Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Speaks at Conservative Conference. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Pamela. The president's aides, some of his allies are actually encouraging him that he's gone far enough with the gun safety measures that he's already proposed in the wake of that tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, because they don't want him to go too far to antagonize his gun rights base that voted him into the White House. And they fear that he could do that, because he's been watching these emotional appearances by the survivors on cable news television and gun control advocates have been making several appearances. So they are worried that could get into the president's head. So they're trying to convince him that he's gone far enough. He's done enough. He doesn't need to propose anything any further.

But we're really seeing the setup for a very interesting dynamic here, Pamela, because as you just mentioned, the president has suggested the idea of raising the minimum wage to purchase a firearm to 21. Now that is something the NRA has roundly rejected, certainly not something that is very popular here at this political conference that we're at right now that is very traditional and very conservative. The president is about to address.

Now, in this speech, he's going to call for common sense gun measures here, keeping guns out of hands of mentally ill people, something he's been touting since day one of that shooting. But just 24 hours ago, the boss of the NRA Wayne LaPierre was here giving a speech saying that any attempts at gun control were really part of a larger attempt to eradicate all guns.

And the president seems to be almost boxing the NRA -- backing the NRA into a corner here, Pamela, because he keeps saying that they're good people, that they're going to do the right thing, that he's had multiple conversations with them, but that leaves the question of what if they don't support what the president ends up proposing, if he does actually end up proposing raising that age limit to 21. So we're certainly seeing a very interesting showdown between a Republican president who may not agree with the NRA on these gun safety measures for one of the first times in history and in politics, with this president like this in the White House, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: They remain at odds, the White House saying yesterday that it is OK with disagreeing with the NRA. We will see how this all plays out. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

And joining me now is Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst. I want to talk about this dynamic between the president and the NRA playing out. The president keeps saying, you know, that they're great people. They're going to do the right thing. The NRA has come out strongly against one of the president's ideas that he's floated in terms of raising the age limit for those buying semi-automatic rifles.

It was interesting though when the president was on the south lawn answering reporters' questions and listing off his ideas. He didn't mention the age limit for semi-automatic rifles. What do you make of that? How should we read into that?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very difficult to get into the president's mind because he may say something five minutes earlier and change his mind 10 minutes later. So I think if you're the NRA right now, you got to be very careful, Pam. What he's going to say and what he's going to do because he may be your ally right now. He may not be your ally in an hour or so. He may not be an ally in a couple of days now. So if you're NRA, if you're the NRA, if you're the membership of the NRA, if you're Wayne LaPierre with the NRA, I think that you're just waiting on bated breath to see what he does and what he says at this speech.

BROWN: What is more at stake in your view, Jackie, the NRA or the president?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they kind of need to co-exist. I don't know that -- the NRA, if the NRA doesn't exist, there will be another gun group that comes up to take the NRA's place. It's not like if they lose power that power will go somewhere because of the nature of the gun debate in this country. That said, the president can't go too far because his base is pro-gun. There are a lot more NRA members or people who are very pro Second Amendment. Not necessarily that you're for gun control or anti-Second Amendment, that's not necessarily true.

That said the president does make up his base. It is interesting how the NRA is talking about this 21 and over proposal. They're being very careful. They're saying, you know, we oppose this. This is why -- it is how they're talking to the president about it too that is worth watching. They're not taking a hardline. They're not saying -- they're not saying confiscation. They're not using kind of the harder terms when talking -- when addressing the president and his disagreement with them.

BROWN: What do you think, Susan? What are you expecting to hear from the president on stage there at CPAC?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": I am skeptical the president is going to defy the cultural part of his base, the NRA, when push comes to shove, especially during a midterm election year. I think what we saw with the immigration debate is there were times where he talked in a very positive way about making a deal that would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, but when push came to shove, he proposed a deal that was unacceptable to Democrats and to advocates for Dreamers. Even with the ideas that he threw out over the last several days on guns, they haven't proposed any specific legislative language. And in fact, the White House said yesterday they may never do that. They weigh to see how things get sorted out on the Hill.

[10:05:00] It seems to me that the history of this president is that in the end, he will go back to the cultural issues that were so helpful in getting him elected and that he's depending on to get voters out in November and that would take -- that would mean positions on guns that do not create problems for the NRA.

BROWN: And the president has told his advisers according to our reporting that he really wants to take the lead on this gun issue, unlike his predecessors and you know as we have seen, they have made attempts in the past and have failed. Is that realistic, though, as Susan pointed out, I mean given the dynamic on Capitol Hill, given the fact this is an election year.

PRESTON: Well, certainly, he can take the lead. And he has the soap box to do so. You know people are going to listen to the president. There's no question about that. But let's not forget, there are 435 elected members of the House and 100 elected members of the Senate.

So even if the president does something or says something that he believes should happen, and get done, that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get enough votes in the House or the Senate. I mean, as Jackie and Susan have said right now, this is a very divisive issue right now and has gotten to the point where we're not going to find a solution given the current dialogue.

The president is right. People at the NRA are patriots. People on the other side are patriots. What has happened in this debate is that neighbors are pitting neighbors against each other and they're not trying to find the common solution. I just came back from the Stoneman Douglas High School, OK? I was down there with those folks. I can -- what I say now cannot convey what I saw and what I felt from those folks. But I can tell you this, the idea that this is a movement that is probably going to slow down and just be forgotten, that's not going to happen. So the bottom line is, lawmakers need get together, stake holders need to get together and no one is going to be happy with the final solution.

BROWN: A lot of people have said, look, these students have really rejuvenated what has been a staled debate over the gun issue. We saw it in the wake of Newtown. How much of a difference, do you think, Jackie, that this activism, this student activism can make in all of this.

KUCINICH: I mean because they are so apt with social media, because they are so comfortable talking to a camera, because they have been doing it forever on their phones, it really has brought these new voices into the mix and they do have to go back to school, but they also have said they're not going away and right now we should believe them.

PAGE: When you think about what could change the gun debate, I think it is less President Trump, I think it is more the students in Florida and elsewhere because that -- they have the credibility of having been in a school shooting. It is from a generation that has spent their lifetime doing gun drills about what to do if there is a shooter in their schools. They have a credibility and a passion that is -- has the potential, I think, to shake things up in a way that I am -- that I think could be more powerful than what the president does.

PRESTON: You know, I got back last night, I was talking to my children, I have a 12 and 13-year-old, I never thought I would hear this out of their mouths, but my son turns to me and says, you know, we're doing an active shooter drill at school. I said, what? He said, we're doing an active shooter drill. We did one at the beginning of the year. Do you think it is because of all those kids were killed down in Florida? What do you say to a 12-year-old, you know, when he says that?

I don't even have an answer other than to tell the truth and say, yes, there are bad people in this country, but at the end of the day, in order to stop that, both sides have to come together and I just think that the -- that the rhetoric is so white hot right now. It is incumbent upon all of us and it is incumbent upon our friends and it is incumbent upon the NRA and it is incumbent upon every town for gun safety to come together and try to fix this. This isn't about politics anymore. The NRA has every right to fight for what they believe in. The gun safety folks have every right for what they believe in. But at the end of the day, it is not about us. It is about the next generation and we need to do something about it.

BROWN: Right. I mean, actually, before I ask the next question, we just are getting an excerpt from what the president is going to say, the speech he's going to make on stage. I want to read one of them. He says, he's going to say, according to this, when we declare our schools to be gun free zones, it puts our students in more danger. Well trained gun adept teachers and coaches should be able to carry concealed firearms. We should do what works. This includes common sense measures that will protect the rights of law abiding Americans while helping to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves and to others. Obviously, Jackie, this is a very controversial proposal. Do you think this is something that could actually become a reality?

KUCINICH: This is an NRA proposal. And the question is, not only whether teachers want to carry guns, my mother is a teacher and after this happened said, do you want to see me walking around school with a gun. They're talking about trained people. OK, fine. Let's say that happens. Who is going to fund it?

I grew up in an era there were school levies to keep after school programs. That still happens. Some schools can't afford books. Are they going to take a security officer over books? Why are you in school to begin with? I think there is a lot of details here where -- is the NRA going to fund the programs? I don't know the answer to this. I think there is a lot of details that the president hasn't really got into yet here.

[10:10:06] BROWN: We were pressing - the press secretary yesterday at the White House on any specifics. Where is this money going to come from? And the White House basically demurred and said we're still in the listening phase. So we are still waiting for a lot of the specifics. We're waiting the president to take to the stage there at CPAC in Oxen Hill and we'll be right back as we wait. Stay with us.


BROWN: Back with me now is Susan Page, Jackie Kucinich and Mark Preston. Speaking on stage is CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp. And we expect him to introduce the president shortly. And as we await that, and when I ask you, Mark, what are you looking for the president's speech there on stage?

[10:15:00] PRESTON: I'm looking for him to moderate his language. He is -- before an organization right now, by the way, not going to happen, but this is what I would be looking for and hoping for. -- Let me say this. What I'm hoping for. What he's going to do is he's going to play to an audience that is going to be very loud and they're going to cheer him on. We should note that this audience is probably primarily made up or 60 percent, 70 percent of the audience are young kids, college kids. This is how the conservative movement basically recruits for the next generation. But what President Trump is going to do as we see from every one of his rallies, play into the crowd and he will say things today that a president should not say. What they will be, what that exactly will be, I don't know, but we have seen this in the past.

BROWN: What do you think, Jackie?

KUCINICH: You know he has a real opportunity here to communicate what he wants to do on guns, to the audience.

BROWN: We need to cut you off because we are now expecting the president here to walk up to the podium and there he is at CPAC, walking out on stage right now. Let's listen in on how this plays out.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you everybody.


Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Matt, for that great introduction. And thank you for this big crowd. This is incredible. Really incredible.


We've all come a long way together. We've come a long way together. I'm thrilled to be back at CPAC, with so many of my wonderful friends and amazing supporters, and proud conservatives.


Remember when I first started running? Because I wasn't a politician, fortunately. But do you remember I started running and people would say, "Are you sure he's a conservative?" I think now we've proved that I'm a conservative, right?


For more than four decades, this event has served as a forum for our nation's top leaders, activists, writers, thinkers. Year after year, leaders have stood on this stage to discuss what we can do together to protect our heritage, to promote our culture, and to defend our freedom.

CPAC has always been about big ideas and it's also been about putting those ideas into action. And CPAC really has put a lot of ideas into action. We'll talk about some of them this morning.

For the last year, with your help, we have put more great conservative ideas into use than perhaps ever before in American history.



By the way, what a nice picture that is. Look at that. I'd love to watch that guy speak.


Oh, boy. That's a - I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I work hard at it.


It doesn't look bad. Hey, we're hanging in. We're hanging in. We're hanging in there, right? Together, we're hanging in.

We've confirmed a record number - so important - of circuit court judges, and we are going to be putting in a lot more.


And they will interpret the law as written. And we've confirmed an incredible new Supreme Court justice, a great man, Neil Gorsuch.



We've passed massive - biggest in history - tax cuts and reforms.


You know, I don't use the word "reform." There was a lot of reform, too. Very positive reform. I don't use it. And when we were first doing it, I told everybody - everybody gathered - I said, "Just talk about tax cuts. People don't know what reform means. They think reform might mean it's going up." And I said, "Do tax cuts." AUDIENCE: Booo -

[10:20:00] AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!

TRUMP: Thank you. How did he get in here, Matt? Boy. OK. Just for the media, the fake news back there, they took very good care of him. They were very gentle.


He was very obnoxious. It was only one person.

So we have thousands of people here.


So listen - tomorrow, the headline will be, "Protestors disturbed the Trump..." - one person, folks. Doesn't deserve a mention. Doesn't deserve a headline. The headline tomorrow: "Disrupters of CPAC." One person. And he was very nice - we looked at him, and he immediately left. OK.



No, I've had it too often. You'll have one person, and you can hardly even hear him. In fact, the biggest, really, disturbance are you people. You know why? He'll say something; nobody hears him. Because it's all - and then the crowd will start screaming at him. And then all of a sudden we stop for - and that's OK. You have to show your spirit, right? You have to show your spirit. It's true.


So we passed the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country. And it was called "tax cut and reform." And I said to our people, don't use the word "reform." Because we were going to call it the "Tax Reform Act." I said, "No wonder for 45 years nothing has been passed." Because people want tax cuts, and they don't know what reform means. Reform can mean you're going to pay more tax. So I convinced politicians who have done this all their lives - and they do a great job, in many cases - but this was one - they were going, the "Tax Reform Act" of whatever year we want to put. OK?

So they have the Tax Reform Act, and that was it. And now it was called the Tax Act - Tax Cut Act and Jobs. We had to add "jobs" into it because we're picking up a tremendous number of jobs - 2.7 million jobs since the election. 2.7.


So now people hear tax cuts, and it has been popular. Remember, it started off a little slow. Then it got passed, and we had some great help. I will say, we had some great help in the Senate, in the House. We have guys here today - we have a lot of congressmen, we have a lot of senators. We had a lot of help. And we got it passed.

Just - it was not easy. We didn't have one Democrat vote, and I think that's going to cost them in the midterms. I know that whoever wins the presidency has a disadvantage, for whatever reason, in the midterms. You know what happens? I'm trying to figure it out. Because historically, if you win the presidency, you don't do well two years later. And you know what? We can't let that happen.


And I know what happens. I finally figured it out. Nobody has been able to explain it. It just happens, statistically, almost all of the time for many years.

What happens is, you fight so hard to win the presidency. You fight, fight, fight. And now only two years - that's a very short period. And by the time you start campaigning, it's a year. And now you got to go and fight again. But you just won. So nobody has that same drive that they had. So you end up not doing that well because the other side is going - they're crazed. And, by the way, they're crazed anyway, these people. They are really crazed.




So - because I kept trying to say, "Why is this?" But it's just there. So the great enthusiasm - you know, you're sitting back, you're watching television. "Maybe I don't have to vote today; we just won the presidency." And then we get clobbered, and we can't let that happen. We get clobbered in '18, and we can't let that happen - only because we are so happy, we passed so many things. Honestly, and I'll say - I'll use the word "my administration" as opposed to me - my administration, I think, has had the most successful first year in the history of the presidency. I really believe that. I really believe it. I really believe it.


So, I mean, judges, regulations, everything.

And the beautiful thing about the tax cuts is nobody thought we could do it. Because again, we had to get 100 percent of our vote. And nobody thought we could do it. And, frankly - I mean, to me we got it and it's turned out to be one of the most popular things.

[10:25:00] And, by the way, for the Republicans in this room, of which I assume - would you say, is it 99 percent, Matt, or 100 percent? Huh? I would hope it's close to - you know what, hey, we probably have some Democrats that want to come over. We have a great governor from West Virginia that left the Democratic Party - Big Jim - and he came over to the Republican Party.

(APPLAUSE) So people are sitting there, and they're saying, "Oh, we just had that great victory. Eh, let's not vote. Let's go to a movie. We're the Republican Party, we're going to do great." And then they end up losing.

So you got to keep up the enthusiasm. Now what happens, by the way, they lose. And then you have the presidential election coming up again, and you clobber them because everybody gets off their ass and they get out and they work. Right? And they work. And they work and work and work. And you end up winning the Presidency again. And we should do that - hopefully we're going to do that very easily.

But never - we have to worry - right now, we have a big race coming up in '18. You have to get out. You have to just get that enthusiasm. Keep it going.


See, the word, really, is "complacent." People get complacent. It's a natural instinct. You just won, and now you're happy and you're complacent. Don't be complacent. OK? Don't be complacent. Because if they get in, they will repeal your tax cuts, they will put judges in that you wouldn't believe, they'll take away your Second Amendment, which we will never allow to happen.


They'll take away your Second Amendment.


AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump!

TRUMP: Remember that. They will take away - thank you. They will take away those massive tax cuts and they will take away your Second Amendment. By the way, if you only had a choice of one, what would you rather have? The Second Amendment or the tax cuts? Go ahead, Second Amendment, tax cuts. Second Amendment.


I'm going to leave it at the Second Amendment. I don't want to get into that battle, all right?

We're going to say you want - Matt, we're going to say you want the Second Amendment the most. But we're going to get them all. And remember this -


- remember this: We've gotten - you know, somebody got on television recently and they said, actually, this is the first time I can remember - Trump made campaign promises. He may be the only person that actually fulfilled more promises than he made. I think that's true.


I fulfilled more promises.

But we have a very crooked media. We had a crooked candidate, too, by the way. But we have a very, very crooked media.

AUDIENCE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

TRUMP: I will say this, folks: Everything that's turning out, now it's amazing that's come full circle. Boy, have they committed a lot of atrocities when you look.


Right? When you look. Have they done things that are wrong.

But remember this: Not only did we get the tax cuts, which everybody said we wouldn't get - and, by the way, repealed, in that tax cut, the individual mandate, which is a tremendous thing.


This is where you're forced to pay in order not to have healthcare. OK? Is that great? You pay for the privilege of not having healthcare. So you're subsidizing lots of other people. That's gone. I know people came up to me with tears in their eyes; they're saying, I'm forced to pay not to have healthcare. Very unfair.

And, by the way, we're having tremendous plans coming out now - healthcare plans - at a fraction of the cost that are much better than Obamacare.


And except for one Senator, who came into a room at 3 o'clock in the morning and went like that - we would have had healthcare, too.


TRUMP: We would have had healthcare, too. Think of that. But I think we may be better off the way we're doing it. It's piece by piece by piece. Obamacare is just being wiped out. The individual mandate, essentially, wipes it out.


So I think we may be better off. And people are getting great healthcare plans and we're not finished yet.

But, remember, one person walked into a room when he was supposed to go this way, and he said he was going this way, and he walked in, and he went this way, and everyone said, "What happened? What was that all about?"