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President Trump May Not Demand Border Wall Funding in Budget Negotiations; Ivanka Trump Visits Germany; State Dept. Removes Mar-a- Lago Promotion Post. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:04] JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: However, the fact of the matter is there may have been no other option.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: President Trump signaling a willingness to drop his demand for Congress to include a down payment for his border wall in this week's must-pass spending bill.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We feel very confident the government is not going to shut down.

JOHNS: The president now telling conservative journalists he is open to delaying wall funding until September's negotiations just hours after touting the importance of a wall on Twitter. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer calling the decision good for the country as skeptical Republicans also welcome to the shift.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm for a wall where it makes sense. But a 220-mile wall doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There's not a big appetite for that.

JOHNS: The administration continuing to insist that ultimately Mexico will fit the bill for the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is there even a discussion about shutting down the government over paying for the wall? Isn't Mexico supposed to pay for the wall?

SPICER: I think, Jim, the president has made clear that initially we need to get the funding going and there will be several mechanisms to make sure that that happens.

JOHNS: But the president is trying to deliver on one of his key campaign promises, proposing to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. He will unveil details of a tax cut plan tomorrow, setting up a potential clash with Republicans concerned about the impact these cut will have on increasing the deficit.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth. JOHNS: The administration arguing that the sweeping cuts which go

beyond the plan put forth by House Speaker Ryan will pay for themselves, a theory economists don't buy. Meanwhile, the Trump administration hitting five Canadian companies with stiff tariffs of up to 24 percent on lumber shipped into the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross saying it has been a bad week for U.S./Canada trade relations, stoking fears about a future trade war with America's second largest trading partner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: On the foreign policy side, the administration continues to keep its eye on North Korea. There was a big artillery drill there overnight. Also last night the president telling conservative journalists he's not so sure Kim Jong-un is as strong as he says he is. The entire United States Senate expected here at the White House tomorrow for an unprecedented briefing on North Korea.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Joe, thank you very much.

Let's have ourselves a little bit of a raucous caucus. Let's bring in Chris Cillizza, reporter and editor at large for CNN politics, and CNN political analysts David Drucker and April Ryan. So Cillizza, what are we seeing with this border wall? We had Marsha Blackburn here on the show. She got all twisted up trying to keep it alive in saying reasons why you need the wall and that Congress will find a way to deal with it fiscally. Nobody saying that they want the wall in a big way right now, and nobody is saying that they are going to find a way for Mexico to pay for it, are they?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: No. Look, Donald Trump on the campaign trail, one of his favorite lines and one of his audience's favorite lines was "Who is going to pay for the wall?" and the audience would say "Mexico." But anyone who is familiar with the way in which the federal government works knew, number one, we can't make Mexico pay for the wall, breaking news, and number two, the Congress as constituted, particularly with Republicans in control, isn't simply just going to say, you need $1.4 billion? No problem. The Republican Party, at least in theory, built its case on fiscal responsibility, on the need to drive down the debt, on the need to slash government spending.

I just don't know that there is $1.4 billion for a wall. I certainly am suspect there is $15 billion or $20 billion, which is the estimated cost, all based on a promise, a just trust me promise from Donald Trump that we'll get Mexico to pay once we pay for it first. I think it was always going to be a hard sell. The idea you could push it out on a Thursday and get it past the following Thursday is ridiculous. And I think it is always going to be tough to sell it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But April, we just sat down with die- hard Trump supporters. They didn't think the wall was a metaphor. They didn't think it meant a virtual wall. They didn't think it was just a Pink Floyd album. They thought it was a real promise. And, so, what does it mean if it never happens? APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was a real promise, and

if it never happens, it depends upon what side of the spectrum you are on. For those WHO really want to deal with the immigration issue, when you talk about the wall, that's one piece. Yes, the 2,000 mile stretch of the southern border is porous, but what do you do with it? This cost of this wall explodes the budget. Again, like Chris just said, fiscal conservatives are very upset.

But when you deal with the issue of immigration, that's just one portion of the immigration issue, the southern border. Immigration is a problem in this nation, and the fix is not just this wall. It is about people who are overstaying their visas as well and other issues. So this is just one piece, a very important piece, but still one piece of the puzzle nonetheless, and it is a very, very expensive piece. So I can understand why the president wants to back away, because if you drill down in it, the devil is in the weeds.

CUOMO: All right, Drucker, we see the next major effort is on us and it came out in a little bit of a surprising fashion with tax reform. Not what we were hearing about. It is not redoing everything. They seem to be trying to get around not having the cost savings from health care and coming up with something that would pay for itself. Corporate tax rate being brought down to 15 percent, it will pay for itself because it will increase economic growth and therefore pay for it. Is it an easy sell?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's an easier sell than tax reform. Look, I think what we learned from the health care debate is that Republicans are not going to march in lockstep to where the president wants them to go. And so what Republicans were looking ahead to was a fight over tax reform that is just as difficult and just as politically complicated as health care reform if not more so. So how do you solve that problem so you don't end up doing nothing and have a second major, major campaign promise go down the tubes?

You settle on tax cuts, because Republicans can get behind tax cuts and I even think broadly speaking they can get behind the idea that we'll score it dynamically, as we like to say. In other words, we project what the economic growth is going to be. All that revenue comes in. That pays for the tax cut. That allows you to do this through reconciliation. It only lasts 10 years, but it is a mechanism. Why go from 35 percent all the way to 15 percent? Because if you are not going to do reform, you need something dramatic enough that you can score as having economic growth into the three percent and four percent range.

CUOMO: Why not include small businesses? They're the true engine of hiring in this country, and you'd show you are for the small guy?

DRUCKER: He is going to do that. What we don't know yet, and look, I was talking to Republicans yesterday, they really don't know what to expect from President Trump tomorrow. They think it is possibly going to be very light on details, light on specifics, and more of the same bullet points.

What you will see Republicans advance beyond the corporate tax cut is a tax cut on individuals. So many millions of small business owners file as individuals. Years ago I was one. It is a really big deal. And so they are going to cover both. But I think the news here, and it's not new news anymore really, is that you are not going to see major tax reform. You are going to see big tax cuts because I think that's the only way Republicans can get consensus.

CAMEROTA: That's a problem because even Republicans, if you look at the Tax Policy Center's crunching of the numbers that we just put up, Chris, they say if you lower from 35 percent to 15 percent, you lose $2.4 worth of revenue in just the first decade. So the deficit goes up. So what does that mean for the fiscal hawks?

CILLIZZA: And you heard Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary yesterday, essentially say, look, it is going to pay for itself because the economy is going to do better, economic growth. That's going to be the argument because, to David's point, that's the only argument that they could make at this point. Money has to go from somewhere or come from somewhere.

How does it go over? Golly, it's a real battle because it is between tax cuts, which as Dave notes, is something Republicans broadly speaking are in favor of, but also this promise of economic growth but not a certainty, which means they could be adding to the deficit, which again, this is like the border wall. This is a party that has theoretically built its spine over the last 20, 30 years on fiscal responsibility, fiscal conservatism. We can't keep having the government spend more and more and more money.

My guess is a tax cut does probably go through because they think it's good politics and because they think it's something that they can get away with saying we've accomplished this. We've given you more money in your pocket for an administration and a Republican Congress that to date hasn't done all that much legislatively.

CUOMO: April Ryan, metrics for the first 100 days -- go ahead. Make your point. What do you have, April?

RYAN: Yes. Basically, I hear what was just said about taxes, but when you deal with the economy and base everything on the economy, the economy fluctuates, and this prediction is not necessarily solid and sound. And you have a lot of fiscal conservatives again very upset. And this evening, or sometime today, the president will be meeting with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to give a broad overview of what he's going to announce tomorrow. And still there is a big difference between what Congress wants and what the president wants. And it's all about the money, the dollars, and fiscal conservatives are not happy about this one, too.

[08:10:00] CUOMO: As often as not you will see when companies get a tax cut and they have more money, they pass it on to shareholders. They don't hire.

April, let me ask you this, though. Metrics for the first 100 days, is it fair to look at the staffing issues that still exist, doing the work of government, working as liaisons with the legislators, enacting these executive orders? There's 470 of 576 key positions not filled. How does that reckon with past administrations in your estimation?

RYAN: Well, there is still a lag in those first few days, those first few weeks, those first few months. This is still a new administration. Although it feels like he's been here for a couple of years, it's still very new.

And with this president there is a learning curve on a lot of levels. And with that there is a learning curve there. They are still working diligently. I have heard about a lot of leaders who are handing papers in to this administration with lists of names. So they are listening to people trying to fill these positions. They are working diligently. But at issue, some people really just don't want to come into this administration because of the controversies about this administration.

CAMEROTA: OK, panel, thank you for tackling all of today's issues with us. Here is another story for you. Ivanka Trump in Germany this morning. This is her first international trip as a White House adviser. The first daughter was invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to speak at a women's empowerment summit, and that's where we find CNN's Kate Bennett. She's traveling with Ivanka. She joins us live from Berlin. How is it going over there, Kate?

KATE BENNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. Well, Ivanka Trump is still speaking on this panel inside and she's talking about women's empowerment, women's entrepreneurship, issues like that that Angela Merkel specifically wanted her to discuss on this panel.

However, it is also a bit of a fiery start. Right away, the moderator asked her what her role specifically entailed in the White House. And Ivanka Trump said this role is unfamiliar to me, too. It is very new to me. And then later on she spoke a bit about her father's role with women and how he's a champion of families and working with him, and the audience got a bit noisy at that. There was some hissing and some polite I guess booing. Then at that point Ivanka decided to respond to those critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: He's been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive in a new reality of -- I certainly hear the criticism from the media. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BENNETT: So that was Ivanka Trump speaking just minutes ago here in Berlin on this panel, questioned about her father's role and his path with him and how he empowers him and some of his employees, and Ivanka defending him. The president tweeted to his daughter this morning saying how proud he is of the work she's been doing, in response specifically to an op-ed she wrote yesterday about these women issues and how important women are to a global economy. These are Ivanka Trump's main issues so far as she steps her toe a little bit into this global stage as part of an official emissary for her father's administration. Later she will talk about Technology Academy and talk a little bit about STEM research. And then later this afternoon she visits the Holocaust Memorial here in Berlin to pay respects. But again, this panel off to a bit of a rocky start for Ivanka.

CAMEROTA: That was interesting. When you heard the grumbling there in the room and she said, "Well, I've heard the criticism, certainly from the media," that was actually from the room. Those were from participants. That wasn't the media. You can't pivot away to only the media being critical.

CUOMO: You can try. You've got to remember, it depend on what you audience is. She is not in as receptive an audience here as your panel discussion. With that group, they can say whatever they want. They can blame it on whatever they want. But not to be underestimated, this is a tough spot for this person to be in.

CAMEROTA: My gosh.

CUOMO: She is with the head of the IMF, the chief financial officer for Canada.

CAMEROTA: Angela Merkel.

CUOMO: And it raises the question, are these the types of positions Trump's children should be in? A legit question.

All right, a State Department blog promoting President Trump's Mar-a- Lago resort, it's true. Were ethics rules violated? They're saying that's the standard. If the president meets the standard every time, does this? We dig deeper.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:18:34] CAMEROTA: The Trump administration is facing criticism after this State Department post touting all of the merits of the president's Mar-a-Lago estate as the, quote, "Winter White House". This post was removed last night, but the ethical concerns remain.

Let's discuss with CNN political commentator and former congressman, Jack Kingston, and CNN contributor and Obama White House ethics czar, Ambassador Norman Eisen.

Good morning, gentlemen.

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Kingston, how is that not just a commercial for Mar-a-Lago? It talked about how great it is, all of its golfing facilities, it is the winter house. KINGSTON: You know, I'm in agreement with you. I think it was

flowery. It was fluffy. It did not talk about what I would be looking for if I was looking on a website. I would want to know proximity to airport, availability to Wi-Fi.

But this did sound like a real estate ad, which is why the White House took it down and which is why I recommend that the White House investigate it.

As I understand it, it is part of a $72 million basically a bait-click promotion that the State Department was using to try to drive people to their web page. Why that would be necessary is far beyond me. I do not -- I know it was not directed from the White House. This was a carry over, and I would not say this was all the Obama administration.

Other administrations do this sort of thing. When I was set on the appropriations committee, the Department of Agriculture did this.

(CROSSTALK)

[08:20:00] CAMEROTA: Wait a minute. There was no such thing. There was no equivalent to Mar-a-Lago before now. So, what do you mean they could have done during this Obama presidency? He wasn't driving people to pay at his childhood home in Hawaii to see it and making money off of it?

KINGSTON: Well, no, this -- I really think this was a lower level -- keep in mind the State Department did not have a spokesman. I think a spokesman has now come on board. But at the time that this -- there was no spokesman. These were interim staffers.

But, you know, I think they felt like this is a way to get people around the world to look at what the State Department does in America and I don't think it was appropriate. Let me underscore that. But it's part of a $72 million promotion program that was in place that President Trump inherited. He's going to do away with this program.

CAMEROTA: OK, there you go. He's going to do away with the program. He took down the blog post. White House didn't know about it. Are you satisfied?

EISEN: Well, Alisyn, unfortunately, President Trump feels as if he's inherited a multitrillion dollar promotion program called the United States government.

And if this were an isolated incident, it still would need to be investigated. I have to disagree with the congressman. We don't know who ordered it or why it was ordered and the inspector general of the State Department should, and I'm confident will take a look at this.

But it's part of a much larger problem. It starts with the president himself, myriad of conflicts, violating the Constitution by accepting foreign government and federal and state cash benefits. That is not allowed.

Then you have the president's daughter and son-in-law. It goes on -- it is illegal.

KINGSTON: He's not accepting cash from foreign governments.

(CROSSTALK)

EISEN: Congressman, he is.

CAMEROTA: Specifically, what do you mean that he's accepting cash from foreign governments? At his hotel?

EISEN: He's accepting cash at his hotel at the old post office hotel and his other properties around the world. He's accepting --

CAMEROTA: OK, OK. Hold on.

EISEN: Let me speak, please.

CAMEROTA: You made your point. Hold on, Mr. Eisen.

So, Jack, what about that? That's a business transaction right there.

KINGSTON: Let me say, there are legitimate questions with anybody in elected office in terms of their assets and their government guidelines to this and this administration is going to do everything it can to comply and they will.

CAMEROTA: Yes, what about the hotels? He's taking money from foreign governments staying there. What about that?

KINGSTON: That's not illegal. This is a business asset and people come and pay the normal price. They're not getting some cut, right? And the president doesn't pocket money.

There's so many legitimate --

(CROSSTALK)

EISEN: Congressman, what about the trademarks? What about the Chinese trademarks? While he said -- President Trump -- President Trump said he was going to challenge the one China policy. China turned around and gave him a trademark that he had been denied for years.

Oh, lo and behold, he changes. He's back to one China. His daughter -- congressman, his daughter -- Congressman, please. Congressman, let me finish.

His daughter is sitting at dinner with Mr. Trump and the Chinese president. She receives three Chinese trademarks.

CAMEROTA: OK, go ahead, Jack.

KINGSTON: It could possibly be that China, one of our largest trading partners and one of the largest economies in the world, is working on us on the thug government of North Korea and pulling in the reins of Kim Jong-un. I think that's extremely important and I don't think it has to do with business or personal gain. I think it has to do with not just national security, but world security.

And I'm very proud of the relationship he's building with China. It is extremely important.

CAMEROTA: But, Congressman, back here at home, let's do something we could all get our minds around. This is simple math. President Trump raised the initiation fee on Mar-a-Lago after he became president from $100,000, which is a pretty penny, to double that, to $200,000. How is that not just cashing in?

KINGSTON: Well, I don't know anything about how Mar-a-Lago sets its membership fees. I'm not a member of an exclusive club, but I can tell you this, that a $200,000 membership fee is not unusual. That's what the Hollywood --

CAMEROTA: No, but raising while you're president. It's not -- I mean, this is all complicated --

KINGSTON: He's a billionaire. He's not trying to make money off of Mar-a-Lago. That's why a lot of people voted for him because they know he can't be bought you have.

He's not -- as was suggested, he doesn't feel like he's in charge of some enterprise. He's already made his money and not trying to sell Mar-a-Lago.

EISEN: Of course he is.

(CROSSTALK)

EISEN: Jack, of course he is. He spent a third of his presidency at Mar-a-Lago.

[08:25:01] CAMEROTA: Let's put it up for everybody so they could see it. This is where Mr. Trump has spent his days at a Trump property. So, Mar-a-Lago as well as other Trump hotels, golf courses, et cetera. Go ahead, Norm. Make your point.

EISEN: He and his family have broken a 40-year bipartisan practice of cutting off all financial ties. Of course, they are trying to nakedly exploit the presidency for their gain and it's spread throughout a cancer throughout the administration. This Mar-a-Lago ad the State Department put up knew was wrong, they took it down when I and others complained. It wouldn't be so bad if it were over 100 days and over 100 ethics violations.

It is not just Trump and Ivanka and Jared that we have questions about. It's spread throughout the White House. (INAUDIBLE) Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and the cabinet.

KINGSTON: They're not using the White House for personal gain. I'm sorry the left wants that issue and they feel it is very important.

EISEN: Wait a minute. It's not a left issue. The bush administration has criticized it, too. It has been equally criticized by Trump. (CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: If Ivanka was a liberal women, they would be huddling around her and protecting her and accusing everybody of sexism. But because she's a Republican --

(CROSSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: What does that have to do with it, Congressman? Really? What does have to do with whether or not he's trying to make money on Mar-a-Lago?

KINGSTON: I don't see him trying to make money off of Mar-a-Lago. If he says why does the president or why did President Obama need to go to Hawaii so much? I think that's a legitimate question. That's what Camp David is for. And I think that's what the left should talk about.

But the Trump family -- they are billionaires. They do not need to make money off of Mar-a-Lago. That's where he prefers to do business.

CAMEROTA: Fine. We'll see if the initiation fee goes to charity.

EISEN: I have a point about it.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, we have to go.

Norm, Jack --

EISEN: Thank you, Alisyn. Thanks, Jack.

KINGSTON: Love you, brother. Good to see you.

EISEN: Right back at you.

CAMEROTA: Chris?

CUOMO: All right. So, the president plans to reveal his tax plan, at least in the broad strokes tomorrow. One headline we get is the corporate tax is going to be cut in a big way. Is that good for you? We'll debate the numbers next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)