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Trump to Deliver First Address to Congress Tonight; Trump Calling For 10 Percent Increase For Defense And Security Spending; Pres. Trump Delivers First Address To Congress Tonight; Trump Defends Yemen Raid Were U.S. Serviceman Died; Sr. Admin Official: North Korea Is "Greatest Threat" To U.S.; Two Women Face Murder Charges In Death Of Dictators Brother; Both Women Say They Were Duped, Thought Act Was "Prank"; Two Alleged Assassins Could Be Hanged If Convicted. Aired 5- 6p ET
Aired February 28, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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 on his agenda?
[17:00:11] Open to compromise. A senior administration official says President Trump would be open to a new immigration bill that would allow many immigrants to stay in the United States legally. The official says that would require a softening on both sides in Congress. The president may work that into his speech.
Obamacare deal? The White House says the president will discuss an Obamacare replacement, but a deep split is developing among Republicans over how to dismantle the health care law.
And paying for his plans. New questions are being raised about the president's plan to boost defense spending while cutting other agencies. A top Republican senator warns the president's planned budget will be, quote, "dead on arrival."
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news: we're counting down to the president's first address to Congress. He'll be speaking to the entire nation tonight, and a primetime address is a prime opportunity to hit the reset button after a bumpy first month in office. The president says he'll be speaking from the heart, and aides say he'll present an optimistic vision focused on the renewal of the American spirit. That's after he spoke of American carnage in his inauguration address.
A senior administration official says President Trump would like a compromise immigration bill, and he may make mention of that tonight. The official says the legislation could allow many undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States legally without having to worry about deportation, but concedes it will take a softening on both sides to make a deal.
Republicans are already divided on how to handle Obamacare, and there are deep differences, as well, over the president's budget. One key Republican senator says it will be dead on arrival because of the proposed cuts to the State Department.
Democratic lawmakers may be inclined to give the president the cold shoulder, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has urged them to show utmost dignity tonight, saying they can't be outclassed by Donald Trump.
I'll speak with Democratic Senator Chris Coons. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories. Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, what can we look for in the president's big speech tonight?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is the biggest sales pitch of this presidency. Of course, he's given so many speeches at campaign rallies.
But tonight when he comes here to the Capitol behind me, he will be talking about his plans for tax reform and health care. We are told tonight that he is going to say that people with preexisting conditions must keep their coverage. Now, he must keep Republicans in line, try and bring Democrats on board, as he tries to reframe his presidency.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some great people back here, some great people. And up here.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump at the White House today with the nation's attorneys general before turning his focus tonight to Congress. It's the biggest moment of his new presidency, outlining his agenda during his first speech to a joint session of the House and Senate.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're excited to welcome President Trump to the Capitol tonight. And we expect him to deliver a bold optimistic message to the American people.
ZELENY: Forty days after taking office, the primetime address offers Mr. Trump a moment to reset and reframe his presidency, which even he acknowledged was off to a rockier start than he hoped.
TRUMP: In terms of messaging, I would give myself a "C" or a "C- plus."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
TRUMP: In term of achievement, I think I'd give myself an "A." I don't think we've explained it well enough to the American public.
ZELENY: He gets that chance tonight and show how he intends to turn his campaign pledges into a governing reality. From health care to tax reform, to national security. The president hopes to give Republicans a road map to pass his agenda, but divisions are already emerging in his party, and Democrats are vowing to resist.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Tonight, if past is prologue, the president will use populist rhetoric in his speech, but he won't back it up with real actions.
ZELENY: As he prepares to sign his second version of his controversial travel ban this week, senior administration officials tell CNN the president is also eyeing an immigration bill he could discuss tonight.
The president goes before the nation with a lower approval rating, 42 percent, than recent predecessors did during their first addresses to Congress. But he also has advantages: a 4.9 percent unemployment rate, and the stock market closing at a record high for nearly two weeks in a row. It's still an open question whether the ominous tones from his inaugural address...
TRUMP: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
ZELENY: ... will give way to a more optimistic message, like on election night when he extended his hand.
[17:05:10] TRUMP: To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.
ZELENY: Democrats say Mr. Trump hasn't lived up to that pledge and are ready to resist. But leader Nancy Pelosi warned fellow Democrats to avoid any moments of disrespect, like when South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson shouted at President Obama.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!
ZELENY: Pelosi told her members today, "We cannot be outclassed by Donald Trump. That would be the worst of all outcomes."
And first lady Melania Trump will be on hand for a rare appearance at the Capitol, surrounded by invited guests that speak to the president's agenda, including three relatives of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants.
ZELENY: Now, the president will tell those individual stories, Wolf, to bolster his case for cracking down on immigration laws, even as he says he is open to potentially immigration reform in the future.
Wolf, in this political climate up here, the realities of that seem very difficult here, particularly as he gets prepared tomorrow to sign that second round of the travel ban -- Wolf. BLITZER: Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is up on
Capitol Hill tonight. Jeff, thank you very much.
Let's go to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where a senior administration official says President Trump would like a compromise immigration bill that would let so many people stay in the United States legally. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim, what are you hearing over at the White House about this very sensitive issue?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are learning that White House press secretary Sean Spicer told press secretaries up on Capitol Hill today that the president is expected to signal an openness to a compromise immigration bill in his speech later tonight. That's a big shift for the president who once spoke of a deportation force as a candidate for president.
But a senior administration official now says the president could be willing to sign a bill that creates a path to legal status for the undocumented, but we should caution this could be a float with some lead weights attached to it. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters this afternoon that the president's top priority on immigration is still securing the border and deporting criminals who are undocumented, Wolf.
BLITZER: What else are you hearing about the speech up at your place at the White House there?
ACOSTA: Wolf, we just obtained bullet points for the speech tonight. Here they are. The president is expected to talk about his goals for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare.
And during his address, the president will say that people with preexisting conditions must have coverage as part of healthcare reform. He will also call for the middle class to get tax relief.
And on foreign policy, very interesting, Wolf. The president will say the U.S. supports NATO. That is an alliance he has criticized as obsolete in the past.
And in the speech the president is also expected to make a pitch for the U.S. to forge partnerships where American interests align. That appears to be a veiled reference to a strategy to join forces with Russia to take on ISIS. And so, this is going to be a wide-ranging speech. Wolf, it's expected to run around an hour and 15 minutes. That is Bill Clinton territory when it comes to the length of a speech like this to a joint session of Congress, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta over at the White House.
The word that President Trump may ask lawmakers to tackle comprehensive immigration reform sparked quick reaction up on Capitol Hill. Let's go to our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju. Manu, what are you hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, mixed reaction, Wolf. Even on the Republican side of the aisle, some conservative who have pushed for tougher border security measures don't want to go this route, including Steve Scalise, one of the members of the Republican leadership, telling our colleague Deirdre Wallace that, quote, "I want us to secure the border. That needs to be our priority, not a compromise bill."
But some other Republicans open to the idea, including Marco Rubio of Florida who also told our colleague, Ashley Killough, that actually, he could be open to something like this. Of course he tried to cut that immigration deal in 2013.
And on the Democratic side, a lot of skepticism, including from Oregon's Ron Wyden, who I talked to about this idea possibly of getting legal status to people who are here undocumented who have not committed serious crimes. He wasn't so sure about that idea. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: I would have to see the details of any -- any proposal. Certainly, if he is looking at something bipartisan, he is going to have to walk back some of the statements that he has made time after time after time after time, which in effect would say that there would be a lot of focus by immigration authorities like ICE on people who haven't committed any serious crimes.
RAJU: Would you be open to anything besides citizenship, just legal status?
WYDEN: I'd have to see the detail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Indeed. And also the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, was asked, is there any compromise bill that you believe that Donald Trump could get behind and you could get behind? He said that, quote, "He's got a lot to undo." So, a lot of skepticism from Democrats, even if they're signaling some openness on a compromise bill. They're not so sure yet, given the hard line rhetoric that Donald Trump espoused on the campaign trail and those -- as well as those deportation orders that he put out just a few days ago, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you. Manu Raju up on the Hill.
Joining us now Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He serves on the Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you.
BLITZER: Well, let me get your reaction to this headline coming out today. A senior administration official saying the president now believes that the nation is in a position where it can pass comprehensive immigration legislation, with a need to have a softening on both sides.
Are you ready to compromise on this issue with the president and pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform?
COONS: Well, Wolf, I think Donald Trump has proven that he knows how to campaign, but it's not yet clear if he knows how to govern. If he lays out an optimistic bold speech tonight, in which he is willing to compromise on some key issues, immigration being one of them, I think we might begin to make progress here. But he would have to be willing to compromise on some of the very hard-edge positions he took in the course of the campaign.
Ten senators were invited to the White House two weeks ago for a lunchtime meeting with the president. I was a participant in that lunch, and this exact issue was discussed. Whether or not it's possible to bridge the very big divide between Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric, which was very anti-immigrant, and the bipartisan bill that 68 of us worked so hard to hammer out here in the Senate in the last Congress. I remain hopeful. I think we have to remain willing to hear the details. But it would require a big shift from the president's campaign rhetoric for us to be able to come to some bipartisan compromise.
BLITZER: Well, let me tell you what a group of journalists were told today about what the president is thinking, that this is a time for a comprehensive immigration bill, if there can be softening on both sides. Would it lead to a pathway to citizenship? Not necessarily, the official says. But it could result in legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants. They'd be able to have jobs. They'd be able to have work. They'd pay taxes. They wouldn't have to worry about being deported.
And DREAMers, those children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up here in the United States, they -- they would be just fine. They wouldn't have to worry at all. And potentially, they could have a pathway to citizenship. That sounds like he's moving, from your standpoint, in the right direction.
COONS: Wolf, that does sound like a significant move from the very hardline positions that were taken by Jeff Sessions, the now attorney general, and by Donald Trump as he campaigned for president.
I actually met this past week with a group of DREAMers in Delaware. They are very successful students in college. A number of them have served in the United States military. These are folks who were brought to this country when they were young children, haven't known any country other than the United States, and really want to be a contributing, positive part of our society. That Donald Trump would be willing to say they would have a path to citizenship is certainly a step in the right direction.
BLITZER: The DREAMers would. The others would have a path to legal status in the United States, and they wouldn't have to worry about being deported.
Let's talk about another sensitive issue. Right now, there are a lot of these reports out there that the White House has reached out to the chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. Do you think these respective Republican chairmen can do a fair bipartisan investigation into these allegations of inappropriate contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials?
COONS: Well, Wolf, I'm gravely concerned that the White House is not respecting the boundaries for an investigation. We need to watch closely whether or not the FBI is given the free range to conduct this investigation fully and thoroughly and whether or not the Intelligence Committees in the Senate and the House are facing inappropriate interference from the White House.
I remain optimistic that here in the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats on the Intelligence Committee will follow the evidence where it leads.
But this recent episode where the White House chief of staff was pushing Republican members of the House and Senate to make statements downplaying the seriousness of Russia's attack on our democracy and the seriousness of allegations of potential collusion, cooperation between senior member of the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials, that's a very troubling development, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, should you believe these Republican chairmen should be replaced?
COONS: Well, the reality is they're not going to be replaced. If they don't change direction and step up to the plate here and actually follow this investigation thoroughly, then that's going to lead to a greater drum beat for there to be an independent commission.
[17:15:08] BLITZER: Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California says he thinks a special prosecutor is needed to investigate these allegations involving Russia. He said the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, shouldn't be involved, should recuse himself. Do you believe a special prosecutor is needed?
COONS: It will be needed if the Intelligence Committee isn't able to do its work. And I agree with Congressman Issa that the attorney general, who is a very central player in the Trump campaign, should not be involved in making a decision about who to appoint as special prosecutor or how an independent commission might investigate the allegations of very senior collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence.
BLITZER: The new Pentagon plan involving ISIS, to destroy ISIS, reportedly lays out a specifically plan to do so within ten months, to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Is that realistic?
COONS: Well, we had a hearing earlier today on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about what to do in Mosul after ISIS is driven out of Mosul. I'm very much looking forward to hearing the details of the new strategy for defeating ISIS. But we have to recognize first that Donald Trump inherited a coalition
and a plan from President Obama that was already making real progress. The whole eastern half of Mosul has already been retaken from ISIS.
But the proposals that I'm hearing are in the works to significantly cut funding to the State Department and to USAID are very ill-advised exactly at this time, because in order to defeat ISIS, we need to not just defeat them on the battlefield. We need to then be able to hold the territory formerly held by ISIS and strengthen governance. That requires diplomats and development professionals. And I think President Trump, if he proposes tonight, as is rumored, a significant cut to funding for the State Department and USAID, that proposal will be dead on arrival here in the Senate.
BLITZER: We're going to pick up that. We have a lot more so discuss, Senator. Stand by. We'll continue our conversation right after this very quick break.
[17:21:39] BLITZER: We're counting down to President Trump's first speech before a joint session of the Congress, a primetime address that we'll bring you, of course, live right here on CNN. We're back with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.
Senator, sources of telling CNN that President Trump does, indeed, intend to discuss these threats to Jewish community centers, Jewish cemeteries across the country. I know that some Jewish community centers in your home state of Delaware have been threatened. More than 100 nationwide have now been threatened, these bomb threats.
Do you have any sense who's behind these threats?
COONS: I don't have any sense who's behind it, but we know that they are anti-Semites. They know that anyone who would take on these hateful actions of threatening Jewish community centers where children and seniors gather every day for education, nutrition, community, and folks who would engage in these hateful acts of desecrating Jewish cemeteries are the sorts of people who deserve the president to speak out early and strongly and pointedly.
President Trump shouldn't have to have been called upon to make these statements. He should speak out strongly against the rise of anti- Semitism here in the United States and in Europe, something that's been very troubling and needs real leadership from the president of the United States to push back against.
BLITZER: President Trump said today that, in terms of messaging, he'd give himself a "C" or a "C-plus," but in term of achievements so far since becoming president, he'd give himself an "A." What grade would you give the president so far?
COONS: Well, clearly, President Trump is grading on a curve if he would give himself an "A" for actual accomplishments. He has signed a whole series of executive orders, but they've had relatively little effect. He has not gotten his cabinet through smoothly, and he is governing in a different way than he campaigned.
I'll remind you, Wolf, that he campaigned on draining the swamp. But instead, he's nominated a series of billionaires and bankers and insiders and lobbyists, and so he has struggled to get his cabinet officials confirmed. He's already had to fire his national security advisor for being untruthful and for having inappropriate contacts with the Russian ambassador. And he has struggled to articulate any clarity in term of his vision for tax reform, for investing in the middle class and infrastructure, and for the so-called repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act.
So, at the same time in the Obama administration, a number of bills had already been signed into law; significant investments in infrastructure and in strengthening the economy had already happened; and the cabinet was already fully confirmed. There are lots of vacant senior positions in important federal agencies where the White House hasn't even nominated someone yet. So, I frankly, would not give an "A" for governing so far.
BLITZER: What grade would you give him?
COONS: I'd certainly give him a "B" to a "B-minus" on governing and a "C" to a "D" on communicating.
BLITZER: What would you be listening for specifically tonight in the president's address? Is there anything that you believe he could say that really might change the momentum out there, appeal to Democrats?
COONS: Well, I think if he returned to focusing on the middle class. If he laid out a real agenda for what he might do with us to strengthen manufacturing, to rebuild our roads and bridges and tunnels, to strengthen education and to step back from some of his more extreme proposals. The travel ban, for example, did not play out well for him, was not, I think, successful. His so-called Muslim ban, which has been opposed in the courts; his constant fighting with journalists.
[17:25:09] I think if he stops attacking those who oppose him and instead refocuses on rebuilding the middle class in ways that would make us safer and stronger, then he's got a real prospect of successfully governing.
BLITZER: Senator Coons, thanks very much for joining us. I must say, a "B," that's a pretty good grade. Not too bad coming from you, coming from a good solid Democrat. I think he'll take that "B" from you any time.
Thanks very much.
COONS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're getting new details about what President Trump likely will speak about in tonight's address before Congress.
Also, we have new information from investigators looking into the killing of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un's, half-brother. The two women who attacked him could face the death penalty.
BLITZER: We're counting down to President Trump's first speech before a joint session of the Congress.
[17:30:31] A senior White House official says the president's address will be optimistic and the president will stress the need for unity in solving the nation's many problems.
Let's get some insight from our political correspondents and experts. And David Chalian, what are the three top aspects of the president's speech that you will be listening for tonight?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Three areas I'm looking at. Tone, audience, and priorities.
On tone, is this a dark speech, sort of the way the inaugural was? Or as White House aides have been sort of advising us how the speech will be, more optimistic, more uplifting? That shift in tone from the inaugural will be quite interesting to watch.
Audience: which audience that he's speaking to -- because as you know, he speaks to multiple audiences -- is the one he's dedicating most of his time to? The American electorate at large, broadening out his reach beyond those that supported him? Is that where he dedicates most of his time? Or the most of the time to the base, or most of the time to just Republican members in Congress?
And then priorities, his legislative priorities: how does he leave Capitol Hill tonight with especially the Republicans, who are in charge of both chambers, understanding their marching orders, rallying behind their general, and going out to get which key legislative priorities accomplished?
BLITZER: Let's talk about some of those issues. Tone, Dana, first. The president, based on everything I've heard, will clearly want to move away from that dark tone that he had, as David points out, in his inaugural address, and be much more visionary, upbeat and hopeful.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And we'll see if that happens. The White House also said that his inaugural address was going to be optimistic and hopeful, and then we heard about American carnage. So...
CHALIAN: And then they still argued it was optimistic.
BASH: They still do this this day. So we'll see -- so we'll see if that comes to fruition.
The other thing that, in addition to, as part of that tone, that he is expected to do, is kind of reach out to people who don't agree with him: to Democrats, some independents, I guess, but in particular Democrats in Congress on issues where he has said since the campaign he could work across party lines, like infrastructure. The thing that is going to be fascinating to watch is, A, whether he
backs that up afterwards, and actually does reach out and does sit down and sort of put his money where his mouth is and try to put pen to paper.
But also, whether or not, with regard to every other issue that he is dealing with, which is really all about getting Republicans together, whether he can do that. And first and foremost right now is Obamacare. The issue that is facing him is the fact that many -- not many, but enough Republicans at this point who are on the right in the Freedom Caucus who are saying, "We just want to do replace" -- excuse me, "Repeal. We don't want to replace with anything else." And if that's the case, they're going to be stuck without enough votes to get anything passed.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm told the president is still very upbeat that he can come up with an Obamacare not only repeal, but replace and work with the leadership, the Republican leadership of the House and Senate on that.
Rebecca, the other big headline we got today is the president seriously thinking of comprehensive immigration reform that would allow legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants here in the United States. Not necessarily a pathway to citizenship, but they'd be able to work. They'd be able to pay taxes. DREAMers would have nothing to worry about, the children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up here in the United States.
It sounds like something that he potentially could work out a deal with a lot of Democrats and many moderate Republicans.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Potentially, of course. Thinking about a piece of legislation is much different than actually heralding this -- or pushing this legislation through Congress, or even developing a piece of legislation in the first place, and especially on an issue like immigration which we've seen can be so politically risky, especially on the Republican side.
But Donald Trump, he had a meeting with senators a few weeks ago, including Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who told reporters about this meeting afterwards. And he did express openness to doing something on immigration reform.
I think some of the questions we'll need to ask moving forward are, first of all, how would this look any different from the Gang of Eight bill that senators produced a few years ago, which was a compromise on immigration reform, and also included provisions for legal status. And then how...
BLITZER: But that bill also had a pathway to citizenship.
BLITZER: And this one presumably would stop short of that.
BERG: Right. But then also, where does this fall in terms of legislative priorities? Donald Trump needs to push health care through the House and the Senate, which is going to be very difficult, as we're beginning to see. Tax reform is another priority, and that takes us almost to the next election; and right before an election, who is going to want to be tackling immigration reform? This might be years.
[17:35:15] BASH: And the other thing is, you know, you were talking about the fact that this is sort of a master -- I'm not sure what the word was that you used, but to talk about the president giving members of Congress marching orders.
CHALIAN: I called him a general.
BASH: A general, thank you. I want to posit that, in this particular scenario, in this case, the roles are kind of reversed. At least that is the perspective of a lot of House Republicans, that they are the ones driving the legislative train. They are the ones driving the policy train. And they want their president to be the one that goes out with their marching orders on selling it, and, so, that dynamic is fascinating.
BLITZER: Congressman Tom Cole wrote a "New York Times" op-ed today, in which he said President Trump needs to be a player in the legislative process. He needs to use his bully pulpit. And that's -- he's going to have an opportunity to do that in a big way tonight.
CHALIAN: A huge opportunity to do it, to point that direction so that, then, everyone can go out and sell it.
But your point about legislative priorities should not be overlooked. Do you guys remember at the beginning of the Obama administration, there was a big battle whether they'= were going to do health care first or whether they were going to do energy first. And health care won out.
CHALIAN: Because even at that time he had big Democratic majorities, just like Donald Trump has big Republican majorities. You can't overload the legislative system or nothing will get done.
CHALIAN: So, to think that Obamacare and tax reform are somehow going to make way for some huge new immigration compromise bill that is so different from what he was actually proposing and talking about on the campaign trail, I think that -- color me skeptical at the moment.
BERG: And to use a Jeb Bush term, these are big, hairy, audacious goals. These are not just minor sorts of pieces of legislation that we're talking about.
BASH: The thing is, I totally agree with you in terms of the reality of the legislative calendar and that these things, when we're talking about these things, Obamacare, tax reform are huge and will take, basically, years to do. But just looking at the policy and looking at the concept of finding
compromise on this, I've been saying since President Trump was elected that it is actually possible. If he continues to keep the support he has among the conservatives in the base, those who abandoned President Bush because of a lot of reasons, but didn't support him in his efforts -- he was the last Republican, really, to push for comprehensive immigration reform. If he can keep those Republicans, and he does have the desire to work together to get this reform done, he actually has partners in the Republican leaders. They've been wanting to do it in the House and the Senate. And, so, it is possible in theory, but I totally agree with you -- I agree with you...
CHALIAN: I think it's a big -- I really do. All those people -- think about all those voters you talked to...
CHALIAN: ... standing in line to get into Trump rallies. When they hear that he is now going to try to pitch and propose and sell a bill that allows for legal status for huge chunks of undocumented here, I -- those voters, we talked to a lot of them.
BASH: I know.
CHALIAN: I just think they will be very surprised to hear that from Donald Trump. And because of his rhetoric on the campaign trail, I don't think Democrats are at all in the place that they were in terms of wanting to work across the aisle. I think they are very much opposed to the idea of working on him with that issue.
BASH: That I agree with, but I heard some polls show that about a quarter of his supporters still feel the way he described them in the primary, that if he went on Fifth Avenue and shot somebody, they would still support him.
CHALIAN: True. That's not enough, though.
BASH: But it's not enough.
BLITZER: The president I know also believes that there is a great opportunity to work cooperatively with Democrats, on infrastructure spending, roads, bridges, airports.
BASH: Which he'll talk about tonight.
BLITZER: And the Democrats may be more inclined to support...
BLITZER: ... this kind of funding than the Republicans.
Everybody stay with us. The president, he will be addressing a joint session of Congress. There you see a beautiful shot of the U.S. Congress, Capitol Hill right now. We'll continue our special coverage right after this.
[17:43:42] BLITZER: We're back with our political experts as we count down to the president's first speech before a joint session of Congress later tonight.
David, we're expecting the president in his speech to have a whole segment on national security. Are we also expecting he will start selling his revised travel ban? That could be released as early as tomorrow.
CHALIAN: Right, and we were told that the whole goal of putting out the new travel ban is to try to get right with the courts. Specifically, where the courts pointed out that this did not pass constitutional muster in some ways. They are trying to revise that. So, specifically, I think with visa holders.
I think that you will see a travel ban that is still going to be challenged in the courts, but you're going to see one that is clearly through a much more robust process -- White House counsel's office, DHS, not just a couple aides in the West Wing, but a full administration sort of vetting this, a new travel ban that probably will stand on much sturdier legal legs.
BLITZER: The president also wants, Dana, a 10 percent increase in defense, national security spending. This from a president who wants to reduce U.S. military obligations around the world. Sometimes he almost sounds isolationist. I suspect tonight he might complain about $6 trillion...
BLITZER: ... lost over the past 15 years by ventures in the Middle East, for example. There seems to be a contradiction.
BASH: There is a contradiction. And there was a contradiction on this in the campaign. He definitely was much more nationalistic than any Republican we've seen in recent history, saying we can't just go fight every fight overseas.
But at the same time, he did campaign hard on the idea of giving more help to the military, which he would say over and over again. They've been slashed and you know, gutted with regard to their money that they have. So, it is sort of an inherent contradiction. At the same time, you have republicans like John McCain senior Republican Chairman of the Armed Services Committee saying, he thinks it should be boosted even more. Other republicans are saying the same thing. So, you know, again, even for something that - you know, you would think would be kind of a no-brainer politically which, remember, that's all this budget document is, it's a political document to show his priorities, there's controversy.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: The President also argues who's going to pay for all of this. Well, he believes the economy is going to be very robust, the growth is going to be amazing, there's going to be all sorts of revenue flowing in to the United States, meaning more money that tax payers will have to pay even though there is a reduction in tax cuts. Do people buy that?
REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, republicans do to an extent as a sort of republican argument that with comprehensive tax reform, bringing down the corporate tax rate in particular, but also bringing down the individual tax rate, that that will jump start the economy. But that only gets you so much revenue, especially when you're bringing down taxes and especially when you're spending billions more on something like defense. The math is very, very difficult there. And because the President's budget doesn't actually have to be a realistic document where the numbers add up, I think Republicans in Congress are going to have a much harder time squaring that math and squaring those numbers.
BLITZER: The President also responded today with the criticism he's getting from the father of Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens, the Navy Seal that was killed in that operation in Yemen. I want you to listen to what he said earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just they wanted to do. They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals who were very respected. My generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of that answer?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: His language is not what we normally hear how a President necessarily talks about things. Saying "they lost Ryan" as if he, the Commander in Chief is not part of the team of people who lost this soldier. And also saying, my generals. It's just - there's a strange sort of language around it that I think he'll probably, I would imagine, over time talk differently about military matters like this.
BASH: And let's hope so because what you just said, we talked about contradictions. You can't say they lost him, and my generals in the same sentence about the same issue. Because he is the Commander in Chief, as you said, and it was a mission that he OK'd. And it wasn't they. And I just came from Capitol Hill already hearing some - you know, gasps, if you can even have those any more these days, suggesting, possibly suggesting that the blame is to go on the generals. Now, we don't know that. Maybe he just misspoke and he wasn't artful or articulate about t if that is the case, not good.
BLITZER: People are talking about. It all right, guys, stand by. Coming up, the two women who attacked Kim Jong-un's half-brother expected to face murder charges and they could get the death penalty.
[17:50:00] BLITZER: A Senior Administration Official is calling North Korea with its developing nuclear arsenal the greatest immediate threat to the United States. That comes as the alleged assassins of Kim Jong-un's half-brother now face murder charges. Brian Todd has got some new details. What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight the two women accused of attacking Kim Jong-nam are under enormous pressure and law enforcement observers are telling us these women are likely about to take the fall for this assassination in a big way. The women, named Siti Aisyah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam are being charged with murder. They could be hanged if they're convicted. Both of them have claimed they were unwitting dupes. That they thought they were taking part in a T.V. show prank when they rubbed the deadly chemical agent VX in Kim Jong-nam's face at the Kuala Lumpur Airport on February 13th.
Official say he died within 20 minutes of being exposed. Malaysian police said the women are not telling the truth. The police inspector says they knew the substance on their hands was toxic. Tonight, CNN also has newly obtained video from the night of February 12th. This is the night right before Kim Jong-nam was killed. This was a birthday party. This video was a birthday party for Siti Aisyah, this woman, this Indonesian woman. This is at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Just hours after this video, after this party, police say she confronted Kim Jong-nam at the airport along with the Vietnamese woman. Now, a friend of Aisyah's has told CNN she was naive that, quote, "whatever people said, she would believe." But Wolf, she and this other woman, this Vietnamese woman, may well be about to be on trial and may eventually be hanged for this killing.
BLITZER: And Brian, there's now a big diplomatic showdown over the assassination as well, right??
TODD: That's right, Wolf. Tonight a top-level diplomatic delegation from North Korea, they are in Malaysia, they're pressing the Malaysians to give them the body of Kim Jong-nam. But Malaysian officials say they're not going to release that body unless a member of Kim Jong-nam's family, a blood line relative, comes forward to give a DNA sample or claim the body. That is very unlikely. Kim Jong-nam does have an adult son who lives in Macau, but analysts say he's not likely to show up in Malaysia because his life could be in danger if he goes there, Wolf.
[17:55:12] BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.
Coming up, our Breaking News. President Trump makes his first address to Congress tonight and he says he'll be speaking from the heart. The White House says he'll deliver an optimistic vision for America. We have new information about what the President will say.
BLITZER: Happening now, Breaking News. The President's speech, President Trump prepares to address Congress tonight for the first time and he's expected to lay out what White House Officials call an optimistic vision for America. We're learning new details this hour of what the President will say.