekend. The headline was, you know, lowest historical approval rating this early in their presidency.

When you dig into the numbers, they paint a different picture about how people feel about how things are going, their feelings about the president have actually gone up. Let's show that.

Also, they feel like this is an administration that better understands what it's like to be them, the average American person. Forty percent said the nation is headed in the right direction. That's up from 33 percent in December. So they might not like the man, but they like what's happening increasingly.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and I don't know given the fact that it's still a numeric minority that we can say, you know, they overwhelmingly, right. Like there's a segment of society in America that voted to support Donald Trump. That segment is probably increasingly more happy.

He's still spewing the very divisive rhetoric that he did on the campaign trail. Karen mentioned earlier that people are expecting for Donald Trump to sound more presidential in this forthcoming speech, to address real issues. We know he hasn't demonstrated a capacity to do that. He still sounds like he's campaigning.

He's still proving that he won the Electoral College. He's still showing why he needs to repeal Obamacare. We hope that he'll have details now as some type of replacement strategy. He's demonstrated time and time again that he does not have the ability to show himself as presidential.

So it will interesting to see what he does. I think again, going back to Jeffrey's most immediate last point, him talking about fake news and calling into questions legitimate news sources like CNN is highly problematic.

And I think it demonstrates that there's a lot of likeness between George W. Bush's position, at least now, and Donald Trump's position now.

BERMAN: So Karen, on the subject to the media, there was some pretty remarkable reporting over the weekend about Sean Spicer and how he is trying to crack down on leaks inside the White House. He called a meeting inside the White House apparently and asked his aides and the press people there to put their cell phones in a basket. Have you ever heard of anything like that, Karen?

TUMULTY: Actually putting cell phones in the basket is a procedure that goes at least as far back as President Obama and maybe earlier in that at White House meetings people are expected to drop their cell phones primarily because they don't want people doing this all the way through meetings.

But they do need to -- from their purposes, crack down on leaks. The problem is there's an entire sort of federal bureaucracy/establishment out there that they cannot control that way. The establishment, the bureaucracy was here before they got here and it's going to be here after they leave.

HARLOW: Do you read it as a little bit paranoid, Jeffrey Lord. They were going through their phones, according to "Politico's" reporting, and looking for the secret messaging apps that John Berman uses all the time so that no one can encrypt it. I mean, is it taking it a little bit too far?

LORD: No, I do think they have to do something. What bothers me more than White House leaks, if you will, are leaks from classified information by people who handle classified information. That is literally a federal crime. That's the real problem, and I think they need to clamp down on that and get to the bottom of it ASAP.

BERMAN: Angela Rye, policy time here. The president is going to outline his budget maybe in a few minutes. We're getting a sense he wants to increase military spending, do some cuts in domestic programs. We're told not going to touch Medicare and Social Security entitlements. As a Democrat, are you cheering that decision?

RYE: I think that's smart. I think that he doesn't have a choice. There are portions of this country where people are really suffering and cutting entitlement spending would be a disaster for so many families, some of our elderly, some of these families who are taking care of parents.

[09:25:12]That would be a disaster, to use a Donald Trump term that he likes. So I think it's a smart move. Of course, I applaud anything he does that's smart. I'm anxious to see what he's going to do with Obamacare.

HARLOW: Karen, it's interesting that increasingly you see this Trump platform. It was trade, now entitlements, looking a whole lot more like the Democratic platform on those fronts as the Democratic Party now has a new head of the DNC tries to figure out what they stand for. Does this make it a tougher road ahead for the Democrats?

TUMULTY: I actually think the tension here is within the Republican Party. This was a very, very specific campaign promise that Donald Trump made, that he was not going to touch the safety net programs. So Paul Ryan in particular has been a leading voice that these things are headed for bankruptcy. They're taking down the federal budget with them. That's really more a conversation I think that's going on within the Republican Party at this point.

HARLOW: Yes, Paul Ryan is probably not loving this one.

BERMAN: No. Paul Ryan, he wants some help on Obamacare, to be sure and they've got to get their ducks in a row as soon as this week. It will be interesting to see if they all line up. Karen, Angela, Jeffrey, thank you all very, very much.

Any minute now, President Trump sits down with the nation's governors at the White House. This really could be the first time we hear from him specifics about his budget plans, specifics that will include a big increase in military spending, no cuts to entitlements. We will bring you this moment when it happens.

HARLOW: And the story of the morning, the best picture or best plot twist at the academy awards. How about both, if you were not up for that moment, you've read about it and you will see it right here next.