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Ivanka Trump Gets Grilled on First Trip Abroad; Yates, Clapper to Testify on Russia May 8; North Korea Conducts Drill As U.S. Nuclear Sub Arrives; Interview with Sen. Ben Cardin; Yates, Clapper To Testify On Russia On May 8th; Futures Are Up, Rally Expected To Continue. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. We have breaking news this morning. A fiery reception for Ivanka trump, the first daughter, on her first official overseas trip in the middle, right now, of maybe her first foreign controversy. Ms. Trump is in Germany with a packed schedule that includes a women's empowerment conference and a dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

HARLOW: Of course, she is not there not just as a blood relative of the President but as an official advisor to him and the White House. And moments ago, while she was on that panel -- you saw her there with Angela Merkel, the chief of the IMF, she was greeted with tough questions about what does she actually do and who does she actually work for. Listen.


MIRIAM MECKEL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, WIRTSCHAFTSWOCHE: The German audience is not that familiar with the concept of a first daughter. I'd like to ask you, what is your role? And to whom are you representing, your father as the President of the United States, the American people, or your business?

IVANKA TRUMP, SPECIAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, certainly not the latter. And I am rather unfamiliar with this role as well as it is quite new to me.


HARLOW: And it got a little bit more uncomfortable when there seemed to be jeers from the audience over questions about her father's treatment of women. Let's get straight to Joe Johns at the White House with more. Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, I think you could file this as a window into perceptions of the Trump administration in Germany. Ivanka Trump was there in her role as special advisor to the President and speaking, essentially, to a group on a panel discussion about women's issues, specifically women's empowerment, women's entrepreneurship.

And she was asked a question about the President's record on these issues, got a strong reaction from the audience when she defended him. Listen.


TRUMP: He's been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive in the new reality of --


MECKEL: You hear the reaction from the audience, so I need to address one more point. Some attitudes towards women your father has publically displayed in former times might leave one questioning whether he's such an empower for women. How do you relate to that, or are things changing? What is your comment on that?

TRUMP: I have certainly heard the criticism from the media, and that's been perpetuated. But I know from personal experience. And I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women and their ability to do the job as well as any man.

So I think, in my personal experience -- and you were asking me about my role as daughter and also advisor -- as a daughter, I can speak on a very personal level knowing that he encouraged me and enabled me to thrive.


JOHNS: This is Ivanka Trump's first trip out of the country since her father assumed office, and she was invited to speak on this panel by none other than the German Chancellor herself, Angela Merkel, who, you'll also remember, had a couple of awkward moments when she visited President Trump here at the White House. Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: All right, Joe Johns at the White House with that development. Thank you very much.

Also more breaking news this morning. The Senate Judiciary Committee confirming that former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper will testify publically on May 8th to discuss Russia's hacking into the election and potential allegations of collusion.

BERMAN: Yes. Yates was fired, you'll remember, by President Trump back in January after she refused to defend his travel ban. But perhaps more importantly, as far as this committee is concerned, she was central in the controversy that led to the dismissal of Michael Flynn as a national security advisor. So let's get this straight to CNN's Senior Congressional Reporter Manu Raju.

Manu, you know, is the Judiciary Committee trying to send a message here? And you'll remember, Yates was supposed to testify once before publicly. That was canceled, some say under White House pressure. This will be a big deal to hear from her.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, no kidding. And this is going to be the second time that we will hear from her publicly by the time we get to that May 8th hearing because the House Intelligence Committee on Friday also announced that it would hear from Sally Yates as part of testimony into its investigation into Russia meddling.

And you mentioned it, John, earlier that, yes, indeed, that hearing was canceled last month initially by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes as some people were concerned about what she may say about those contacts that occurred between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador, and what she apparently said privately, that Michael Flynn could have been susceptible to Russian blackmail.

[09:05:11] Now, the fact that the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee is taking a look at it is another indication that this investigation into Russia really is broadening beyond the House Intelligence and Senate Intelligence Committee.

Now, that Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that is holding this Yates hearing next week is run by Senator Lindsey Graham, who, of course, is a sharp critic of Vladimir Putin. And his Democratic counterpart is Sheldon Whitehouse. They plan to have a hearing, so this will be their second hearing as they look into the issue of Russia.

And also later this morning, John and Poppy, the House Oversight Committee is looking at Michael Flynn's documents that he submitted to get his security clearance. And the question that they are trying to look at is whether or not he violated any laws by failing to disclose any Russia payments that he received from Russian television and other sources as he tried to obtain that security clearance. That is classified information, but we do expect to hear from some members after they review that classified information.

So it really goes to show you that this Russian investigation is expanding on several levels, even as there is some concern that the Senate and the Intelligence Committee may not be moving as fast as some Democrats would like and as the House Intelligence Committee tries to get back on its footing after a rocky several weeks, John.

BERMAN: Yes, expanding in many levels all of a sudden this morning. Manu Raju for us on Capitol Hill. Manu, great to have you.

Joining us to talk about is, Mark Preston, CNN's senior political analyst; Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor at Spectrum News; and Rebecca Berg, CNN political analyst and national political reporter of Real Clear Politics.

Mark Preston, you know, Sally Yates is someone who was due to testify before. Now she will speak in public, twice in one week. Her story about Michael Flynn will be central, I think, to understanding what was going on behind the scenes in the early days of the Trump administration.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Yes, I think it will drop a lot of the pieces of puzzle into place that will give us a more clearer picture to, you know, exactly what's going on. And the fact that she was basically muted by the House Intelligence Committee, I think, you know, sends us a signal anyway that what her testimony is going to be is going to be very revealing. So we'll see exactly what she has to say.

But it is interesting, the person leading the investigation, excuse me, the hearing in the Judiciary Committee is Lindsey Graham, somebody who has been very vocal, a Republican, mind you, very vocal about wanting to get to the bottom of this Russian --

HARLOW: And it's a --

PRESTON: Go ahead.

HARLOW: It's a great point because he's leading this as the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism within the Judiciary Committee, Rebecca Berg. And former DNI Clapper is also going to be testifying.

But he will speak more largely, wouldn't you say, to the issues of Russia hacking into the election because, as far as January 20th, he said that there was no collusion that he saw between the Trump campaign and Russia. So do you believe that people will be even more eager to hear from Sally Yates?

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I think both of these testimonies will be quite interesting, Poppy. Of course, this was going to be an open hearing. This won't be any sort of classified information being discussed, so that limits what both Yates and, of course, Clapper especially, are able to discuss as it relates to not only Russia's interference in the election but also potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But both of these witnesses will have a lot to offer, and I think the administration is probably less than pleased that this testimony is going to move forward. Obviously, they did everything they could to try to quiet Sally Yates when she was in place still as the acting Attorney General, so I'm sure that the administration is not looking forward to this testimony on either end.

BERMAN: Yes. Sean Spicer claimed, you know, at the time, that he was OK, that the White House was OK with Sally Yates testifying.

HARLOW: He even said we welcome it.

BERMAN: They said they welcome it, but that was slightly after the fact.


BERMAN: But it doesn't seem they're standing in the way right now. Perhaps the most interesting Manu pointed out was that the idea that this is expanding beyond the Intelligence Committee, Judiciary oversight.

HARLOW: Exactly. BERMAN: These things take on a life of their own. Errol Louis,

shifting gears, shifting continents over to Europe right now, Ivanka Trump, daughter of the President, official White House advisor, that was some pretty prickly questioning right there. She was on stage with luminaries right there.

HARLOW: With Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF.


HARLOW: With Angela Merkel, I mean.

LOUIS: The Canadian Foreign Minister.

HARLOW: Exactly.

LOUIS: Real heavyweights.

BERMAN: And that's a tough position to be in overseas as an official representative of the United States.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. I mean, this is something that the White House cooked up. We know that Trump relies on family. Trump relies on business allies. He's put them in all kinds of public positions.

And despite all of the warnings, not all of which were hostile -- frankly, there were a lot of even friendly warnings -- saying you don't want to do this for exactly this reason. You send somebody over there, you send your daughter into the middle of this. She's sitting next to someone who is a world leader in command of armies and so forth.

[09:10:01] And what she's going to talk about? And who is she representing? Is she representing her family? Is she representing the American people? Is she representing her business interests?

HARLOW: How long, Mark Preston, do you think the American public will accept her answer of, well, this is a really new role to me, and I don't really know what it means. She said a similar thing in the CBS interview with Gayle King, and that can only take you so far.

She may not be taking a salary, but when you are working for the American people, do you need a better answer than that? I work for X, here is my role, and here is my responsibility to you, the American people.

PRESTON: Yes, I think so. And I also think that the folks who are defending President Trump for his very rocky 100 days, certainly in my opinion, when they say, well, he's learning on the job, well, he is the leader of the free world right now. I mean, he has the hardest job.

The idea you're learning on the job, to me, is problematic. I do think that Ivanka Trump, for some reason, will continue to get a bit of a honeymoon experience, you know, given that, you know, the American public actually likes her. My question is, can you imagine Hillary Clinton had won and Chelsea Clinton was in that position? Could you imagine the outrage from conservatives that she'd be out there?

HARLOW: Why do you think it's different? Why? Why?

PRESTON: Well, because there's hypocrisy, you know, at all levels. You know, no doubt. But I do think that if Chelsea Clinton had taken the role that Ivanka Trump had taken for her mother, if she had done that for her mother, there will probably be investigations right now from Congress into it.

BERMAN: You know, Rebecca Berg, policy here -- and there's breaking news all over the place right now because, overnight, the President essentially backed down on his demand that as part of the spending bill that's being discussed on Congress right now, funding for his so- called border wall.

He did back down, even though, I want to read you a dramatic reading of tweet from the President just moments ago. "Don't let the fake media tell you that I've changed my position on the wall. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking, et cetera."

He did change his position. Friday, he wanted funding for the wall on this deal. Today's Tuesday morning. Today, he doesn't want funding. That is a change. But does this show sort of an understanding of what Congress is willing to do for him, Rebecca?

BERG: Oh, well, maybe a belated understanding, John, because you have to wonder why the President, why Mick Mulvaney, why the administration requested this funding for the wall as part of this spending bill in the first place if they didn't have a strategy to follow through and actually get that done. It seems like they floated this controversial measure, floated this controversial request with no strategy to actually follow through.

And so they created this unnecessary controversy for themselves and all of this bad attention and bad press when they could have just, you know, done a very simple funding measure, increasing spending for defense as they suggested and some other easy things, and then otherwise just continuing spending and keeping the government open. But they didn't do that. And it kind of boggles my mind why they didn't.

HARLOW: Here is how a big Trump ally and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich explained it, "They're feeling their way forward as an administration. One of the lessons they learned out of the health bill is to be cautious and not to run straight into a wall." A literal wall.

BERMAN: Yes, yes.

HARLOW: Is this the art of the compromise, Errol? I mean is this feeling your way forward and learning, you know, you got take the deal?

LOUIS: I think of it more as after you've touched a hot stove, maybe you don't go and grab it a second time. They really got burned on the health care bill by being forceful, you know.

And, look, frankly, some of that was necessary. The House had been dithering. House Republicans have been dithering over what to do as far as repeal and replace. And so there was sort of a welcome bit of energy from the White House. On the other hand, you can't move something as big as the federal government or the federal budget in just a week's time.

And if you start piling more and more stuff on top of it, in the forcible Trump style, yes, the whole thing breaks down. And members of Congress start to remember that, you know, number one, they're beholden to their constituencies back home. And number two, they don't have to do what the President tells them to do. They just don't have to do it.

BERG: And part of the problem here is that they never had buy-in from Republican leaders. The Republican leaders did not want to fight on this spending bill. They didn't want to fight on wall money right now.

They've lost enough political capital in their minds already on health care, they wanted to move forward to safer territory, a more favorable landscape, so to speak. And so the White House was going it alone on this. They weren't organized at all.

HARLOW: Look, it's very different to be a CEO and be able to go it alone if your board's on board with you than to need Congress on board with you, and that is the lesson I think this administration is learning.

Rebecca Berg, thank you. Mark Preston, Errol Louis, we appreciate it.

Still to come, not so strong? Donald Trump, the President, questioning the strength of North Korea's supreme leader as the country flexes its muscles with a big, live fire military drill this morning.



HARLOW: Overnight North Korea carried out a new large scale artillery drill as an American nuclear submarine arrives in South Korean waters. That move by the United States now being described as a show of force as tensions continue to escalate.

BERMAN: Yes, today North Korea celebrating the 85th anniversary of the founding of its army and it comes as President Trump told a group of journalists, "I'm not so sure he's so strong like he says he is," talking about the North Korean leader.

Let's get right to CNN's Will Ripley inside North Korea, in Pyongyang. Will Ripley, a very large military exercise by the North Koreans.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Certainly, there was an expectation of something provocative from Pyongyang and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader delivered. We believe he was presiding over this long-range artillery drill involving hundreds of North Korean soldiers. This is the kind of artillery that is pointed directly at South Korea on the DMZ that divides the two countries.

Tens of millions of people potentially in firing range and these conventional weapons analysts say actually have the potential to do more damage and kill more people right now in the immediate future than North Korea's nuclear weapons, which are still being developed.

Now the sixth nuclear test that everybody has been kind of waiting for. We know that North Korea is ready to push the button on it, it has not happened yet. We will have to watch and see if there is a nuclear test or a more missile launches round this major national holiday.

[09:20:06]There were large celebrations in the streets of Pyongyang. People dancing in the streets. There was a wreath laying ceremony to honor the hundreds of thousands of North Koreans who were killed in the Korean War.

And the U.S. is engaging in provocative behavior of its own, deploying that nuclear submarine, the "USS Michigan" to Pusan in South Korea. Of course, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group continues to move closer to the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

Then you have President Trump urging the U.N. Security Council to take stronger action especially China to try to reign in the North Korean nuclear threat. He calls it a grave threat facing the entire world -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: And, Will, let's not forget, of course, as you were reporting yesterday, the American professor who was being held now, now currently the third American being held in North Korea. This is your 12th trip inside of North Korea. What is the mood of the people right now there?

RIPLEY: It's really interesting, Poppy, because obviously there is a lot of tension and chaos swirling around outside North Korea. But when you're on the streets here in Pyongyang, people say that they feel secure, that they are confident in the decisions made by their leader.

Now, of course, this is an authoritarian country. Political dissent, dissenting voices, opposition of any kind toward the government not allowed. So nobody is going to go on the record and say they don't agree with what Kim Jong-Un is doing.

But I have asked people if they are fearful that North Korea may be headed on a dangerous path and they believe, no. They think that they have a viable nuclear weapon that could sink a U.S. aircraft carrier.

That's a threat that North Korean state media made a matter of days ago. They believe that even though the United States has more fire power that North Korea can hold its own and perhaps even win in a confrontation and they point to the size of their army. They have more than a million people in their standing army and an additional six million if you count reservist and para military. So people say that they are calm. You don't sense a lot of tension on the ground here in Pyongyang.

There is some tension, though, among tourists visiting the country after the detainment of that American professor, Tony Kim. He was about to board his flight at the airport. Authorities pulled him away.

We don't know where he's being held right now, what he's charged with and we may not know for quite some time. This is why the State Department, John and Poppy, really urges Americans to think twice for traveling here especially right now given the heightened tensions.

BERMAN: Wise advice.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Will Ripley, thank you for the reporting inside of North Korea.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He is the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Cardin, thanks so much for being with us.

I want to get your reaction to this large artillery drill by North Korea. Overnight, there is U.S. naval drills with South Korea and Japan right now, how concerned are you about the overall level of activity, military activity in the region right now?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: First, it is good to be with you. Thank you for having me. This obviously is a very tense situation. We know that the leader of North Korea is unpredictable. He doesn't have a mature judgment.

We worry that he could do things that could really set off a tragic episode. So we have to exercise mature leadership. We have to work with the global community to try to reduce tensions in the region.

We recognize that North Korea's actions violate international norms, international agreements, and our objective is to change the equation in North Korea and their calculations so they move away from their nuclear ambitions and move more towards the league of nations and being more acceptable in their conduct.

HARLOW: Senator, you bring up the word maturity and you have said it before. You have said this country needs mature leadership in dealing with North Korea. Overnight, we heard President Trump say that he does not think that Kim Jong-un is as strong as many people might think he is. Do you believe that the Trump administration is exhibiting mature leadership?

CARDIN: Well, quite frankly, we look forward to understanding what the administration's policy is in regards to North Korea. We will have a meeting tomorrow at the White House. I'm looking forward to getting that information. But it's not exactly clear what the objective in our policy is working with international community. So in North Korea and many other parts of the world the Trump administration has not been clear with Congress, not clear with the American people, not clear with our allies as to exactly what their strategy is about.

HARLOW: But when you are using the word mature, you seem to be talking about the Trump administration. I just want some clarity on that. Are you saying they are acting immaturely when it comes to North Korea?

CARDIN: I don't know. I don't know their policy so it is hard for me to evaluate that policy. It is extremely important that he work with the members of Congress, our committee, Senate Foreign Relations has that responsibility. We are a co-equal branch of government.

The American people have a right to understand what our objectives are. There is no military solution to these types of problems. The best solution is to try to negotiate and change North Korea's calculations. There is ways of doing that.

[09:25:05]China has a direct interest in a nonnuclear Korean Peninsula. We have a common objective there. Although, they do not favor our system of government and they would like to see a viable North Korea, we can work with China and of course, there was that meeting with the premiere and the president.

We have not yet been fully briefed as to what was discussed in that meeting. So it is too early for me to tell whether the Trump administration is acting properly or not because I don't know their policy.

BERMAN: You will be part of an all senators briefing tomorrow at the White House. We'll check in with you after that to see what your opinion is then.

Some other news this morning, we just learned that the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to have what we believe is a public hearing with Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general and also the former DNI, James Clapper.

They're going to come testify about this investigation into Russian ties possibly with Trump associates. That's the Judiciary Committee. There is also the Senate Intelligence Committee. You know, you can see this investigation sort of spreading. Are you comfortable with where it's headed right now?

CARDIN: I think the congressional committees have a responsibility of oversight. I think what the Judiciary Committee is doing is absolutely appropriate. What the Intelligence Committee is doing is appropriate.

But we need an independent commission that does not have the constraints of a congressional committee, that has broader jurisdiction and can operate in a non-partisan environment to give a full report to the American people as to what Russia was doing here in the United States during this past election.

Contacts they made and how that squares with America's national security priorities. That independent commission, similar to what we used after the attack on 9/11 is needed, but congressional committees have responsibility and they should conduct oversight as the Judiciary Committee is doing.

HARLOW: Your committee, Senator, is holding hearings today on U.S. involvement in Libya. Last week the president said, and I'm quoting, "I do not see a role in Libya for the United States." His argument is, look, the U.S. cannot be everywhere and he clearly doesn't see a role for the U.S. in Libya right now. Is the president right on that?

CARDIN: No. I think the United States has to exercise global leadership. I was with the Security Council ambassadors yesterday before they had lunch with the president and the message was very clear that U.S. leadership is critically important.

America's strength is in our values and what we stand for. So when we talk about what we can do in Libya to get a government that represents the people of Libya so there isn't a void where ISIS can grow, if the United States is absent, then there is more likelihood you will see Russia's involvement.

If we see Russia's involvement, it is not going to be good for our interests. You also see voids that are picked up by terrorists. That's not good for U.S. interest. So we have a responsibility to be part.

Obviously, we will not be using American troops. The local community and local security must defend the country, but we need to be part of the operation to secure Libya for its future.

BERMAN: Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, great to have you with us. Thanks so much for your time.

All right. President Trump we may be within 24 hours of a major announcement on big tax cuts. Sources say he wants to slash the corporate tax rate down to 15 percent, but where exactly would he get the money to do that? Who would pay for it?

HARLOW: The markets, of course, very closely following this. We are moments away from the hoping bell on Wall Street. None other than our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is here with what the markets think.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Lower corporate taxes means bigger profit for big companies, right, and that is something driving these stock markets higher. Caterpillar, 3M, DuPont, a bunch of big names in the Dow better than expected earnings that are already making an awful lot of money and likely will make more money if you have lower taxes.

All of those are moving higher here today. It is the tax story that is driving the tax story and earnings driving Wall Street right now. Look at the Nasdaq, almost to 6,000. A milestone we have never seen before. Record highs for Nasdaq, for tech stocks, expect this rally to continue today.

BERMAN: I remember when investors in Wall Street to be concerned about deficits and the national debt. That would add, what, $2 trillion to the debt over ten years?

ROMANS: It would. What this market says is this is a president who is more interested in corporate profits than red ink for taxpayers and that's good for companies bottom line. This is a business friendly president, a Wall Street friendly president. The bank stocks have done very, very well. So the guy that champions the little guy is helping the big guy.

HARLOW: He did call himself the king of debt not that long ago, right?

BERMAN: Maybe right about that. All right. Christine Romans, stick around. A lot more to discuss. We'll be right back.