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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Called Prior Jobs Report "Phony," A "Joke". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 10, 2017 - 16:45   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:33:49] JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Acosta.

Staying with politics now, lots to discuss with my panel. So, let's dive right in.

A.B. Stoddard, "Real Clear Politics", Mollie Hemingway with "The Federalist", and Anne Gearan with "The Washington Post."

A.B., let's listen to President Trump talking about Obamacare today. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must act now to save Americans from the imploding Obamacare disaster. Premiums have skyrocketed by double digits and triple digits in some cases, '17 would be a disaster for Obamacare. That's the year it was meant to explode because Obama won't be here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: That's the year it was meant to explode.

A.B., can you unpack that for us? It sounds explosive, so be careful.

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. Well, it's really hard right now for Republicans to sell their alternate plan because they promised a lot. The president himself has promised a lot. Better coverage, cheaper, less costly. And everyone can be subsidized, no one is going to die in the streets.

It is going to be very hard to deliver this when the numbers come out and Democrats used to hammer them -- the cost, who loses their coverage. You know, this is going to be a very tough issue for them on the campaign next year.

So, Republicans, what they're doing now is campaigning against Obamacare still instead of selling their new plan.

[16:35:01] ACOSTA: Yes.

STODDARD: So, what they do is tell you how awful it is. The popularity of the program has never been higher. It sounds like it's pretty awful to me and it's actually in a death spiral. I think Republicans are right on that, but they just won't sell their new product. They just want to tell you that Obamacare is going to just --

ACOSTA: Which is what they've been doing since 2010.

STODDARD: And '10.

ACOSTA: Yes.

Mollie, why are conservatives so outraged over this? Aren't they the dog that finally caught the car? They should be rallying around this.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: They have been claiming for so long that if you gave them the power that they needed to have to fix it, they would do it. And so, when Trump is talking about everything exploding in 2017, what he's referring to is you get the bill passed, and once everybody is comfortable with this new entitlement, then you have to fix it. They knew there were problems in the bill. But they thought people would be happy enough with it that they had to fix it.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way. And that more people report they are more dissatisfied than satisfied with Obamacare. But at the same time, Republicans are having trouble removing this entitlement even with the problems that it has.

ACOSTA: Do you think that they can solve this? Do you foresee a scenario where this just doesn't happen?

HEMINGWAY: I certainly see that scenario, but they could solve it. They do need to get conservatives on board. I mean, two of the things they were talking about, stopping the Medicaid expansion which would go a long way to getting conservatives on board, and also making Medicare expansion, holding it to people who are able-bodied childless people. That would do a lot to save costs, too.

ACOSTA: And, Anne, switching subjects, the White House says they had no idea that the former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was registered as a foreign lobbyist and it was his responsibility to provide that information via counsel. All this talk about extreme vetting, not so much in Michael Flynn's case as it turns out.

ANNE GEARAN, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: You have to wonder how they missed that maybe Flynn just didn't mention it. I don't know. He seems to have gotten a fairly sizeable check for lobbying activities that -- with one bank shot could very easily benefit the Turkish government.

Turkey is an ally. This is not, you know -- he wasn't necessarily doing any skullduggery in foreign policy, but he should have mentioned it. And clearly the lawyers vetting him should have asked questions that produced it even if he didn't volunteer the information.

ACOSTA: An ally, but with a controversial head of government. GEARAN: Absolutely. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is becoming increasingly

authoritarian. He's doing all kinds of things that the United States certainly under the Obama administration protested, but they are also immensely important in Syria and lots of other places. And Erdogan is someone who Trump is going to have to deal with. There could have been a legitimate reason to try to have a good relationship with him through Flynn, but this is not the way to do it.

ACOSTA: Mollie, I could not help but chuckle a little bit when I saw the White House reaction to the jobs numbers this morning. I mean, this was -- you would think that these were numbers that they were always, you know, confident in, that they were not fake news. But during the campaign, the president said, oh, no, no, no, the unemployment rate is more like 42 percent.

What do you make of this huge 180 that they're doing on these numbers? I mean, should the president ever said these things about these numbers?

HEMINGWAY: Well, the fact is there actually are problems with how we calculate labor force participation, unemployment rate. And there are so many people that are not --

ACOSTA: It's not an exact science?

HEMINGWAY: Well, it's not just that, we have new systematic problems with labor force participation that aren't really captured in the unemployment rate. So many able bodied people out of work, or just discouraged and whatnot. So, when you talk about the fakeness of that, that's actually something that should be dealt with and there are rumblings right at the beginning of the Trump administration they would.

And I was kind of surprised because if they were to reflect the true unemployment rate, that would make -- that would reflect -- it would make it look like things are even worse than they are. It would make things look worse for the Trump administration.

So, they're happy with the change. I mean, these are good changes. You do see a decrease in the unemployment rate. You do see this huge influx of jobs or increase of jobs.

Those are good things. The problems with the structural problems remain and people should pressure --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: But, A.B., to the other point, here we are dealing with unemployment numbers that the president once described as illegitimate. Doesn't he have a credibility problem on this issue? Or is it just, oh, you know, Trump is being Trump, he said these things during the campaign, we don't hold him accountable for these things, water under the bridge?

STODDARD: I think that it is true, that there's been a market rally that is really historic. I think that he -- consumer confidence and other indicators have shown February might have looked it was going to be a good month. That in terms of the regulatory environment, there is much more optimism after Obama into the Trump administration.

That said, among his own supporters, he has a credibility problem. They know and they laugh. Even though they support him, that if he doesn't like a news story, it's fake. If he doesn't like Bureau Labor statistic numbers because it's Obama, all of that is Trump, they accept it.

It's about whether or not every month when these numbers come out, we remind him of that.

[16:40:03] He can ever grow his base past 40, you know, whatever percent of the country.

ACOSTA: It reminds me of during the campaign, I always felt his supporters didn't always believe what he said, but they liked the way he said it.

Anne Gearan, this whole situation with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson going on this trip to Asia without his press along with him for the ride, which is just a huge departure from a tradition in Washington. If you're a secretary of state, you travel with your press. He's not doing it in this case. And you were going to be on that trip.

What in the heck is going on there? I mean, that's just baffling.

GEARAN: It's baffling if you sort of look at history, right?

ACOSTA: Yes.

GEARAN: And you say this is the way American secretaries of state do public diplomacy. You arrive in a foreign country in the big blue and white United States of America plane. You get off the plane. You shake hands with people. There is a red carpet. You embody the United States walking into another country and doing diplomacy.

He's not doing that. He -- the Trump administration isn't doing that, and he as its chief diplomat isn't. As far as not taking the press, he hasn't really taken a full complement of press on any trip so far. He's had two very brief foreign trips.

This is really his first solo outing doing kind of a traditional American secretary of state press --

ACOSTA: Maybe he's not used to this sort of thing as the head of ExxonMobil?

GEARAN: He's used to flying around the world on a jet with one or two staff members, that's true. But he has a different job now and part of that job --

ACOSTA: Representing this country.

GEARAN: Yes, exactly. ACOSTA: All right. Well, A.B., Mollie, Anne, thanks so much. We

appreciate it. Perhaps the press will be able to hit you at some point during this trip. They change their minds.

All right. Thanks very much, ladies.

Be sure to tune in to CNN for a special report, "Melania Trump: The Making of a First Lady." That's going to air tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

The White House says the deadly raid in Yemen was a great success, but my next guest went to the scene and spoke to eyewitnesses there and they tell a very different story.

Plus, Pope Francis suggests he's open to priests being married but there's more to it if he wants to change church rules. And we'll explain that straight ahead.

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**



[16:45:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to THE LEAD, The World Lead. Everyone who tried to run, they killed them. That is one of the shocking eyewitness accounts of the U.S. Special Forces raid in Yemen. First major military engagement of Donald Trump's presidency -- The Intercepts Iona Craig, went to the site of the gun battle and wrote that the village was nearly obliterated. Dozens of civilians, men, women children killed, buildings demolished and bullets raining from above.

The Intercepts, Iona Craig, joins in just a moment. Of course, the White House has said that the operation in which Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens died, was a great success and anyone who questions the success of this raid, including John McCain, does a disservice to his memory. CNN's Barbara Starr, is live at the Pentagon. Barbara, a U.S. Commander is now saying that this mission is on him, but the military still, is telling a very different story. Isn't that, right?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are, Jim. And I don't really think it's very surprising. We've seen this very often in the past, when there are fire fights, when there are confrontations in front line war zones, if you will. Often the military has a view of what happened, and civilians on the ground have very credible eyewitness reports of what they say happened to them. In this case, this seal raid in Yemen in late January has continued to be controversial. The top commander saying, he accepts responsibility that civilians died, that a Navy SEAL died, but he tried to explain why he believes there was no misconduct.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH VOTEL, UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND COMMANDER: When I go through these things, there are some specific things that I'm looking for. I am looking for information gaps, where we can't -- we can't explain what happened in a particular situation, or we have conflicting information between members of the organization. I'm looking for indicators of incompetence, or poor decision making, or bad judgment throughout all of this. So, what I can tell you is that, we did an exhaustive after-action review on this. I presided over that. It was to me. It went down to a level that included people who were on the specific objective. As a result of that, I was satisfied that none of those indicators that I identified, to you, were present.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Now, the Navy SEALs U.S. Military forces did not remain on the ground in Yemen, so they have only been able to come to some judgments, some assessment about what they think happened. They say, they went into this village to raid a compound looking for Al Qaeda intelligence. They were opened up on fire from all sides, multiple directions. Their assessment is that it is likely the villagers, some villagers, plus Al Qaeda, took up arms against them. They believe the villagers probably thought that they were rival tribal factions -- there had been fighting in the area in the past, and that maybe their village that night was being invaded somehow by some rival factions. That's an assessment that they have come to. It may never be exactly known, exactly what happened. Jim?

ACOSTA: Barbara Starr, thank you. Joining me now is The Intercepts, Iona Craig. Iona, as we just heard the General-in-Charge of this said, no bad decisions were made in the Yemen raid. You were on the ground there, tell us what you know.

IONA CRAIG, THE INTERCEPT INTERNATIONA CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, from the evidence that I saw, there was -- all three of those categories were filled. There was poor decision making, bad judgments, and incompetence. I think to start with, even carrying out this raid without fully understanding that every single man within hearing distance of a gunshot, within hearing distance of a helicopter was going to come running, because of the current context of the civil war. They believed they were coming to run -- running to fight, not Americans, but Houthis who -- by the way, Americans were also supporting vis a vis, to fight against at the moment. So, they did believe their village was being raided but not by rival tribes.

[16:50:02] They believed it was being raided by Houthis' ally forces who they've been fighting for -- fighting against, sorry, since 2014. So, I don't think -- I mean, that was a clear sign of bad judgment. Secondly, to then continue the raids, when they knew that they were compromised, they knew that the people inside the village had a heads- up that they were coming, possibly Al Qaeda even knew that they were coming, but still, they decided to carry on the mission. I think that would be a poor decision. And then, to call strafing in an entire village with helicopter gunship fire, incompetence, is probably something of an understatement. But that clearly happened, and that's what I saw from the ground.

ACOSTA: And Iona, Pentagon's spokesman would not specifically respond to your article. I think that's right. But they're strongly defending this decision to call in those air strikes, because they say the SEALs were pinned down. What do you make of that claim?

CRAIG: The SEALs, as I mentioned, were pinned down because men in the village did come to fight, because they didn't know they were fighting Navy SEALs. They didn't know they were going to have helicopter gunship fire, raining down on their village as a consequence of doing that. But what they hit during that strafing in the village were civilians. I spoke to a 5-year-old boy, who described running from that helicopter gunship fire, as he was shot at from behind as he ran with his mother and his mother was subsequently killed. And that's -- there were more than a dozen buildings that I walked into that had been hit or destroyed by those helicopters and air strikes.

ACOSTA: And Iona, I just wanted to ask you because you tell us what you think you observed and brought back from the story, but I mean just being there on the ground and looking at the scene, what did you see? What would you tell our viewers and people about what you saw there? Was this a massacre?

CRAIG: Yes, these were devastated civilians. These were families, many of whom have now left the village. And that raid that night was not the end. The village has been routinely bombed now since the 1st of March for continuous nights of both joint strikes and more helicopter gunship fire, that killed another two children earlier this week, that killed another three adults. So, these are very angry people.

ACOSTA: And there're some anti -- there's obviously an anti-American sentiment there. Are you concerned that they weren't telling you the truth? What do you make of that?

CRAIG: There wasn't an anti-American sentiment before this raid happened. Absolutely, wasn't. And even the head of the village Sheikh (INAUDIBLE), he was quite clear the revenge will come from God, and not from him. But a lot of them were very -- you know, had a lot of anti-American sentiment after what happened. Before-hand, they had -- they had no intention of fighting America, the men that I spoke to. But afterwards, yes, because they've had their women and children who'd been killed in that raid.

ACOSTA: A fascinating look at that story, Iona Craig, thank you so much for being on the ground there and reporting what you saw. Thank you. We appreciate it. Pope Francis talking about potentially shaking up the Catholic Church by allowing married priests. Why now? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:55:00] ACOSTA: We are back with our faith lead. Pope Francis is no stranger to surprising the Catholic Church with some of his comments on a whole range of sensitive issues from homosexuality to abortion. And now, the Head of the Catholic Church says, he may be open to the idea of some married men becoming ordained as priests. Is the eyeing a shake up with the church by possibly breaking away from the centuries-long celibacy requirement? CNN Vatican Correspondent, Delia Gallagher, has the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it is an important comment by Pope Francis that he would be open to the possibility of ordaining catholic married men as priests. It would go some way, he says, to helping the shortage of priests in some areas around the world. Now, it's important to say that the Pope here is not talking about allowing priests to get married. That's usually what we mean, when we talk about married priests. The Pope says, he upholds the long-standing catholic tradition of priestly celibacy, not allowing priests to get married. But he would be open to the idea of a certain group of married men that they call in Latin the "viri probati," the tested men, men of faith and virtue, who could be ordained.

We could say that of course, these were comments made in a newspaper interview, so there's been no action taken by the Pope on this issue yet. And presumably, if he were to go ahead with it, it would require him to meet and debate the issue first amongst the bishops and then issue a papal document with regards to how he intends to implement this proposal. We could also say that in the Catholic Church, there are already married priests. These are Protestant Clergy, who became Catholic, who were allowed to continue as married priests in the Catholic Church. There are also, of course, eastern churches who have a long-standing tradition of married priesthood. So, there is a married priesthood in the Catholic Church. It's just that this opening would be for catholic married men to become priests. Jim?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Delia Gallagher, Thank you. Be sure to tweet the show @theleadcnn. And be sure to tune in to CNN this Sunday for State of the Union, Jake Tapper's guest, it's big lineup, Senators John McCain and Cory Booker, it all starts at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. And that's it from for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Acosta, in for Jake Tapper. Have a great weekend, everybody. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM ANCHOR: Happening now, failure to disclose. Growing controversy over former National Security Advisor, retired General Michael Flynn, who only disclosed this week that he was a foreign agent paid to represent Turkish interest even as he advises President Trump.

END