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Macron Says He 'Convinced' Trump To Stay In Syria; Trump On Tax Cuts: This Country Is Starting To Rock. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired April 16, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- air strikes by U.S., British, French forces on sites linked to Syria's chemical weapons programs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATINS: This is a very strained time between the United States and Russia. I mean if you look at what Russia is doing they, you know, they continue to be involved with all the wrong actors. I mean whether it's their involvement in Ukraine, whether you look at how they're supporting Maduro in Venezuela, whether you look in Syria in their way of propping up Assad and working with Iran. That continues to be a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: People asked after the strikes, what's the long-term strategy? You know, that the strikes send a message but they don't solve the problem. This is part of it. More pressure on Russia. All of it seems to be a little bit about -- I don't want to call it slow walking but the pause button at White House today saying, it might not be today. Nikki Haley seems adamant it would be today. Then they seem to say, well, we're not ready.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. Well, I think they're sorting through, you know, how quickly they want to move and if they want to move, who are the actors they want to move against. But, you know, when the president said on Friday night, you know, that this was going to be a sustained effort, people sort of wonder, what does that mean like more air strikes, more military action in getting really deeply involved in the military way in Syria.

And I think what the administration is trying to do is find other ways of messaging and signaling that they're serious about this. The question is sort of what is the overall policy? You know, even, you know, strong advocates of the air strikes on Friday said in its aftermath, air strikes, you know, as retaliation for a chemical weapon strike are not in and of themselves a policy.

So what is going to be the policy? How is the administration going to sort of articulate that more broadly that just beyond, you know, the military action? Because clearly they're not willing to, you know, put on a sustained bombing campaign in Damascus. It doesn't seem like any problem. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And that's why it seems to be an unforced air when the president said over the weekend, mission accomplished. But what exactly the mission, what exactly the strategy? What is the ultimate angle of the United States' involvement in Syria? That's not really been clearly explained, particularly by this president, who's been eager to pull back from Syria.

Now, are we deepening our involvement there in United States? What happens going forward? That's something that's not been clearly sort of disseminated by the administration.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: To be clear, he said the next day that it was not an unforced error. But he meant to say, mission accomplished. And he wants to bring the phrase back.

KING: Is this either page turning, is this book closed on the president's efforts having better relationship with Vladimir Putin? And it says in "Washington Post" right, you know, Trump came to the White House believing his personal relationship with other leaders would be central to solving the world's thorniest foreign policy problems. In Trump's mind, no leader was more important or powerful than Putin. Private, he complained to aides that the media's fixation on the Mueller probe was hobbling his effort to woo Putin. I can't put on the charm, the president often said, according to one of his advisers. I'm not able to be president because of this witch hunt.

Is the effort understandable to some degree to have at least a good working relationship with the leader of Russia, even if you have differences, the big problems you need to talk to him about? Is -- does this now the president's own language Friday night about Russia's complicity with Assad? Is it over or are we just in a new chapter?

MARY KATHERINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: I think that -- I think this is one of the reasons, not the only reason. I think he also has a soft buffer, strong men. But one of the reasons that he doesn't say Putin specifically and he doesn't talk about that openly in real clear and oral terms is because of this desire that he thought he could win him over and work with him.

And so, you'll -- I think he will continue down this dichotomy we're, good, sanctions are good, strikes I know you're being aggressive and you're making him pay for bad behavior. But you will not have the head of administration really vocally and morally clear out there on the issue. That's going to continue to be the situation.

I will say, in this particularly situation, we've got France being quite a bit more hawkish, than I expected to see which is nice. And I think you can have a happy media in here where you do, do some sanctions, where you do, do some strikes, you back up the red line. But the American public is not in the mood for a sustained on the ground, certainly, campaign here.

KING: And to that point, forgive me for being a little smart. You've got a lot of Republican members of Congress might be calling up the president of France. Emmanuel Macron says he's the one who convinced the president. The president had been very public about. I want to get out of Syria as soon as possible. I wish we were out yesterday.

Now, the U.S. troops are separate battle, they're not battling Assad, they're battling ISIS. But they're not going to stay for at least six months, probably longer. Macron says, he deserve the credit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: Ten days ago, President Trump said the U.S.'s will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay. Please be reassure, we've convinced him that we had to stay on in the long term. The second thing is that we convinced him that we have to limit these strikes to chemical weapons even though there had been immediate take uproar by a way of tweets, which you may have been aware of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LUCEY: It's going to be interesting state dinner coming up.

KING: Yes. I was wondering if they're keeping, say, hey, Mr. President, here's the Comey transcript. Please don't read the Macron transcript.

DAVIS: Well, I mean the White House is pushing back very hard against this. They're saying, you know, this is -- Macron did not change the White House position at all. You know, they've been very clear that this military operation was a U.S.-U.K.-French, you know, joint operation. They're very is proud of that. But, you know, they're pushing back hard against the notion that Macron sort of convinced him that, you know, it's in the U.S. interest to stay.

[12:35:01] The question really is though, if we are going to, if, you know, the president is going to push so hard to get American troops out of the fight against ISIS in Syria, you know, what does that mean for the broader strategy? So I mean, I do think it raises a question for them even if they're going to say that, you know, no, in fact, it was not Macron who convinced him to go harder.

RAJU: And just on the point of broader strategy, one thing to look out for is that, as soon as today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is going to release a new authorization for use of military force. I mean, it has not been done in 16 years. Will there be bipartisan support consensus, not just on Syria but the broader war against terror?

So that's going to be an interesting debate going forward whether this be for -- when do the president and the White House ultimately come down, where Congress will have a rule in approving this new use of force and particularly if the United States continue to stay in Syria.

KING: In an election year of all things too, I mean that something you, not since just after 9/11 as the Congress debate this issue. A lot of Americans might be surprised to understand where there are U.S. military operations around the world. The question is, can the commander in chief do this on his own? Should he have congressional authorizations, Manu, they should at least vote, that's when they get elected for. Are they get elected to stand up for what the country is doing.

Here's another question here. In any president -- Donald Trump is the president right now -- any president would be conflicted about what to do in Syria, because there is no political solution on the table. You have a number of nefarious fires involved that are going to be involved, Iran, Russia, among them. This has caused a lot of tension in the relationship with Turkey.

Here's Lindsey Graham, Republican senator, saying he understands the president's conflict, he like him to be tougher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you're Assad and you hear the president saying, I'm going to make you pay a big price, you're an animal, and what did Assad see, a military strike that didn't change his life at all. So Assad wakes up the next day and goes back to work. If you're Russia and Iran, you heard our Pentagon risk averse deathly afraid of confronting the Russians. If you're ISIS, you heard we're going to leave. If you're the Kurds, you heard we're going to leave which means they're going to get slaughtered. Lindsey Graham sees a very conflicted commander in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This question raised by a Republican senator there. Let's listen to the Republican president. He's in Florida. This is an event about tax cuts. We'll see if president sticks to the topic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our secretary of the treasury, he's right there and our secretary of labor. Thank you, Alex. Thank you Steve. Great choices.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Not all of my choices were good, but they were great ones. Tomorrow is tax day. And we're going to hear from everybody and every -- I mean we have heard from so many people, they're so thrilled.

And remember this is the last time you're going to fill up that long, complicated, horrible return. I would say that some of these tax --

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Some of these companies have to do all that work on getting a lot of money for doing your tax returns, they're not going to be too happy with us. But that's about the only business that won't be.

So tomorrow, last day, very importantly, next year it's going to be a simple for the most part, one page. It may get a little bit bigger. But it will be simple and easy to do. And very importantly, you'll going to have a lot of money left over from what you have. And we didn't get one Democrat to vote for us. And Senator Nelson was hostile to it. And let me tell you, if for any reason they get in, meaning the Democrats, they're going to raise your taxes way up high, they're going to terminate this out -- of course, I'll veto it, that's all right. But eventually, they want to terminate and they want to raise your taxes. And we cannot let that happen because this country is starting to rock with our businesses coming back in. It's starting to really rock.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So we've had massive tax cuts, and I mean massive. We've had tremendous success from the company standpoint and from the people standpoint. They're going out. They have a lot more money to spend. And, you know, something happened that we didn't even expect, nobody talked about it, when we first had it passed, it started with, well, AT&T. We might as well give them credit.

But they gave $1,000 bonuses to their employees. So that's a lot of employees. Then all of a sudden, other companies came along. And now, you have all of the big, I mean so many of the big companies have given bonuses to the people that work for the companies. That was unexpected. Nobody thought that was going to happen.

And most importantly, we waited until February 1st, and you see what's happened to your wallet. I mean you're getting a lot more money in your weekly or monthly checks than you ever thought possible. So people are really liking it. And very importantly, it's great for the country. Our taxes were the highest or among the highest, but just about, I would say, Marco, they were the highest in the world from a business standpoint. That's why businesses were leaving.

Now, they're not the lowest but they're on the low side and businesses are pouring back in to the United States. And that means jobs. That means jobs.

(APPLAUSE)

[12:40:10] TRUMP: So we've created, since Election Day, that beautiful, beautiful day, was that a great day?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: That was a beautiful day. Mario was saying, we got a big, big percentage vote over here, didn't we huh? We got a big percentage vote. But since Election Day, we've created 3 million new jobs, 3 million.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And people, if I would have said that prior to the election that it would create in a short period of time, 3 million jobs, they would have said, that's ridiculous, that's an exaggeration, how can it be possible? We would have taken a lot of heat. But we've created 3 million jobs and now, the number even higher than that. So since Election Day, 3 million new jobs, unemployment rates for Hispanics. Are there any Hispanics in the room though, I guess? (APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: For Hispanics, we have the lowest level ever recorded. In other words, you have more employment. Now think of it, lowest level employment rates for African-Americans, the lowest level ever recorded. And I'm really proud of it.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Unemployment for women, lowest level in 18 years, women out there.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So that means if you're a woman and Hispanic or a woman and African-American, you're really doing well, right? That means you're really doing well. Remember when I used to say that used to take heat for it. What do you have to lose? I would say, what do you have to lose? Every once in a while, I would say, if it was a rambunctious stadium or something, I'd say, what the hell do you have to lose, right? And I get criticized by those people, the fake media back there.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Fake news. No, I get criticized for using the word "hell." I say, I've heard a heck of a lot worse than that. But the economist Larry Kudlow is here someplace. Where is Larry Kudlow? Where is Larry? Come on, Larry, stand up. He just gave me a number.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He said the economy is entering the greatest boom in many decades. In other words, it's now at the phase, early phase, would you say that, Larry, of the earliest and greatest, this could be one of the greatest booms ever. I think it will be actually because the companies are so strong and they're ready to rock. What do you think, Larry?

Good. I thought you're going to say that. Can you imagine if he didn't? Can you imagine if he said, no, I disagree with that?

(OFF-MIC)

TRUMP: Everybody is going to benefit, he said.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: That's right. And very importantly -- and by the way, John Bolton is here, and we just had a big successful -- John.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So I think --

(APPLAUSE) TRUMP: John, that's pretty good. I didn't expect that. I'm a little jealous. Are you giving him all the credit? Oh, you know that means the end of his job, you know. He did. Did he do it? Did our generals, do a great job? Did our military, did a great job?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And you know with way over a 100 missiles shot in, they didn't shoot one down. The equipment didn't work too well, their equipment. And they didn't shot one. You know, you heard, oh, they shot 40 down. Then they shot 50 down. They what? And they call us, they said, no, sir, every single one hit its target. Think about it.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Not one was shot down.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So we have the biggest tax cut in history, bigger than the Reagan tax cut, bigger than any tax cut. But what else, individual mandate is gone, that's on Obamacare which is about the end of Obamacare.

(APPLAUSE)

[12:44:53] TRUMP: So we had Obamacare beat. And one senator decided to go thumbs down. Do you remember that evening? Do you remember that, no, nobody remembers thumbs down. That's all right, because Alex Acosta has come up, and, you know, this is a plan that a lot of people have wanted for a long time, associations, and we're going to have tremendous sign-ups. And Alex, when is that -- tell me, if you could, when is that going to be ready when people can actually start signing and doing it in groups and through cooperatives, et cetera?

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR: That's right, Mr. President. We hope to have that by this summer.

TRUMP: It's going to be incredible. You're going to get tremendous insurance at a very low cost. So the individual mandate is dead. ANWR is up. That's the big energy that nobody thought, you know, it's funny, I didn't want to do it. I said, no, let's not do that. And then a person called up that I have a lot of respect for in the energy business.

She said, is it true that you're going to get ANWR as part of your tax cut plan? You know, they put a lot of things in. So we have the individual mandate. We have ANWR. I said, yes, it's true. What -- tell me about it because I'm not inclined to do it. I said for very specific, please.

She said, well, I'd tell you, it's pretty amazing. He didn't benefit by it. But he said, they've been trying to get this passed since Ronald Reagan. Nobody could get it done. No president could get it done. Nobody. It's impossible. It's perhaps the most -- the biggest, the best in the world in terms of energy, in terms of a field.

She said, nobody has been able to get it done. As soon as I heard that, I said, I called up, I said, put that back in the bill quickly, right? And we got it done. Marco, we got it done. That was a big deal. And that's a lot of jobs in Alaska. That's a lot of jobs.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So just another thing, because, you know, the tax cut is massive and not since Reagan. But this is, you know, you look at the whole bill, it's bigger than anything ever passed. But very importantly, and that's a tremendous asset to our country. But we did another thing that people don't talk about much. We cut regulations at a level that nobody has seen in the history of our country more than any other president.

So I'm here 15 and 16 months, and we've cut more regulations than any president whether it's four years, eight years, or in one case, 16 years. Nobody is even close. And we're not finished yet.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Where roads and highways would take 17, 18 years to get a permit or not even get approved. You know, a lot, the worst is they go out 17 years and then they're voted down. You now -- we're looking to getting it down to two years and maybe even one year. And maybe get rejected. You know, nobody is going to say, it's going to get, maybe it gets rejected. But if it does, it's going to get rejected quickly.

You're not going to take an entire lifetime to get something approved. And then all of a sudden you find out -- and I've had Roger explain, it took years and years, and then you go, fortunately, it got approved. When I've had projects, it took four, five, six years to get approved, big building projects.

And I said to myself going into the final approvals I said, you know, if these five people don't vote for it, I've wasted millions and millions of dollars and I've wasted five or six years of my life trying to get a project approved. It's not right. You know if something is good and if it's going to get approved.

So we have the biggest regulation cut, and I'm not so sure that the regulation cut, Marco, isn't even more important than this massive tax cut, but its right up there. And we're continuing to go. So we think that things that would take sometimes two decades to get approved can be done in two years and even one year.

And again, if they're not environmentally good, if they're not safe, if it's not great for our water and our air and all the things that we watch and we think are so important, we're not going to approve it. But we're going to have fast approvals. We have many, many jobs that started now that would never start if the other administration came in.

And that's why you see the job numbers the way they are. The job numbers are through the roof and the training numbers are through the roof. And you see it. And I just -- they don't talk about regulation much. I think it's as important as the big massive tax cut. So I just want to let you know that, a business and consumer confidence in our country is at an all-time high.

Larry just gave me the numbers. And there's nothing close. So we're at an all-time high. And the tax cuts for family, let's talk just about families now because number one, the jobs, you have choice. You know, we're creating choice for our great veterans, all right, choice. This is a different kind of choice.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So this is different kind of choice. This is choice for a job. In the past jobs, we weren't doing great. And you have one job and you'd hold on. You really have choice. We have people that hiring. And wages for the first time in 18 years are going up. Because I used to make these speeches, I came down here and made one. Wages were stagnant and even going down. People made more money 18 years ago. And today they're working two and three jobs, first time in 18 years where wages are going up. Congratulations. Enjoy your money. Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

[12:50:09] TRUMP: So today, we're joined by Florida business owners and workers who are experiencing the incredible results of the tax cuts. And I'd like to invite each of you to share some of your stories. If we can start, let's start right at the end of the table.

ALBERTO DANIEL, CUBAN-AMERICAN DESCENT: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: It seems like a very prosperous guy, I have to say.

DANIEL: Trying to be, trying to be. My name is Alberto Daniel. I'm Cuban-American descent, born and raised in Hialeah, Florida. I'm very proud of it.

(APPLAUSE)

DANIEL: Thank you. My family history --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KNG: All right, you're watching the president of the United States leading a roundtable. He's in Florida. He mentioned the key Senate race there, saying Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat wouldn't vote for his tax cuts. The president promoting those tax cuts is key to what he says is a coming boom, a record boom. He promises in the economy.

We've been talking here in Washington is consumed. The president's personal attorney is going to be in court in New York in just an hour. The Comey interview is out, which has its new focus on the Mueller investigation and did the president obstruct justice. And yet, we're in our midterm election year where this if the president can pull it off is absolutely critical to how much his party loses. Everyone assumes the Republicans will lose.

If they can defy history, we shall see. But everyone assumes in the first midterm year, the Republicans will suffer, that what history tells you. Can the president in places like Florida help Republican candidates or will they come to view him as a liability?

LUCEY: Well, certainly what he's doing here, I mean in a kind of way, so it could change. But what we saw of this was him doing what his advisers and what Republicans want him to do, just talk about taxes. Not about Russia, not about other distractions, it's about not about White House chaos but talk about their main their legislative achievement.

And it's important too, I think, because, you know, in, you know, a lot of districts and a lot of places that where very pro-Trump, a lot of things he's been doing recently are not playing that well with his base. A lot of people don't like the strikes in Syria. His sort of his suggestion that he reconsider the TPP hasn't played well. So there's definitely sort of people in Trump country who are a little bit worried about what's going on right now.

RAJU: Yes. And look, this is ultimately in November are going to a base election. Democrats are much more enthusiastic about voting than Republicans are. But you are seeing some polls reflecting, some more positive feelings among Republicans. So if Trump can get the Republican voters themselves to feel like that there's a reason why they put Republicans in power. Tax cuts have delivered what Republicans have been pushing for. Perhaps it could have help with the base turnout come Election Day.

So, you know, it's a risk though, because as we've been saying, Trump goes on the road. You don't know what he's going to say and all the distractions continue to undercut their message. But that's ultimately the goal here, trying to get some Republican enthusiasm going into November.

KING: Because when he does stick to the script, again, people watching who are not fans of president will roll their eyes at this or attack me on the internet. But if he sticks to the script talking about tax cuts and he's laid back, he's a lot -- he seems a lot more happy when he's in a room with a crowd that's applauding him, when he's talking about the things he has gotten done, when he's talking about the economic numbers which are good. He seems a much more happy warrior, if you will, than if you read his Twitter feed.

DAVIS: Well, that's -- I think in large part because he is not talking about himself. He is talking about, you know, the American people, and he's talking about 3 million jobs, and he's talking about you get to keep more of your own money, and he's talking about how his agenda is affecting voters who are actually the people that may need to go to the polls and vote for Republicans in November if they have a prayer of holding the House.

And, you know, not having a huge Democratic wave. And so to the degree he can help to do that, and he is probably their most effective messenger on that message because he's the president. And he's going to unify the government. That is also good. I think the issue comes when it doesn't even necessarily matter if he stays on script during a given event.

If the overall sense of him is that he is, you know, consumed with his own personal issues, that, you know, he is somehow a dishonorable person in the White House and independents and Republican leaner start to be, you know, feeling like they should just stay home, that is a problem regardless of what the president says on the campaign trail.

KING: There was unTrumpian moment earlier in the remarks where he said, not all of my pick has been good. He was saluting some of the cabinet members who are with him and senior administrator official who are with him. He said, not all my picks have been good, but these guys are great as he introduced the economic team. You mentioned the strikes on Syria. His new National Security Adviser, new National Security Adviser John Bolton is with him. And the president singled him out, and this was trademark Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: John, that's pretty good. I didn't expect that. I'm a little jealous. Are you giving him all the credit? Oh, you know that means the end of his job, you know. He did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A joke there from the president. But if you're John Bolton --

HAM: You know what they said about jokes. Nobody knows Trump like Trump. And that's a pretty good impression. You know, I do think there's an open question in the midterms as to whether Trump works for Trump. But just does not transfer it to other people, whether he's on script or not whether --

KING: -- the Obama twice.

[12:54:58] HAM: Exactly. And I think that's a really good question. We've seen it in Alabama, in the Senate race where he endorsed and moving to say, he did not win, way more than not win. And in the special election in Pennsylvania as well, places where that should have worked and yet it did not.

DAVIS: Well, except that he didn't stay on message necessarily, when he was, you know, in those places, you know, essentially campaigning for those people. He talked a lot about himself at the Rick Saccone rally, you know, when he went down to Alabama, he made it clear that he initially wasn't for Roy Moore and then, you know, obviously he became the nominee.

So I think there is an open question of whether, you know, his campaigning for other Republicans --

KING: And where he is today, that's a key question. The president is there in April. Let's see if he's there in September and October. Rick Scott has state that Bill Nelson, you know, Trump just carried Florida. He'll be in another places, we'll see if he's back there. Thank you for joining us INSIDE POLITICS today, see you back at this time tomorrow. Wolf, starts after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 7:00 p.m. Paris, 8:00 p.m. in Moscow --