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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Dealt Another Legal Defeat; North Korea Briefing; Interview With Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 26, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

A.B. STODDARD, REALCLEARPOLITICS: We don't want to bore people, but back to the Bush tax cuts, Republicans lament that they expired after 10 years, because they used a special process to get them through, and they busted the deficit after a certain window of time.

If what Trump talked about today or the treasury secretary tried to get through, they would be up against an incredible sort of procedural hurdle that might not permit them.

So, it's not only what the fiscal conservatives in their own conference will oppose in terms of driving up deficits, because where are the pay-fors, where is the pain for your gain? They didn't describe that today.

It's that also, just by the rules and the process, they might not be able to without Democrats. And where is the work to reach out to them?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Kristen, let me ask you.

Democrats, as you know, are going to bring up, as long as they're talking about taxes, President Trump's taxes and his refusal to release his returns. Do you think that issue will get more or new traction, given that Democrats are going to say, well, we'd like to know how much money President Trump is going to make off of this huge tax cut?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I still think that Trump's personal taxes is an issue that voters are not clamoring to hear about.

They want to know what is going to happen to their own taxes. And so if Trump's tax plan winds up giving tax breaks that are much more generous to folks at the top of the scale than to folks in the middle class, I think that's going to be a much more potent line of argument for Democrats than anything about Trump's personal taxes.

On the other hand, I think if Republicans are going to make the argument that you're going to be able to file your taxes on a postcard or deductions will be more simple or this will make your life easier and put more money in your pocket, I think that can override anything about Donald Trump's personal taxes. TAPPER: And, Abby, as you well know, 10 Democrats in the Senate from

Trump states, states that he won, are up for reelection in 2018.

Will they be -- Democrats have been pretty good at keeping together opposing repealing and replacing Obamacare and that sort of thing. Do you think they will have a tougher time voting against tax cuts?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the same problems that faced those Democrats in the health care fight are going to show up again.

What they're dealing with is a situation where they risk losing their base if they fall in line with Trump too quickly. So they have to do this balancing act. And we saw them really side with the base early on in fights on Gorsuch, on the Affordable Care Act, and I think we're likely to see this again.

This tax plan is a little bit of wishful thinking on some of these ideas. They're a little bit -- they're very vague and also a little bit ambitious. They're going to get refined. I think there are definitely some things in here that Democrats might be OK with, but there are some problems, like getting rid of incentives for homeowners to buy homes the Democrats are going to bring up.

And those changes are going to need to be made if they have any chance. But I don't think you will see a bunch of 2018 swing state Democrats running to Trump, because if they do that, they could risk losing the sort of most energized portion of their base that they need to prop them up going into a midterm that is all about base turnout.

TAPPER: Something we heard from the Bannon wing of the White House today, I'm assuming, has to do with the White House considering drafting an executive order to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Take a listen to what Republican Senator John McCain had to say when asked about his concerns if the U.S. does pull out of NAFTA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Devastating impact on my state.

QUESTION: Such as?

MCCAIN: The devastating impact on my state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: This is, of course, an issue that President Trump talked a lot about as a candidate. Do you take it seriously?

STODDARD: Well, it's interesting.

After his election, senators in leadership, senators in states like Arizona started pushing back quietly with the administration, please don't go too far and kind of tone this down for a while. And they thought they had sort of succeeded in convincing the White House to do that.

Now this sort of comes as a surprise where there's been a big sort of ratchet up the rhetoric with Canada and threats about soft lumber and dairy and everything. But you saw Jeff Flake, the junior senator from Arizona, McCain's delegation mate, tweet immediately this will toss jobs in my state and raise prices for consumers.

And I think there's going to be some strong pushback from Republicans in Congress on this because once you set something official in motion, it's sort of hard to undo. Trump's tactic is to scream and shout and then pull back. It's a negotiating tactic, but there are times when you can't do that. And in this case, I think this is making Republicans very nervous.

PHILLIP: We're also at a moment right now where tensions are really high on both borders with Canada and with Mexico.

We have to remember Trump started talking about the wall again this week, something he told the Mexicans he wouldn't talk about very much, forcing them to pay for the wall. So things are looking very bad for that relationship. Even if the president sets this in motion, it doesn't actually cause the United States to withdraw from NAFTA, but it's a provocation and it's one that's contributing to a sort of deterioration of relationships across these borders.

Long-term diplomatically, that's not a good thing.

TAPPER: Kristen, I want to ask you, on the court's decision to block the president's sanctuary city order, Sean Spicer released a statement saying -- quote -- "San Francisco and cities like it are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands."

[16:35:10]

I'm not sure I have ever seen a statement like that from a White House press secretary.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: In a way, this is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the battle with the courts over the travel ban just a few weeks ago, where you have on the one hand the administration doing something that the courts find to be unconstitutional, the president's and his advisers' own words being used against them to say, look, not only is the text of what you have written here potentially unconstitutional, but the words that you have said are definitely unconstitutional.

And then the White House coming back and sort of being itching for this confrontation then, making it sound like if anything bad happens on American soil, in the case of the travel ban, a terrorist attack now, this in this case a crime committed by someone who is illegally, that it will be on the hands of the judge who made the decision.

Now we have, just like we did with the travel ban, the we will see you at the Supreme Court. This is an exact rerun of what we saw with that first issue where Trump's actions were stopped. I think that the Trump administration frankly doesn't -- I think they would love to see their policies enacted, but short of that don't mind these confrontations with what they view as sort of entrenched liberal interests.

And they view these interests as -- these issues as being political winners for them.

TAPPER: All right, Abby, Kristen, and A.B., thank you so much. Great to have you here.

Senators arriving in Capitol Hill after being briefed by the White House national security team on North Korea. You're seeing a live shot there, this as members of the House are preparing for the same briefing on the Hill.

So what did shatters learn about the growing tensions with Kim Jong- un's regime? We will talk to one lawmaker who was briefed next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:03]

TAPPER: We're back with the breaking news in the politics lead.

The U.S. senators just adjourned a rare briefing from the White House national security team on the situation in North Korea right now.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen was at that briefing. He joins me now.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

Tell us about the meeting. How urgent is the situation?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Jake, it's good to be with you.

And it's been my practice not to comment on the specifics of any classified briefing. And this was a classified briefing at the White House.

I think it's pretty much what you have been hearing in the press, which is that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons. They're obviously in the process of testing different ballistic missiles. And it's really important the United States and our allies and China put greater pressure on North Korea to get them to stop.

Our goal was to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. And we need the Chinese to help us. I actually think the administration needs to be putting more pressure on China to get the job done. I mean, after all, you had President Trump meeting with President Xi down in Mar-a- Lago. I'm hoping the Chinese will begin to do something about it, because there are lots of things they can be doing to put pressure on North Korea that they're not.

TAPPER: Should Americans be bracing for something military to happen between the U.S. and North Korea? Is that something that you're expecting in any way?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I would certainly hope not.

And I believe that we need to bring all the diplomatic and economic tools and pressure to bear on the situation in Korea. Obviously, we have got our strong ally, South Korea. We have American troops there on the border as a trip wire.

But I would caution anybody against any kind of military strike. I do believe that we need to do more to get the Chinese to put pressure on the North Koreans to stop the testing of nuclear weapons and long- range ballistic missiles.

TAPPER: Are the Chinese doing anything? We heard about flights suspended, but then resumed between China and North Korea. There was something about not importing North Korean coal anymore.

There have been some rhetorical devices in state-controlled Chinese newspapers about North Korea going too far, but have they done, have the Chinese done anything that would seriously make Kim Jong-un and his regime reconsider what they're doing?

VAN HOLLEN: Nothing at all that's visible to us, Jake.

Even when it comes to coal, they have somewhat limited their coal imports from North Korea, but they're still ongoing. The real issue is to get Chinese banks to stop being conduits for the North Korean government, and they have not done that.

I actually think this administration, the Trump administration, needs to ratchet up its pressure with respect to Chinese banks who are helping to serve the North Korean economy.

Overwhelmingly, as we know, North Korea's trade is with China. Their economic relationship is with China, and China needs to step up to the plate.

TAPPER: And, Senator, your colleague Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, just said that the impression he got from the briefing was that the U.S. military is ready to act. Was that your impression as well?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Jake, look, again, I'm not going to comment on any specifics of the briefing.

It's been the case for as long as I can remember that the United States military is always ready to act and respond to threats. And that has been standard operating procedure with respect to North Korea and other threats.

That's very different, obviously, than any kind of imminent military action.

TAPPER: Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis and the director of national intelligence, Coats, just released a joint statement on the briefing which reads in part quote, "the President's approach Ames to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear ballistic missile and proliferation program by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners," unquote. The President dropped by the old executive - I'm sorry, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, but then we saw leave about 15 minutes later. Did the President speak?

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, Jake, the President did speak very briefly, some introductory comments, nothing out of the ordinary. But with respect to the statement that was made by Secretary Tillerson and others about ratcheting up the pressure on China, I'm in the process now of exploring bipartisan legislation to really beef up our economic sanctions against China and pass something much closer to what was the Iran sanctions bill, when we were serious about getting Iran to stop its development of nuclear weapons and nuclear material. We had very comprehensive, very biting sanctions, and while the administration currently does have the authority to place much more severe sanctions on Chinese banks that are doing business with North Korea, they are not using those current tools and authority. So I am exploring with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis the idea of putting more pressure on the Trump administration to actually use the economic tools at its disposal.

TAPPER: Before the briefing, there were some democrats who worried no actual substance would be addressed in this briefing, it would just be an inconvenient photo op. Was that your impression, and was there irritation that every senator was bused over to the White House, or does it not matter given the seriousness of what you discussed?

VAN HOLLEN: Look, it is a serious situation. It's serious now, it was serious six months ago. I learned nothing new at this briefing that we're not already familiar with through the newspapers and through the public, but look, anytime people want to get together and talk, that's OK. I'm not quite sure why we went all the way down to the White House. We have an auditorium here in the United States Congress. In fact, the same group of briefers is going to be briefing the entire House of Representatives right here on Capitol Hill in the auditorium. So, anyway, that's the situation.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland, thank you very much. Appreciate your time sir.

VAN HOLLEN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: There are democrats in swing states that swung to Trump, so what do they think of his first 100 days? We're going to visit Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio next.

But first, a look at this week's episode of the new CNN original series "SOUNDTRACKS: MUSIC THAT DEFINED HISTORY.

BACKGROUND MUSIC: I'm in a New York state of mind

DWAYNE JOHNSON, ACTOR, PRODUCER, SINGER, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Music and the artists post- 9/11 are reflective of the many emotions we feel.

BILLY JOEL, MUSICIAN: We ain't going anywhere. We played for an audience of police, firemen and emergency rescue

workers and they needed a boost.

I put a fireman's helmet on the piano just to help me concentrate because if I didn't have that, I might have just lost it.

It is kind of an anthem for New York City. I didn't think of that when I wrote it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The events that transpired defined the music and made it bigger than it was intended to be.

[16:55:00] JOHNSON: The music will always remind us that it is possible.

RANDY JACKSON, MUSICIAN: Somebody's got to put this into words and emotions. That is what anthems are made of.

ANNOUNCER: "SOUNDTRACKS: SONGS THAT DEFINED HISTORY," Thursday at 10:00 on CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: It's the election music, right? We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD." Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, all of them states that went for Barack Obama twice and then went for Donald Trump in 2016. Almost 100 days into the Trump Presidency, how are voters in those states feeling now? This is part of our special series "RED, PURPLE AND BLUE FIRST 100 DAYS." We're talking to voters all across the country. And today, CNN's Miguel Marquez travels to purpose states, key battlegrounds that handed President Trump the Presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you think of his first 100 days?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's shaking things up, I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not failing, but he's, like, stuck in a hard spot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we're all screwed.

MARQUEZ: Three swing states, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania and three counties in them flipping by the biggest margin blue to red. What do their voters think now?

TONY DEBEVC, DEBONNE VINEYARDS OWNER: I think he's sending the right messages in a way, but he doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut.

MARQUEZ: Tony Debevc, third generation farmer and now owner of Debonne Vineyards in Ohio's wine country, a registered democrat who voted for Trump.

DEBEVC: Is he the perfect guy, no, he's not. But he's - MARQUEZ: But you voted for him.

DEBEVC: He was the only guy there that showed sign of change.

MARQUEZ: Nine Ohio counties flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. None by more than here, Ashtabula County. Obama easily beat Romney here by nearly 13 points. Trump did even better, beating Clinton by nearly 19 points. That's a whopping 31.7-point swing.

DEBEVC: I voted out of rebellion of what's happening in Washington.

MARQUEZ: A common refrain, voter frustration at fighting between democrats and republicans.

[16:55:08] J.P. DUCRO IV, ASHTABULA COUNTY, OHIO COMMISSIONER: I'm not willing to bend on that.

MARQUEZ: J.P. Ducro is a new Republican County Commissioner here swept in on the Trump wave.

MARQUEZ: First 100 days in office, how is he doing?

It's a question even some republicans wrestle with.

DUCRO: How do I answer that question? That is a hard question.

MARQUEZ: Ducro says, it is his promise of jobs above all that Trump will be judged on.

DUCRO: We have had a tough time. We lost a lot of manufacturing and industry over the years.

MARQUEZ: Then there's tourist destination and fisherman's paradise, Lake County, Michigan, solidly democratic or at least it was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I'm a true Trump believer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I used to go democrat and I ended up voting for Trump.

MARQUEZ: 12 Michigan Counties flipped blue to red in 2016, Lake County by more than any other. In 2012, Obama beat Romney here by just over five points. In 2016 Trump trounced Clinton by nearly 23. A massive 28-point swing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to cut this tree down and -

MARQUEZ: 37-year-old Shaun Munson had never voted in his life ever until Trump's promise to bring back jobs and fix health care.

SHAUN MUNSON, TRUMP VOTER: I took it as maybe he might try to do like Canada, pay a little extra in taxes and get free healthcare for everybody instead of whoever can afford it.

MARQUEZ: Bridget Lamoreaux own, cooks-in, serves up beers and burgers at Government Lake Lodge. You live upstairs?

BRIDGET LAMOREAUX, TRUMP VOTER: Correct.

MARQUEZ: So you're here 24/7 is what you're saying?

LAMOREAUX: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Trump's promise to lower taxes and create jobs got her on board.

LAMOREAUX: He's very business savvy, and that's what I felt we needed to get into office.

MARQUEZ: And what are you feeling now 100 days in?

LAMOREAUX: I like it. I mean, he's definitely eccentric. I don't - I'm not a fan of the twitter and all that kind of stuff, but I don't care.

MARQUEZ: John Brunn is the local tree trimmer and the only democrat to survive a contested race in Lake County.

JOHN BRUNN, LAKE COUNTY, MICHIGAN COMMISSIONER: Out of 848 votes, I won by 13.

MARQUEZ: Lucky 13.

BRUNN: Lucky 13.

MARQUEZ: He can't account for why the county went so hard for republicans.

This is a democratic county.

BRUNN: It has been for decades.

MARQUEZ: What happened?

BRUNN: I'm not - that's a tough question really.

MARQUEZ: Donna Featherstone, a retired long haul truck driver, now scoops ice cream. The independent voter has no health insurance. She say's Trump scares her but -

DONNA FEATHERSTONE, TRUMP VOTER: If they can get things done, I'm ready to give them a chance.

MARQUEZ: Finally, there's Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, one of only three in the Keystone State to go blue to red. Obama won here by 4.8 points in 2012, Trump easily won the county by more than 19 points, a swing of 24.2 points.

Ann Marie Bossard has worked in the family business Anthracite Newsstand for 53years. She flipped and likes Trump's aggressive foreign policy. ANN MARIE BOSSARD, ANTHRACITE NEWSSTAND OWNER: He's not going to take

no baloney off of anybody. He's going to be - he's going to be - and he's going to - he's going to kick it.

MARQUEZ: Richard and Eileen Sorokas both volunteered and voted for Obama.

You were a democratic county council member for Luzerne County.

EILEEN SOROKAS, TRUMP VOTER: Yes.

MARQUEZ: And you voted for Donald Trump.

E. SOROKAS: Yes. And I'm on the executive committee too for the democrats but I still went for Trump.

MARQUEZ: Both flipped but watching closely.

RICHARD SOROKAS, TRUMP VOTER: He tried to go with the health care act, was really a disaster.

MARQUEZ: At Choco's family bowling, we caught up with commercial pipeline construction worker Andrew Coleman. He has a wife, two kids. They have insurance, he doesn't.

ANDREW COLEMAN, TRUMP VOTER: Right now I don't have insurance through my employer and I can't afford it the way it's going now, so that's a big thing for me. That was half the reason I voted for him.

MARQUEZ: Christine Napierkowski, a republican and mother of two, gives the President so far an eight.

CHRISTINE NAPIERKOWSKI, TRUMP VOTER: I think the President is doing well for someone that has not had - what would you say, government experience before.

MARQUEZ: Clinton voter and veteran Daryl Smith says Trump's lack of experience still worries him.

DARYL SMITH, CLINTON VOTER: He's ticking off a lot of people. I'm afraid that it's going to end up backfiring on us, this is what I'm afraid of.

MARQUEZ: Swing voters still sizing up the new President, but expecting results soon. Miguel Marquez, CNN, in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. Be sure to tune in again tonight for a special primetime edition of THE LEAD at 9:00 p.m. My guest will be House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, breaking the code.