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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; President Trump Set to Address Country; FBI Investigating Bar Shooting As Hate Crime; White House: Kansas Bar Shooting "Racially Motivated"; Trump To Deliver First Address To Congress Tonight; Deported Mom's Children To Attend Trump Address; Undocumented Mother Deported To Mexico; Malaysia To Charge 2 In Kim Jong-nam Murder. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired February 28, 2017 - 4:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": To get that kind of Democratic support on things like infrastructure, but he has so enraged the Democratic base -- and they were pre-riled up by the campaign -- that he's made it very difficult for Democratic lawmakers to find areas of cooperation with him without putting themselves at risk from this kind of angry base.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And, so, that just super complicates an already complicated path.
I think you're right that they were pre-enraged. And I'm not sure they would be less enraged if he had been nicer, at least in the base.
And then I think the other part of this is, it is telling who the speaker is for the Democrats tonight. The rebuttal is a former governor of Kentucky. It's not the newly elected Jack Conway, who would have been the young, handsome, up-and-coming Democrat who would be the governor of Kentucky, because he lost to Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: He lost.
HAM: And so despite the happy story that a particular Democrat will tell about implementing Obamacare in Kentucky, there are still gaps in communicating with that voting community.
TAPPER: Mary Katherine, Ruth, Jeff, thank you so much.
He says the only way to deal with Obamacare is a full repeal and replace, not changing it piece by piece. So, what does Kentucky's Rand Paul think of the current GOP plan? We will talk to him next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to stick with politics now. A major focus of President Trump's joint address before Congress
tonight will be the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Sources telling CNN that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to see President Trump publicly back the congressional Republican plan which Dr. Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, has been helping put together.
But some conservative Republicans in Congress seem skeptical. Joining me now from Capitol Hill is Republican Senator Rand Paul of
Kentucky. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations, Homeland Security and Health Committees.
Senator Paul, thanks for joining me, as always.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Sure.
TAPPER: You and your colleagues Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Mike Lee have expressed some concern about the congressional Republican plan. What is your concern?
PAUL: Well, you know, about a year ago, every Republican in the House and the Senate voted for what we thought was about as much as we could repeal, and we don't want to vote for anything less than that. We don't want to keep Obamacare-lite.
We don't want to add in new subsidies or new entitlement programs. Look, the government's broke. We borrow a million dollars a minute, so we want to completely repeal Obamacare and we want to replace it with something, market reforms, that will lower the cost of health insurance for everyone.
But we're not just going along with whatever they try to shove down our throats. We're going to be a big part of this. Conservatives will be listened to or there won't be a repeal.
TAPPER: And one of the issues here, of course, is that in order to help those who right now have insurance through the Medicaid expansion or perhaps have it because of the stipends that some people get through the Obamacare exchanges, some Republicans in Congress have proposed tax credits for these lower-income people.
You consider that a potential new entitlement program.
PAUL: Refundable tax credits, this means you get back money you didn't pay, somebody else's money. It's the same as a subsidy or the same as Medicaid or some kind of entitlement, and it's not free. It's got to come from somewhere.
So, I don't think we can dress up Democrat ideas and put a Republican stamp on them, call them a tax credit and say that we're giving them something different than what Obamacare was doing. What we should be for is lowering insurance premiums, lowering the rates and letting working-class people get good insurance at a less expensive cost.
But we shouldn't dress up a new government entitlement program. We are bankrupt as a country because we are overextended already on the entitlement programs that we have without adding new ones.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about this breaking news this afternoon. CNN has learned that, according to a senior administration official, President Trump would like to negotiate a compromise immigration bill.
This senior administration official said that there needs to be a -- quote -- "softening" on both sides. The bill would allow those here illegally who are not violent who haven't committed any serious other crimes to stay as long as they hold a job and pay taxes. Would you support an effort like this?
PAUL: I think the biggest sticking point for conservatives have been giving easy voting rights to people who came here illegally.
But I have been one who wants to take a middle position. I think if you're here and you want to work and you will work and you're not a burden on the state and you're willing to promise to work and stay employed, yes, I think we ought to find a place for you.
If you're one of these dreamer kids, I think we can get you permits to stay and legalize you. But what we should do is that should count against the immigration quotas. So, if we're going to normalize a young dreamer kid that's been here 15 years, I'm all for it, but that should count against the quota from new people coming in.
So, basically, what you're doing is you're internally immigrating people who are already here, but they should count as immigrants because we are normalizing them now. We should count them against the total of new people coming into the country.
TAPPER: All right. Some room for compromise there.
Let me ask you, President Trump also, we have learned this week, wants to increase defense spending by billions, tens of billions of dollars, while slashing other parts of the budget. You have spoken out against many American military engagements across the globe.
The U.S., of course, spends more money on defense than at least the next eight nations combined. Is a boost in the defense budget necessary, in your view?
PAUL: Since 9/11, we have doubled military spending in nominal terms. We're up about 50 percent in real terms.
We spend a lot of money on the military. And I want a strong national defense. But I think we get a stronger national defense by looking at our foreign policy and not having another Iraq War, not having another war in Yemen, not having another war in Syria, and helping our allies, but without being the big daddy that has to pay for everything.
So, no, I don't think you can just widely expand military spending unless you're really, really going to eliminate whole departments. And what typically happens up here is, the hawks want more money for the military, the liberals want more money for welfare, and the typical compromise is in the end they both get what they want and the taxpayer gets stuck with the burden of a $20 trillion debt.
TAPPER: And let me ask you also, because the White House is also considering slashing the State Department's budget.
General Mattis, who is now the secretary of defense, said in 2013, if you don't fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.
Do you agree with General Mattis?
PAUL: There is a certain truth to that, and that diplomacy is very important and the State Department is a big part of diplomacy.
I'm not a huge fan of foreign aid that is given often to corrupt governments and has been wasted, squandered and stolen over time. If you look at Egypt, Egypt over a period of 30 years probably got $60 billion in foreign aid. And, coincidentally, the Mubarak family, mother, father and kid, are worth $15 billion.
And so I think a lot of corruption has happened in the foreign aid market. We need to take care of some nation-building here at home. But I do and am a supporter of diplomacy. And so I think you do have to have a sufficient State Department for diplomacy.
Many of the wars around the world, including Syria, are going to involve a diplomatic solution. And there is no complete military solution to Syria until there is a diplomatic arrangement.
TAPPER: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, thanks so much. Always good to see you, sir.
PAUL: Thank you.
TAPPER: The federal government deported their mother back to Mexico for making up a Social Security number on a job application. Now these teenagers have made the journey to Washington, D.C., to try to deliver a message to the president of the United States. Will they succeed?
Stay with us.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Let's turn to our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. The Kansas bar shooting that left an Indian man dead is now officially a hate crime investigation. The FBI confirmed this in a statement a short while ago.
Last Wednesday's shooting sparked outrage here at home and of course across the globe especially in India, after witnesses said the suspect, 51-year-old Adam Purinton shouted, quote, "Get out of my country," before opening fire on two innocent men originally from India.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an engineer for Garmin died because of his gunshot wounds. His friend, along with an American that who tried to intervene, were wounded.
The White House today also condemned the attack. White House spokeswoman Sara Sanders, calling it, quote, "racially motivated."
Joining me now is Congressman Kevin Yoder. He's a republican from Kansas.
Congressman, thanks for joining us. You've been calling on President Trump to use his platform tonight to condemn the shooting. He personally hasn't said anything about it in his words, publicly or on Twitter. Though a White House spokesperson today, said the case is beginning to look like an act of racially motivated hatred. Why is it important for you to hear from President Trump directly about this this evening?
KEVIN YODER, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM KANSAS: Well, it's not just important for me. It's important for Americans all across this country. It's important for people in the Indian community.
You know, the shooting that occurred in my district last Wednesday has struck a nerve and a cord with people all across this country. People need to feel safe. They need to feel they're not going to be targeted because of their racial or religious viewpoints. And we have such a growing and vibrant Indian community in my district, and they need to hear from our president. They need to hear from all leaders that they condemn these attacks, that they're hateful, that they're wrong, and that we must unify as a country in speaking out about the importance of the diversity and how that makes our country stronger.
So, it's important to me but I think it's important to our nation that our president speaks to this issue and specifically condemns it and speaks to the unity that must come from it.
TAPPER: You've been asking the White House to convey this message to the president. Why hasn't he said anything, do you think?
YODER: Well, we don't know the answer to that. I mean, tonight is a great opportunity. You know, you can see kind of around me, we're getting prepared for the State of the Union address.
The spot lights are going to be on the president tonight. He's probably going to speak to the economy, he's going to speak to national security, you know, speak to reforming government. Those are all important topics we hope to -- expect to hear from him on. But we also want to hear from him on this specific incident and incidents like it.
Our country is very divided. And our leaders have an important role in showing the rest of the country how we can unify and show greater purpose here. And in this tragedy, what we hope is the best way to send a message to the shooter and to those who try to inflict hate in our communities, is that we're going to double down on unity, that we're going to let the Indian community, all diverse communities know that they're welcomed, that they're encouraged to be here.
And we hope that today, at this platform tonight, that this is a perfect opportunity for the president to speak to the nation regarding those values and how important they are for our country.
TAPPER: And the victim's wife expressed concern about violence against foreigners in the U.S. She even asked her husband repeatedly about going back to India or another country before the horrible tragedy.
What is your message to immigrants who see the shooting and they worry, "Maybe we'll be the next victims?"
YODER: Well, my message would be that the shooting, it was horrific, hateful, we condemn it. That this is a loving country, that one shooter does not speak for the values of the State of Kansas, or the values of our entire country.
And that, you know, this country is built upon a history of immigration and that that's part of our value system. And that they don't need to be fearful. That out of this hateful act, we're going to become a more loving country, that we're going to become a more loving community, and we're going to reach out to our neighbors, we're going to double our efforts -- redouble our efforts to tell everyone, no matter, you know, what their background is, what their religion is, what's their racial background is, that they are welcomed and that we, you know, are a unified country that supports them.
And I think that's the positive thing that can come out of this tragedy, is that we send a message in a much stronger way to the Indian community and all those communities that they are loved and welcomed and that they won't be targeted for their beliefs. [16:50:06] TAPPER: Congressman Kevin Yoder, republican of Kansas,
thank you for joining us and thank you for your words, Sir. We appreciate it.
YODER: Thank you so much.
TAPPER: Turning back to our "POLITICS LEAD", the tradition of presidents bringing everyday Americans to their joint addresses to congress, to honor a hero or to illustrate a political point.
It all began with a man named Lenny Skutnik in 1982, who famously jumped into the icy Potomac River, to help save one of the survivors of Air Florida Flight 90. His heroism, as you see right now on T.V., played out on live T.V.
Now two weeks later, President Ronald Reagan heralded Skutnik at the State of the Union, and ever since then, the tradition of presidential "Skutniks", as we call them here in D.C., was born.
Now the opposition party since gotten into the act and tonight, democrats are bringing some Skutniks of their own, including two American teenagers, whose mom was recently deported to Mexico for having illegally entered the U.S. nearly 20 years ago, and for then using a fake Social Security number.
Angel and Jacqueline Garcia were both born and raised in Arizona. They took their first ever airplane ride and arrived in Washington, D.C. yesterday to attend President Trump's address this evening. Joining me now to talk about it is CNN Correspondent Polo Sandoval who
followed them on their journey.
And these American teenagers were invited by some democratic lawmakers, clearly trying to send a message to President Trump.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I spoke to some of those democratic lawmakers today, here in Washington. They tell me that they hope that President Trump will be able to essentially see the face of these so- called "victims of the administration's immigration policy".
As we mentioned, they include a brother and sister duo who traveled here to Washington from Arizona with their mother's story.
SANDOVAL: Jackie and Angel Rayos Garcia are packing light for their first trip to Washington. It's the first plane ride of their young lives.
Tonight, they'll sit in the house chamber on Capitol Hill, 2300 miles from their Phoenix home. They'll face President Donald Trump, the man they blamed for deporting their undocumented mother back to Mexico.
Jackie and Angel's father can't go further than airport security in Phoenix, unlike his son and daughter, laxly legal status in the U.S. and lives with the constant fear of deportation. All he can do is offer his blessing and the promise he'll be here when they return.
Guadalupe Rayos Garcia is the children's mother who is at the center of the controversy. We first met her in Sonora, Mexico earlier this month, just after Immigration officials acted on a 2013 order to deport her. The 35-year-old mother pleaded guilty to making up a Social Security number on a job application, a nonviolent felony.
Nonetheless, immigration and customs officials detained Rayos Garcia. She is now living in Mexico while Angel and Jackie are in Washington to confront the president.
I mean, you're here now. You're in the shadow of the Capitol. What's going through your mind before tonight?
ANGEL RAYOS GARCIA, SON OF THE DEPORTED MOTHER: Well, I'm pretty determined, you know. Like, it's crazy, like, realizing we came all the way from Mesa. And we're here, we're in the Capitol. And we're ready to see Trump, see what he has to say.
SANDOVAL: Angel and Jackie were invited to the president's address to congress by Arizona Representatives Ruben Gallego and Raul Grijalva. The democratic lawmakers consider these kids the face of families affected by Donald Trump's immigration policies.
JACQUELINE RAYOS GARCIA, DAUGHTER OF THE DEPORTED MOTHER: I feel determined to keep on fighting, not just for my family, but for the other families that fall behind us. SANDOVAL: President Trump insists the focus of his executive orders of immigration are going after undocumented people who have committed violent crimes.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're getting some very, very bad players out of this country. Drug lords, gang members, heads of gangs, killers, murderers, we're getting them out. That's what we're focused on. The press isn't covering that unfortunately.
SANDOVAL: In another hopeful sign, a senior administration official told reporters today, the president wants an immigration bill that would not deport undocumented people who haven't committed any serious crimes.
For now, Jackie and Angel know the reality of the U.S. government allowing their mother back into the U.S. soon are slim.
Today, she remains south of the border celebrating a birthday without her kids.
J. GARCIA: I want her to know that I love her and that I miss her, and happy birthday.
SANDOVAL: Rayos Garcia remains currently in her home state in Guanajuato, Mexico. Jake, I had an opportunity to speak to her husband in-- while in Phoenix. Yesterday she told me that she will be watching President Trump's speech very closely. And more than anything else, she'll be keeping a very close eye on the audience hoping for a glimpse of her children. Last time she saw them was about two and a half weeks ago, when we traveled to Sonora, Mexico and met all three of them.
TAPPER: Not really a happy birthday.
SANDOVAL: Not so.
TAPPER: Polo, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
In our "WORLD LEAD", just a few hours from now, Malaysian authorities will officially charge the first two suspects with murder in the death of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. South Korea's spy agency believes Kim Jong-nam was assassinated by North Korea with orders coming from the very top.
[16:54:55] Police say two women, one from Indonesia, another from Vietnam, rubbed a lethal VX nerve agent on Kim Jong-nam's face at Kuala Lumpur Airport earlier this month. He died within 20 minutes. One of the suspects told investigators she thought she was working on a prank T.V. show by smearing Kim's face with baby oil. If found guilty of murder, the suspects could face a mandatory death sentence. Meanwhile, a high-level delegation from North Korea arrived in Malaysia earlier today, demanding Kim Jong-nam's body. But Malaysian authorities are refusing. They say they need a DNA sample from the victim's next of kin. That's it for THE LEAD. Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware will join Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM", next. I'll see you this evening for a special coverage of the president's address to a joint session of Congress. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Talking to the nation, President Trump makes his first address to Congress tonight, and says he'll be speaking from the heart. The White House says he'll present lawmakers and the American public with an optimistic vision for America. Can he sell the country and his agenda?