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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin; President Trump in Wisconsin; Facebook Murder Manhunt Ends; Dems: Trump Can't Reform Tax Code Without Releasing His Returns; U.S. To Test Ability to Shoot Down N. Korean Missiles. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 18, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:05]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The president just signed an executive order to buy American. So, wait, does that want he wants me to stop buying Trump products?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Make America buy American again, President Trump ordering the U.S. government to buy America -- buy American and hire American, but should the president be looking into his own company's business practices first?

The latest in conflict of interest watch. On the same April night she had dinner with President Xi, Ivanka Trump won some potentially lucrative trademarks in President Xi's home country of China.

Plus, breaking news. After a three-day manhunt that started with a murder that was horrendously posted to Facebook, the suspect is now dead, but do police know if he made good on his evil promise to kill more people before he killed himself?

Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Just moments ago, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at putting to paper some of the rhetoric from his campaign, what the White House is calling its buy American, hire American order. It would beef up some protections for specific products made in the U.S., while also initiating a review of the program for skilled immigrants, the H-1B visa program, which the White House and plenty of other critics say has been abused by corporate America.

Buying American and hiring American, it's time, the president said today, repeatedly assailing cheap subsidized and low-quality foreign goods. It's an important issue. It's one I asked then candidate Trump about in June 2015, because, of course, many Trump corporation products are not made in the U.S., far from it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: As you may or may not know, this is a Trump tie.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. TAPPER: I bought it for this interview.

TRUMP: Oh, and not only that. I mean, I buy a lot of stuff, because...

TAPPER: But, as you know, they're made in China.

TRUMP: Very beautiful tie, though.

TAPPER: It's a lovely tie.

TRUMP: Yes.

TAPPER: It's made in China.

TRUMP: Correct.

TAPPER: Is it hypocritical at all for you to talk about this...

TRUMP: No, not at all, not at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's not just the ties, of course. Trump clothing, according to reporting by CNN and "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," is made in Bangladesh, it's made in Pakistan, it's made in India and Honduras, in addition to the U.S.

Ivanka Trump apparel is also made in China and Indonesia and Vietnam. Now, as for hiring American, a CNN review found that the president, as a corporate head, has hired more than 1,300 foreign guest workers to work at his various businesses here in the U.S. over the past 15 years, including requesting 78 visas to staff his two Florida properties for this year.

Let's go now to CNN's Jeff Zeleny, who is live in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the president toured a high-end tool manufacturer, Snap-on tools, designed and manufactured and marketed in the U.S.

And, Jeff, the president could be a leader here, not just as a president, but as a corporate titan. Does the White House acknowledge that he has not practiced what he's preaching?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that is not something that came up here in Kenosha when the president was speaking. He, of course, did not acknowledge that he's been exhibit A of all of the things that you just mentioned there.

And it also highlights the shortcomings of the executive order he just signed here. It is not a piece of legislation. It is not a law that would require companies, that would require people to hire Americans or would require companies to use American products.

Instead, it's more of a directive, if you will, and it's urging federal agencies to, you know, try and use more American goods, but it would do nothing at all for business men or women like the Trumps who have done this.

And I did talk to a senior administration official earlier today about, is there any hypocrisy in this, the fact that, you know, the president himself before he came president did all what you just mentioned? And they said, look, he was a private citizen then. It's one of the reasons he believes the laws need to change.

But, Jake, again, this executive order that the president signed is going on the shelf with other executive orders. Yes, it does things around the edges, but it does not do what a piece of legislation would do, and you wonder why it's not been proposed in Congress, because it is actually something that might pass the House or the Senate here, but that, of course, has not been done.

We're in Speaker Paul Ryan's home district here in Kenosha, Wisconsin. So far, this has not been something that's been part of the Trump legislative agenda. But, Jake, the president did talk I think in the most interesting terms about health care reform yet that I have heard him talk about. He said that people need to urge their members of Congress to vote for it, acknowledging that it's been hard and, without that, tax reform is even harder -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny for us at Kenosha, Wisconsin, at the site of the president's speech, thanks so much.

I'm joined now by Senator Joe Manchin. He's a Democrat of West Virginia.

Senator, thanks so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

[16:05:01]

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Senator, bottom line, as you know, when it comes to buy American provisions, American products and American employees tend to cost more than foreign products and foreign employees.

So while it's great for those manufacturers and employees, it might be worse for consumers and employers. At the end of the day, will a buy American provision, if it were broader than this executive order, which is fairly narrow, would it help your constituents more or hurt your constituents more?

MANCHIN: Well, I think any time we can create jobs in America, it helps us all.

West Virginia has taken a tremendous hit, Jake, on a lot of manufacturing jobs that left, starting with NAFTA and on down the line, so anything that we can do to create more opportunities here.

The bottom line is, is the free enterprise system that we have, capitalist society that we live in, people are going to migrate to the cheapest price. But I think America can compete. We have not put as much attention to manufacturing lately and innovation, creation and new techniques of manufacturing. We're still the best innovators and creators. I still believe we're

the best workers. We don't work as cheap as everyone else, but we live a better quality of life, and I just can't see how that can't be balanced out to where we have more opportunities here and offset the tariffs coming in to balance things out.

You know, you're not going to be able to compete with Vietnamese at less than $1 a hour. And there's a lot of countries that pay no minimum wage at all. So, with that being said, I think that we have to reshuffle the deck, if you will, and give us a chance.

TAPPER: Well, you're talking about trade policy, in addition to buy America. So, I mean, one of the reasons why so many Americans...

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: Well, trade policy...

TAPPER: Go ahead.

MANCHIN: Jake, it goes hand in hand.

You know, first of all, you need a competitive tax. We need a tax overhaul. We have known that for quite some time. It's not been since the middle '80s, 30-some years, since we have done it. We have never gone that long. And the world has changed.

The economy has changed. The markets have changed. We need a competitive global tax rate. People pay their fair share. The wealthy pay their fair share. Everybody pays something into this. But with that being said, then you can start looking at, how do we compete?

And you're going to be able to compete by not just continually wholesaling your jobs out, saying someone else can do it cheaper. The bottom line is, we have to have workers, and we have to have work for workers. And, you know, I just -- I believe it can be done, but you have got to have the fortitude to do it and want to do it and the will to do it.

And I'm very appreciative that, if this is the order that comes down, and we are going to have more attention, then let's do it. But don't just say you're going do it and sign an order and think it's going to happen.

TAPPER: Right. And that's what I wanted to ask you about, in addition, because, in 2015, then candidate Trump told me that his clothing companies manufactured so many of their clothing items in places like China and Bangladesh, because it was so much cheaper to do so.

Does the fact that this self-described billionaire continues to make so many of his products overseas say anything to you about how seriously he actually takes this issue? It's obviously a lot easier to tell the federal government to do something than it is to tell your own corporation to do it, because it will actually cost you money. MANCHIN: Well, in a competitive world, you want to make sure everyone is playing on the same field.

The president could lead by example here. But if we change the tax code, if we change basically how we tax products coming to this market, when they are made so much cheaper with cheaper labor, giving the American worker a chance in America, and if he would pursue that and push that and start bringing, you know, the products that he or his family are having made elsewhere, say we can do it with a proper tax code and compete, and we will do it in America, but someone has got to step to the plate.

Leadership is leading. And this is what we're hoping that will happen.

TAPPER: Just a quick question. Would you like it, Senator, if Donald Trump, businessman, were to announce that his company was going -- his corporation was going to start manufacturing clothing in West Virginia?

MANCHIN: Oh, my goodness, would we ever.

We used to have some of the best shirt companies in America right here. Morgan shirt companies was one of the finest shirt companies in the whole world. And they went out of business many, many years ago because they couldn't compete. We're up and ready to go. Give us a chance. We can do the job.

TAPPER: All right.

MANCHIN: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Don Jr. and Eric, I hope you heard that.

Senator Joe Manchin, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.

MANCHIN: I hope they did. I hope they did, too. We need all the jobs we can get in West Virginia, and we're appreciative of them also.

TAPPER: All right, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

And on this Tax Day, we ask, what could come first, tax reform or President Trump releasing his tax returns? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:40]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Sticking to our politics lead now, President Trump's jobs push comes as we learn that one of his goals, completing tax reform by the end of this summer, seems to be in peril.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told "The Financial Times" that passing reform by August likely would be pushed back after Republicans scuttled the health care overhaul.

CNN's Jim Acosta has more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the road in Wisconsin, a state he flipped red to help win the White House, President Trump's message was all about the American worker.

TRUMP: We're going to do everything in our power to make sure that more products are stamped with those wonderful words made in the USA.

ACOSTA: President Trump is saying no to an American tradition, established by his recent predecessors in the Oval Office. He's refusing to release his tax returns around this Tax Day.

The president's continued secrecy about his tax returns is mobilizing protests across the country, even sparking anger at congressional town halls, where some voters are accusing Mr. Trump of hiding his business dealings overseas.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: It doesn't take a lot of effort to find out where Donald Trump has connections overseas.

[16:15:02] He normally puts his names on buildings where he has them.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think that people are going to keep demanding it and they're going to keep demanding it and making their voices heard on this.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats warn the president's refusal to release his returns could have a policy impact on GOP efforts to reform the tax code. Members of Congress are wondering whether changes to the law would benefit Trump family businesses.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: What I've said is it's going to be much harder to get tax reform done if the president doesn't disclose his taxes.

ACOSTA: The White House says the president doesn't plan to offer up his returns while he remains under audit, but officials are not ruling out a release in the future.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We'll have to get back to you on that.

ACOSTA: Democrats are also slamming the Trump administration's decision against labeling China a currency manipulator, a flip-flop for the president but a reversal he defends.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: And what am I going to do? In the middle of him talking with North Korea, I'm going to hit them with currency manipulation? This is the fake media that just does a number. ACOSTA: With a new Gallup poll finding just 45 percent of Americans

saying the president keeps his promises, down from 62 percent in February, Mr. Trump is injecting himself into a hotly contested special election for a congressional seat in Georgia with a robocall.

TRUMP: Hello, this is President Donald Trump. Liberal Democrats from outside of Georgia are spending millions and millions of dollars trying to take your Republican congressional seat away from you. Don't let them do it.

ACOSTA: A sign the Democrats may pull off an upset in the traditionally Republican district.

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate the president's interest in the race, although he's misinformed with respect to my priorities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, the White House says the president's trip to Wisconsin did interfere with West Wing plans to debate whether to pull out of the Paris climate deal from the Obama era that's aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Top White House officials were scheduled to meet on that issue today, but that's now been postponed at least for a couple of weeks. The president promised to scrap that deal, you'll recall, Jake, during the campaign when he was a candidate.

So, that's another campaign promise to keep an eye on over here at the White House, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

Ivanka Trump's company gets approval for some Chinese trademarks, the same day she was wining and dining with the Chinese president. Why she now potentially, potentially could be subject to an investigation.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:21:11] TAPPER: We're back with our world lead.

In the face of North Korean provocations with both bravado and seriousness of purpose, President Trump six days ago announced that he had sent the aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson and guided missile destroyers to the Korean peninsula.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It turns out that the warships are currently nowhere near the region yet. Pentagon officials are telling CNN that the armada, as President Trump called it, probably will not get to the area until the end of this month.

Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, we'll get to the USS Vinson in a moment, but you just broke the story a short time ago that the Pentagon is planning on conducting major missile tests in preparation for the worst case scenario with North Korea. Tell us about that.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, these are actually part of long planned -- a long planned program of missile tests but very timely, very interesting, nonetheless.

Two tests. One will test an improved missile at sea on board a navy ship capable of shooting down a North Korean or Iranian missile. For that fact that it's happening out in the Pacific, so it's all about North Korea right now. They are going to test this improved missile.

The other test perhaps even more interesting. They will launch a test missile out at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and see if it can intercept a mock incoming intercontinental blimp. The big worry, of course, that North Korea might be able to develop that. That program has had a very mixed track record in the U.S. military, about a 50 percent success rate. It's all about whether they can really defend the U.S. homeland -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Barbara, I think a lot of people listening to the president and the White House last week thought that the aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson and the other boats and the other warships were headed to the Korean peninsula last week, but we know now that currently they are participating in naval exercises with the Australian navy near Singapore, nowhere near the Korean peninsula.

What happened here? Why was the White House making the suggestion?

STARR: The armada, a phrase that I don't think the U.S. Navy has used in about 250 years, that aside, look, here's what's really happening. The Navy put out a press release saying they were headed in that direction to north of where they were. Within a couple of days, the Navy did clarify for journalists they were in fact first going to first stop and do a number of naval exercises around Australia, and, in fact, they are headed north once again.

This is a show of force, a U.S. military show of force in that region, sending a message to Kim Jong-un. But an aircraft carrier isn't going to have any real capability against North Korea's missile or nuclear program, make no mistake about that. A show of force, I think it's very interesting the president, who didn't wan to signal his military moves announced that an armada was on the way -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

Georgia is doing its best Florida impression. Why a red seat in Georgia is currently the center of the political universe right now and what that could say about how voters feel after President Trump's first 89 days.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:43] TAPPER: We're back more with our politics lead today.

It's Election Day in Georgia. Polls are closing in fewer than three hours in the sixth congressional district, which contains much of Atlanta's northern suburbs. The seat opened up when Republican Congressman Tom Price took the job at the Department of Health and Human Services.

It's a traditionally Republican seat, but Trump only won it by one percentage point last November and today's game, it's a cliche but it's true. It's all about turnout.

If no candidate scores 50 percent, there will be then a runoff in June. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is leading the very crowded field in polls but big question, can he get more than 50 percent of the vote?

Today, President Trump fired off tweets directed at him and just recorded this robocall to voters.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you don't vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care and flood our country with illegal immigrants.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: I want to get to CNN's Manu Raju.

And, Manu, if this race wasn't already about President Trump, he sure has now made it about him.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, no question about it, Jake. It would be a huge repudiation for President Trump if Ossoff were to get more than 50 percent of the vote tonight and avoid a runoff and win this seat. And that would also set off major panic among Republicans as they try to keep the House in next year's mid terms where they cannot lose 24 seats if they want to say in the majority.