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President Trump Addresses Joint Session of Congress; Interview with Senator Ron Johnson; Interview with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 1, 2017 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're not calling it anti- Semitic. But I know that you're here to talk about money and policy.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER MEMBER, PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION TEAM EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: I'll talk about anything you want. I'm here to talk about anything.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. I appreciate that. Let's do that.

Last night President Trump talked about wanting a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. That's more than some Republicans used to have the stomach for. What do you think now is going to happen with the Republican Party embracing that?

SCARAMUCCI: I think they'll pass it because, again, what you're finding about the president in addition to his disruptive entrepreneurial personality, he's fairly persuasive. And I think what we're learning from him is that he's going to start to galvanize both Democrats and Republicans around a plan like that. And there is a multiplier effect on a plan like that which I think will yield great results for working class families and for the middle class.

And so the Democrats are not going to like what I'm about to say, but he's hijacked elements of their playbook from 15 or 20 years ago. They ignored working class families in Wisconsin and Michigan. He went after them. He's suggesting our roads, bridges, and airports are crumbling. Andrew Cuomo, Chris's brother I think would agree with that. And so why don't we start to repave these roads and create the multiplier effect that we need? I think it's a very sound policy, and I think that Democrats like Senator Schumer, if they vote against it, it will be an interesting thing that --

CAMEROTA: It does seem like something that in a bipartisan way people have called for.

SCARAMUCCI: I can tell you even like it, Alisyn. Look, you're smiling now. We're off the JCC. Look at that, you're smiling.

CAMEROTA: Are you reading body language? Is that your specialty, Anthony?

SCARAMUCCI: What did you give up for lent, Alisyn? CAMEROTA: I gave up talking about religion on television.

SCARAMUCCI: Good. This is the last day, because I'm going for ashes right after the show.

CAMEROTA: So is Chris. You guys can go together.

Anthony, thank you.

SCARAMUCCI: Pleasure to be here.

CAMEROTA: Appreciate it.

We're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Up front, Donald Trump striking an optimistic tone, a moderate tone in his first big speech to Congress. The president ushering in what he calls a new chapter of American greatness. He was also delivering a roadmap of what he says are some of his promises and more to come.

CAMEROTA: President Trump outlining specifics on overhauling health care and rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. He also vowed that the time is now to compromise on immigration reform. The speech culminating with a very emotional tribute to a fallen Navy SEAL and his widow. And you saw the entire chamber standing and applauding for her.

We are now in day 41 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin our coverage with senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. It was the most important speech of this president's new administration, and he's gotten rave reviews for it so far. It was a different side of the president that called on America to put away the trivial fights. But his call for Democrats and Republicans to come together, easier said than done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: President Trump striking a more presidential and optimistic tone.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength.

JOHNS: In his hour-long speech to a joint session of Congress --

TRUMP: It is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

JOHNS: Off the top the president condemning the surge in hate crimes since he took office.

TRUMP: Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City remind us that, while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.

(APPLAUSE)

JOHNS: Spending much of his speech laying out an ambitious agenda.

TRUMP: Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed.

JOHNS: His solution, an echo from his campaign, America first.

TRUMP: Buy American and hire American.

JOHNS: And once again using national security as the basis for his proposed border wall with Mexico.

TRUMP: We want all Americans to succeed, but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.

JOHNS: The president touting his deportation efforts of undocumented people with criminal convictions.

TRUMP: We are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens.

JOHNS: And defending his controversial travel ban halted by a federal court weeks ago.

TRUMP: It is not compassionate but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.

JOHNS: But signaling he might be open to compromise on immigration.

[08:05:02] TRUMP: I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible.

JOHNS: The president told network news anchors before the speech that he's open to a legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants if they never committed a crime.

TRUMP: I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

JOHNS: On health care the president laying out five points for a plan to replace Obamacare.

TRUMP: We should ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to coverage.

JOHNS: Arguing that people should be able to buy insurance across state lines and leaning on tax credits to ensure that Americans can afford their premiums.

TRUMP: It must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by our government.

JOHNS: The president also announcing a huge plan to boost the nation's infrastructure.

TRUMP: I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States financed through both public and private capital creating millions of new jobs.

JOHNS: On the war against is, the president using this controversial reference.

TRUMP: Radical Islamic terrorism.

JOHNS: Even though sources say his new national security adviser urged him not to use "radical Islamic terrorism" in his speech because it alienates Muslims.

TRUMP: Extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

JOHNS: The president ending the speech with a very emotional moment, honoring the widow of Ryan Owens, a Navy SEAL killed last month in Yemen, saying he was part of a highly successful terror raid.

TRUMP: Ryan is looking down right now, you know that, and he's very happy because I think he just broke a record.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: The Bible teaches us there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The president's speech last night by its very nature laying out the big picture with few specifics. So today there is a House and Senate leadership luncheon scheduled at the White House which suggests it's time to get down to business. Alisyn, Chris?

CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much for that.

Our CNN-ORC poll shows that President Trump's speech is getting a positive reception. And 78 percent of speech watchers had a positive or somewhat positive reaction to the speech. Meanwhile 69 percent of the viewers said President Trump's policies will move the nation in the right direction.

CUOMO: Good. So the style went well. How about the substance? Joining us now is Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He's the chairman of the homeland security and governmental affairs committee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. So where is your optimism-ometer this morning, senator? Do you think there could be better days ahead specifically for cooperation between left and right and actually getting things done for American families?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Good morning, Chris. First of all, I think it's a very aspirational speech, and it was certainly a very strong attempt and a very heartfelt attempt to start unifying this country. So I am optimistic.

America faces enormous challenges. But we're a great country. We have wonderful people. There are things that unify us. For example, celebrating and showing our appreciation to the wife of a fallen hero. We all want a safe, prosperous, secure America. So I think what President Trump did is he tried to point to those areas of agreement and reach out a hand. Hopefully the Democrats will grasp that hand and work with us to start solving these enormous challenges.

TRUMP: You guys in Congress always stand up and applaud rightly when we have guys who have sacrificed and their families from the military at those speeches. The question becomes do you follow through and take care of them. Even that widow last night, Owens' widow, the services she needs, the support she needs, the health care the kids are going to need, the benefits, will you be there for that? So we'll keep an eye on that.

Immigration was a big theme last night. The fact basis of the president, I want your take on it, lawless chaos. You know, senator, immigrants in this country, even illegal ones, undocumented ones, do not commit crimes at the rate of the rest of the citizenry do. Lawless chaos, fair appraisal?

JOHNSON: First of all, I'm not sure what your point is. We obviously do have cases. We're going to hold a hearing today where Americans have been murdered by people in this country illegally. There are Americans murdered by American citizens as well. I get that point. But the fact is we need to solve our illegal immigration problem. The first step is securing our borders and enforcing our laws.

And then certainly what the president was talking about apparently to broadcasters yesterday is once we've secured that border, once we start enforcing our laws, we can take a look at our laws and treat the people here that are working their communities, not committing crimes, treat those people with real humanity, provide some kind of status for them.

[08:10:10] I'm all for that. I'm all for a robust guest worker program because, first and foremost, that eliminates the number one incentive to come to this country illegally, to make that a legal process. It's going to be a whole lot easier securing the borders and keeping the bad ones out. And we don't have that revolving door where we've seen time and time again people have be deported repeatedly come to this country. They do commit murders, and that's something we have to stop.

CUOMO: The reason I'm bringing it up, to clarify my point with you, is if you want immigration to be a point of cooperation with Democrats, I think you're going to have to agree on what the fact basis of the reality is. And to say it's lawless chaos isn't borne out in the statistics. It creates a fear dynamic and the Democrats resist that. That's why I'm bringing it up.

JOHNSON: I understand. I'm a business guy, an accountant. I like facts. I like numbers. For example, the Bush administration deported about 10 million people, the Obama administration about 5 million. But what Bush really did, he concentrated on returning people as soon as they came into this country illegally, send them right back. What President Obama did was let them come to this country and then go through the very laborious process of deportation hearings and removals. And there's a way of doing this, and that's exactly I think what General Kelly is going to be doing is setting up the operations at the border and return people swiftly so that we send the signal to other countries that we are not going to have open borders any longer. And that will end the incentive to come to this country illegally as well.

CUOMO: The Republicans have it both ways with the numbers. Some of you say Obama was the deporter-in-chief. So --

JOHNSON: I'm giving you the facts.

CUOMO: It depends how you calculate it. When you factor in return to the points of entry, then Obama winds up being the biggest deporter. I don't think it's a meaningful distinction. I think what you do going forward will be how you're judged. And on that basis, what about the idea of increasing legal immigration, therefore, dis- incentivizing illegal immigration?

JOHNSON: When I talk about a guest worker program, I'm making sure we can match the occupations that, quite honestly, people are having a hard time filling. In Wisconsin, we have dairy farmers. First thing I learned when I started campaigning in 2010 by the dairy farmers is we need our migrant workers. We're having a very difficult time finding people to milk our cows. I think the same can be said in a host of different industries. So you want to make sure you a careful balance. We don't want a legal immigration system that depresses wages. That's one of the reasons I'm actually for prevailing wage rates for a legal immigration guest worker process.

When we had the Bracero Program we didn't have a problem of illegal people in this country. We had circularity of immigration. We need to get back to that legal process, and I think that's exactly what this administration wants to do. But it starts with securing our border and enforcing our current immigration laws, ending the incentives for people to come into the country illegally and the incentives, for example, of families from Central America sending their children on an incredibly dangerous journey. Some of them don't make it. Some of them are sexually assaulted. We have to end those incentives so we can start a legal process that actually works for this country and for American workers.

CUOMO: Quickly, when do you think we're going to see a plan for replacement of the ACA?

JOHNSON: It's a difficult process, Chris. You realize that. Seven years as ago we had a 380,000-word law. Now seven years later it's been implemented, 20 million words of regulation infiltrating every nook and cranny of our health insurance and health care delivery system. There's been a lot of damage. Premiums have skyrocketed. I have a young mom in Wisconsin had to quit her part-time job so she could afford her $8,000 per year premium increase. Now she's spending a lot of time away from her kids. So we don't hear those stories enough. So there's been a lot of damage. We need to repair that damage. We need to stabilize the insurance markets. We need to stabilize the insurance markets so they can price it for 2018. So it's a very complex process. It's not quite so simple as one stroke with a pen we're going to solve all these issues.

CUOMO: Three quick points. One, you said you'd do it fast, which is why people are expecting it fast.

JOHNSON: I never did, Chris. What I said, repair the damage, transition to a process and a system that actually works.

CUOMO: Right. And also, the idea of the ACA is a disaster, it's a disaster. That really is a very selective looking at the facts. You said you're a numbers guy. There's no question premiums have popped for some people. But you're looking at 1.3 to 1.7 million families, and that's way too many. But you have other metrics you can look at that show millions more covered, and that the rate of increase of premiums and cost of health care is less than it was in the prior administration. So it's more of a relative assessment which drives the criticism. Do you have to throw it all out to make it better?

JOHNSON: First of all, we didn't need a federal government, one-size- fits-all solution to take care of those people that we all want to help. We didn't need that. Because we had this one-size-fits-all system we have done a lot of damage. We have disrupted the individual market.

[08:15:00] We have caused those rates to skyrocket. We caused people to lose health coverage. Remember the promise, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. That was a lie. If you like your doctor, you can keep him. That also was a lie.

So, we didn't have to do so much damage to our health provider market or a health insurance market, to cover those people. So, we need to transition to a system that will restrain costs, provide better quality and better access.

CUOMO: Right. That's the new promise, is that you'll get as many or more people covered and it will be cheaper. We'll see.

Senator, appreciate you making the case as always on NEW DAY.

JOHNSON: Have a great morning.

CUOMO: You too, sir.

We should note: the vice president, Mike Pence, is making the rounds this morning. He's doing all the shows, but not this one. We invited the vice president on NEW DAY.

We invite the president on a regular basis. We know he watches the show. He's welcome to be on it. We're doing our jobs. The opportunity is theirs to take. CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, Democrats are slamming some of President Trump's hard line immigration policies and his take on Obamacare. So, we have new DNC chair, Tom Perez. He's going to be here to give us his take, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamacare is collapsing, and we must act decisively to protect all Americans.

Action is not a choice, it is a necessity. So, I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Well, that was President Trump urging Republicans and Democrats to work together on health care reform. So, will Democrats come to the negotiating table?

Joining us is the newly elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for being here.

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: So, your Democratic colleagues last night, when Mr. Trump was talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare had some interesting hand gestures. Perhaps we could play those for our viewers. They're quite cheerful about it, but they're giving him the thumbs down.

I'm no body language expert. It seems as though they are not willing to negotiate with him.

Why not? I mean, why is that their starting position, the thumbs down?

[08:20:03] PEREZ: Well, let's start with the facts, OK? I mean, I heard -- I watched Senator Johnson. He's living in a parallel universe. The Affordable Care Act has brought the rate of the uninsured to its lowest level ever, 20 million less people without insurance.

You look at seniors now -- they're getting $2,000 in closing the so- called Medicare donut hole. If you have a loved one who has diabetes, now you don't have to worry about whether they can get insurance. As Chris pointed out in his interview, the rate of increase in health care cost has been at its lowest levels in decades.

This is the reality that's driving town hall meetings because the Affordable Care Act has been a lifesaver, not a job killer. CAMEROTA: And yet, and yet --

PEREZ: They're living in a parallel universe.

CAMEROTA: Well -- and yet, it's not perfect. You know there are complaints about Obamacare, and some people's premiums have spiked. So, why not start from that position of saying, let's get together and maybe the Republicans have some good ideas that we can use?

PEREZ: Hey, Barack Obama said, hey, if you have a better plan, show us. But what we saw here is they don't have a better plan. I mean, eight years ago, President Obama had already passed the Recovery Act. We were dealing with issues that had been very serious.

Donald Trump promised, hey, we're going to repeal and replace right away. That hasn't happened.

Why hasn't it happened? Because what they're seeing in their town hall meetings is the Affordable Care Act is indeed not a job killer. It's a lifesaver. If they had come in good faith during the Obama administration, we would have been more than open to fixing it.

But that's not what they're about. They want it repealed. And here is why: the primary financing mechanism of the Affordable Care Act is a tax on wealthy people. They want to repeal the Affordable Care Act so that you can provide a big giveaway to the wealthy. That is Donald Trump, that is the far right Republican Congress, because this is all about, not draining the swamp, but providing more benefits to those who don't need it, the super wealthy.

CAMEROTA: Look, I hear you, and I understand that there is bad blood left from how it was all handled during the Obama administration, but this is a new start. And so, how -- what do you suggest? I mean, is there no common ground? What do you suggest in moving forward with Obamacare?

PEREZ: Well, they're all about repeal, you know? That's what they want to do. There's no replacement plan. The emperor has no clothes. That's what we have seen.

There is no replacement plan because what -- remember, it's important to understand that the markets that were -- that are at the center of the Affordable Care Act, this was designed originally by the Heritage Foundation. It was a conservative principle. Let's use market-based approaches to health care.

We could cover 4 million more people if the states that haven't expanded Medicaid would do that. Talk to Republican governors like the Republican governor of Ohio. So, there's an idea that I'd certainly support, get more Republican governors to expand Medicaid. I mean, we can move forward on this, but the reality is they want to simply repeal and do nothing else.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, we'll see. They say they are going to present a plan in the next basically two weeks. So we'll see what the Republicans come up with. But in the meantime, I want to ask you about something else, another

topic that was very highlighted yesterday, and that is immigration and Mr. Trump's plan for it. Mr. Trump said something during a private luncheon with broadcast journalists, many of the anchors of all the cable and broadcast networks met Trump.

And when they came out, they reported that he said that he was open to finding legal status, not citizenship, but legal status for the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are here. He didn't mention that last night in his address before Congress, but it seems as though there's some sort of room for immigration reform now. How are you going to move forward?

PEREZ: Well, I judge a person by their actions. Everything Donald Trump has said about immigration has been immigrant baiting. And that's -- we've seen it through the campaign. We've seen it through the election. We talked about the wall again last night.

We -- what he doesn't talk about are the people he's deporting. He claims to only be deporting serious -- immigrants who have been convicted of a serious crime. That's simply not accurate. You look at the mother of two citizen children in Phoenix. You look at the DREAMer in Seattle.

I mean, the immigrant baiting that was a staple in last night's speech was just again another example of the divisive action.

[08:25:02] If we want to move forward on immigration, let's take the 2014 bill that passed in a bipartisan fashion in the United States Senate and put that on the floor and have an up and down vote on that. That would be a proposal that I would certainly support.

CAMEROTA: Yes. DNC Chairman Tom Perez, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

PEREZ: Pleasure to be with you.

CAMEROTA: We have quick programming note for you. CNN will host a town hall tonight with two key Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have had a lot to say in the past 32 -- well, 41 days, since the inauguration. And our Dana Bash is going to moderate this discussion with them at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Chris?

CUOMO: Forty days, same period as Lent, we've gotten a glimpse of a more presidential Trump, many say. But is it going to stick? We have an all-star political panel weighing in on what worked, what needs to be done now and what comes next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: President Trump giving a speech that was called optimistic. He tells Americans to dream big, certainly a stark contrast to his inaugural address. Take a look at the difference.