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AT THIS HOUR
Adam Kinzinger Talks North Korea; Extensive Interview with Chuck Schumer; Trump to Address NRA in Atlanta. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired April 28, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R), ILLINOIS: And they're perfecting their intercontinental ballistic missile technology, which, by the way, threatens not just our allies. That would actually threaten the mainland United States. So, it's a very serious situation. A military strike is the next-to-worst option. The worst option is allowing, you know, North Korea to get an intercontinental ballistic missile they could put nukes on.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, with that in mind, Congressman, the secretary of state said in an interview of his own with NPR that the United States is open to direct talks with North Korea. I mean, set aside the fact that this is in direct contradiction to what the White House and the vice president said just last week, what do you think of that possibility?
KINZINGER: Well, I think when the timing's right, it should be a possibility. Ultimately, we want to get to where North Korea does not have nuclear weapons, where we have a denuclearized Korean peninsula. That time for direct talks is not now. We have tried that in the past, and each time it's failed. So, what you're actually seeing play out in real time is how military pressure, a military instrument of power option can be used to back the diplomatic instrument of power option, because when you don't have a credible threat of force, it is almost impossible to get a good deal with an adversary, unless they actually fear you could use that. So I don't think there is any sprint by this administration for military action in North Korea, but what they're making very clear is that that is a possibility if we don't see some diplomatic success.
BOLDUAN: Listen here to what the president said about the North Korean leader specifically, Kim Jong-Un. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's 27 years old. His father dies. He took over a regime. So, say what you want, but that's not easy, especially at that age. I'm not giving him credit or not giving him credit. I'm just saying, that's a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he's rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he's rational.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: There's a couple things there, Congressman. I mean, do you get -- when you heard that, do you think that the president is expressing some kind of sympathy for Kim Jong-Un? I mean, you've literally called Kim Jong-Un literally crazy before.
KINZINGER: He is, yeah. No, I don't know if he's expressing sympathy. I think he's making the point that, yeah, I guess rising to power as a dictator of a country may be a tough job. That doesn't mean Kim Jong-Un is a good person. In fact, he's quite evil.
In terms of the rational thing, I think Kim Jong-Un absolutely is crazy, but that doesn't mean he doesn't think in rational terms. And I think what he's thinking right now is, if I get nuclear weapons, I'll be in the nuke club. Well, he has nuclear weapons now. But if I have the ability to deliver it, I'll be in this club, I'll be protected. So, he's rationalizing the reason to get it, but his behavior is irrational and crazy. You think about say in a comment like we're going to have a super mighty strike against the United States, sane people don't say things like super mighty strikes.
BOLDUAN: You just did. Just telling -- no, kidding, Congressman.
Let me ask you this quickly, because we have to go. Leadership has announced that there's no votes on health care this week. The latest CNN vote count as you as undecided. Has anything changed for you?
KINZINGER: No, still there. We're working through the bill. There were changes. We just saw the amendment a few days ago. And I want to make sure, I think when you're talking about a sixth of the economy, you have to take your time and figure out where to go. So, I'm still there and hopefully will have a decision soon.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you so much for coming in.
KINZINGER: Any time.
BOLDUAN: We appreciate it.
KINZINGER: You bet.
BOLDUAN: For all of our viewers, an update from the House floor. As the Congressman will know, the House just had their vote and gave their stamp of approval on that stop-gap, short-term spending measure to make sure the government does not shut down. But again, this now kicks the can down the road just one week. Negotiations still under way for a broader spending measure to keep the government continually open and funded. We'll get more on that.
So, thousands starting to line up at the NRA conference where, a short time from now, President Trump will become the first president since -- sitting president since Ronald Reagan to address the group. No guns allowed, folks! I know you're wondering. We'll take you there live.
And moments from now, a very big interview live on CNN. The top Democrat in the Senate joining us on North Korea, Trump's remarks about being president and much more. Stay with us.
[11:38:18] BOLDUAN: Let's go live to Capitol Hill right now for a special interview. CNN's Manu Raju's sitting down live on Capitol Hill with the top Democrat in the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer.
Hey, Manu. Take it away.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, thanks, Kate.
And thank you, Senator Schumer, for sitting down with us.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Great to be here, Manu.
RAJU: So, we're heading into day 100, of course, of the Trump presidency.
RAJU: He's talking tough on North Korea. He said last night that there's a chance we could end up having a "major, major conflict" in North Korea. What's your reaction when you hear the president of the United States raise the specter of war?
SCHUMER: I wasn't -- I don't think those were the right words, but even more so, I think he's - handling it all wrong. The only way to really stop North Korea from doing what it's doing short of war is to get China to fully cooperate, because they control all the trade. They control the entire economy, really, of North Korea. My view is to get the Chinese to do something real, you have to be tough with them on trade. Trade is their mother's milk. They care more about economic exports and vitality than anything else. So, when the president's sort of nice to them and says he's backing off without anything, they're not going to help him on North Korea, they're not going to help us on trade.
RAJU: But why would they help if he labeled them a currency manipulator?
SCHUMER: Because they would feel they can't push America around anymore, what they've been able to do for administration after administration. They want something from us. Stop doing that. And the president could say, then behave with North Korea the way you should be.
RAJU: So, you think he should be tougher on China.
SCHUMER: Much tougher. And I'm surprised the great negotiator isn't negotiating very well on this.
RAJU: Rex Tillerson said last night that perhaps it could be direct negotiations with North Korea. Do you think that's the right approach?
[11:40:03] SCHUMER: I don't. I think the right approach is to focus on China in the way I said. RAJU: A number of people, particularly Democrats, are concerned about
him as commander-in-chief, the president as commander-in-chief, particularly with all of these conflicts that are happening around the world. What do you think? Are you comfortable with the president leading the military at a time of war?
SCHUMER: Well, the $64,000 question. He has a team that most people, myself included, like -- Secretary of Defense Mattis, head of the -- I would have really worried with Flynn as head of the National Security Council. Any man who can get up, a general, and lead chants of "lock her up" during the campaign doesn't seem like much of a commander-in- chief or leader to me. But with Mattis and McMaster there, I have faith in them. And the question is, will they resist the president if he's impulsive? And if they do, we can feel pretty easy. Let's hope that happens.
RAJU: Do you trust the president as commander-in-chief right now?
SCHUMER: I think -- well, the president is sometimes impulsive. He does things -- look at this tax proposal. It's not foreign policy, but what I read in the newspaper, he saw an op-ed and then surprised all his staff by saying, we have to put out a tax plan in a week. Now, this is complicated stuff. By acting so quickly and impulsively, he's going to mess up tax reform you know. We've looked at his first 100 days. It's been broken promises after broken promise to the working people of America. The tax bill exemplifies that. It helps the very rich and the very wealthy and doesn't help the middle class. It's the same thing on health care.
RAJU: Do you think he'll be impulsive on foreign policy decisions, military decisions?
SCHUMER: I don't know. I haven't seen that yet, but what gives -- you asked about the administration. I have some degree of faith that Mattis and McMaster are in charge, and they'll be pretty good.
RAJU: So, last night, the president also said this of being president -- "I thought it would be easier," and he said this is more work than in his previous life. What are your thoughts about that?
SCHUMER: Mr. President, you are in the NFL. This is the big leagues. And of course, it's a hard job. It's probably the hardest job in the world.
RAJU: Were you surprised to hear him say that?
RAJU: Through this -- a big distraction, of course, has been this Russia investigation, continued revelations about Russia and the contacts that occurred between Trump officials and Russian officials, allegedly. Do you think this issue of Russia is going to continue to loom over the Trump presidency?
SCHUMER: Yes. If I were giving the president advice, I'd say we should have a special prosecutor or an independent counsel and let them go do their job. It's looming over the presidency significantly. If, if, if -- we don't know -- but if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, that's very, very serious stuff. And there's at least enough evidence to demand a full-fledged investigation. And one thing I'd say to the investigators is look for the facts, but look for the money. There's all kinds of money trails here. We saw this with Flynn, Manafort probably has a money trail. I think this is going to lead to serious, serious stuff.
RAJU: You think a money trail between Trump associates and Russian officials?
SCHUMER: Well, I don't know. He hasn't made his taxes public. We don't know if it's the president, but we certainly should follow -- there's an obligation when there are these serious allegations to follow the money trail with all of these folks.
RAJU: Is there anything that you have seen that suggested or financial links --
SCHUMER: No, it's my instinct.
RAJU: Your instinct. You're a member of the so-called gang of eight. I know you can't reveal top-secret information as perhaps I may like, but --
SCHUMER: Always try to please you, Manu.
RAJU: Thank you.
SCHUMER: But not by revealing --
RAJU: Is what Americans now know about Trump administration interaction with the Russians, is that the extent of it, or are there more meetings, more things --
SCHUMER: You know, I am not going to talk about anything that I might have gotten classified information on.
RAJU: Without getting into the details, can you --
SCHUMER: I'm not getting into the anything.
RAJU: The president has said this whole Russia thing is a hoax. Is it a hoax?
SCHUMER: It's not a hoax.
RAJU: Why do you say that?
SCHUMER: Well, all the things you see in the newspapers. Many of them show serious, serious allegations. That's why we need an investigation. And the American people don't think it's a hoax. Even Republicans don't think it's a hoax.
RAJU: The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has agreed to come before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The White House has acknowledged two meetings that he has had so far with the Russian ambassador and the head of a Russian bank. Do you think there have been more meetings between Kushner and Russia?
SCHUMER: No comment.
RAJU: You have no comment about Jared Kushner?
RAJU: Would you be involved in the questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee?
SCHUMER: I've generally left it to the Senate Intelligence Committee. I think mark warner's doing an excellent job. I think that Senator burr has moved too slowly. He's eventually done the right thing, but he has to be prodded every step of the way, and I don't think that's good.
[11:45:00] RAJU: Would you urge him to step aside from this investigation?
SCHUMER: Well, I have some faith in mark warner, and so far, mark has done things, you know, gotten the things we've need. It's just taken a very long time.
RAJU: You also called on Jeff Sessions to resign as attorney general because he did not disclose those contacts that he had with the Russian ambassador. Do you think they would be worthwhile for Sessions himself to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee?
SCHUMER: Yeah, I think -- look, there are lots of questions about Jeff Sessions. That's why I called for him to resign, and the attorney general's a special office. It's the chief law enforcement of the land. You have to be impeccable. So, if there are outstanding questions about you, as there have been with Jeff Sessions, a, I don't think that person is the right person for attorney general, but b, yeah, I'd be happy if they brought him before the committee and had him testify.
RAJU: Do you know if that's going to be the case?
SCHUMER: Do not know.
RAJU: Some Democrats, perhaps wishful thinking, but they think that this Russia controversy could turn into a full-blown scandal, that it could end the Trump presidency, some think. Congressman Castro, sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said that some Trump associates could end up in jail. Do you agree with any of that?
SCHUMER: I am not going to, again, any parts of the -- since I know many more things that are classified, I'm just not going to comment on it. It's a serious investigation. They ought to follow every lead. If the White House tried to interfere, that obviously would be very, very serious and possibly criminal. I hope they don't, but we ought to just go forward and get to the bottom of it.
RAJU: So, reflecting -- you look back at the first 100 days here. What sticks out to you personally from the first 100 days?
SCHUMER: What sticks out to me is just that the president has campaigned one way as a populist against both the Democratic and Republican establishments, talking to the working people. His presidency has been just dominated by the hard-right special interests. Look at the cabinet. He said he was going to, you know, he picked a cabinet of billionaires, people with conflicts of interest. He was going to clean the swamp? This one was an amazing thing to me! Not only are they going to let people who lobbied and were lobbyists on a special issue work in the White House, but they're going to keep it secret. That's cleaning the swamp? On issue after issue. On tax reform, all for the wealthy people. Health care, big tax cut for the wealthy to cut health care to the individuals when he had promised everyone's going to get health care and get it better. On infrastructure, which would create jobs, we haven't heard a peep out of them, even though we've sent them our Democratic trillion- dollar infrastructure plan. So, the president has really had 100 days. I think it's one of the worst 100 days I've ever recalled for a president.
RAJU: Do you have any --
SCHUMER: And I'd say this, when the president says it's the best, saying in a sense it surpassed Roosevelt, who passed something like 70 laws in 100 days that changed America for a generation, there's an unreality to the whole thing.
RAJU: Do you have any concerns that Wall Street ties of some of the Trump associates?
SCHUMER: Of course, I do!
RAJU: You do. You represent Wall Street.
SCHUMER: That's true, but that doesn't mean they should be secretary of treasury and so many other different offices in the government. And if the policies that the president -- the buck stops with the president, obviously, but if the policies the president had evoked were in consonance with what he campaigned on, helping middle class people, I'd worry less, but they aren't. They aren't. They're in total, total agreement with the hard right. And you know, the hard right has been a powerful force in America. They've been very negative force. They're always attacking, saying don't do this, don't do that. Now they're in charge, because Trump has put them in charge. Their policies are so far away not just from the average American but from the average Republican. If I had to give advice to the president, you'd better break yourself free of the hard right or your next 100 days and all the 100 days after are going to be as big a flop as this 100 days has been.
RAJU: But, Senator, you as -- when the Republicans were in the minority, you called them the party of no. You attacked them for that.
RAJU: Isn't that what Democrats are doing right now? Aren't you the party of no?
SCHUMER: Well, let's see, on health care, all they need -- they're in charge. All they needed was Republican votes to pass it in the House. They were unable to do it.
RAJU: But you guys are opposing him on every turn.
SCHUMER: No. We have given him a path. You know, compromise means working with the other side. It seems the president's idea of compromise, at least thus far, is he comes up with his own plan, never talks to us and says you support it. That's bipartisanship. That's not how America works. That's not how Congress has ever worked. That's not how you negotiate things.
RAJU: Is there any chance the health care bill that's in the House right now, if it passes, it will pass the Senate?
RAJU: You're that confident?
SCHUMER: I don't think so. It is so bad for the average state, for the average working family, that it's very, very hard to see that bill. And by the way, I don't think it would ever get there, because the way they've crafted the bill, these are arcane Senate rules, but it would fail the Byrd Rule. The whole fulcrum of the compromise, which says the states can opt out of pre-existing conditions will fall, as it needs 60 votes.
[11:50:07] RAJU: Senator, we're about out of time, but I want to talk about the president, his attacks on you. He's come after you. Called you the head clown. He tweeted that. Called you a total hypocrite for meeting Vladimir Putin.
SCHUMER: I ignored them. I said before when the president flattered me, which he did, it didn't matter. When the president calls names, which he loves to do I guess, didn't matter either. I go by values. I will not oppose things, as Mitch McConnell did so often, just because the name Trump is on it. But he's got to meet us. He's got to have some of the values that we believe.
RAJU: Have you talked to him --
(CROSSTALK) SCHUMER: I talked to him more now than before. But it's never about the serious issues. I told you about my view on China. He listened. He didn't say anything. I told him on infrastructure we'll work with him but he's got to spend real dollars, not just tax gimmicks and tax breaks, which won't build roads in large parts of America. No answer. In other words, we don't talk about -- he doesn't engage, at least with me, and I think most other Democrats, on the serious issues.
RAJU: Well, Senator, it looks like we are out of time. Thank you so much for sitting down with us.
Kate, back to you.
SCHUMER: Always a pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Manu.
Thank you so much, Senator Schumer.
Great interview, Manu.And great to have him for such a period of time. We really appreciate it.
That's from Capitol Hill.
Let's talk about President Trump. He's about to take off from Joint Base Andrews. He's heading to Atlanta for the annual gathering of the National Rifle Association. The president will be addressing the crowd and we will bring that to you live of course. We'll be right back.
[11:56:14] BOLDUAN: At 14, this week's "CNN Hero" was living alone on the streets. After struggling for years, she was able to create a stable life and dedicate herself with others vulnerable youth in Israel, providing them not only safety, but something more, family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: To be homeless at a young age, it's very lonely. When you don't have your family (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIEID CNN HERO: I know exactly what they're going through. I want children to breath. I wanted to feel alive. I wanted to feel secure. They will not be in danger. We can see it in a different way and win life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: To see more of her story, go to CNNheroes.com. While you're there, you can nominate someone you think should joins the ranks of the 2017 "CNN Hero."
The president hitting the road today heading to Atlanta to address the National Rifle Association's annual gathering. It's the first time a sitting president has spoken to the group since President Reagan back in 1983. And in case, you were wondering, Secret Service has made it clear no guns are allowed in the convention hall while the president is there.
White House correspondent, Athena Jones, is also there.
Athena, what are we expecting to hear from the president today.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORERSPODNENT: Kate, I expect we will hear him talk about the importance of protecting gun rights, something that he ran on. He often brought up the idea that he would be more pro Second Amendment candidate for president than his rival, Hillary Clinton.
We could also hear him talk about steps his administration have already taken to expand gun rights. Rolling back Obama-era regulations such as one that made it harder for people with certain mental illnesses to buy guns, and also an Obama-era ban on the use of lead ammunition on federal land.
We know this is a very pro Trump crowd. I'm told 10,000 tickets were sold.
We know the NRA endorsed Candidate Trump early on and spent millions and millions to help him get elected, especially in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In an op-ed in "USA Today," Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislation Action, praised President Trump, and mentioned that he ran as the strongest Second Amendment candidate in history. I spoke with the NRA spokesperson here who said that the first 100 days -- has been the most successful first 100 days for the Second Amendment ever.
In talking to folks here, they are also singing Trump's praises. I spoke with one gentleman from New York who was especially happy that he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He believes it will protect gun rights -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: One of his big victories in his first 100 days, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Athena, thank you so much.
We'll be back in 60 seconds.
[12:00:10] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.
It is day 99 --