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Report: Trump Speaks as Syria Decision Looms; Trump Looking to Re-Enter TPP; Booker Grills Pompeo On Previous Muslim Comments. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Jay. For 20 years their organization has surveyed American manufacturers all over the country they survey. And it's a great organization. And they have never before seen the levels of optimism that our tax cuts have delivered. Is that a correct statement, Jay?

It's dangerous to ask you that because if you say no, I have a problem. Thank you, Jay. It's true. So true. In fact, today there is even more good news and I wanted all of you to be the first to hear it. According to the latest survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, projected job growth for American manufacturing has just reached a new all-time high.

So, you think about that, the oil at 10 million barrels and the manufacturing. All you used to hear is that we're losing our manufacturing jobs. Jobs are being taken out of the country. They're coming back and they're coming back fast. Projections for capital investment and wage growth have also set new all-time records. And we're just getting started. There's enthusiasm like we've never seen before. Companies from all over the world are coming back to the United States. Apple is investing $350 billion, with a "b," $350 billion in an incredible campus and plants.

So many other companies, far too many to name, what they're really doing is giving their workers thousands and thousands of dollars of bonuses. Something that we never really expected. Nobody thought of it. We did the tax cuts. We thought you'd have to wait till February, but you started seeing them very early because hundreds and even actually thousands of companies were giving massive numbers of whatever you want to call it. What would you call it, mike?

We can't say it's a gift because they're workers. We can't say it's a tax because it's not a tax but they're getting a lot of money. I mean, so many -- and a lot of companies didn't want to do it and the people working for the company said what about us? And they did it. They had no choice.

Another great announcement to share with you as well today I will sign a presidential memorandum directing the EPA to cut even more red tape on our manufacturers. So that they can expand and continue to hire and to grow and I will say this is about tax cuts today, but the cutting of regulations could have had the same or even a bigger impact on our economy. Nobody's ever seen anything like it. People were stuck. They'd have a factory. It would be under review for ten years, 12 years and get rejected. You've seen what we've done with the pipeline and businesses all over our country being approved rapidly.

We're getting highway approvals down from 20, 17, 15, 12 years. We're getting them down to one year and two years. We're going to get the highways approved quickly. We're going to get our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our schools. No more waiting 18 to 20 years to get an approval and then, by the way, they don't get the approval. And you may not get the approval but it going to be quick. It will be a quick rejection, but you'll get them for the most part.

And we'll take care of our environment, remember that. We'll take just as good if not better care of our environment and we'll have better roads and better bridges and better schools. We're bringing back our factories, we're bringing back our jobs and we're bringing back those four really beautiful words that you don't hear very much. We used to hear that 30 years ago, I won't say anymore than that because I don't want to date myself, 40 years ago, 50 years ago. It was called "made in the USA." do you remember? Made in the USA.

We're bringing it back. We used to hear that all the time. Now we're starting to hear that again. Today we have workers here from almost 50 American companies.

[14:05:00] I'd like to invite a few of you here and you're already here to share with the American people and with all of the folks that are here, how the tax cuts have improved your lives. And we've had some incredible -- we've had some incredible stories actually. Joining us today are Derek Leathers and Quinton Ward with Warner Trucking in Omaha, Nebraska. Great place, great state. Derek. He's a big guy. Come up, Derek. How about saying a few words?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're going to break away from the rose garden, the president speaking there on his tax cuts that were approved. But he made major news earlier in the day and I want to get to that right away when the president authorized his top economic advisor Larry Kudlow and special trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer to inform lawmakers and others that the U.S. under the Trump administration was in fact willing to get back into the TPP, the Transpacific Partnership.

This in the face of an enormous outcry of anger from agricultural lawmakers in the United States deeply worried about exports of soy beans, corn, pork products to countries in Asia. They were fearful that the U.S. leaving the TPP, as the Trump administration announced earlier, would undermine those kind of U.S. exports. Dana, you've been watching this very closely. This is major reversal on the part of the administration. The president for a long time railed against the TPP.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It happened in a meeting in the White House with several of the senators from the states you just talked about, mostly in the Midwest, that produce pork that, produce soy beans, et cetera. I was texting with one of those senators who said that Joanie Ernst, the Republican from Iowa, big, big soy bean and pork producing state brought it up, said, well, maybe one of the ways around the fact that it looks like China is going to impose tariffs on their products is to reengage with the TPP and the president immediately turned to his trade rep and to his new economic adviser saying let's look into this. Now, we've heard many reports on many different issues from the White House where the president sort of, you know, yes people and says we're going to look into it and it doesn't necessarily translate into action. In this particular case, the senator thought everybody in the room thought he really meant it.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It depends what all the other countries think at this point. They essentially moved on without the United States and everyone essentially saw this agreement as a hitch to China's growth in the reason and a bulwark against them. Republicans in fact wanted the TPP and pressed on Donald Trump to stay in it but he sided with the anti-globalists, right? Now this idea that he's giving into the globalist, I'm sure Steve Bannon's head is exploding.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: This is all U.S. allies in Asia. This was all about China. China is a behemoth in the region. The Japans, the South Koreas, and Southeast Asians wanted U.S. leadership involved. It was U.S. leadership that got this going. They will welcome the U.S. back in because they want, you know, what Asian partners want, they kind of want the status quo. They want things to be OK. To do that they feel they need the TPP to counterbalance China, then has their own TPP called one belt, one road. They are pulling in all these allies with economic incentives et cetera. So, if this is like dana says, we've been here before. You would have rejoicing not just among these and ours but --

BLITZER: We could put together a bunch of clips of the president for a long-time railing against the TPP. All of a sudden today in this meeting with lawmakers he says maybe there's a good chance we can get back in.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's under supremely strong pressure from these farm states. A lot of these farm states are Trump country. He takes the map of his presidential election win very seriously. He's hearing it from people, not just the senators but from people in the states that he carried. Number two, TPP has always been a head scratcher. Whether you agree or disagree with the president's view on trade, whether he is more protectionist, was or he is in favor of using things like tariffs, things like barriers to try to renegotiate these deals to set his way.

[14:10:00] He throughout the campaign you could go back and find these clips characterizing the TPP as a gift to China when it was just the opposite. As Jim points, it was an effort by the United States and its allies, 12 nations in total, to form a regional partnership to counterbalance China's growing economic might in the region. The president during the campaign said this is a gift to China, we're getting screwed by China and everyone scratch their head and said well, he's new at this, he's new to politics. We will explain this to him and he will change his mind. And he has refused to change his mind. So perhaps this collision of events --

BLITZER: Let's take a deep breath and see if it stays like that.

Bash: Mike Pompeo didn't know the answer. He said, this is news to me.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: He felt like he could use his relationship with President Xi to turn things around his own way, obviously that's one more of those personality things that isn't working.

BLITZER: John, the president also earlier spoke about a possible U.S. military strike, U.S. reaction to the suspected chemical attack in Syria that killed civilians including children. I want to play for you and our viewers precisely what the president said. There seems to be some contradictory signals we're getting.


TRUMP: We're looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation and we'll see what happens, folks. We'll see what happens. It's too bad that the world puts us in a position like that. As I said this morning, we've done a great job with ISIS we have absolutely decimated is. But now we have to make some further decisions. So, they'll be made fairly soon.


BLITZER: They'll be made fairly soon.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: to me like people at the pentagon got to him and probably in a call with Theresa May and president Macron of France told him to slow down a little bit. They have domestic concerns they have to work through, they have to plan for the operations and their planning mechanisms are probably not as agile and nimble as ours. I wouldn't read from that that there's not going to be a strike. I just think it's probably not going to happen as imminently as what he tweeted.

SCIUTTO: The president tweeted yesterday it was happening. He warned Russia the missiles are on their way. He clearly got ahead of where the decision-making process is and the evidence gathering. That's a signal that matters to the world. When the president says something about military action like this, which is the most sacred decision as president can make, can you trust his word at the moment?

KOSINSKI: And also, two days ago when the State Department was asked this repeatedly, are you going to wait for the OPCW to test and come up with results to have an international stamp on it, the State Department pushed back and said the U.S. has intel, that there were chemical weapons used. That's as far as they would go. But that's pretty definitive. At the same time, on the same day, they had France saying they had proof chemical weapons were used. Now you're seeing this being walked back by everyone. Nobody is acting unilaterally among these allies that have been talking about. So, you wonder if the response they're considering now might be bigger in some way, that now they want the more extensive proof. KIRBY: I think given that the Russians and Syrians have had time to

plan and think for this, they have had a year to improve their air defenses. I actually think the Pentagon is going to try to walk a thinner line here on the strike because you don't want to do something that is larger and thus maybe provocative to Russia, expand this into something that it is not meant to be.

BLITZER: John, the secretary of defense, even as the president was saying there would be a decision made fairly soon, the Secretary of Defense James Mattis said I believe there was a chemical attack and we're looking for the actual evidence. They suspect the chemical attack. They don't yet have the actual evidence.

KING: But to Admiral Kirby's point, the defense secretary, a former general himself, more respectful of the process and the stakes. You can launch cruise missiles onto Syrian airfields. Given the words that Russia has said, that we will try to shoot them down, given the more provocative words, if you're the secretary of defense, those are your troops and your people. You want to be extra careful dot the I's and cross the T's and one would hope get as much international support as possible publicly stated in advance of acting.

[14:15:00] BASH: And there is going to be a national security meeting in about 15 minutes where they're going to discuss these options. My impression in talking to people familiar with the discussions in that there is understandably maybe I think we should all be applauding this, there is an active debate about what exactly the response should be, how big should it be and that hasn't been settled yet.

KOSINSKI: The administration keeps on criticizing prior responses as not doing enough and that's how we got here, the constant commentary on the last air strike was it didn't do enough. You almost expect that now the pressure is on to do something more without going too far. There's the problem.

BLITZER: All of these issues came up during the confirmation hearings for Mike Pompeo of the CIA director, outgoing CIA director who is now been nominated to become next secretary of state. A lot of sensitive issues came up. I want to play a clip and then we will discuss the exchange he had with Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Listen to this.


SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D), NEW JERSEY: I do want to give you a chance to speak on your comments on gay and lesbians. You said in a speech that morning in America that endorses perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle, in your words. Is being gay a perversion.

MIKE POMPEO, NOMINEE FOR SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator, when I was a politician I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that.

BOOKER: So, you do not believe it's appropriate for two gay people to marry.

POMPEO: I continue to hold that view, it's the same view --

BOOKER: So, people in the state department, I met some in Africa, that are married under your leadership, you do believe that should be allowed.

POMPEO: We have, I believe it is the case we have married gay couples at the CIA. You should know. I treated them with the exact same set of rights --

BOOKER: Do you believe that gay sex is a perversion? Yes or no?

POMPEO: Senator if I --

BOOKER: Yes or no, sir. Do you believe that gay sex is a perversion that is what you said here in one of your speeches? Yes or no, do you believe gay sex is a perversion?

POMPEO: I'm going to give you the same answer I just gave you previously. My respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation is the same.

BOOKER: So, I will conclude by saying you're going to be secretary of state of the United States at the time that we have an increase in hate speech and hate actions against Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Indian Americans, hate acts are on the increase in our nation. You're going to be representing this country and our values abroad in a nations where gay individuals are under untold persecution and untold violence; your views do matter. You're going to be dealing with Muslim states on Muslim issues and I do not necessarily concur that you are putting forward the values of our nation when you believe there are people in our country that are perverse.


BLITZER: Let me get the team to react to that. That was a very strong exchange.

HENDERSON: Yes, tough exchange in some ways an expected exchange. Cory Booker is the progressive on this panel. You've had a lot of gay rights groups raise these concerns about some of the comments that Pompeo has made in the past, including saying that he thought that the legalization of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court was an abuse of power. So, no surprise that he said that.

And you also heard Jeanne Shaheen bring up a similar kind of line of questioning talking about some of the concerns that people have that Pompeo made about Muslims, whether or not he's been forthright enough in knocking down comments about Muslims and himself saying that Muslims were sort of shirking their responsibility to speak out about terrorism. You saw some of that exchange come up there and Pompeo essentially relying on the same answer, which is that he treats everybody fairly that, people in the CIA have same-sex partners and he didn't treat them any differently, but I think there is that issue. Again, can you promote human rights and equality in the way typically secretaries of states have done, and presidents have done if you do personally have this belief that same-sex marriage shouldn't happen and that essentially people who are gay and lesbian aren't as equal.

BASH: And he stood by his personal belief. He doesn't believe it's right. He wouldn't go there on the much more detailed question about whether he thinks that gay sex is an an affront to humanity, I'm not sure how Cory Booker put it. But something along those lines. It is a question about you put your personal beliefs aside and represent the country based on what the law of the land is. The law of the land is gay people can get married. It was a very fine line for him to walk. Obviously, it's not going to please many of Democrats but many of them weren't going to vote for him anyway.

[14:20:00] BLITZER: Michelle, all of us going into this confirmation hearings have gone back and taken a close look at many of the controversial statements that Mike Pompeo has made.

KOSINSKI: In the past he was asked similar questions about his anti- Muslim views. It's a good point. One of the things that is controversial is he has spoken out against Muslims who don't speak out against terrorism. He has called that being complicit. So now Cory booker today quite masterfully puts him on the spot and says you were on this radio show where they talk about things like Muslims wanting to impose sharia law in America and Muslims should be prosecuted for this. You didn't speak out about that. So, he turned his own words really on himself. When you are questioned directly and say do you believe being gay is a perversion, do you believe Muslims should be prosecuted for this. You didn't speak out about that. So, he turned his own words really on himself. When you are questioned directly and say do you believe being gay is a perversion, do you believe that gay sex is a perversion and the best can you say my record is unambiguous, you're essentially saying yes, you do believe that.

SCIUTTO: There our simple answers to those questions. No, right. Yes or no. And on the Muslim point --

KOSINSKI: You could explain.

SCIUTTO: You could explain. Whether religion is OK, there's a simple answer to that question. When you compare the state of play today on the issue of Islam compared to say George W. Bush visiting a mosque days after 9/11 make a very public and definitive statement about it and you look at Mike Pompeo's public comments and others who have been in the Trump administration, Mike Flynn made similar comments about the Muslim faith. That's a slide backwards. In a discussion of one of the world's largest faiths is done. There is a simple way to answer that question, which is I respect Islam as much as I do Christianity or Judaism and he didn't give the answer.

BLITZER: there was another important exchange that he had, John, with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat from New Hampshire on Russia. She was pressing the secretary of state nominee to react to what the president had just tweeted yesterday much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the fake and corrupt Russia investigation. Listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN, (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: This morning President Trump tweeted out much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the fake and corrupt Russia investigation. Do you agree with that?

POMPEO: The historic conflict between the United States and Soviet Union, now Russia, is caused by Russian bad behavior.

SHAHEEN: You talk about the actions of the administration making clear and rightfully identifying Russia as a danger to our country, and yet the president tweets out his opinion that the problem with Russia is Bob Mueller and the investigation. I think those two are in conflict. It hard for me to understand how we can have a secretary of state who is able to go to Russia and come to Congress and talk about the challenges and the threats that Russia faces to our democracy when we have this conflicting position from the president of the United States who you would work for.

And let me just say you've talked about the actions that have been taken by this administration, but the fact is the sanctions that were passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, that had bipartisan support have not been fully implemented by this administration. So, we have mandatory sanctions related to Russian crude oil products that hasn't been implemented. We have sanctions with respect to Russia and other foreign financial institutions not implemented, sanctions with respect to transactions with foreign sanction evaders and serious human rights abusers in the Russia federation not implemented yet. I could go on. As secretary of state, would you argue we need to go ahead and implement the rest of these sanctions that hold Russia accountable for its interference?

POMPEO: Yes, every day. And if I may take just a moment.

SHAHEEN: Please.

POMPEO: There's more work to be done on other sanctions and provisions, I readily concede that. Vladimir Putin has not received the message sufficiently and we need to work on that.

[14:25:00] BLITZER: So, a strong statement, the outgoing CIA director, the Secretary of State nominee, Vladimir Putin has not received the message sufficiently. An earlier when he was asked to react to the president's suggestion that the whole Russia probe has undermined the U.S.-Russia relationship. He said flatly the historic conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union and now Russia is caused by Russian bad behavior.

KIRBY: In contradiction to the president. Who obviously had a different view I think that's welcome I think it would be welcome to both sides of the aisle there that he was willing to call Putin out for his bad behavior and him being the cause of this relationship. And I was encouraged to hear him say he's willing to look harder at these sanctions that haven't been implemented and put them in place. He had other things to say in this hearing too about Russia.

Clearly, he's got a pretty pragmatic view of the problems and fissures in that relationship. What I really want to know is what's he going to do in terms of Ukraine going forward, Syria and then election interference coming up. I know secretary of state doesn't get involved in that too much, but he will be able to have a voice at that table to make sure we're doing all we can, given his current job, to prevent them from meddling in '18.

BLITZER: Senator Cory Booker has resumed his questioning let's listen in.

BOOKER: -- insisted that you are treating people equally, even if past statements might put a chill on people that might work for you. Somebody that worked with you two folks sent me a letter today. I'd like to enter into the record this letter from Andre Carson and Keith Ellison, two Muslim members of the United States Congress. It's a very heartfelt and personal letter about your nomination and their feelings. But I want to move on a little bit to our bill of rights and talk about the freedom of the press if you don't mind.

This administration's treatment of the press has been adversarial, let's say, at the least. That's a generous way of putting it. I think it's actually been a little probably more towards vicious. The president in his first day in office attacked the media on their reporting about the inauguration and deemed the press the enemy of the people. That's very dramatic.

His fake news accusations have become something that's almost a meme of sorts in our country but very tragically around the planet, as you know we are at a point now where we have imprisonment according to the Committee to Protect Journalism, we have journalists being imprisoned around the world at a pretty significant rate that is as an historical high. There's actually about 21 journalists that are now in prison in places like Turkey and China on fake news charges.

You recently -- you're currently the head of the Central Intelligence Agency which understandably should be a lot more opaque and doesn't engage -- I think you said earlier you had just a handful of public engagements. Now you're going to be secretary of state which traditions going back to Jefferson the more recent people you've talked to has a culture of much more openness with the press. Let me ask you, you don't believe the press is the enemy of the state, do you?

POMPEO: I do not, senator.

BOOKER: And you're going to engage with the press in an open, transparent, allow a robust engagement if I can say. I imagine it's yes.

POMPEO: It is my every intention, yes.

BOOKER: And with regard to your posture as you travel internationally, you're going to be become an apostle of the idea of a free press.


BOOKER: Thank you very much. I want to move on to Syria, if I may. You and I talked about some -- you and I both believe we need to counter the threat of Iran. Then I talked to you yesterday about the sort of the incongruency of our policy in Syria. The president has announced he would freeze $200 million in stabilization assistance and that the U.S. would pull out of is -- excuse me, as soon as ISIS is defeated, he wants to pull out as soon as possible. I'm wondering what's your view on that presidential intention is.

POMPEO: There is active discussion. I want to be a little bit careful. I can talk about the long-term strategy as opposed to the situation in front of us. I think the president made clear he wants to get out of Syria. We have fewer men and women today than we had some period ago. Secretary Mattis is trying to get the footprint right there to achieve the American objective. It is also our hope to find partner sources to achieve some of the same goals that you referenced in your question. To the extent we can achieve those objectives, do it with fewer American men and women on the ground and better diplomacy, that's the task before us.

BOOKER: I just want to ask you very simply, does the president have the authority to launch strikes against the government of Syria?

POMPEO: Senator, yes, I believe that he does.

BOOKER: You believe he does. So, you do not believe there should be -- there is a need for new authorization for the use of military force to cover such an attack.

POMPEO: Senator, I believe that he has the authority. I don't believe we need a new AUMF for the president to engage in the activity you described. I'm confirmed and looking forward to working with you.