Return to Transcripts main page


Ivanka Trump Gets Grilled on First Trip Abroad; Interview with Rep. Leonard Lance; Yates, Clapper to Testify on Russia on May 8; WH Sends Mixed Signals on Border Wall Funding. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 10:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the breaking news, quite a morning for Ivanka Trump, maybe a surprising morning. Moments ago, she sat through jeers and hiss on her first overseas trip since her father's inauguration. She's appearing at a Women's Empowerment Conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: She's there not just as a blood relative of the president, but in her official capacity as an adviser to him in the White House. That led to some pretty tough questions on who exactly she's loyal to.


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

IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: Well, certainly not the latter. And I am rather unfamiliar with this role as well, as it is quite new to me.


HARLOW: After that, jeers from the audience over questions about her father's treatment of women. Our Kate Bennett is traveling with Ivanka Trump, just attended an off-camera briefing. What can you tell us?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it was sort of an interesting moment during that panel, where when the audience responded to Ivanka discussing her father's support of American families, there was actually -- you know, she said, we have to stop and address this coming out of the crowd. Ivanka afterwards, us in our little chitchat after the panel, sort of shrugged it off and said, listen, it's just politics. I'm used to this and sort of -- but it was a moment, certainly, earlier in the panel when she was -- when her answer was interrupted by the audience reaction. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 publicly displayed in former times might leave one questioning whether he's such -- empower for women. How do you relate to that or are things changing? What's your comment on that?

TRUMP: I've 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 adviser, as a daughter, I can speak on a very personal level knowing that he encouraged me and enabled me to thrive.


BENNETT: Now, Ivanka afterwards, as we've said, dealt with that pretty well. She was asked specifically if she felt the question was unfair, if she was sort of maligned or attacked. Again, she sort of rolled it off. She says part of her role here is part of what politics is.

Later today, Ivanka continues her time in Berlin after this women's W20 Summit. She will visit the Siemens Technology Academy, part of her focus on STEM outreach. And then, later this afternoon, she heads to the Holocaust Memorial here in Berlin, where she will pay respects to victims of the Holocaust there.

And later tonight, she is expected at a gala dinner. However, the panel today on women's entrepreneurship proved to be somewhat interesting first step in this global stage for Ivanka Trump and she certainly was poised in her answer. However, there are a lot of questions here in Berlin about her role. Back to you guys.

BERMAN: Maybe not the greeting she was expecting on this first overseas trip. She blames the media, but that wasn't the media hissing there. That was the people, the crowd. --

HARLOW: No, the audience.

[10:05:01] BERMAN: Kate Bennett for us in Germany. Thanks so much, Kate.

We've got a lot of other news this morning. New this morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee is confirming that former acting attorney general Sally Yates and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper will testify next month to discuss the Russia interference in the U.S. election. Now, you'll remember, Sally Yates was a key figure in the ouster of Michael Flynn as national security adviser. HARLOW: Meantime, House lawmakers are continuing to examine these classified documents, those transcripts related to Flynn. Let's get straight to our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, on the Hill. So, she will speak not once, but twice in this testimony before the Intel Committee and then the Judiciary Committee. Interestingly, Lindsey Graham, the subcommittee that he leads, is the one in which she and former DNI Clapper will testify in front of.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, no question. Of course, Lindsey Graham has been a sharp critic of Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and that Judiciary Subcommittee which he chairs is leading a separate investigation into Russia and Russian interference, separate from the House and Senate Intelligence investigations.

Now, the House Intelligence Committee after weeks of turmoil did agree to bring Sally Yates forward in an open session. The exact date uncertain, but that's expected to happen after May 2nd. Of course, this is significant, given Sally Yates' private concerns that she apparently raised, suggesting that Michael Flynn, the ex-national security adviser for President Trump, may have been susceptible to blackmail from the Russians.

Now, this comes as other committees beyond the House and Senate Intelligence Committee are looking into this issue of Russia and as well as Michael Flynn behind me in the room right now. The House Oversight Committee is looking into classified documents that they have received from the Defense Intelligence Agency about Michael Flynn's background, specifically payments that he received from a number of Russian entities. And the question is whether or not he misrepresented himself or failed to disclose certain payments on his security clearance applications in order to become national security adviser.

Now, we expect to hear from the top two members on this committee, possibly within the hour, Jason Chaffetz, the Republican of Utah and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a Democrat, to discuss exactly what they're looking at behind closed doors, but expect a lot more focus on Michael Flynn after today, given his apparent ties and potential failure to disclose some key payments from Russian entities as required on these documents, guys.

HARLOW: Manu Raju on the Hill. Thank you so much. Joining us now, Jeffrey Lord, CNN political commentator and contributing editor to "American Spectrum," Maria Cardona, CNN political commenter and Democratic strategist and Abby Phillips, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for "The Washington Post."

So, Jeffrey Lord, just on Manu's reporting, let me get to you first. Look, "The Washington Post," as you know, a few weeks ago reported that this White House, the Trump administration, didn't want Sally Yates to testify, did everything they could to silence her. Sean Spicer said, adamantly, that is not the case, we welcome her testimony. Devin Nunes abruptly canceled her hearing. Now, she will speak. Is this something the White House should be concerned about?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND CONTRIBUTING EDITOR "AMERICAN SPECTRUM": I don't think so. Let her speak. I mean, I have said right along, I think that they should get everybody involved in this out there, even an independent commission and let's get it all out on the table. I mean, quite clearly, the notion that the Russians wanted Donald Trump to win the election has not panned out for them, if that's the case.

BERMAN: Well, it may not have panned out the way they wanted it, doesn't mean they didn't want it at the time and didn't work with, perhaps, people who knew the Trump campaign -- not saying there's truth to that, but -- (CROSSTALK) no, that's not true, Jeffrey. They're two different questions. -- What the FBI director said, Jeffrey, was that he was investigating the possibility of collusion between Trump associates and the Russians. He would not do that, he said, unless there was reason to believe --

LORD: Please tell me what votes were turned by the Russians.

BERMAN: Look, I don't know whether votes were turned or not. But again, that doesn't mean there weren't conversations about it. I'm not saying there were, but you know and I know, Jeffrey, that's what's being investigated, full stop right there. And you know this isn't worth, I think, arguing at this late stage of this.

Abby Phillips, where we are in this right now is the House Oversight Committee is looking at documents surrounding Michael Flynn. You have the Senate Judiciary Committee. You're going to hear from Sally Yates, also the House Intelligence Committee. There's just a lot going on all of a sudden, starting again todayish, after a few weeks of relative silence about this. It seems whenever this gets in the spotlight, it does create problems for the administration, trying to focus on other things.

ABBY PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WHITE HOUSE REPORTER "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, it's sort of the slow-burning fire -- (INAUDIBLE) hard for them to push past this because this investigation has been quite slow-moving. And between congressional recesses and the attempt on the House side to really just get their act together, it's been very hard for there to be any concrete progress.

[10:10:04] I will say, though, that it's really important that some of this testimony start to happen, because while there's been so much smoke and just a lot of talk and a lot of questions. There have been very few answers and this will be a rare opportunity, you know, for some real information to be put forward and whether that's going to vindicate the Trump campaign or embolden Democrats or others on the other side, we don't really know. I just think it's important to kind of get this stuff out there. We just haven't had that up until this point.

HARLOW: Maria Cardona, switching gears and switching continents, over to Europe, where Ivanka Trump just faced some really tough questions, a fiery audience at that women's 20 panel in Berlin. How do you think she handled herself? And do you think she gave a non-answer when asked who do you work for, you know, the American people, your father or your business? Do you feel like you have clarity on that from her? MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, absolutely not. She said herself that she doesn't even have clarity on this, which is why I think that this is causing the administration such issues, not just overseas, but here in the United States, where nobody really knows what her role is. And you know, while I feel for her in terms of the kinds of questions that she faces when she's in these forums and she likes to blame it on the media. We know it's not just the media. We know that it's, you know, Donald Trump himself who has caused the situations that she now finds herself in, because of his own actions and his own, you know, horrendous misogynistic comments towards women that he made not just during the campaign, but throughout his life.

And unfortunately, she now finds herself in a position to have to answer both to those, but also to, you know, she talks about how her father has been a champion for women. Well, what does that mean? What policies has he put forward as President of the United States that will actually help women in their economic lives, to raise their children? Has he focused on, has he put forward equal pay for equal work? Has he put forward a real plan for paid family leave? He talks about it, but he hasn't done it. So, right now people are judging him on what he has said throughout his life, which does not bode well for him, his administration, or Ivanka Trump.

BERMAN: You know, Jeffrey Lord, it's interesting. You have to imagine that the White House and probably Ivanka Trump knew that there might be some questions about exactly what reception she would receive overseas, yet they chose to do it anyway. They know some of the polls suggest that Americans are uncomfortable with her exact official role in the White House, yet they choose to do it anyway. So my question to you is what does the White House see as the advantage here? What do they like about using Ivanka Trump like this, Jeffrey?

LORD: Well, I think Ivanka is a tremendous representative of her father and the American people. And of course, there's long precedent. President Kennedy used to send his sisters abroad to represent the American people and of course, his brother, Robert. Hillary Clinton did this for President Clinton and she certainly had a husband who had questionable relationships in terms of dealing with women. So, for family members to go out there and do this is up to the judgment of the president and Ivanka Trump does a fabulous job at it.

HARLOW: Abby? Will there be a demand from the American public for real answers? I mean, how long do you think she can sustain saying, well, I'm new in this role, so I don't really know what it means, I'm just figuring it out? I mean, we're almost at 100 days.

PHILLIPS: Yes. I mean, I think she probably has a little bit more leeway yet. I mean, we're just finally starting to see her come out into the open, publicly doing things. And what's interesting, most interesting about this trip isn't so much Ivanka being pushed out, but rather, being drawn in by foreign leaders like Angela Merkel and others who want to establish better relationships with the United States and see Ivanka as a tool for doing that.

So, she could play a very important role in soothing some of these relationships. There is a lot of anxiety in Europe right now about what Ivanka's father wants to do in the White House. And we're seeing Ivanka taking some baby steps. She's clearly very well-rehearsed, not really doing too much and kind of taking it step by step.

But I think that there is a desire to see how far she can go. At the same time, Ivanka Trump knows that she has to be very, very careful. There is a real issue with her conflicts with her businesses and other issues that she needs to navigate very carefully as she moves forward and you're seeing some of that in a little bit of nervousness in her presentation overseas today.

BERMAN: Maria, very quickly, I just want -- hang on -- I just want to give you last word on the subject of Donald Trump. Did the president back down on the issue of the border wall, now saying he won't demand funding as part of this week's budget negotiations?

[10:15:02] CARDONA: Well, who knows, because we know that this is a hypocritical president who flip-flops every second of every day, so he might put something out on Twitter in the next hour to say that there will be no funding bill if his wall is not paid for. So, we are not sure, John. We'll have to wait and see what happens on Friday.

But I do think that they do understand that if the government shuts down because of his nonsensical demand for this border wall that not even border Republicans, the Republicans who represent Border States, wanted or think that it's a good idea. When the president's party has the White House, the Senate and the House, it would be a horrible step for a pathetic administration who's been able to show no accomplishments in the first 100 days --

BERMAN: A lot of --

CARDONA: -- with the lowest approval rating in history.

BERMAN: Lowest approval rating, yes. There were a lot of value judgments in there, Maria. You got in some hits there. We do have to take a break right now. I do thank all of you for this discussion.

HARLOW: Still to come, the White House is sending -- we're getting some mixed messages on this funding for the wall and the budget from the White House. So, what is the real Trump line -- the real timeline, I should say, for the Trump administration on that?

And fighting words, President Trump calling out North Korea, saying he's not as strong as he thinks, North Korea's leader. Now he's backing up his tough talk with more military flexing of muscles, more on those escalating tensions, coming up.


[10:20:28] BERMAN: A lot going on this morning. On the screen there, you see a man's watch in some kind of container. This is Ivanka Trump somewhere near that watch, --

HARLOW: There you go.

BERMAN: Touring a factory inside Germany. This is part of her trip there. You know, she's been greeted with you know, some turmoil.

HARLOW: Some really tough questions. She was speaking earlier today at this Women's 20 Summit on stage with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, with Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF and she was asked about her father's treatment of women and also about who she works for -- herself, the American people, her father or her business.

BERMAN: She's taking a tour right now. Her day will continue.

Other news developing at this hour, we have some live pictures from Capitol Hill where key members of the House Oversight Committee are behind closed doors. They will go to those microphones very shortly and they will talk about what they have seen or are seeing right now, which is apparently classified documents related to the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. And how he was compensated over time for various trips to Russia and also, perhaps, whatever connections he may have had with the Russians at various levels prior to his departure as national security adviser. So again, we're waiting on that news conference, which happens very, very shortly.

Also, this morning, the White House is backing off demands that funding for the border wall be included in the spending bill to keep the government running past this week.

HARLOW: Right, but the president taking to Twitter this morning insisting he is not reversing course at all on this wall or who's going to pay for it. Our Sunlen Serfaty joins us from the Hill. What are you hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, I think it's very clear that President Trump here did not like the narrative that started to emerge today that he's essentially backing off his position on the wall, one of the big promises of his campaign, saying that he in a meeting with conservative journalists last night, saying that he would be OK to delay the funding for the wall until September.

There are a lot of mixed messages coming from the White House this morning. You have one White House official telling Jim Acosta that Trump does, indeed, want the funding included in this spending bill. Another official, though, telling Jeff Zeleny that he's not going to shut down the government over it, that he would at the end of the day be OK with there being money for border security in general included in this spending bill, not necessarily specifically for the wall.

And this is something that is certainly welcome news to many Republicans on Capitol Hill, many of whom we spoke to yesterday said they want to essentially leave the border wall funding out of this. They'd be OK with some border security funding. Here's Senator Graham.


REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, just be open-minded about border security, because we need it. And there are some things that they want and it's kind of horse trading. So, if you draw a line in the sand, people usually do that, wind up getting more blame than others who don't. So, hopefully, we can find a way to increase border security. And I am for a wall where it makes sense, but a 2,200-mile wall doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There is not a lot of appetite for that, but fencing and walls are part of the plan.


SERFATY: Now, that's the line coming from many Republicans up here on Capitol Hill, but Democrats certainly were united in their opposition to any wall, border wall funding being included in this spending bill. And after last night, we heard that Trump might be amenable to a delay in the funding. There was this statement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, saying, quote, "It's good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations. Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues."

And here you have up here on Capitol Hill, John and Poppy, four days left before this midnight deadline and a lot of mixes messages coming from the White House, a lot of opposition coming from Republicans up here on Capitol Hill and a lot of confusion, most notably coming from the president's Twitter account this morning.

HARLOW: Indeed, Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill. Thank you so much.

Here to talk more about this and this showdown we're seeing is Representative Leonard Lance, Republican of New Jersey and a member of the more moderate Tuesday Group, nice to have you here. Let me just begin with this, Congressman. I kept thinking, hearing that Senator Schumer statement, which is basically saying, good riddance, I'm glad he's not trying to get funding right now for this. As a Republican, do you feel the same way?

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I think that we should continue to make sure our government operates. I never favored a shutdown, but I think there might be some funding for border security that's different from building --

HARLOW: But for the wall specifically, are you happy to see this retreat from the president on the funding right now for it?

[10:25:00] LANCE: I want to make sure, Poppy, that government continues to stay open and border security, but not necessarily funding for the wall itself.

BERMAN: Are you supportive of the notion of a border wall at all? I mean, you have toured the southern border before and this is something you felt, I think, isn't completely necessary.

LANCE: I don't think it's necessary in all 2,200 miles, John. And perhaps there are places, but I have toured the southern border south of San Diego, south of Tucson and in McAllen, Texas and I don't think we need a wall completely across our southern border.

HARLOW: Let me ask you this, given the extensive tour of the region that you've done and we haven't, unless you've done some that I don't know about, John Berman, is there any place that you have seen where a wall is a good use of taxpayer money right now?

LANCE: I'd leave that up to security experts. I am not a security expert. Perhaps there are places, but I don't think we need it across the entire southern border. But I point out that since President Trump has been in office, the numbers coming from the other side have been reduced significantly. And so, I think a discussion on border security is in the national interest of the United States.

BERMAN: All right, one other thing we may get from the White House this week is some clarity on a tax cut proposal, including, we believe, a huge cut in the corporate tax rate, all the way down to 15 percent. Now, I know you support tax cuts. I think you even support corporate tax cuts, but you're also a deficit hawk, a fierce deficit hawk. Now, unless the White House explains how they'll make up the lost revenue in this tax cut, could you support it?

LANCE: I think 15 percent may be aspirational, John. And I'm not sure we can go down to 15 percent. I certainly want to see corporate taxes decreased. I'm not sure we can go down to 15 percent for the reasons that you have suggested.

HARLOW: But is it a little bit more than that? I mean, you're a guy, as John was schooling me this morning on this, your office actually sends back the extra money each year, operating funds, to treasury. I mean, you hate debt and deficits. This, according to the Tax Policy Center, if we see a 15 percent corporate tax rate instituted and you have, you know, the AMT gone, you're going to have $2.4 trillion in lost revenue. It's going to cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade. Can you live with that?

LANCE: Thank you, Poppy, for pointing out that I return taxpayer funds from my account. I am a deficit hawk and I'm not sure we can go to 15 percent. But I do think we should reduce corporate tax rates and perhaps, we can therefore attract some of the profits from abroad that are now frozen abroad and I think that that would benefit the treasury. But I certainly agree with the point that you and John are making that 15 percent might be too low.

BERMAN: Last question, because we have to let you go, sir. The health care bill, the idea, you know, repeal and replace Obamacare, you opposed it as it was discussed before. Has anything come up in the discussions that make you more likely to support it going forward?

LANCE: The answer to that is no. I've seen nothing that makes me want to support it based upon the fact that I want to preserve the protections regarding pre-existing conditions, John. But I would encourage our Democratic colleagues to come to the table, because I do think the exchanges are not in the best of shape. And I would hope that Democrats could come to the table. And we could negotiate in a bipartisan fashion to strengthen the system, purchase of policies across state lines, tort reform, for example. But the current discussion I do not think preserves what I would like to see preserved regarding pre-existing conditions.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Leonard Lance, tight-spending member from the state of New Jersey, great to have you with us, sir. We really do appreciate your time.

A lot of activity on Capitol Hill, I want to show you some live pictures right now at those microphones. Any minute we will hear from the House Oversight Committee on documents they have just been reviewing about the ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

HARLOW: Also straight ahead for us, Wells Fargo CEO, the head of one of the biggest banks in the country, says, yes, bring on tax reform, but make sure it's not just tax cuts, saying this is issue number one for his customers.


HARLOW: Does it happen? If you were a betting man and you put your money on it, does it happen this year?

TIMOTHY SLOAN, CEO WELLS FARGO: I don't know if it's going to happen this year, but I believe it's going to happen.

HARLOW: In this administration?


HARLOW: In these four years.