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Trump Praises New Chief of Staff at Cabinet Meeting; Interview with Representative Lee Zeldin; Interview with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Trump Tells GOP Not to Give Up on Replacement. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: My perspective is the big take away here. A lot of the focus on the tension between the Justice Department and White House has highlighted how angry the president is with his AG, but based on a conversation that I had with one of Sessions' confidants a few days ago, the attorney general himself is also deeply frustrated with the White House.

It's a two-way street. It's a two-way tension. These men, in my understanding, neither of them are particularly impressed with the other's behavior. The fact that the president praised so many of the officials in that room but was silent about the attorney general truly speaks volumes.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. You're right. At least in the comments we heard. It is ongoing. I don't know. But in those first comments he didn't say a thing about his attorney general. He had a whole lot to say about his attorney general, not to his face, though, over the past two weeks.

General, to you, back to you. You have worked with and served in Iraq with General Kelly. What's significant about him? Do you think the American people don't know enough about this Monday morning as he takes this huge role in the West Wing?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, what I'll tell you about John Kelly, I did work with him very closely in Iraq. He was in the western part, I was in the northern part, and we worked collaboratively on the area between us. He is what's called a transformational leader. There's transformational leadership theory, it's all about us, we, building a team, showing your character, showing your presence.

He is about to work for a transactional business leader as president. As David Chalian said, that speech this morning was all about marketing and branding. John Kelly is used to action and result.

Truly, Poppy, it's going to be interesting to watch because it's kind of this sort of -- like, not to bring up an old Christmas movie, it's going to -- sort of like watching George Bailey work for Mr. Potter. It's two leadership styles and it's going to be interesting.

HARLOW: You know, sometimes that can be good, though. Right, Tony Blinken? Sometimes it can be good. Stretch one another. Do you see any positives here, Tony Blinken?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, again, I think General Kelly brings a lot of very positive attributes to the job and he's very good at managing complex organizations. He's a strong leader. But the question is, will he have the authority to do what he needs to do which is to get the White House in order? If he does, then it's going to be a step forward.

But meanwhile, as others have said, the world doesn't wait. We've got problems on pretty much every front, starting with the North Korea problem. So even as he tries to get things in order, the White House, the administration has to move forward in a deliberate way in dealing with these challenges.

HARLOW: And because of all those challenges that this White House and therefore this country face, everyone wants to see this president and secretary -- and his new chief of staff, General Kelly, succeed.

Thank you all very much for being with us. We'll bring you more of those White House Cabinet meeting photos and images as we get more.

Meantime, a Republican congressman who says General John Kelly is going to bring discipline to the White House will join me next.


[10:37:20] HARLOW: Right now, the president holding a Cabinet meeting at the White House as his Chief of Staff John Kelly officially begins his job. Things can really make some changes in the West Wing.

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York.

It is nice to have you here. You are optimistic about what Kelly will bring to the White House. Tell us what the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board writes, though, "The shuffling of the staff furniture won't matter unless Mr. Trump accepts that the White House problem isn't Mr. Priebus, the former chief of staff. It is him."

Are they right, Congressman?

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: I think the president respects General Kelly. I believe that -- I don't know of anyone who doesn't respect General Kelly. From a personnel standpoint, he is someone who has a tremendous amount of experience in building teams, developing individuals, identifying strengths and weaknesses, camaraderie, spirit of core, discipline so from that standpoint, you also have in the administration a number of vacancies for different reasons that exist in different agencies. He understands the need to have the leadership in the right places throughout an entire organization. From a policy --


HARLOW: Hold on. My question, though, was, is the editorial board right in saying that he cannot flip the script in the West Wing unless the president realizes that he himself needs to change some things? Is there merit to that argument?

ZELDIN: I think that the script is flipped as of today. Right now, General Kelly will be able to hit the ground running. As far as the president goes, there are certain qualities and aspects of leadership style that the president isn't going to change. It's going to be important for General Kelly in this new capacity to make it all work. And there are people within the White House and in other agencies and, you know, members of the media and the American public.

A lot of people are set in their ways and you try to make it -- you try to make it all work from a personnel standpoint.


ZELDIN: Go ahead.

HARLOW: So, Congressman, there was some interesting criticism from your fellow Republican senator -- Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Not a favorite of the president, we know. But here is what he said yesterday on CBS about the party as a whole and Republicans, they need to stand up to the president. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Republican leaders are complicit in this if they don't call out their president?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I do think so. I think that, you know, obviously the last thing you want to do is wake up every morning and see a tweet and think I just -- you know, it's tough not to just say, I'm not going to respond and we can't respond to everything, but there are times when you have to stand up and say, I'm sorry, this is wrong. There are truths that are self-evident.


[10:40:08] HARLOW: Is he right? Do you believe you have stood up and opposed some of the things the president has said? Some of your fellow Republicans have as well and some have not. Does Senator Flake have a point?

ZELDIN: Well, there's no doubt that regardless of whether or not the president, even he's in your own party, where you certainly agree with him. You speak up and you try to support the agenda where you disagree. It's important to speak up on issues that are especially important whether it is for your district or your state or for your country. So I would encourage anyone and I encouraged my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who had the dynamic of the president of their own party.

We see it now with Republicans on my side of the aisle, the president of our own party, that we weigh in on these issues based on what is right for our country and for our district.

HARLOW: Some do. Some do and others say I'm not going to weigh in on -- you know, on the tweets, et cetera. But the tweets are policy and official White House statements.

Before you go because you sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the president just addressed North Korea in his Cabinet meeting saying North Korea will be handled, we handle everything. Given the latest missile test from North Korea on Friday, given the range, given its capability, it is believed in the near term would be able to reach some major U.S. cities, what do you want to see the president do next on North Korea?

ZELDIN: Well, we are going to need to continue to pursue the diplomacy information economics of the principle. And we're going to continue to try to get China to exert leadership effort. It's one that multiple administrations have tried. The absolute last possible --

HARLOW: What do you concede -- wait, wait. Wouldn't you concede, Congressman, that the status quo what has been attempted so far by the Obama administration and then the Trump administration isn't working because North Korea is advancing at a very rapid cliff, its capability and its rhetoric?

ZELDIN: It hasn't been working, you are right. And you know, as we continue to brainstorm options for applying economic pressure on the North Koreans, utilizing multilateral diplomacy, every time you do an analysis of those options, I haven't come up with -- I haven't heard of any scenario that doesn't apply to China because North Korea -- if you want to put economic pressure on the North Koreans, you know, a nationwide debt they rely on so desperately.

And so with military as an absolute last possible option, one that you do not want to have to get, there is a red line, in my opinion, that North Korea can never have the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States. And maybe you were a year and a half, three years away, I don't know how far North Korea is from that capability. We can't let them get there.

And that's why we are going to continue to pursue these other options, even if it's been a huge challenge and a lot of unsuccessful attempts that we'll just continue to try to crack the code on.

HARLOW: Congress Lee Zeldin, I appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

HARLOW: A sign bipartisanship could be alive and well in Washington? Does a Democratic senator think she might have an ally in the Trump White House?


HARLOW: Do you feel like you have an ally in this White House, in Ivanka Trump on this?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Well, we have to see. We need President Trump to support this more than anything. (END VIDEO CLIP)


[10:47:52] HARLOW: A new report this morning that Ivanka Trump is tempering expectations on how much she can actually influence her father's policy. Politico reporting people close to both Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner say she's aware of the criticisms she faces in failing to move her father on some key issues, but that she's still pushing hard they say to keep paid leave her key initiative in the 2018 budget.

That's an idea a whole lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill are embracing. It's an issue that Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been pushing for years. So the question this morning, does she see an ally in the Trump White House on this. I asked her.


HARLOW: You know that 80 percent of Americans right now don't get any form of paid leave so you proposed the Family Act. If you can get this thing through, and it's going to be a tough sell, if you can get it done, what will it fundamentally change for all Americans?

GILLIBRAND: It will help the economy grow and it will make sure that more members of families can stay in the workplace longer, particularly affects women. For a lot of women, every time they have a child, anytime anyone in their family gets ill, whether their parents are ill or suffering from cancer, they often feel they want to ramp off, they want to be there for their loved ones.

And if you don't have any sick days or you don't have any vacation days, sometimes you just can't because you have to choose between putting food on the table and providing for that loved one. And so this makes it possible for women to stay in the workplace longer, for all family members to stay in the workplace longer, earn their full potential, help the economy grow.

And what we know is, because we don't pay leave in this country, women lose about $320,000 in their lifetime and men lose $280,000 in their lifetime because of this rapping on and rapping off.

HARLOW: What you're proposing is a tax, it's about a $4 a week tax, $2 from the employee, $2 from the employer. How do you get that through a Republican-led Congress?

GILLIBRAND: Well, because it's not a lot of money, people support it. You poll America on this idea, overwhelming Democrat, Republican, women, men they support this. So the country already moved on. Congress on its best day is 20 years behind the rest of the country. So we're where we need to be in terms of a nation. We want it. Every other industrialized country has it. And we know it's good for families and we know it's good for the economy.

[10:50:03] HARLOW: I was just reading this new study -- relatively new Pew study. It's from 2016. And what they found is of the Americans, Democrats and Republicans, they overwhelmingly support paid leave. They also overwhelmingly supported it being funded through employers only.

GILLIBRAND: Well, when you ask them, would you spend $2 a week so that you could be with a newborn, that you could be with your mother if she's diagnosed with breast cancer, so that you can be with your spouse if he's injured at work, I think people say yes. It's such a small amount of money, it's .2 percent of their income. On average, $2 a week. And when I talk to the employers and say, would you spend $2 a week on each employee so they have this?

They say yes. It's the cost of a cup of coffee a week. That's the kind of math people will buy into and say I will be for this because it's affordable. It's $104 a year per employee. It's not a lot of money.

HARLOW: Would this mean that some of the minimum wage workers in this country at fast food restaurants, for example, hourly workers, even if they are not full time would get --


GILLIBRAND: Yes. All workers.

HARLOW: Would get 12 --


HARLOW: Twelve weeks paid leave for a new child?

GILLIBRAND: Yes, they would. Part time workers, full time workers, big companies, small companies.

HARLOW: OK. Ivanka Trump has written about this. She's put her own proposal forward in her latest op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" earlier his month. She pointed out that only 6 percent of workers in the bottom income quartile, right, the bottom 25 percent, have access to paid leave, only 6 percent. Those are the folks, frankly, as you know, Senator, that need it more than you do or than I do.

Do you feel like you have an ally in this White House, in Ivanka Trump on this?

GILLIBRAND: Well, we have to see. We need President Trump to support this more than anything. And I'm grateful that she's spoken out about it and that she's working towards it. I think the way I have written the bill is far superior because it applies to everyone and it applies to all life events, which is really important.

And unfortunately the way that Ivanka has offered to pay for it is through state unemployment insurance. And state unemployment insurance has to pay for unemployment. There's not enough money there, and so it's unpaid for. So this is paid for. It's self- funding, it's self-sustaining and it's affordable.

HARLOW: Is there -- you know, the word of the year I suppose a lot of Americans would like to hear more of is compromise. Right? So is there an area of compromise for you where you can meet her in the middle on this one?

As you know, your Republican counterpart, Senator Marco Rubio, has also proposed a form of paid leave, that is more of a tax credit to companies that give it. But is there a middle ground for you, Senator, do you think?

GILLIBRAND: Well, all the other ideas that we've heard about are fine first steps. They're just not national paid leave. So my job this year is really to work hard to find a Republican lead in the U.S. Senate. I'm very eager to do that and I have met with several Republicans. And I'm optimistic, I will get Republican lead.

HARLOW: Who? Give us -- make some news. Break some news here.

GILLIBRAND: Well, there's no news yet.

HARLOW: Who is on your side most in the Republican Party?

GILLIBRAND: I bet you could guess all those names yourself. But I'm hoping --

HARLOW: OK. I'm going to throw a few of them out there. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski? Am I -- anything?

GILLIBRAND: Perfect. They're awesome women, and I'm hoping that I will work with both of those women on paid leave. And there's others. There's some men as well. I really think there is --

HARLOW: Rubio? Rubio?

GILLIBRAND: I talked to Marco about this. And he said he would look at the bill. He wanted to do just a tax credit or a tax deduction, which is great for businesses that are already offering it. But it doesn't bring in new businesses. If you can't afford it, you can't afford it.

HARLOW: Are you more optimistic -- as we wrap up, Senator, are you more optimistic now than you were, say, a year ago on this thing?

GILLIBRAND: I am. You know, my goal two years ago was just that this issue would be debated in the presidential debates. It was. It was supported by two Democratic candidates and two Republican candidates had their versions of their own bill. That's important. And so this is something we have been debating on a nonpartisan basis now for a couple of years. And so the American public are with us. So I think we should really focus on what's the right solution and try to move that forward.


HARLOW: My thanks to Senator Gillibrand.

Coming up, think Republicans are going to give up on that repeal and replace of Obamacare? You can think again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:58:13] HARLOW: President Trump opens fire with a two-pronged threat this morning on health care, one to members of Congress, his own party, and the other to insurance giants.

Our national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill.

So this thing ain't over.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not by a stretch, it is not over yet. And Poppy, this is really a combination of threats, cajoling, shaming if you will members of Congress.

The president in a series of tweets over the weekend saying that they've got to get this done despite the fact that it died last week. The latest tweet this morning saying, "If Obamacare is hurting people and it is, why shouldn't it hurt the insurance companies and why should Congress not be paying what public pays?"

He is talking ability what he calls the bailout of insurance companies and members of Congress. Most members of Congress get their insurance through the D.C. Exchange. And that is subsidized by the federal government in part through Obamacare.

But what we're hearing is that the president now threatening that they could pull government subsidies that they give to insurance companies to help cover the poor but also elect not to enforce the mandate under Obamacare.

Now this, of course, is a hot political item, both sides of the aisle trying to blame the other side. Just listen to this from early this morning.


REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: They are going to wear it, you know? We said to America and America agrees, Obamacare has failed, it's failing, it's imploding. I have suggested to the president we absolutely end the cost-sharing revenues on Tuesday, that's tomorrow, to insurance companies.


MALVEAUX: And Poppy, some other Republicans like Senator Susan Collins trying to find a bipartisan fix -- Poppy.

HARLOW: I think every American would like to see bipartisanship on this one.

Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill, thank you so much. And thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman will be back with us tomorrow. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan begins right now.