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Controversy over President Trump's Release of Tax Returns Examined; White House to Not Release Visitor Log to Public; Interview with Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia; French Police Foil Terror Attack Ahead of Election. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 18, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We should let you all know that tomorrow we will speak with the Republican candidate in Georgia's sixth district Karen Handel.

We're following a lot of news this morning, so let's get right to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the people understand how successful the president has been and how much he's paid in taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very basic. Why doesn't he release his tax returns?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as I'm aware, the president says he's still under audit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This whole tax reform idea is going to go absolutely nowhere unless there's a lot more transparency in this administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Korea will do well not to test his resolve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the president says America first, does that mean without our allies?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see what happens. I hope there is going to be peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to make this individual's world very, very small.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A cross country man hunt for a coldblooded killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He committed a heinous crime. We want to get him off the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I want to see is him brought to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota. CAMEROTA: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY.

So we are talking about a lack of transparency this morning putting the Trump administration on the defensive. The president's tax returns still not released to the American people, and now neither are the White House visitor logs also will not be released. That has triggered a brand-new lawsuit.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Remember, Trump had said he would release the taxes as soon as the audit was over. Then some of his staffers went back on that. With the White House logs he attacked President Obama, saying "You should release the logs. It goes to transparency." Now, how is this not hypocrisy?

We're going to have a lot of this covered this morning on the 89th day of the Trump presidency. Let's begin with Joe Johns live at the White House. Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. The biggest problem for this administration on this issue is optics, the picture this creates, especially since Donald Trump the candidate ran on issues of transparency, used it as a weapon. It also really gives fuel to the critics who love to question whether this administration has something to hide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it time to say once and for all, the president is never going to release his tax returns?

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

JOHNS: The White House on the defensive, facing mounting criticism over the administration's lack of transparency.

SPICER: We're under the same audit that existed, and so nothing has changed.

JOHNS: Press Secretary Sean Spicer again citing routine audits to justify President Trump's refusal to release any tax returns, except an IRS audit does not prevent disclosure. This lack of transparency now jeopardizing another Trump key campaign promise, an overhaul of the tax code. "The New York Times" writing that Democrats are uniting around a pledge not to cooperate on any rewriting of the tax code unless they know specifically how that provision would benefit the billionaire president and his family. A growing number of Republican lawmakers also calling on the president to make his returns public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it would be a good gesture on his part to release them like all other presidents have.

JOHNS: Some lawmakers are being shouted down at town halls over Trump's taxes.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARIZONA: As far as I'm aware, the president says he's still under audit.

(BOOS)

JOHNS: The president himself downplaying the issue in the face of national protests this weekend.

CROWD: Show us your taxes! Show us your taxes!

JOHNS: Tweeting "I did what was an almost impossible thing to do for a Republican, easily won the Electoral College. Now tax returns are being brought up again?"

The administration also facing scrutiny for refusing to disclose who's golfing with the president and for reversing an Obama era precedent of making White House visitor logs public.

SPICER: We recognize that there is a privacy aspect to allowing citizens to come express their views.

JOHNS: Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggesting that such disclosures would be harmful and unnecessary. Spicer adding that the Obama White House redacted some visitor names while acknowledging the Trump administration will not release any.

SPICER: Frankly, the faux attempt the Obama administration put out where they would scrub what they didn't want put out didn't serve anyone well.

JOHNS: This policy change inconsistent with Trump's past criticism of Obama who he labeled the least transparent president ever, tweeting vaguely in 2012, "Why does Obama believe he shouldn't comply with record releases that his predecessors did of their own volition? Hiding something?"

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Later today the president is expected to visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Snapple and tools folks there. He is going to sign an executive order making changing to the H-1B visa program, the administration trying to make good on its promise to encourage the hiring of more American workers. Chris and Alisyn?

[08:05:00] CUOMO: Joe Johns, thank you very much. Let's bring in our panel. We have reporter and editor at large for CNN politics Chris Cillizza, and CNN political analysts April Ryan and David Drucker. David Drucker, the hypocrisy is clear certainly on the White House logs. You saw the tweet. He was all over Obama about it. Spicer's defense of it seemed to make the matter more apparently hypocritical. Your take?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Spin of the highest order. Look, if the president doesn't want to release the visitor's logs, they should just make the argument they don't want to release the logs. They want to hold this information close to the vest. Sure the Obama administration made moves to become more transparent. They disagree with the policy and leave it at that. It is not the kind of issue that will cause him political problems long-term. People are much more interested on whether they can get this health care reform bill back on track, whether they can achieve tax reform. Is there a good, substantive argument that they work for us and they should release this information? Sure.

CUOMO: What about Trump saying they should be released himself?

DRUCKER: Well, look. There is a Trump tweet for everything Trump now opposes. When President Obama was president he wanted the president to do. So this is --

CAMEROTA: And you don't think that has any lasting repercussions?

DRUCKER: I think, Alisyn, it only has lasting repercussions if the president gets the bigger things wrong. And then it will be a pile on. Not only did you create more jobs, you told me you were bringing jobs back to my community, but you're not telling me the whole truth here and you are hiding things and you're not transparent. Not only did you not fix the problem with North Korea or the Middle East, but basically you don't want to tell me what you're doing behind closed doors. That's where these things tend to be a problem. They are not the kinds of issues that are problems right out of the gate. Spicer just made it worse by trying to justify it with a ridiculous piece of spin. And I admire it, but it was spin.

CUOMO: They lean heavy and often on, "but Obama." With the Russian propaganda is called "what about-ism," you can look it up online and have a whole education about it. Cillizza, the numbers tell a different story in terms of the urgency here. Poll after poll has well over a majority of Americans saying they want him to release. The most recent once is 68 percent. It does seem to parallel -- I don't know how much of a correlative it is, that's for you to answer, about whether he keeps his promises. It went from 62 percent in February, 45 percent most recently. Is there some attrition in support as a result of continued obstinacy and hypocrisy.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: I think small things lead to big things. This is to David's point. I think transparency in and of itself is not frankly an issue that President Trump is going to lose reelection on. But, yes, I do think that it is a problem.

At one point on that poll, just as a word of caution, on the 68 percent say they want him to release his taxes, I'm sure that number is right. We have seen a lot of numbers similar to that over time. The issue there is if you ask people, is it something that would decide your vote for Trump, lots less people. Yes, if you ask people should there be less money in the political system, everybody says yes. Is it something you vote on? A lot less people say yes. So the urgency in terms on affecting vote, how people makes their minds up, is not always there. And I'd say this isn't the issue that falls into that category.

CAMEROTA: April, how do you see it?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's interesting, Chris brings up a very good point. We have to find out if, and particularly I guess Georgia would be that piece to see if there is Trump-lash 89 days in, and we haven't found the kryptonite yet, although people are saying they want to see President Trump's taxes. They want more transparency.

This issue is, is this really making a difference? It's do as I say, not as I do. And the question is, is the American public really that upset about it? Because they are reactionary people in this White House and all White Houses have been that. But the question is, will there be enough groundswell for there to be a push. Even though his taxes are under audit or what have you, there could be some kind of revelation. And the issue is it stems with the people. It all comes with the people. If they want it, if they are really that upset, they just might open up the taxes. But right now we haven't seen the kryptonite for this president when it comes to transparency or when it comes to his taxes.

CILLIZZA: Can I add one thing? I would be stunned, stunned if at any point between now and the 2020 election President Trump releases his taxes. I just -- they view it as something that if they didn't do it -- they took a risk in not doing it in 2016. It didn't hurt him in any way, shape, or form. And, yes, people broadly will say, yes, we would like to see his taxes. You'll see some Republican members of Congress say that. There will be talk of conflicts of interest, rightly so. But they have made a decision that whatever is in those taxes is potentially more damages or too private. He doesn't want it out there. And I think at this point -- I mean there was story after story after story during the campaign, least transparent candidate ever. What's he hiding, et cetera, et cetera, and he didn't do it in the face of that which makes me think now that he's president of the United States I just would be stunned. I think we may be looking at the world's longest audit ever.

[08:10:14] DRUCKER: I think the caveat there might be who he runs against in 2020. He had the luxury of running against a candidate under an ethical cloud with an FBI investigation. So the argument could always be they're both kind of crooks and we're going to make the decision based on other factors. So if he finds himself in a real dogfight in 2020 and he's running against somebody who the public trusts who lays his or her entire life out there and it seems to have an impact, I could see Trump at least for his presidential years saying, good, here is four years of tax returns. Here is where I gave money to charity, if he did, and things of that nature to try and tamp this thing down.

CAMEROTA: April, to be clear, it is not just idle curiosity on the part of Democrats. Now they are saying how do you expect us to work with you on tax reform if we don't know if a decision we make actually makes you richer and affects your portfolio?

RYAN: Right. Is there a conflict of interest? Who have you been giving your money to? What's going on in your life? Tax reforms -- tax returns have a tendency to give you a little bit more of a broader scope into what's going on, and a lot of Democrats upset and, quietly, some Republicans are wondering what's there, too. It is, what is there? You have issues right now swirling about

Russia. You have issues swirling about some of the other things, and that could open up the door to see into who this president is. But, again, Alisyn, he was elected the 45th president of the United States without showing his taxes. He's already won that battle, and he really does not at this point have to show unless there is such a groundswell from the people that or someone to force his hand.

CUOMO: He didn't have the FBI -- to our knowledge, he didn't have the FBI and multiple committees on his behind about what his conflicts may or may not be. So Cillizza, is the answer here maybe that we have heard from Burr on the Senate side that they don't think they will look for the taxes, but could the taxes find their way into a committee or some of this litigation that's out there and that winds up being the resolution?

CILLIZZA: Sure. It's possible, and congressional committees could demand them. But I would remind people Congress is controlled by Republicans and I don't think that priority number one or one through 100 is ask the president for the tax returns he doesn't want to put out.

We have seen a little bit. The extent to which we have gotten a view of his taxes at all are either in civil cases in which he had to show it, or through leaks where we got an occasional look here or there. The last leak of his tax returns which I think was from the 80s honestly wasn't that bad. He made more money than most people thought he had. He paid a significant amount in taxes.

The thing that I'm amazed by is, if there isn't a smoking gun in there, if he didn't pay taxes, if he did pay taxes for the last 20 years, why not do it?

CUOMO: Because he doesn't want to be seen as losing. Now he's made this a proposition where if he shows, he loses.

CILLIZZA: That's right. And anything that makes him look less wealthy, less powerful, less influential, he doesn't want to do. And to April's point, look, he feels as though -- I'm not sure this is right, but he feels as though the 2016 election was a 100 percent voter confidence that the American people do not care about this.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for all of the analysis.

CUOMO: The president cares about the discussion. He's been tweeting about this. More recently we have seen it is interesting what he's not tweeting about -- North Korean strategy, what is going on in Syria. But specific to North Korea, what is the right move for the U.S.? We have a lawmaker who served in the Iraq war who is going to give us his take next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:21] CUOMO: President Trump says he's keeping his plans for North Korea close to the vest. He says he wants to be unpredictable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. I'm not like other administrations where they say we're going to do this in four weeks. That doesn't work that way.

We'll see what happens. I hope things work out well. I hope there is going to be peace. But they have been talking with this gentleman for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: In the interest of truth, the administration has done just that. We've seen multiple leaders talking about North Korea and potential military action in a way we have not seen before. But we're not hearing much from the president about specifics. That part is true.

So, let's discuss the state of play with Republican Congressman Scott Taylor from Virginia, also a former Navy SEAL, served in the Iraq War.

Good to see you, sir.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Good to see you as well. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. So, let's deal with the policy and then we'll get to the politics of it. The idea of what to do about North Korea, what is your word of caution about how much rattling of the saber we should see from the White House, given how what Vice President Pence has said so far was met from the North Korean response of we're going to test a missile every week, thermal nuclear war could be upon us?

TAYLOR: Well, let me first say I applaud the president for engaging in multilateral talks with our allies over there as well as China and trying to bring them in there. You know, I'm not -- I'm not one to bluster and saber rattle and all those things.

North Korea, of course, has a history of doing that. They have been doing that for a while now, most of the time trying to gain concessions from us.

But the last thing we want is war. There's no doubt about that. We want peace. The situation is tense over there. But I am encouraged by the White House, quite frankly, for engaging in these multilateral talks.

Something has to be done over there. They continue to basically take their finger and poke in the eye and say we're not touching you, but shooting missiles off the coast of our allies, and also chest-beating there as well, too, and continuing to do nuclear tests, as well as trying to get intercontinental ballistic missiles that could touch other homeland.

So, we don't want them shooting waters off the coast of California, of course. That being said, it is tense. And I applaud the multilateral talks to try to tamp down on the tensions.

CUOMO: Well, to the extent that's what's going on, how is it different, this new edict of maximum engagement from strategic patience? The White House was working China then, figure out how China could work, figure out how Japan could work, trying to deal with Iran's component of this as part of that extensive deal they did with their nuclear program.

[08:20:06] TAYLOR: Well, that's an excellent statement. I think some of the difference of course is as you see the potential for the military to be there, so the potential of force as well, too, is a sort of a new component with this.

You know, when you have diplomacy, whether you're conducting diplomacy or U.N. conventions or sanctions, whatever it is, sometimes you have to have at least the perception that you will back things up by force. So, that's the new component here. You can see that that has brought China to the table, unlike ever before that we have seen.

So, yes, this is situation is tense and the last thing we want is this to break out in war. Of course we want peace, but it is important that our partners as well as China and others engage in this denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

CUOMO: What do you see China doing now that it's never done before?

TAYLOR: Well, China has already stopped some oil shipments as well, too. You have to understand that North Korean trade is almost exclusively with China. China has a lot of tools there. They have said openly, you know, warning North Korea, as well as openly saying that they are engaging with our president to try to tamp down pressures over there.

So, I think China has stepped up more than they ever have before. And you have to give credit where credit is due, that is because of this White House.

CUOMO: In terms of what we're seeing the president with his role here, it has really been the vice president and vehicle tear of state doing this. We have seen with the U.N. ambassador. Certainly, that was more of a case in Syria.

What does it mean to you about the role of our commander in chief that he seems to be second seat in Syria and on North Korea?

TAYLOR: Well, I just don't see it like that. You know, the president is very vocal. He's out there. He's engaging and talking about this thing.

Yes, he sent the vice president over there. Ambassador Haley has done a wonderful job on the world stage.

Look, we're all on the same team and we all play a part, whether it is supporting or leading, whatever it is. Like I think they have done a great job. CUOMO: Right. Although, we do know he isn't talking about it,

though, in the way he talks about other things, right, Congressman? I mean, if you look at his Twitter feed, that's what he says he uses Twitter for, he has not touched what he's doing in North Korea or what it means. He talked a little bit about China, but more in terms of his relationship with President Xi. He didn't mention Syria at all in terms of what he was doing.

How do you explain that?

TAYLOR: Well, I think, you know, the president has been very clear. Let me preface this by saying the executive branch should be coming to Congress and speaking about Syria, speaking about the authorization of military force, speaking about North Korea. But, listen, I don't disagree with the president's strategy of not telegraphing our moves. I think that's a good thing.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Right. But there is a difference between telegraphing moves. I'm not saying he should say, this ship is going to go and here's when it's going to be here. But he hasn't really been making the case of the American people.

But don't run away from your own point. You know, this idea of who's job is it to authorize military force, you know, you guys down there, you're new in Congress, but Congress has a long history of abdicating its constitutional duty to the president.

TAYLOR: Agree.

CUOMO: Congress has not wanted to own things, and this is not changing. Where is the debate on an AUMF that is from 2001?

TAYLOR: Well, let me -- let me say I don't run away from anything.

CUOMO: That's true. You're a SEAL. You run at it.

TAYLOR: I've been very vocal about that, about Congress having this debate. You have a second administration that is working off -- a third administration, 16-year-old authorization of use of military force. That is -- that is unacceptable.

It's unacceptable. We have to have that debate. I've actually co- sponsor that bill as well, too.

Listen, I will say, I'm not opposed to president not telegraphing what we're going to do. That being said, yes, there has to be a debate in Congress. The executive, of course, has to have some eighty to take actions if necessary if they believe there is a threat to our nation, to our people, to our allies. But at the same time, yes, it is Congress that authorizes that and it is time for us to have a debate. I agree with that 100 percent.

CUOMO: Congressman Scott Taylor, it is good to see you taking that position. We will stay on the story. Appreciate you being on the show as always.

TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Chris, we have some breaking news right now to tell people about. This is out of French. French officials say a terror attack was just foiled. We discuss the startling details and the timing next with Christiane Amanpour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news to tell you about right now.

French police say they have foiled an imminent terror attack. This just days before Sunday's presidential election there. Authorities arresting two French nationals in Marseilles. French news agency is reporting that police found guns and bomb making materials.

Let's discuss this with CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, this is scary stuff. What have you learned?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is very recent this news that has broken and it does though dove tail with some of the fears that were around this highly charged election, the first round of which takes place on Sunday.

And to that end, the interior ministry had already said about a week ago, or in the last few days, that the French were going to deploy 50,000 more police around and about and particularly on Election Day and it's a two-part election. It's on Sunday the 23rd and the second round is on Sunday the 7th of May.

They're going to deploy, as I said, tens of thousands of extra police to make sure that voting goes off peacefully and safely. It goes without saying, everybody knows that France has faced very dramatic terrorist attacks from 2015 and 2016.

And so, it is very difficult for them to keep all of this in a peaceful manner, which they want to do, given the polarization of the election at the moment, with a fiercely anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen announcing just yesterday at a rally that she's going to suspend all immigration from anywhere the minute she becomes president, if she becomes president.

CUOMO: She had her own incident where some woman came up who had flowers in her hands, who wind up seeming to be more a streaker kind of situation than anything else.