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Uproar Over Sinclair Stations Airing Scripted Media-Bashing Promos; Trump Declares "DACA Is Dead," Blames Democrats; Trump Goes After Amazon, Jeff Bezos; Did V.A.'s David Shulkin Quit or Was He Fired; Pressure Mounts for Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty to Resign; Teachers Strike in Kentucky & Oklahoma for Better Pay, Benefits; New Details on Soldiers' Deaths & Trump Says U.S. Leaving Syria "Very Soon". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT- LARGE: Whatever that statement is should be a little bit concerning, particularly when it echoes what we know is one of Donald Trump's hobby horses, which is the news is fake and people -- there's too much falsity out there. What's false? What's fake? Absolutely, something local and national television should cover. But allegations and then just repeating this word for word, I think, is somewhat dangerous.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: They wrote this for the anchors to read, and if they didn't read it, they presumably feared they might be fired.

CILLIZZA: I mean, I think people think the media, well, they can just say no. Sure, but Ryan Nobles, who is a colleague of ours, who was a local anchor in Virginia before coming to CNN, he made a good point on Twitter recently. He said, these are peoples' jobs. So there is a concern if they lose their job, they lose their ability to pay their mortgage, or send their kid to college. That's why this is so insidious, I think, is when you make demands -- everyone says, they should just stand up and not read it. Well, if you're talking about your well-being, your livelihood, medicine, education, all those things that depend on you having a job, it puts these people in a very, very difficult position. Again, I just think the idea of making people who are a trusted news source in their local communities read something, unless that thing is --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What's President Trump's connection with Sinclair?

CILLIZZA: I think -- Sinclair is a place that Trump has praised. He has been encouraging of, as have the people in and around him. They have a more conservative bent. But in my opinion, take it out of politics. Just remember the idea of news people, reporters, journalists being forced to read something is a dangerous precedent.

BLITZER: It's one thing if they personally believe in what they're reading.

CILLIZZA: Absolutely. BLITZER: But if they are personally disgusted by being forced to read something that they totally disagree with, but they're doing it in order to make a living, to save their jobs --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- the owners of the TV stations put these reporters in a very, very precarious position.

CILLIZZA: And local news stations always do this kind of thing. To say, here's an editorial aside from one of our contributors, it's clearly labeled. This is an editorial, this is what I personally believe. To pass it off as the voice of the station, that holds a lot of sway for people. Again, local TV anchors are always among the most trusted people in any community. When you force them to say things like this, it's a dangerous precedent.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Hard to believe it's going on.

Chris Cillizza, thanks very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BLITZER: A wave of teacher strikes spreading right now in America. Today, Kentucky and Oklahoma teachers walking off the job. They're demanding better pay, better benefits. We'll take you there live as the crowds start to build.

Plus, a Democratic congresswoman defied calls to resign after she kept on her chief of staff, accused of abuse and harassment. I'll ask one of her colleagues if he joins those calls. Lots more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:37:22] BLITZER: President Trump, as part of an Easter Monday Twitter outburst, saying, as far as he's concerned, any DREAMer deal is now dead, saying, "No more DACA deal." His words. And he says, "It's all the Democrats' fault because they didn't act."

Let's get reaction from Congressman John Delaney, a Democrat from Maryland, and already a 2020 Democratic candidate.

Congressman, thank you very much for being with us.

REP. JOHN DELANEY, (D), MARYLAND: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: It's all your fault. You're a Democrat. You're fellow Democrats, you've ended the prospect of DREAMers, of the DACA recipients getting legal status here in America. How bad do you feel about that?

DELANEY: Well, it's not true. And remember, the person who started the whole DACA debate is the president. The president basically put a kind of termination on the DACA program, which President Obama started. He started this whole DACA program. And 90 percent of the American people support the DREAMers and want Congress to act to get something done. I don't think it should be off the table. If anybody is taking it off the table, it's the president. He started it. He should be working with Congress on a bipartisan basis to find a solution to the DREAMers.

BLITZER: Do you think there's a solution out there? Right now, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere. He wants funding for a wall with Mexico, he wants other aspects in exchange for allowing the DACA recipients to stay.

DELANEY: Right. The solution is to do what America wants. And again, 90 percent of the American people, 90 percent -- this is not even a close one -- support a DREAMer framework, which effectively takes the DACA legislation, which was put in place by President Obama, which President Trump ended, they want that to be the law of the land. There is clearly a deal. Could there be a larger deal around border security and the DACA program? Absolutely. I think Democrats, including myself, are very supportive of border security measures. Should it be a wall? Which most people, including myself, think it's a terrible investment. No. But is there a deal to do? But we have to remember the president started this problem.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Amazon right now. He tweeted, going after Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon. He's going after Amazon. Let me read the tweet: "Only fools or worse are saying that our money losing post office makes money with Amazon. They lose a fortune. And this will be changed. Also our fully taxpaying retailers are closing stores all over the country. Not a level playing field."

What do you think of his attacks on a specific company like Amazon are all about.

DELANEY: It's very dangerous for the president of the United States to single out a single company in the private economy. That's very, very dangerous. That's one problem with it. The second problem, it's clearly an attack on the free and independent media. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, owns the "Washington Post." They're not affiliated companies other than the fact the CEO happens to own "The Post." The president clearly disagrees with the coverage of "The Post" -- which I think is one of the finest papers in America and a free and independent press -- is providing him. So he's attacking Amazon to get at Jeff Bezos who owns the "Washington Post." Those two things should be concerning to every American.

[13:40:19] BLITZER: And if Americans want to, instead of going to a store, a retail shop, if they want to buy things online, and that's what the free market is suggesting, what's wrong with that?

DELANEY: I'm a huge believer in capitalism. Capitalism is creative and it's destructive. There is a role for government to help with these transitions, which we haven't done a good job at, but Amazon is improving the lives of many Americans. Sure, it's hurting some people. This is an important conversation for us to be having about technology and animation and artificial intelligence generally. If the president wanted to lead that conversation, that would be terrific. If he wanted to actually talk about whether the post office is charging Amazon the right kind of fee for its delivery services, what he should do is have the GAO do an analysis of this, right? He should come to this debate with the facts. He's basically relying on one research analyst report from a Wall Street firm. Research analysts can be right, they can be wrong. A whole bunch of other independent analyses indicate they're actually charging the right prices for their package or parcel delivery service. But if you want to have this conversation, do it with the facts, do it in a presidential way. Say, I want to make sure the post office is charging fairly to all retailers. Remember, Amazon is not the only person or the only company that actually uses the post office to deliver its packages.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Veterans Affairs. You've been active in Veterans Affairs for a long time.

DELANEY: Yes.

BLITZER: What do you think about the way this transition has taken place?

DELANEY: The V.A. is one of the issues I hear about from my constituents the most. There are clearly issues in the V.A. The V.A. needs deep structural reforms to improve its service to our veterans, and it should be a top priority to our country. This circus around, was he fired, did he resign, to me, is almost irrelevant. What we should focused on and what a good president would be doing is managing the affairs of the country. The V.A. is the second-largest agency that we have in the U.S. government, and what we should be focused on is, what can we do to make sure the V.A. fulfills its mission and delivers the finest health care to our veterans? I think there should be more private-sector participation in veterans' health care but that doesn't mean we should privatize or get rid of it.

BLITZER: The final question before I let you go, your Democratic colleague, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, of Connecticut --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- she's under a lot fire right now. She kept on her chief of staff even though she knew he was accused of all sorts of inappropriate actions towards another woman working there. There's a lot of pressure on her to resign. She issued a strong statement today saying she's not resigning. She wants an investigation. What should happen?

DELANEY: This is a terrible situation. We should make sure our offices are safe for our employees. Congressional offices aren't that big. It's eight to 12 people on the Hill, and it's one of our primary obligations to make sure it's safe for employees. That clearly didn't happen in Elizabeth's office. She says she made a mistake. I think she should be having a serious conversation with her constituents about whether they really trust her to go forward in this job.

BLITZER: "The Currant," her local newspaper, says she should resign.

DELANEY: Yes. Whether she should resign or not, I think it comes down to -- I don't know all the facts of the case. But what she should be doing -- because this is a really bad situation. She should be talking to her constituents, right, and explaining her side of the case and answering some really tough questions and making a decision about what her future is going forward.

BLITZER: Congressman Delaney, thanks so much for joining us.

DELANEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

Other news we're following, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, making a public-relations push from his visit to China to a pop singer concert. What's behind it? We'll explain.

Plus, thousands of teachers walking off the job in two states, demanding better pay and benefits. I'll speak live with one who also says she has to work as a surrogate mother to make ends meet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:48:24] BLITZER: Teachers in Kentucky are rallying today at the state capitol forcing schools to be closed for a second day. They are protesting changes Republican lawmakers made in their pension plan hidden in a bill about sewage services. Republicans say the changes are critical to fixing the pension crisis in the state, which is one of the worst in the country. The bill voted along party lines now sits on Republican Governor Matt Bevin's desk. He's expected to sign it.

Meanwhile, schools are also closed in Oklahoma today. This is Oklahoma City right now. Look at these pictures. More than 30,000 teachers, elementary school, high school teachers walked off their jobs and they are rallying at the state capitol. They're demanding more education funding and better pay. According to the Department of Labor Statistics, wages for teachers in Oklahoma are thousands of dollars below the national average. Last week, Governor Mary Fallon approved raises between 15 percent and 18 percent and added $18 million in school funding, but teachers say it isn't enough.

Joining us now is a teacher who is thinking of quitting her job as a result of the pay. Allyson Kubat (ph) joins us.

Allyson, thank you so much for joining us.

We have heard from other teachers in Oklahoma who had to work up to six jobs to make ends meet. What have you had to do?

ALLYSON KUBAT (ph), TEACHER: Well, I hold several jobs. I work as an event coordinator in member management at an event venue. I drive for Postmates, a delivery service. And I have sold health care and beauty products. I'm also a surrogate.

[13:50:07] BLITZER: Tell us about being a surrogate. You need that money in order to make ends meet because you can't make a living being a schoolteacher. Is that right? KUBAT (ph): Well, I do all my work because I love it. That's part of

the reason I'm a surrogate also. It definitely helps lift a burden for my family. But, you know, just like any work, why I chose to be a teacher, it's not all about the money obviously. I do need the extra income, yes, to help pay some of the most basic bills.

BLITZER: These increases that they are trying to put through, is that going to be enough?

KUBAT (ph): Well, it's kind of a two-edged sword. While we are thankful that they have put this initiative and Mary Fallon signed it into law and that's amazing, but at the same time, they were turning around and repealing parts of the bill they had just passed. It's hard to say it will be enough until we see it happen. It's hard to take them at their word when our legislature has, over and over again, said they are pro-teacher, pro-education and most of them are voting to make it look like they are, and then turning around and changing the narrative. They wanted this bill to be enough to stop what's happening today, but when they turned around and started underfunding it immediately, it doesn't work that way. They are trying to make it look like we are greedy and it's all about a pay raise. The majority of teachers are here for funding.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe, it's not just Oklahoma or Kentucky, it's states all over the country now where schoolteachers -- there is nothing more important than educating the young people of America. Schoolteachers can't make a living doing their jobs.

We haven't yet heard President Trump comment on this. He comments on a lot of topics, tweets about all sorts of issues. What would you like to hear from President Trump?

KUBAT (ph): I would like to hear messages of support from all levels, including President Trump. The lip service isn't enough. We have to see action happening. We have to see the funding back in the classrooms. My public-speaking textbooks talk about going to your librarian, so they can talk to you about this new thing called the Internet and how to look up information on microfiche. Those are the things we need funded. I need new textbooks. I'm not the only one. My English teacher friends are buying their own novels. It is nice to hear words of support and it's nice to hear that people are pro- teacher, but what we need is action.

BLITZER: Good luck, Allyson. Good luck to you and good luck to all the teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, all over the country. Once again, nothing more important than educating the young people. The teachers are so critically important. Hard to believe in this country they can't make a living doing such critically important work.

Good luck to you, Allyson. Thank you very much.

KUBAT (ph): Thank you so much.

BLITZER: As the president suggests, the U.S. will be leaving Syria very soon. New details emerging about a capture-or-kill operation that took the life of an American soldier. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:57:45] BLITZER: Today, we are learning more about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of a U.S. and British soldier in Syria. The Pentagon says Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar and British Soldier Sergeant Matthew Tonroe were on a classified mission to, quote, "kill or capture" a known ISIS member. They were killed and five other troops were wounded in an IED blast last week.

The U.S. maintains about 2,000 U.S. troops, but President Trump has signaled he wants them to come home, quote, "very soon."

Our senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, is in Damascus for us. He's the only Western journalist inside Syria.

Give us a flavor, Fred, of what you are seeing and hearing.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know with this decision by President Trump or some of the things he's saying there are a lot of allies of the United States on the ground questioning whether or not America is actually in it for the long run, whether or not America will play a meaningful role in Syria in the future. You look at those predominantly Kurdish militias that did a lot to fight against ISIS, a lot of them are angry that President Trump said America wants to pull out very soon.

The big winners in all of this certainly are Iran and Russia. Especially at the Russians here in Damascus and other places as well. Some of the groups that were fighting alongside the U.S. are already making contact with the Russians seeing what Syria is going to hold in the future. Then here in Damascus, right now, there are some rebel groups that are getting out of the territories that they held, going to other places. All of that's being circus mastered by the Russians. They have very large power. And many believe they will be the ones to determine the future of this country. In fact, tomorrow, there is a big summit that's going to happen. The countries at the table are Turkey, Russia and Iran. America not there -- Wolf?

BLITZER: America not there. Clearly, Fred, the president wants the U.S. troops out of there as quickly as possible. He'd like them out of Iraq as well. There are about 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, 2,000 in Syria. Wants them out. We'll have much more coming up.

Frederik Pleitgen, in Damascus, be careful there.

That's it for me. Thank you very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next.

For our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.