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Trump Addresses Conservative Conference; Trump Spends Big Chunk Of CPAC Speech Ranting On Media; Polls: Support For Obamacare At All- Time High; How Will Trump Pay For His Spending Promises?; Once Rejected By CPAC, Trump Welcomed With Open Arms. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 24, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- used to be totally closed. They were closed, folks. You don't realize that. They were closed. They're now wide open and they're open for people doing business for our country and putting people to work.
And when they come into the White House, we're translating these meetings into action. One by one, we're checking off the promises we made to the people of the United States, one by one. A lot of promises, and we will not stop until the job is done.
We will reduce your taxes. We will cut your regulations. We will support our police. We will defend our flag. We will rebuild our military. We will take care of our great, great veterans. We're taking care of our veterans.
Our broken and embarrassing trade deals that are no good. None of them. You wonder, where did the people come from that negotiated these deals? Where did they come from? Well, they came also from campaign contributions, I must be honest. They're not as stupid as you think.
We will cut wasteful spending. We will promote our values. We will rebuild our inner cities. We will bring back our jobs and our dreams. So true. So true. And by the way, we will protect our second amendment. Wayne and Chris are here from the NRA and they didn't have that on the list.
It's lucky I thought about it, but we will indeed, and they're great people, and by the way, they love our country. They love our country. The NRA has been a great supporter. They love our country. The forgotten men and women of America will be forgotten no longer.
That is the heart of this new movement and the future of the Republican Party. People came to vote and these people, the media, they said, where are they coming from, what's going on here? These are hardworking, great, great Americans. These are unbelievable people who have not been treated fairly.
Hillary called them deplorable. They're not deplorable and chanting "lock her up" who would have thought that a word was going to play so badly? That's the problem in politics. One wrong word and it's over. She also said "irredeemable," but we won't mention it. The GOP will be from now on the party also of the American worker. You know, we haven't been as a group given credit for this. But if you look at how much bigger our party has gotten during this cycle, during the early days when we had 17 people running, the primaries. Millions and millions of people were joining. I won't say it was because of me. But it was, OK?
And we have an amazing, strong, powerful party that truly does want to see America be great again and we will see it and we're going to see it a lot sooner than you think, believe me.
[11:05:11]A lot sooner than you think. We will not answer to donors or lobbyists or special interests, but we will serve the citizens of the United States of America, believe me. Global cooperation, dealing with other countries, getting along with other countries, is good. It's very important.
But there is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag. This is the United States of America that I'm representing. I'm not representing the globe. I'm representing your country.
There's one allegiance that unites us all and that is to America, America. It's the allegiance to America. No matter our background or income or geography. We're all citizens of this blessed land. And no matter our color or the blood, the color of the blood we bleed, it's the same red blood of great, great patriots.
Remember, great patriots. We all salute with pride the same American flag and we all are equal, totally equal in the eyes of Almighty God. We're equal.
And I want to thank, by the way, the Evangelical community, the Christian community, communities of faith, rabbis and priests and pastors, and ministers because the support for me was a record, as you know. Not only in terms of numbers of people but percentages of those numbers that voted for Trump.
So I want to thank you, folks. It was amazing. An amazing outpouring, and I will not disappoint you. As long as we have faith in each other and trust in God, then there is no goal at all beyond our reach. There is no dream too large, no task too great.
We are Americans and the future belongs to us. The future belongs to all of you and America is coming about. And it's coming back. And it's roaring and you can hear it. It's going to be bigger and better. It is going to be. It is going to be. Remember, and it's roaring. It's going to be bigger and better and stronger than ever before.
I want to thank you and Madam Mercedes, I want to thank the two of you and the supporters. I see them all over the place. You are really great people. I want to thank you and I want to say to you, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you, folks. Thank you. Thank you.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: And you're listening to President Donald Trump taking a victory lap at CPAC, a conservative conference, really the conservative conference, just outside of Washington, D.C. He railed on everyone from Hillary Clinton to the media in what sounded like a speech from the campaign trail.
You're also hearing his big campaign song that he did use to wrap up rallies. A huge panel is standing by to talk about this. I want to go to chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
[11:10:04]So Gloria, tell us what really stood out to you in what was a pretty extraordinary appearance considering Donald Trump bailed on CPAC last year, and normally this wouldn't be considered his cup of tea.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. In fact, I think he came in third in the CPAC poll last year behind Ted Cruz. It was an extraordinary speech. The first part of it was full of grievances and I think it was more off-the-cuff than planned, actually, that part of it, which was Donald Trump complaining about what he calls the fake news media, calling the media, this media the enemy of the people.
And I was struck in that part of the speech and also in the next part about how much he seems to be channeling what we heard from Steve Bannon at CPAC yesterday, because Bannon himself said about the media, he said if you think they're going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.
And that is exactly what Donald Trump was saying in the first part of his speech, complaining about anonymous sources, which by the way White House officials often want to be identified as, I might add --
KEILAR: In his administration.
BORGER: In his administration --
KEILAR: He also has a past of being an anonymous source and even impersonating himself as anonymous source, right?
BORGER: And also tweeting constantly people are saying, which is anonymous sources. The second part of the speech, and we can all talk about this, was a reiteration of campaign promises and campaign pledges, and also saying, for example, that we are going to begin the wall, and we are ahead of time.
Knowing, as you know, that Congress hasn't decided how to pay for it, this $23 billion, and also saying, of course, that they're going to repeal and replace Obamacare, and we don't have a plan for that in hand yet, which is what is giving Republicans so much trouble as they go home to face these town halls without anything concrete that they can give to their constituents.
And the rest of the speech was his campaign promise. But there was one part of it, and I would like to talk about it, which is, again, Steve Bannon, where he said, there is no such thing as the global flag, I'm not representing the globe, I'm representing your country, which of course, he got a standing ovation to.
But again, harkening back to Steve Bannon yesterday, who talked about national sovereignty an awful lot, and the global corporatist media.
KEILAR: And speaking of the media, Brian Stelter, to you, he railed on the media. He doubled down on that the media is the enemy of the people line, and yet, this also comes at a time when we look at the latest Quinnipiac university poll which came out yesterday, more people trust the media than trust Donald Trump.
Now, obviously there is a big break along party lines here. But what do you make of him doing that? It seems to certainly work well for him, at least with his base.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The demagoguery continues. This was all about us versus them. I think we heard it in almost every sentence, us versus them, and that's true with the media. He tried to divide the real media from the fake news media, suggesting CNN is fake news and unspecified others are real news.
So what he's trying to do even there is divide, create a division between the sources he likes and the sources he doesn't like. But let's just for the record make clear, he said that journalists make up stories and make up sources.
There's no evidence of that. When we have anonymous sources, our bosses know who they are and there's very careful research and vetting that goes on. Journalists do not make up stories and sources.
Once in a while, there are bad apples in a news organization, I can count them on one hand, and when that happens there are penalties, but journalists don't make up sources.
One more point about polls, he said journalists make up polls. That is completely untrue. People work really hard using scientific methods to conduct these polls.
Finally, one sentence we'll need to probe in more detail, he said the media doesn't represent the people, it never will represent the people, and we're going to do something about it.
A lot of journalists got a chill up their spine hearing that sentence. Is that just normal bluster from the president? It could be, he's just complaining.
But to say we're going to do something about it, it's curious, because so far all he's really done is complained about the coverage. He hasn't taken actions against news organizations. So that sentence stood out to me from this speech.
KEILAR: Nia, on Obamacare, he was talking about we're going to make it better, we're going to repeal and replace it. That was interesting because we're seeing new poll numbers actually from two different places including the Kaiser Family Foundation.
[11:15:01]And it is showing -- Pew has done some of these, it is showing that the approval of Obamacare is at a record high. I mean, the Kaiser Family Foundation I think has done 60 of these tracking polls and this is the highest that they've seen it right now. NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and we see a lot of the energy in these town halls where folks are showing up, and really railing against Republicans particularly about health care. What are they going to do about health care? What is their plan to repeal and to replace?
We saw of course John Boehner, the former speaker of the House, essentially say there is no repeal and replace, there will essentially be some sort of fix to Obamacare. And this, of course, the fixing of Obamacare, was what Hillary Clinton ran on, right?
And you know, this idea that they were going to repeal and replace, and remember, Donald Trump initially said that they could do it at the same time and now this timeline seems to be pushing into 2018. This speech I thought was overly long. It was boring in places and flat. He looked tired.
I hope his speechwriters didn't really work on this, maybe they're saving their best material for Tuesday when he's got to give that speech before a joint session of Congress.
And it was also just really backward looking. He was literally talking about super delegates and Bernie Sanders, I mean, this idea that he clearly won the election, and it's something he wants to talk about, he wants to brag about.
And the majority of the speech spent obviously on talking about the press. He seems to get bored when he's talking about things he's done like pulling out of TPP. You wonder if at some point in time they're going to move on from some of this material and really have a forward- looking speech.
Really have some concrete examples of what they've done to change people's lives because that's what he ran on, right, at least ostensibly, this idea that he could change people's lives in some of these communities that have been left behind.
I think in these speeches that he's been given, a lot of people are left behind, a lot of their issues, jobs, wages, are left behind because every day is festivus for him. He's always talking about the grievances in terms of the press or --
STELTER: I don't think his crowd was bored by this speech. I think they want to feel like winners in that room, and they do.
KEILAR: I'm never boreed by a Donald Trump speech, I'll tell you that. And I'm bored by many speeches, I'll tell you that. Nia's assessment is this was flat. Is that what you saw?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, you're covering a lot of ground, but I think this speech really encapsulated and to me in a fascinating way. The complex dynamics underway in the Republican Party and that Donald Trump ever -- here is a flashback Friday.
One year ago this week, "National Review," the flagship magazine of the right since William Buckley started it in the 1950s, had a cover symposium conservatives against Trump, an entire litany of conservative leaders explaining why they did not view Donald Trump as a legitimate conservative to beat Ceasarism, one called it.
Here we are one year later and you saw Donald Trump laying out, as Gloria said, very Steve-Bannon-esque themes, his determination to redefine the Republican Party as an anti-global, a populist party that as he said will be the party of the American worker.
There is a lot of what he was talking about that really clashes with traditional Republican thinking, and particularly how America deals with the world on trade and alliance.
But you saw the other side of the coin, which is he wants to repeal Obamacare. He wants to spend more on defense. He attacks the targets that conservatives don't like. And you see the kind of push and pull of what keeps Republicans in line but what also causes a lot of heartburn in parts of the Republican Party.
What was very clear to me, though, Brianna, is he wants to redefine this party, and all Republicans had better kind of grapple --
KEILAR: And maybe he's starting with the people who are attending this conference, because it's different than other years, I would imagine, by his reception this year.
Abby, to that point that Ron made, I mean, when he's making big promises on defense and he's talking about building a wall that could cost tens of billions of dollars by some estimates, it makes me wonder, and I've asked some Republicans about this.
And they say, yes, you know, we want to make sure that we stick to our fiscally conservative roots because they get ousted from Congress when they don't, what does this say to them and how does this concern them, if at all?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Notably, I mean, even as Trump comes back to CPAC with a sort of hero's welcome, a lot of Congressional Republicans and the sort of Washington Republicans are not there. They are not a part of this new TPAC as Kellyanne Conway called it.
That is notable in part because the Trump Republican Party really is very different from what many of the existing members of Congress ran on. So there's a lot of confusion about how this is going to play out in the next two and four years.
Has the Republican base abandoned this idea that we need to bring down the deficit, we need to have sort of revenue neutral planning for government programs.
[11:20:10]That, you know, is all of that gone out the window now that Trump says he wants an infrastructure plan, he wants to increase defense spending, and he wants to maintain entitlements virtually exactly the way that they are. So these are all open questions that remain unanswered in spite of all the globalism in Trump's speech. There is no -- not yet any clear vision for where he wants to take the Republican party in terms of how you square additional spending, entitlements, and also the deficit over the long term.
KEILAR: Yes, and -- let's bring in Jeff Zeleny because he actually has some new reporting on this. Jeff is there at the conference. What can you tell us, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. I mean, Abby is exactly right in the discussion you all have been having, that is the discussion that really people don't want to ask out loud at this conference, how will all of this be paid for? How will this agenda be paid for?
We heard the president saying he'll be putting in a massive budget request for the military. He talks about infrastructure. He talks about that wall, of course. We're taking about tens and tens of billions of dollars here.
So when you talk to conservative activists, fiscal conservative activists, they wonder how will all of this get done? It was one of the questions they had about this president in the first place. It was one of the skepticisms they had about this president.
But he has indeed made so many promises. This really felt to me, after the break from the campaign a little bit, that he does not want to let go of the 2016 campaign.
But the reality here now, when he stands before the joint session of Congress next Tuesday night, when he submits his budget request, his first budget to the Congress on March 13th, finally the rubber will have to meet the road at some point here, and that is what this White House has not yet reconciled with.
But Brianna, as you heard, much more of an ominous tone than an optimistic tone here throughout all this, much more of an America first, as Gloria was mentioning earlier, but the bottom line, the takeaway, how will President Trump pay for this agenda? That is a question that will be hanging over him that he'll have to answer for the next four years of his presidency.
KEILAR: Yes, very worrying to his party. Jeff Zeleny at CPAC, thank you. And, you know, it's just amazing what a difference a year or two years makes. A year ago, Donald Trump did not go to CPAC, and then two years ago, in 2015, this was the scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, with ISIS, I just hit them really hard. That would probably -- and a year ago you wouldn't have said it and nobody would have liked it, now everybody likes it. You may have to have some boots on the ground for a period of time until you get rid of the cancer. That's number one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right, we're going to bring in a panel to talk about this. We have Brian Fallon, Amanda Carpenter, and Matt Lewis. Matt, to you first on that. It's just -- what's happened to CPAC here in two years, you saw the reception he got just a moment ago. That was the reception that he got two years ago.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and it's pretty amazing. I think that video from two years ago really highlights how the conservative movement and the conservative entertainment wing were complicit in helping make Donald Trump be successful. He had that CPAC speaking gig that really did help launch him.
Softball interview there with Sean Hannity who really gave Trump a lot of access to a pretty wide audience on his show. What we saw today was a speech that was not really a conservative speech. It was a lot of populist demagoguery, a lot of nationalism.
It wasn't a speech about how we can lift people up to achieve the American dream. It wasn't a speech about defending the right to life of the unborn or anything like that. So there wasn't any pandering, like a normal Republican politician would come to CPAC and give a conservative speech.
They would talk about Ronald Reagan, talk about Edmund Burke. They would talk about things like defending the right to life. He had a couple of throwaway lines about tax reform, but really this is a nationalist and populist speech.
I think it is now TPAC. Kellyanne Conway was right. This is the party and the movement of Donald Trump.
KEILAR: And the headliner certainly brings in a crowd that is supportive. I mean, these are folks that really wanted to see him.
LEWIS: They were applauding his criticism of free trade. That's a conservative audience. It's pretty remarkable.
KEILAR: It is completely not what you would expect, right? Up is down. So Brian Fallon, you hear Donald Trump, and he's still on his victory lap. It's been -- you know, it's been months since the election.
[11:25:02]And I know a lot of people are telling him he needs to move on, but he had this huge upset. And there are a lot of people who are still excited about that. So why not try to excite people with that line? What do you say to that?
BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's one thing to congratulate yourself, as he is wont to do on occasions like this. But to devote an entire teach to re-litigating his campaign, even down to having his old theme music from the "Rolling Stones," this is a campaign speech.
This is clearly someone who is more comfortable campaigning for president than being president. The task of governing does not seem to interest him. We're more than a month in. From the governing standpoint, you've seen staff turmoil, the federal judiciary slap him down on his travel ban.
So what's he doing, he's retreating to campaign-style events like the rally last week at Boeing and his appearance today. There's two costs to this, though.
Number one, when he continues only to reach out and cater to his base, it's very hard to see how he's ever going to graduate above this 40 percent approval rating that he's been stuck on over the last couple of weeks.
Secondly, it's a huge opportunity cost that conservative should care about that you're not seeing any progress made on health care or tax reform. Those are big looming open questions. They've made no progress on those issues more than a month into having control not just of the White House but both chambers of Congress.
And so I think after a time, this nonaggression pact that exists right now between the establishment Republican wing and Donald Trump may start to fritter because they are not going to see progress made on the key priorities they thought that they were making with a devil to help advance.
KEILAR: Amanda, it seems like many people who voted for Donald Trump, they liked his rhetoric about it. They're giving him the benefit of the doubt, even if, you know, he's not tackling tax reform tomorrow or Obamacare tomorrow, that he's going to do it, that he's making a priority. Is there a point where that's not enough?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, sure. Donald Trump has to deliver some victories and quite frankly, I thought he was going to go before this crowd and say, here is what we are going to achieve, a year from now we'll be celebrating the repeal and replace of Obamacare, the construction of the border wall, tax reform that gives America a raise.
But instead, I think he did something that was actually much more important. He really, if you take away the media critique, he fleshed out his vision for the new Trump Republican nationalism. And something clicked into focus for me during that speech that has not clicked into focus before.
Probably because it was prefaced by the remarks from Bannon yesterday. Everything in that speech that had to do with substance was focused like a laser on safety, sovereignty, and work. This is a new dynamic for the Republican Party.
No longer, you know, does the Trump administration worship at the altar of the free market as Matt Lewis suggested a moment ago. He does not view his role in the world through the traditional Judeo- Christian framework, which means none of the niceties that are usually associated with that come with Trump's rhetoric.
But everything that he talks about, safety, sovereignty, and work. That quite frankly worked this election. It brought in the Bernie Sanders voters just as he predicted and so there will be some bumps.
But as long as Trump can deliver those skeptical Republicans victories on things like tax reform that they can talk to constituents about, I think they'll be just fine.
KEILAR: All right, we'll see if he can do it. Amanda Carpenter, Brian Fallon, Matt Lewis, thank you to all of you.
The biggest story of the day is explosive new reporting that the FBI rejected a White House request to publicly deny the intelligence that Trump campaign officials were in touch with Russia. This is a clear violation and we'll discuss that.
Plus is the White House trying to politicize intelligence to justify its new travel ban? We'll have developments that have officials concerned.
And facing a room full of angry constituents. A Republican congressman tells the president, release your tax returns. Hear why.