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Man Jumps Fence at White House; Vice President Pence Travels to Kentucky to Support House Health Care Reform Bill; California Congressman Darrell Issa Holds Town Hall; President Trump's Past Comments on Monthly Jobs Report Examined. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- the fallout growing after a swamp of forced resignations within the Justice Department. A federal attorney refusing to leave his post, saying "I will only step down when I hear from the president himself."

Let's begin with the security breach at the White House. It was placed under security condition orange, one of the highest levels of the security for the Secret Service, the White House, that is. Now we're getting our first response from the president about that intruder. CNN's Athena Jones at the White House with more on this. Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That's right, the president is speaking to reporters or spoke to reporters just a few minutes ago who are there covering this cabinet meeting or partial cabinet meeting the president is having at his golf course in Virginia.

Here's what the president said about the jumper. He said, "The Service," the Secret Service he's talking about there, "The Service did a fantastic job. It was a troubled person. It was very sad."

Now, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer expanded on that a little bit and told reporters the president has confidence, he said full confidence, in the Secret Service despite this very serious breach. As you mentioned, this suspect who we can now name, Jonathan Tran, a 26-year-old with the California driver's license, was able to breach several fences according to the police report and make it all the way to the south portico, that's the other side of the building from the north portico which you see here behind me. A serious, breach.

And, Fred, of course not the first such breach. One of the most serious previous breaches was in 2014 when a man was able to make it through the front door, the north portico that you see behind me, and all the way into the east room of the White House, which is an important room for all kinds of events, press conferences and award ceremonies and the like. That suspect had a knife in his pocket. Now, this suspect from last night was carrying a backpack. That backpack was later found not to have any hazardous materials, but that doesn't change the fact that this was very, very serious. The suspect made it a couple hundred feet from the president's bedroom. Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, very alarming and frightening. Thank you so much, Athena Jones, appreciate that.

Now to the other major story we're following this afternoon. The high profile U.S. attorney from Manhattan Preet Bharara has indicated he will not submit a letter of resignation and will instead make President Trump fire him. This coming after dozens of U.S. attorneys were told to step down this week, sparking outrage over how the process was handled, most of them getting the notice last night, yesterday at the end of the business day.

CNN's Justice Reporter Laura Jarrett joining us now on the phone. So what more do we know about Bharara and his refusal to resign?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Fredricka, we're learning just this hour, a source familiar with the situation is telling us that the acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente actually called Preet Bharara to discuss the matter with him but he wasn't able to reach him. And so he left a message. The sources are telling us that Bharara has repeatedly tried to call Boente but has not been able to reach him. And so as of right now, he has no plans to resign, Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. Now, what about that meeting. We're looking at video right now. It was last November -- actually, I'm sorry, this is not the video, but last November Bharara came outside of Trump Tower. He addressed reporters and he said the president- elect Donald Trump asked him to stay on. The burning question is, what transpired, what has happened since then? He's highly respected and known to tackle high profile cases with great success. Laura, you still with me? OK, it looks like we lost our connection with Laura as she continues to do her reporting on trying to find out what has changed since Preet Bharara came out of Trump Tower and said that he has been asked to stay on, and now we understand that he among 46 other U.S. attorneys across the country have been asked to resign. But now he is digging in his heels, saying he would want instead the president to fire him before he leaves that post. We'll have more on that as we get it.

WHITFIELD: In the meantime, another big story we're following. All of this happening as the vice president has been trying to promote the GOP health care plan. He made a sales pitch today in Louisville, Kentucky, promoting the Republicans' plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The vice president appearing with the state's governor there, Matt Bevin, who is not fully behind the plan. CNN political producer Dan Merica in Louisville with more on this. Dan, we know Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is also having a little trouble getting on board, so is this kind of a microcosm of what's happening within the GOP?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: It was really a fascinating kind of roadshow for the vice president. He was here at train distribution center behind me to basically sell the Bill, sell the health care plan the Trump administration wants to get through Congress.

He also listened to a few small business people and took their ideas during a round table, but what was striking was the fact that he was here to almost suddenly browbeat these Republicans, these conservative Republicans who are not really fully behind the bill. And as you mentioned, Governor Matt Bevin was with him. He yesterday told reporters he wasn't fully behind the bill.

Take a listen to what Mike Pence said about those Republicans and about the needs that the White House has for those Republicans to get behind them.


MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT: Folks, let me be clear. This is going to be a battle in Washington, D.C. And for us to seize this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all, we need every Republican in Congress, and we're counting on Kentucky. President Trump and I know at the end of the day after a good and vigorous debate, we know Kentucky will be there and we will repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all.



MERICA: "We're counting on Kentucky," he said. That was not so subtle message to Rand Paul. It's also worth noting that he mentioned Mitch McConnell in the speech, did not mention Rand Paul. A spokesperson for Rand Paul says he welcomes the vice president coming here. It's also worth mentioning that Democrats in Kentucky came out against Pence. There were a few hundred protesters down the street, and the vice president seemingly saw them as he drove by. They were chanting things like "Save our care," and chanting things, anti-Pence messages. So this event has really been a symbol for the problems the Trump administration has both with Democrats and Republicans in selling this health care bill.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dan Merica, thank you so much from Louisville, Kentucky.

And this week, CNN will host an exclusive health care town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. It will be moderated by Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash Wednesday, 9:00 eastern time.

WHITFIELD: All right, up next, emotions running high at a town hall in California as Representative Issa takes on hot topics like health care. Stay with us.



[14:10:54] CROWD: Save the ACA! Save the ACA! Save the ACA!


WHITFIELD: All right, emotions running high at a Republican town hall in Oceanside, California. Congressman Darrell Issa is holding his second town hall of the day, and some of the exchanges have been very heated, especially when it comes to health care. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: Now, Britain spends about half as much of their GDP on health care, so does Canada, than we do. I'm not trying to be disagreeable, but they do not do procedures we do. They tell people no.


ISSA: Well, OK. You have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to mine. The fact --



WHITFIELD: CNN's national correspondent Kyung Lah is joining me live from that town hall. So even by the Congressman putting his head down as though it may be a sign of exasperation. Is there a real exchange back and forth of people hearing one another out and feeling that this is a productive effort?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Whether or not it's productive, they're not walking away when you talk to some of the people at the end of these town halls with their questions sufficiently answered. You could hear this back and forth. They basically are jawing at the congressman for not giving a sufficient enough answer. When they disagree, they let him know it, and they often interrupt him.

It's a continuation of what we see at other town halls across the country -- contentious, extremely passionate, this one even more passionate, especially since the rollout of the GOP plan to overhaul Obamacare. The Obamacare questions overwhelmingly have taken over these two town halls. I want you to listen to one of the questions and the response from the congressman. Here's what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care in the United States is a multibillion dollar business that protects those at the top earning the billions of dollars.


ISSA: Please get to your question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you willing to do to bring the cost down?

ISSA: In those places, they prescribe less because they're less afraid of being sued. That's part of the fix that we don't have here today.



LAH: And so what we're hearing outside are protests as well. There are some few hundred people still outside loudly chanting, holding up signs so loud at times and you can hear it from inside while the congressman is trying to answer questions about health care. So Fredericka, what this is a slice of is it gives you a sense of voter discontent, discontent that is still out there even as the GOP unrolls its plan. Fredericka?

WHITFIELD: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you so much from Oceanside, California.

Next, it's been more than a week now and still no word from the president of the United States on his wiretapping allegation of his predecessor. Was it just a way to distract the press?


[14:18:16] WHITFIELD: All right, it's been a week now since President Trump accused former president Obama of wiretapping, and he did it via tweet. And since those tweet, the president has not commented about his own accusation. Take a listen to what happened at the White House yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much. We're going to get to work. Thank you.



WHITFIELD: All right, the question repeatedly, not a peep from the president. So let's talk to CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. So a week ago today, we were talking about the tweets that came out. There were five of them, and the president spoke as fact that he had heard that indeed that his predecessor had wiretapped him. So what is the feeling about why this was done? Was this intentionally to distract?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Certainly President Trump is critical of the press. We know that. We see that all the time, but you wouldn't normally call him press-shy, at least not until this week. This week he has been press-shy. He's been avoiding answering questions about the wiretapping allegations or about other topics, situations where the press is brought into the room for a photo-op. We try to ask a couple questions. He won't answer.

Or today down at the golf course in Virginia, he made a few comments at the cameras but avoided any situations he's actually being interviewed or answering questions. I think what we're seeing, Fred, is we're seeing Trump's aides trying to shield him from these subjects, from these topics. There were a couple times this week where we didn't see the president at all on camera the whole day. That's not normal for a president in their first 50 or 100 days when there's so much going on.

[14:20:03] So what we are seeing is an attempt to shield him a little bit from some of these topics that are distractions from the message he'd like to be sending.

WHITFIELD: Which is so strange, the use of the word "shield," shielding him when he did this on his own volition. In fact he was not surrounded by his regular White House staff when he kind of left Washington in a huff to go to Florida. So it's a very confusing kind of juxtaposition.

In the meantime something else that's promoting some confusion, at least among the White House press corps, is the representation of media that is in this pool. And "The Daily Signal" which is an extension of the Heritage Foundation and is being described as kind of advocacy journalism, the daily extension is part of the pool. Why is this ruffling so many feathers?

STELTER: Certainly there are a number of news outlets that participate in the so called pool. That's the group of journalists that are closest to the president every day, keeping track of his whereabouts. There's a wide variety of outlets that contribute, whether it's "The Huffington Post" and CNN, whether it's or Buzzfeed and "The New York Times," some liberal and some conservative leaning. "The Daily Signal" is a little bit different because it's part of the Heritage Foundation, so it's part of an advocacy group and the involvement of "The Daily Signal" has raised some eyebrows.

However, I think it is an example of kind of a broad array of news outlets covering the White House. There was also a the dust-up yesterday at the briefing. This conspiratorial blog called "The Gateway Pundit" has received press credentials. There's lots of conservative news outlets out there that have press credentials for good reasons. This blog, though, it's kind of the birther conspiracy theory against President Obama, it's of a whole different breed. So there was a dust-up yesterday in the briefing room about the inclusion of "The Gateway Pundit." It's another example of sort of a blossoming of different kinds of outlets covering this White House. And that can be a good thing, but it can also create tension because they're not out there trying to break news the way CNN or "The Washington Post" or the BBC or ABC are. They're more there as an opinion outlet, and that has ruffled some feathers at the White House.

WHITFIELD: So distrust, you know, ruffling the feathers, and it also means that there's kind of a suspicion now swirling amongst many members in the White House press corps about motivations behind reporting. Brian Stelter, thank you so much, appreciate that. And your show, of course, "Reliable Sources," airing tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. right here on CNN.

And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right, we now know the name of the accused White House intruder who was caught just before midnight near the residential entrance. Twenty-six-years-old Jonathan T. Tran will be arraigned today. Tran was carrying a California driver's license and is being held at the courthouse right now, and we'll of course continue to bring you new details at the top of the hour when we get them.

In the meantime, despite what you heard on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump now insists the jobs report is real after February numbers showed a healthy 235,000 jobs were created. This is a different tune from the, quote, "phony numbers" that candidate Trump talked about before the election. CNN's Tom Foreman has details.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously we're very pleased to see the jobs report that came out this morning. It's great news for American workers.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More manufacturing, more work in health care, education, and mining, almost a quarter million added jobs have the first unemployment rate report for the new president down to 4.7 percent. The president tweeting, "Great news and much more than expected."

But hold on. Democrats say this is just a continuation of a trend started by Barack Obama, noting ever since the recession ended, the unemployment rate has been pretty steadily dropping. Yet when Obama spoke a year ago of a barely higher unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, listen to what candidate Trump said.

TRUMP: Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 percent and five percent unemployment. The number is probably 28 percent, 29 percent, as high as 35, in fact I even heard recently 42 percent.

FOREMAN: It was a standard part of the Trump stump speech, calling the federal jobless rate misleading, deceptive, fake.

TRUMP: It is such a phony number.

These numbers are an absolute disaster.

The unemployment number, as you know, is a totally fiction.

FOREMAN: Now the White House suggests the driving force behind this better than expected jobs report is optimism over the president's business, trade, immigration, and tax policies. Never mind that some analysts say the unusually warm winter weather also deserves credit for enabling more construction work. And as for all those past claims about phony government figures.

SPICER: I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly, they may have been phony in the past but it's very real now.


FOREMAN: Of course President Trump has another reason to embrace this report. He has pledged under his leadership, voters will see 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years. And with these numbers, at least for now, that promise is on track.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: Thanks for being with me today. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. I'll be back tomorrow, 2:00 eastern time. And the CNN Newsroom continues at the top of the hour. But first, "Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta" starts right now.