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North Korea Warning; Putin Might Meet Tillerson; Trump in Syria; Health Care Repeal Before Tax Reform; Interview with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney; Big Cuts for Federal Agencies; Ann Frank Center Calls for Spicer to be Fired. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 12, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That it's not a priority when he wants to seek a -- that -- that public bully pulpit of Twitter -- of the Twitter world. But I'll tell you, watch North Korea, watch how they react to this stuff, because I'm sure they are following the president's Twitter comments very closely.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Karin, there is so much stuff for us to watch right now we need more than two eyes, what's happening in North Korea, what's happening in Syria. And then, you know, people are on tender hooks trying to figure out if Secretary of State Tillerson is going to actually be met by Vladimir Putin, who at one time called him a good friend. What do we expect today from that?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Right. I mean we don't know exactly what to expect there. And I think that is in a way tactical by Russia to not answer that question and leave us on the tender hooks trying to figure out if that's going to happen or not. And -- and that that just is another kind of power play here that's happening and -- and you can basically trace this meeting to those same sorts of origins.

Are -- is Lavrov going to have the upper hands coming out or is Tillerson? He's the more experienced diplomat. But as we just said, you know, the United States just did make a strike in Syria, which probably did rattle Moscow quite a bit. So who comes out of this being the stronger party? And that is certainly part of it, even though there are diplomats trying to kind of come to an accord, there's certainly a lot of, you know, whose weight is going to be thrown around more and be more influential on the ground.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: John, help me with this one. Riddle me this. Tillerson seems to have a harder line on Russia when he heads in there, you know, about what's going to be acceptable, what isn't. But, before he gets there, he's at the G-7 with a group of people who are very concerned about what's happening in Ukraine and he says, why would the American taxpayer care about what's going on in Ukraine? What is that about?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. I -- I don't know. I'm absolutely befuddled by that comment. I just don't understand it. I mean, look, what Russia is doing in Ukraine, which we don't talk about a lot, is still very serious. They have violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine. They continue to do that. They continue to foment instability there. And it does matter. It matters to our allies and partners in Europe. And it matters to the American people because it matters so much to our allies in partners in Europe. And now we have, you know, troops that are deploying more to Balkan countries.

So this is not -- this is not a conflict, frozen though it may be in the headlines, it's not a frozen conflict on the ground in Ukraine, I can assure you that.

Also back on the Putin thing, it's not untypical -- atypical for them to kind of keep you on the string here with a Putin meeting. There were times when Secretary Kerry would travel where we weren't even sure when we got on the ground whether it was going to happen or not. Most often it did. You heard Peskov say earlier today, yes, it's probably going to happen. I wouldn't be surprised if he meets with Putin but I also wouldn't be surprised if they -- if they drag it out to the last minute and then it's like a late-night meeting kind of thing, which is typical for President Putin. He likes to do that.

CAMEROTA: Very -- oh, that's good to know. That's good context.

Panel, thank you very much for all of the information.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, so President Trump is not ruling out some kind of action in Syria again. What is the plan? What about the plan to pay for it? We're going to ask White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney next.


[08:35:37] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not going into Syria. But when I see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons, which they agreed not to use under the Obama administration, but they violated it.


CUOMO: All right, joining us now is the White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

It's good to have you.

I want to pound out some of these political questions that are going on as obstacles, frankly, to the domestic agenda, and then let's check some boxes on what you want to get done with your budget.


CUOMO: We just heard the president there talking about what to do in Syria. There is a definite set of mixed messages coming out of the White House. What will it take to get on the same page about what to do in Syria?

MULVANEY: Oh, I think we're all on the same page when it comes to Syria. I think the White House has been fairly straightforward about that. To the question you -- someone asked before the break about how we paid for it or how we would pay for it, we have asked Congress to increase funding to the military. We did that in our budget request a couple weeks ago. We're continuing those discussions right now. Obviously, Congress appropriates funds under our constitutional system and we hope that they see fit to fund the president's priorities, But we will -- we are and will remain on the same page, especially when it comes to financing.

CUOMO: So what is the position in Syria right now because you know as of a week ago you had Haley saying one thing, Tillerson saying another, nothing from Trump. Then you send in 59 tomahawk missiles, didn't take out a base. Trump explained why you wouldn't take out a base. And now we seem to be trying to find a middle. So what's the policy?

MULVANEY: Yes, you realize you're asking the budget guy that question. My involvement with that is how to -- how to -- how to -- how to pay for -- how to pay for the missiles. So that's a --

CUOMO: Oh, you -- you said it, they're all on the same page. You said they're on the same page so I figure you know what that page is.

MULVANEY: Yes, my guess is that you're much better off talking to the folks that handle our foreign policy.


MULVANEY: My -- my responsibility is to figure out a way to pay for those missiles and to pay for our involvement. And that's what we're doing in our budget request.

CUOMO: All right. So let's get to the budget here. One of the things that's interesting in this dynamic is, you know, you're a former Freedom Caucus guy. You want to go after entitlements. You believe that there's a lot of room for change there. The president does not agree. Are entitlements off the table in terms of cuts in the upcoming budget, including Social Security Disability? You've got a pocket of about 10 million people affected by that part of the disbursement. What's the reality?

MULVANEY: Yes, I've had some great conversations with the president over the course of the last several weeks about the larger budget that we'll be rolling out in late May and he's been very clear every single time when I talk to him about entitlement reform, he says, look, I ran telling people I would not touch Social Security, I would not touch Medicare, and that's exactly what his budget will reflect. It's not exactly what the House Freedom Caucus would like. It's not what a lot of folks on Capitol Hill would like to talk about. But this president has been extraordinarily clear with me and I give him credit for that. He knows the promises that he made on the campaign trail and he absolutely intends to keep them.

CUOMO: Social Security Disability count in entitlements for you guys?

MULVANEY: I've been trying to have a conversation about Social Security Disability because it's really not what a lot of people consider to be. So when you ask most people what they think about Social Security, they think about old age retirement, and that's rightly so. There is a small portion of Social Security called the Disability Insurance Program, which is a different part of Social Security. It does have the word Social Security in it. And I think there's a chance to talk about that moving forward. But right now the president's position is, if it's Social Security, I'm not touching it.

CUOMO: Ten million people in there, they're going to -- they're going to ask some questions about it. The idea of priorities, health care first before tax reform, now that had gone away, we thought, in terms of the messaging from the White House. Now it seems to be back. Do you agree with that? Must you get health care first?

[08:40:11] MULVANEY: I do. I think it makes things a lot easier for a couple of different reasons. There's some -- some scoring reasons with the strange rules that the House and the Senate used on how they measure bills and so forth that make tax reform easier. There's some political things that need to be taken care of in Obamacare repeal, such as the medical device tax, that once that's taken care of, it makes it easier to get us to overall tax reform. And then finally there's just the -- the overall momentum. We think it's more -- more -- we have more ability to drive the debate about taxes after we fix health care.

So I think, generally speaking, for a variety of reasons, the plan is still to try and do health care first. The one thing we learned, I think, Chris, is that the House had some issues it had to resolve amongst itself. There was a lot of things wrong with the health care debate that had nothing to do with the White House. Since the House has been working on it a little bit more organically over the last couple of weeks, I think you start to see some slow progress. And I think we're making progress on getting health care, Obamacare repealed.

CUOMO: Boy, but that's something. If you have to get that done first, you say there's still -- some slow progress. Our -- you know, our reporting showing people are still really shy, still in their factions. That will bring in a timing delay. Which brings in another priority that you guys are trying to bring into the mix, cutting costs out of agencies. Now this is something we hear every once in a while, especially from new administrations. We heard it in '93 with Clinton. Heard it in 2011 with Obama. This plan sounds like that. They never seem to really cut away the fat as they're supposed to. What might be different this time?

MULVANEY: You've got a businessman in the White House who knows how to do this and knows how important it is. For example, one of the things you didn't see in '93, you didn't see in 2011, we just went up on the website yesterday inviting people to give us their ideas. Our customers who receive our government services to call us and say, look, here's my experience with the federal government. Here are my ideas on how to -- how to do it better. We met yesterday with leaders from across the private sector asking

them how they would help or give us some ideas on how to restructure the government. You're dealing with a president who knows not only to sort of pay lip service to fixing the government, but knows how to do it in the private sector and is using that experience to drive this and make this a priority.

So while a lot of administrations have sort of pay lip service to it, this is a priority for this administration. You can call it draining the swamp, you can call it whatever you want to, but he's trying to rebuild the executive branch of government from a clean sheet of paper and that's pretty exciting.

CUOMO: All right, Mick Mulvaney, director of the OMB. Whenever you want to come on and talk about the nitty-gritty of how it's going to affect people's lives and policy, you're welcome on NEW DAY, sir.

MULVANEY: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn.


White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a stunning statement yesterday about Hitler.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, you had a -- you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to the -- to the -- to using chemical weapons.


CAMEROTA: OK, so Spicer has sense apologized, but is it enough?


[08:47:12] CAMEROTA: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow amid growing tensions about Syria. Tillerson may still meet with Vladimir Putin.

CUOMO: A review of classified documents contradicts surveillance claims made by the House Intel chairman and President Trump. Multiple sources in both parties tell CNN there is no evidence the Obama officials did anything wrong or illegal.

CAMEROTA: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer apologizing for what he called an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust. Spicer compared Syria's dictator to Hitler.

CUOMO: The GOP avoids losing a House seat in Kansas. Republican Ron Estes narrowly surviving a special election in a district Trump carried by 27 points. Estes won last night by seven.

CAMEROTA: The CEO of United now says law enforcement will no longer be able to come on board planes to pull off passengers. This as the airline faces mounting pressure for dragging this passenger off of a packed plane.

CUOMO: Want more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: OK, the White House press secretary made an extraordinary statement about Hitler. Sean Spicer has since apologized. But the head of the Anne Frank Center says that's not enough. He's next.


[08:52:23] CAMEROTA: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is at the center of controversy over this statement.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to the -- to the -- to using chemical weapons.

He was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.


CAMEROTA: Spicer later apologized for those words to say that Hitler didn't use chemical weapons or gas.

Our next guest said that's not enough. Steven Goldstein is the executive director of the Anne Frank Center of Mutual Respect.

Steven, thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: What are you calling for?

GOLDSTEIN: He's got to leave. President Trump has got to fire Sean Spicer. And let me tell you why we can't accept this apology. It took him three apology attempts to finally sort of get it right.

CAMEROTA: It did? I mean because he came on with Wolf Blitzer yesterday in which he said, "I used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust --

GOLDSTEIN: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Which there is no comparison. I apologize. It was a mistake."

GOLDSTEIN: Yes. But you know what happened between that? At his press briefing he made a statement. Then later he made it worse. Then after his press briefing, he made it worse. Finally with an outcry, finally he went on Wolf Blitzer and apologized. The problem with Sean Spicer and this administration is, they don't have the DNA of compassion and they don't have the DNA of the knowledge of history. And I come from a people who lost 6,000 people a day gassed in Auschwitz. Any sixth grader know what Sean Spicer didn't know.

So, Alisyn, I have to ask the question, is Sean Spicer not very smart or is he not very competent? In either case, he should not be spokesperson for the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: There are other people, including some Jewish leaders. We just had Ari Fleischer on, whose former press secretary, and he is also on the board of the Jewish Republican Committee.


CAMEROTA: And he was taking a more forgiving tone towards what Sean Spicer has to deal with in his every day because, look, people speak extraneously, mistakes happen, they make gaffes. Let my just play for you what Ari Fleischer said.



ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But he apologized. He did the right thing to just come out and apologize. But, you know, the notion that this is somehow nefarious or indicative of Holocaust denial, I dismiss. I just think that's the normal Washington, when somebody you don't like and the party you don't like says something you don't like, you just say the worst things you can about him. That's not Sean and I know that for a fact.


CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

GOLDSTEIN: Here's what I say. Ari Fleischer, what a crock. Here's the problem. It took massive pressure to get that -- to get that apology. He didn't apologize to Wolf Blitzer just a few minutes before. That was the third attempt. And, frankly, how can we have a man speak for President Trump who doesn't know basic history? How can possibly our Sean Spicer, press secretary for the president, not understand what happened at Auschwitz? How do you have that lack of knowledge, Alisyn? Alisyn, you or Chris or anyone in this country could never have made that mistake. You would have learned better in sixth grade.

[08:55:27] CAMEROTA: So you think was a lack of knowledge, not just a gaffe?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, here's the problem and here's what we need to figure out. We need to look at the history of the Trump administration so far. Remember that they did not acknowledge Jews in Holocaust remembrance? It would be --

CAMEROTA: They said that was a mistake.

GOLDSTEIN: OK, they said that was a mistake. How many mistakes are we supposed to forgive? Listen, I would forgive one mistake. But when you have a pattern of mistakes about the Holocaust and a lack of response to anti-Semitism, something's up that goes beyond the mistake.

CAMEROTA: Steven Goldstein, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY with your perspective. We'll see what happens (INAUDIBLE).

GOLDSTEIN: Thank you. Glad to be here, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

CNN "Newsroom" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman picks up after this very quick break. I'm see you tomorrow.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Never again. Russia draws a red line for the United States on Syria. The U.S. secretary of state behind closed doors in Moscow at this hour. A crucial, uncomfortable and unpredictable meeting.

[09:00:06] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So what was he talking about anyway.