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Vice President Mike Pence Gives Speech in Ohio; Possibilities for President Trump's Agenda Going Forward Examined; New Information Behind Electronic Device Ban on Airplanes Released; New Images Surface of Tennessee Former Teacher and Kidnapped Student. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 1, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT: -- plans to give you hope in the future. Those words millennia ago have been words that Americans throughout our history clung to, and I believe they are as true today as they were throughout our history. In November the people of Ohio voted to give America a president with the strength, the courage, and the vision to make American safe again. You voted to give us a new leader to make America prosperous again. And I believe with all my heart that with your continued support, and with God's help, together, we will make America great again. Thank you very much. Thank you for being here today. God bless you all.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Mike Pence there in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, Ohio there. It's 2:00 Eastern hours. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for sticking around.

A very familiar coming from the vice president there on jobs, on immigration, on healthcare plan, on what he called a three-part agenda of President Donald Trump, jobs, jobs, jobs. I want to bring back or panel, CNN political commentator Matt Lewis and Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun Times" Lynn Sweet. Good to see you again. It was almost like an instant replay of what we heard last week from the president when he was stumping on behalf of the president's agenda after that devastating defeat with the house vote of the GOP healthcare plan being pulled.

So Lynn, this time we are hearing from the vice president calling, reiterating Obamacare is a burden on the people in Ohio. But he also said he was impressed by the president's hands-on leadership on the issue, reiterating that Congress wasn't ready, a handful of Republicans, no Democrats who were supporting. But he also pledged that "it ain't over yet."

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, what I found most interesting is the new frame, the new brand. And when he said right before he said "It ain't over yet," he now he we're going to begin the end of Obamacare. Well, were supposed to have ended it by now. That was the whole point of repeal. So this is reasonable because just a few days ago President Trump said, OK, I'm done with it. I'm moving on with my agenda. and then came the realization that Congress even in more settled times, even with different leaders, you have many, many times -- you need many times in order to get something passed. This is now the language. I bet we're going to be hearing more. Well, this is just the beginning, a little bump on the road.

WHITFIELD: So Matt, does this underscore a real dilemma for the president in one, for one moment he says he wants to move on with other things, with this tax reform, infrastructure plans. But then there is this chorus coming from Congress or perhaps even constituents who are saying, wait a minute, but you promised that one of the first things you'd take on would be Obamacare, and then the president has to correct by way of vice president by saying, OK, that is still at the top of the agenda?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's some cognitive dissonance. I'm not sure -- right after health care collapsed, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House went out and said Obamacare is the law of the land into the foreseeable future. And now they've changed their tune.

The problem is the reason that they tried to ram the Obamacare repeal and replace through so quickly was that they sensed that you have to get things done at the start of the administration or it simply doesn't get done. And so they were trying to act, I think, too quickly. They wanted to pass the repeal and replace of Obamacare. That would give them a baseline to do tax reform. They're were going to do both of those things through reconciliations. They wanted to do them really quick. And then you could get around maybe to infrastructure.

So they're going to take two weeks off, like an eastern break. There are not a lot of legislative day really in a year, so we can talk about circling back of doing healthcare reform. But I just don't know how they're going to have the time to do all the things they want to do.

WHITFIELD: By reconciliation, you are talking about House and Senate voting on the same bill. But it really does seem like it is starting all over again for this White House even though you've got the president who's touting some real confidence that they're going to get back on track. Can you have these mixed messages, Lynn, coming from the White House?

SWEET: Ideally no. But at least it is refreshing to see this unvarnished, to see how it's unfolding without all this strict messaging which I am not a fan of anyway when everybody reads from the same script.

[14:05:00] But here is one thing I think we should all keep an eye on. If this infrastructure bill comes out, it will give Donald Trump the bargaining tools that he is most at home with, which would be money for projects. Now, they can't official do what they call, this is jargon, earmarks anymore in Congress, which is what helped lubricate the deal making progress. You want a bridge, Matt, fine. Give me your vote. You can't do that now.

But I think there is an incentive when the president gets down to it because you can help design whatever the problems are, whatever the priorities are, whatever the grant areas will be in a big infrastructure bill. I think this will perk up the interest of the Trump White House to try and move that along more than other things because of two reasons. It is in the wheelhouse of the president, and it's some kind of incentive that can cross party lines.

WHITFIELD: And Matt, you know the president was tweeting today, he tweeted in one respect talking about, you know all of the investigation about Russia and once again calling that fake news, but he also tweeted today about healthcare. Let's pull that up if we can. Renewing his willingness to work with the Democrats, saying "The failing "New York Times" finally gets it, in places where no insurance companies offers plans there will be no way of Obamacare customers to use subsidies to buy health plans. In other words, Obamacare is dead. Good thing will happen, however, either with Republicans or Dems." So once again, another mixed message, but also saying that working with the Democrats is going to be the way in which he helps to get there, Matt.

LEWIS: Yes, I am still so skeptical of this. I really am. Democrats have cast Donald Trump as someone who is like an existential threat. And so the idea that you would help him out, even if it is something that liberals may otherwise like, I just don't buy. I think that their strategy is going to be obstruction. And by the way, the notion that because of Obamacare starts to fail that Barack Obama will be blamed for that and not Donald Trump, I think that's a dubious at this point. Donald Trump is the president. Yes, I am not sure that they're going blame the last guy if healthcare fails especially after they tried to repeal and replace and couldn't do it.

WHITFIELD: And Ryan Nobles is with us, too. So Ryan, is this is an interesting way in which the president may have an escape plan, if it does not work out this time, you know, he can once again blame the Democrats but in a different vein?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's looking for someone to blame throughout this entire situation, and he's, as you said, before cast blames on those conservative Freedom Caucus members, now also casting blames on the Democrats. But what I find interesting in this whole back and forth is that even though there doesn't appears to be some tangible plan on the table for Republicans to push forward with another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, the president seems to continue to talk about it, through tweets, through his public statements as well. And that's part of what Vice President Pence talked about this morning as well, that they aren't giving up on the idea of repealing and replacing Obamacare. Take a listen to what he said just a few minutes ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The project changed from one of lavish spending to buying good young prospect, raising them up, adding value to them, and then selling them on for big prices. So you've got massive class coming in and tabling astronomic offers. However, what I think they will --

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: That's obviously the wrong sound bite. But essentially what Mike Pence said is that this White House is committed to fixing the healthcare situation in the United States and the president stands at the ready when Congress is willing to play ball. But you have to wonder where they're going to finding willing partners because at the same time he said he wants to work with moderate Democrats, he was obviously very critical of them in the wake of this, and now they have spent a lot of times going after conservatives as well. Let's now take a listen to what the vice president had to say a few minutes ago.


PENCE: As we saw about a week ago, Congress was quite -- with 100 percent of House Democrats, every single one, and a handful of Republicans, Congress basically said that they weren't ready yet. Be assured of this folks here in the buckeye state. When Congress finally decides to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump and I will be ready.


NOBLES: Back to that point I was making before, who are going to be those partners that they find to work with to repeal and replace Obamacare because at this point they don't seem to be extending any kind of an olive branch. They instead seem to be picking fights.

[14:10:00] Just this morning, Dan Scavino, who is the White House director of social media, someone very close to the president, was tweeting that the Trump's train should find a primary opponent for Justin Amash, the congressman from Michigan, the Freedom Caucus member that was very much opposed to this healthcare plan. But Amash didn't back down. He tweeted right back the hash-tag Trumpstablishment, a new term, saying that Donald Trump has come to Washington with the idea of draining the swamp and instead he has become a part of it. So there seems to be a lot of divisions in Washington right now. That's not necessarily the word that you are looking when you're trying to force through something as big as fixing the entire healthcare situation.

WHITFIELD: Lynn, the vice president does come across to many as a destabilizer. So talk to us about the real meaning behind the vice president hitting the road trying to reiterate the White House's messages or the agenda in the manner in which he did today.

SWEET: Well, a few things. The vice president is a -- gives a speech that was a better explanation sometimes to people if you just want to understand the details. He has a staff that is so far has no end fighting. They're working together. You don't hear about drama from Pence's staff. He has a plan. He executes it. He's been up on the Hill. He meets with people. Because he comes from - he is in a unique position having been a governor and having been a congressman, he understands what it really means when you say let's give more power to the state. He can translate some of the big things of that Trump says into how do you actually make it work. How do you write a law that will work. How do you understand a promise in a way that you can make it kept. That's why in some sense Vice President Pence is indispensable because he knows government, and government is not the same as private business.

WHITFIELD: And Matt, how is it advantageous for the Trump White House to be able to use the vice president in that manner?

LEWIS: As Lynn was saying he's a former Congressman and a former governor. I would also add he's a full spectrum conservative. He is a Christian conservative, he is a fiscal conservative, he is a national security conservative. So the traditional three legs of the conservatives stool so to speak that Donald Trump, frankly, is not a part of Mike Pence represents.

And I would also say nobody can finish an applause line better than Mike Pence.


LEWIS: He has mastered the art of getting people to applaud. He has the cadence. It was a stump speech, but he's great at delivering it. And as Lynn was saying, I think he's probably like the explainer in chief of this administration. You hear if you're a conservative, especially, some of the things Donald Trump says don't resonates always, but when Mike Pence says them, you are nodding your head.

WHITFIELD: It's the cadence and then there was the pointing.

LEWIS: You got to get the pointing.

WHITFIELD: That's right. Ryan Nobles, Lynn Sweet, Matt Lewis, thanks all of you. Appreciate it.

All right, still ahead in the newsroom, a new threat to airliners. Terror groups have designed a new explosive that could pass through security undetected. Details on that, coming up.


[14:16:51] WHITFIELD: Sources tell CNN that ISIS and other terror groups are developing a new bomb that's made to fit into laptops and go undetected through airport security. CNN has learned that the intelligence about these devices is the same intelligence behind a recent ban on laptops in the cabins of certain airlines arriving into the U.S. For more now I am joined by Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne. So Ryan, tell us more about this intelligence.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Hi, Fredricka. This intelligence, which is being described as credible and by one official as hair-raising, was obtained from a variety of sources including human intelligence as well as intercepts. Now, one of the most concerning parts of this intelligence according to officials is that the terrorist groups may have acquired detection -- airports, they are using airports to detect this kind of scanning equipment, sophisticated scanning technology, and using that and practice and perfect their explosives.

So this is something of tremendous concerns of the intelligent community. One thing in particular they note that these terror groups are sharing some information potentially. Al Qaeda in Yemen is considered particularly sophisticated in its development of explosives. They have done non-metallic liquid explosives in the past, attempting to airliners and transport planes. And even last year in Somalia we saw an explosive smuggled into a laptop into the DVD tray that was detonated. Luckily that plane was able to make a landing.

But this is something that terror groups have been working in the past. So this new intelligence says they have this ability to scanner, that they're continuing to work and perfect this, help prompt this laptop ban.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Browne in Washington, thanks so much for that update.

All right, still ahead, after 19 days and more than 1,200 tips, there's a new clue in a disappearance of the disappearance of a teenage student and her teacher who is suspected of kidnapping her.


[14:22:39] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Investigators in Tennessee are examining newly released surveillance footage showing a missing teenager and her suspected kidnapper, 50-years-old Tad Cummins who also was a teacher at the girl's school this is the very first confirmed sighting of Cummins and 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas since the two disappeared on March 13th. CNN's Polo Sandoval is here with me to give us an update. What are investigators learning from these images?

POLO SANDOVAL: If you look at the pictures, too, Fred, they could potentially provide some clues or some very much needed clues in this ongoing investigation. The story you have of this video was initially shot by surveillance cameras about two and a half weeks ago in Oklahoma City. But this week, investigators in the state of Tennessee were led to Oklahoma City after a clue was called in.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New surveillance images show former teacher Tad Cummins and 15-years-old missing student Elizabeth Thomas. The two were caught on camera at a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma City earlier this month, showing Cummins with darker hair and Thomas possibly with red hair, according to police. This is the latest evidence since Cummins and Thomas disappeared last month.

MARK GWYN, DIRECTOR, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: This is not a fairy tale. This is a case of kidnapping.

SANDOVAL: And 50-year-old Tad Cummins is expected of abducted the Elizabeth Thomas.

GWYN: She's a high school freshman. He's a former teacher. This is and was not a romance. This was manipulation solely to benefit Tad Cummins.

SANDOVAL: Thomas has been missing since March 13th, weeks after a student reported the pair kissing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, we have had no credible sightings of either individual.

SANDOVAL: Under Tennessee law, children over 12 years old can decide whether to leave their families unless their removal or confinement is, quote, "accomplished by force, threat, or fraud." District Attorney Brent Cooper is fighting to change that law. He hopes state lawmakers consider Elizabeth's case when they hold their next meeting next year.

BRENT COOPER, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The statute should say if it's without the consent of the parents or guardians, that should be a crime.

SANDOVAL: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation even translated Elizabeth's Amber Alert to Spanish, spreading the word to find her faster. Family and friends continue searching for Elizabeth, hoping she returns home soon.

SARAH THOMAS, SISTER: We all want you back home. Your dog misses you. It doesn't want anyone to play with it.


[14:25:00] SANDOVAL: Elizabeth's sister there holding onto hope. Her father is responding to this brand new video that was released, releasing a statement that reads in part, "The Oklahoma City sighting is the first piece of evidence that Tad and Elizabeth did leave together and that they are together. It is no more of a matter of speculation. We know with certainly that he took her." And he goes on to say, Fred, that seeing some of those images is really adding some hope not only for him but also for investigators that people will perhaps take a second look and try to contribute to this investigation and eventually lead them to Elizabeth and the suspect.

WHITFIELD: Polo, keep us posted on that investigation, appreciate it.

SANDOVAL: You got it.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

All right, and thank you for joining me this afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. And stay tuned because there is more after the break. It is our "All Access" coverage of the NCAA Final Four. Steve Smith and ill will be taking you behind the scenes for a look at the personalities and the celebration that extends far beyond the hard court. That starts right after this short break.