Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Delivers His First State of the Union Speech; A 6.1 Earthquake Strikes Afghanistan. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 31, 2018 - 03:00   ET


[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Hello, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. This is CNN news now.

A strong earthquake has struck in northern Afghanistan. The U.S. Geological Survey says it was a 6.1 magnitude tremor, centered about 35 kilometers south of the city of Jarm.

A CNN producer said she felt the quake in Islamabad, Pakistan, and that her building was being evacuated. So far there are no reports of damage or injuries.

Donald Trump says he won't repeat the mistakes of past U.S. presidents by being complacent on North Korea. In his first state of the union address, Mr. Trump condemned the cruel dictatorship of Kim Jong-un and he called for rebuilding and strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The president say he will keep open the military detention center of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. His predecessor Barack Obama had pledged to close that facility. President Trump sayse he wants Congress to ensure the U.S. has all the necessary power to detain terrorists wherever they are captured.

And those are the headlines. Stay tuned now for a replay about special coverage of Donald Trump's first state of the union address.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: To our viewers here in the United States and around the world we're awaiting the president's first state of the union address. We have live coverage here on CNN. The president's cabinet has just been introduce they're walking down. You see Dr. Ben Carson there, the secretary of housing as well.

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: And of course, obviously, as this tradition for decades now there's one member of the cabinet that does attend the state of the union in case the absolute unthinkable happens so somebody can carry out the government.

And tonight, that individual is the secretary of agriculture, the former governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue. He is in a secure location, watching the state of the union take place.

BLITZER: He's called the designated survivor. It's been a tradition. Very often it's the secretary of agricultural who is the designated survivor.

TAPPER: I did not know that.

BLITZER: Dan Glickman was the secretary of agriculture during the Clinton administration, he was once the designated survivor as well.

TAPPER: It has to be somebody that could serve as president, so it can't be somebody that was born abroad.

BLITZER: That's correct. That's why Elaine Chao, for example, could not be a designated survivor as well.

And let me bring Kate back in. Kate, you see the first lady of the United States, tell us a little bit about her special guest.

KATE BENNETT, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Sure. This is a big moment for her. Her special guests consist of veterans, family affected by MS-13, the gang, and also that police officer that CNN did a story on last year who adopted a baby born to a heroin addicted mother that he met in the line of duty.

So, really, you know, people who are going to reflect probably some of the content of the president's speech tonight. The employment issue, gang violence, opioid crisis, et cetera.

TAPPER: It's a tradition that began into Ronald Reagan when a gentleman who worked for the government named Lenny Skutnik who dove into the Potomac River to save the survivor of a plane crash. He was honored by Ronald Reagan several days later with his heroism. And since then presidents have used special guest in the first lady's box to discuss different agenda items.

We're looking right now Melania Trump talking to Officer Ryan Holets who Kate was just talking about. He and his wife adopted a baby from parents who suffered from opioid addiction in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

BLITZER: The president, by the way, as the tradition, Jake and Kate, will mention many of these special guests during the course of his address tonight.

TAPPER: Some of them are often used to illustrate points. Sometimes they're just there because they're heroic in one way or another. They don't always stand the test of time. I believe Bill Clinton one time honored a major League Baseball who later was found to abuse steroids but we don't have to talk about that.

BLITZER: Right. There you see many members of the cabinet, many senators who were there. There's Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, I think with his head to our back. But it's a moment right now where all of these members of the cabinet, members of the Senate, members of the house, they can mingle a little bit, too, Jake.

[03:04:56] TAPPER: There's Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who President Trump himself once referred to as s beleaguered in a tweet, somebody whose recusal from the Russia investigation since he had some questions about his role meeting with Russian officials and his honesty and his forthrightness about that. He has recused himself from that investigation. President Trump has

made it very clear that he has displeased that Sessions has done that. It's been a rocky year for Jeff Sessions.

BLITZER: Certainly. It's been a rocky year for a lot of the members of the cabinet wondering if they're in or if they're out but they're continuing at least for now.

You know, Kate, when you see the first lady standing there, you know, you spent a lot of time studying her, you know her, you've met her. She's become pretty popular.

BENNETT: She really has. I mean, she's the only Trump family member whose poll numbers continue to rise. She's seven points higher in approval than her husband in the last CNN poll. She's certainly quiet, and that mystery may have helped her popularity.

She doesn't speak a lot publicly, but she's become the compassionate voice of this administration, often tweeting thoughts a prayers, you know, nationally and globally when things happen around the world.

So again, and she's chosen helping children as her platform. And you know, as we get to know her more, again, she find that -- we find that she's got this kinder, gentler side to this administration.

TAPPER: And look who she's seated next to herself, the officer who adopted the baby from parents who suffered from opioid addiction, the little boy right there, fresh and sharp from Redding, California. He organized the placement of more than 40,000 American flags and carnations on the graves of soldiers. That's -- those are the two individuals who is sitting next to her.


BLITZER: I want to go quickly to Dana. Dana, you're up on the Hill, what are you seeing?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: We see the moment before President Trump is going to be introduced and before he heads into the chamber, the back of his head. Here he comes


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!


BLITZER: The president has walk in, he's about to be formally introduced by the speaker of the house. There will be more applause, Jake, and then he will begin his speech.

TAPPER: He just greeted the vice president and House Speaker Paul Ryan. His relationship with Ryan started off extremely rocky. You might remember Ryan refusing to endorse the president even after the nomination was clear but they have worked very closely together with Paul Ryan the speaker basically delivering legislation, sometimes it gets stuck in the Senate.

[03:10:01] But in any case he and president now have what appears to be a very good working relationship. The president's supporters applaud that. The president's detractors said that Speaker Ryan is complicit.

BLITZER: We were told that the president and his staff, they've been working on his speech for a long time, Jake. This is not something that comes very easily for any president.

TAPPER: No. And this is his official state of the union address. Last year he gave an address to the joint union of Congress. But that is not the same thing as this official state of the union address.

We're told that the speech is about an hour long and the president is going to try to have a theme of bipartisanship and unity, we'll see if that happens and we'll see how long after the speech that spirit continues.

BLITZER: He told us today over lunch at the White House that he wants to end as much a can all the divisiveness that has erupted in American politics and he says not just in the Obama administration but Bush administration and it goes back to the Bill Clinton administration as well.

TAPPER: Of course, the president has been responsible for some of that divisiveness himself, personally.

BLITZER: And he is getting a nice round of applause.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and my fellow Americans, less than 1 year has passed since I first stood at this podium, in this majestic chamber, to speak on behalf of the American People -- and to address their concerns, their hopes, and their dreams. That night, our new Administration had already taken swift action. A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land.

Each day since, we have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission -- to make America great again for all Americans.

Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success. We have faced challenges we expected, and others we could never have imagined. We have shared in the heights of victory and the pains of hardship. We endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America's soul, and the steel in America's spine. Each test has forged new American heroes to remind us who we are, and show us what we can be. We saw the volunteers of the "Cajun Navy," racing to the rescue with their fishing boats to save people in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane.

We saw strangers shielding strangers from a hail of gunfire on the Las Vegas strip.

We heard tales of Americans like Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert, who is here tonight in the gallery with Melania. Ashlee was aboard one of the first helicopters on the scene in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. Through 18 hours of wind and rain, Ashlee braved live power lines and deep water, to help save more than 40 lives. Thank you, Ashlee.

We heard about Americans like firefighter David Dahlberg. He is here with us too. David faced down walls of flame to rescue almost 60 children trapped at a California summer camp threatened by wildfires. To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else -- we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.

Some trials over the past year touched this chamber very personally. With us tonight is one of the toughest people ever to serve in this House -- a guy who took a bullet, almost died, and was back to work three and a half months later: the legend from Louisiana, Congressman Steve Scalise.

We are incredibly grateful for the heroic efforts of the Capitol Police Officers, the Alexandria Police, and the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who saved his life, and the lives of many others in this room.

In the aftermath of that terrible shooting, we came together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the people. But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.

Over the last year, the world has seen what we always knew: that no people on Earth are so fearless, or daring, or determined as Americans. If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it. If there is an opportunity, we seize it.

So let us begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our Union is strong because our people are strong.

And together, we are building a safe, strong, and proud America. Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone. After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.

Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low. African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history. Small business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans' 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.

And just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.

Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.

To lower tax rates for hardworking Americans, we nearly doubled the standard deduction for everyone. Now, the first $24,000 earned by a married couple is completely tax-free. We also doubled the child tax credit.

A typical family of four making $75,000 will see their tax bill reduced by $2,000 -- slashing their tax bill in half.

This April will be the last time you ever file under the old broken system -- and millions of Americans will have more take-home pay starting next month. We eliminated an especially cruel tax that fell mostly on Americans making less than $50,000 a year -- forcing them to pay tremendous penalties simply because they could not afford government-ordered health plans. We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare -- the individual mandate is now gone.

We slashed the business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent, so American companies can compete and win against anyone in the world. These changes alone are estimated to increase average family income by more than $4,000.

Small businesses have also received a massive tax cut, and can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.

Here tonight are Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger of Staub Manufacturing -- a small business in Ohio. They have just finished the best year in their 20-year history. Because of tax reform, they are handing out raises, hiring an additional 14 people, and expanding into the building next door.

One of Staub's employees, Corey Adams, is also with us tonight. Corey is an all-American worker. He supported himself through high school, lost his job during the 2008 recession, and was later hired by Staub, where he trained to become a welder. Like many hardworking Americans, Corey plans to invest his tax-cut raise into his new home and his two daughters' education. Please join me in congratulating Corey. Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses -- many of them thousands of dollars per worker. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers. This is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.

So to every citizen watching at home tonight -- no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.

Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of Nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family.

We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag.

Together, we are rediscovering the American way.

In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of the American life. Our motto is "in God we trust."

And we celebrate our police, our military, and our amazing veterans as heroes who deserve our total and unwavering support.

Here tonight is Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old boy from Redding, California, who noticed that veterans' graves were not marked with flags on Veterans Day. He decided to change that, and started a movement that has now placed 40,000 flags at the graves of our great heroes. Preston: a job well done.

Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. Preston's reverence for those who have served our Nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.

Americans love their country. And they deserve a Government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return.

For the last year we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their Government.

Working with the Senate, we are appointing judges who will interpret the Constitution as written, including a great new Supreme Court Justice, and more circuit court judges than any new administration in the history of our country. We are defending our Second Amendment, and have taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.

And we are serving our brave veterans, including giving our veterans choice in their healthcare decisions. Last year, the Congress passed, and I signed, the landmark VA Accountability Act. Since its passage, my Administration has already removed more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve -- and we are hiring talented people who love our vets as much as we do. I will not stop until our veterans are properly taken care of, which has been my promise to them from the very beginning of this great journey.

All Americans deserve accountability and respect -- and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers -- and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.

In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.

We have ended the war on American Energy -- and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.

In Detroit, I halted Government mandates that crippled America's autoworkers -- so we can get the Motor City revving its engines once again.

Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States -- something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan; Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama. Soon, plants will be opening up all over the country. This is all news Americans are unaccustomed to hearing -- for many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us. But now they are coming back.

Exciting progress is happening every day.

To speed access to breakthrough cures and affordable generic drugs, last year the FDA approved more new and generic drugs and medical devices than ever before in our history.

We also believe that patients with terminal conditions should have access to experimental treatments that could potentially save their lives.

People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure -- I want to give them a chance right here at home. It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the "right to try."

One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my Administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.

America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation's wealth.

The era of economic surrender is over.

From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal. We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones.

And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules.

As we rebuild our industries, it is also time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just 1 year -- is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?

I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.

Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.

Every Federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with State and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment -- to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.

Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process -- getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.

Together, we can reclaim our building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.

We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day's work. We want every child to be safe in their home at night. And we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love.

We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity.

As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential. And let us support working families by supporting paid family leave.

As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.

Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families.

For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They have allowed millions of low- wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.

Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens. Their two teenage daughters -- Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens -- were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa's 16th Birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa's murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors -- and wound up in Kayla and Nisa's high school.

Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert: Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you. We cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain.

Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again.

The United States is a compassionate nation. We are proud that we do more than any other country to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world. But as President of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America's children, America's struggling workers, and America's forgotten communities. I want our youth to grow up to achieve great things. I want our poor to have their chance to rise.

So tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties -- Democrats and Republicans -- to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed. My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans -- to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.

Here tonight is one leader in the effort to defend our country: Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez -- he goes by CJ. CJ served 15 years in the Air Force before becoming an ICE agent and spending the last 15 years fighting gang violence and getting dangerous criminals off our streets. At one point, MS-13 leaders ordered CJ's murder. But he did not cave to threats or fear. Last May, he commanded an operation to track down gang members on Long Island. His team has arrested nearly 400, including more than 220 from MS-13.

CJ: Great work. Now let us get the Congress to send you some reinforcements. Over the next few weeks, the House and Senate will be voting on an immigration reform package.

In recent months, my Administration has met extensively with both Democrats and Republicans to craft a bipartisan approach to immigration reform. Based on these discussions, we presented the Congress with a detailed proposal that should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise -- one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs.

Here are the four pillars of our plan. The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age -- that covers almost three times more people than the previous administration. Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States. The second pillar fully secures the border.