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AT THIS HOUR

Trump May Outspend 8 Years Obama Travel in 1 Year; Trump Tweets about Kansas Race; Trump Warns North Korea; Congress Wants Say in Further Action in Syria. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 11, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:30:53] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you all very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Moments ago, the president meeting with a group of CEOs, but also ignoring questions, as you heard there off camera, about Russian President Vladimir Putin. This, as the Russian president criticizes the U.S. over strikes in Syria. This happened during meetings with CEOs at the White House. The president not speaking out. Had an opportunity to speak out there for the first time, maybe about policy or what Putin is saying, he chose not to.

Meantime, let's talk about dollars. Every president travels, yes, it is never cheap. But President Trump's trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort have cost taxpayers $21 million so far. For some perspective, at this rate, the president's trips could cost more in a single year than President Obama's travel costs in eight years.

This may or may not come as a surprise, Donald Trump has criticized travel in the past, blasting then-President Obama for his travels, tweeting this, "The habitual vacationer. Barack Obama is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million while there is 20 percent unemployment." We won't check that unemployment rate right now. The following January, tweeting this, "Barack Obama's vacation is costing tax payers millions of dollars. Unbelievable."

With me now, Alex Burns, a CNN political analyst, national political reporter for "The New York Times"; Alex Conant, former communications director for Marco Rubio's campaign and now a partner with Firehouse Strategies; Keith Boykin, a CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, and he's also a former aide to President Bill Clinton.

Let's start with money, friends. Alex Conant, president on pace to spend more on travel than President

Obama did in eight years. Is that a problem?

ALEX CONANT, PARTNER, FIREHOUSE STRATEGIES & FORMER COMMUNCATIONS DIRECTOR FOR MARCO RUBIO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: This is a great evergreen story that every White House deals with. I worked in the Bush White House a long time ago. And every time the president would make a trip, our critics would say, how much is this trip costing? It costs a lot to move the president around. But it is in the taxpayer's interest to make sure the president, the president at all times, he has the security apparatus he needs and the military and communications apparatus he needs. I don't begrudge Trump going down to his place at Mar-a-Lago on the weekends to get some R&R, to meet with foreign leaders. That is totally appropriate. And when he travels, taxpayer will foot the bill.

BOLDUAN: I think I can hear Keith rolling his eyes right now.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

To Alex's point, Republicans complain about a Democrat president traveling. Democrats complain about a Republican president traveling. Are you ready to say you're cool with President Trump and the travel tab.

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have to agree with everything Alex said, he's exactly right. Except for one thing. The hypocrisy of it. No other president we've have has spent years and years on Twitter attacking his predecessor for going on vacations, golfing every weekend, and Donald Trump is doing exactly that. Not only that, he has his wife, Melania, living up in New York City costing the New York Police Department $127,000 a day.

BOLDUAN: You won't fault her for wanting her son to finish out the school year?

BOYKIN: No. I will fault him for, he's a millionaire. He's got all this money. Why are we, the taxpayers, in New York City paying to supporting the cost of putting up his family in New York City. Why are we having to pay for his every weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago? Why are the taxpayers on the hook?

BOLDUAN: On the hook.

BOYKIN: Yes. I can't even think of it, it's so outrageous.

(LAUGHTER)

Why are we on the hook for the cost of a billionaire? Even his son, Eric Trump, is traveling to Uruguay, costing us $100,000 for the trip. We've never seen anything like this before with the presidential first family.

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: Controversy in politics, who knew it existed.

Here's one thing that is unique. It seems that on almost every issue or stand the president takes, you can find a tweet where he argues the opposite than what he is doing right now. The dollar figure is interesting and important for taxpayers to know how much it costs. Do you think this is something that voters care about?

[11:35:12] ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's always something that voters care about when the president is down.

BOLDUAN: OK.

BURNS: When you look at -- Alex mentioned George W. Bush. In 2001, 2002, 2003, Democrats didn't like he was off clearing brush in Crawford. Most people didn't particularly care. When his popularity took a dive, when people felt like things were off course, the war is not going well, that's when it became a major liability for him. It's not an accident that Barack Obama's golf was a bigger political issue when the economy was really struggling in his first term. You continued to hear about it from people like Donald Trump in his second term. But you didn't hear about it broadly as a political concern that the president is just not on the job. Donald Trump is down right now. He's not a popular man, broadly speaking.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But he wants to use what popularity he has for the great state of Kansas. Let's talk about that.

(LAUGHTER)

See? See how I did that? Thank you very much.

Why is President Trump tweeting about a special election race in Kansas today, a seat vacated by his CIA director?

BURNS: This is a race not on anyone's radar 10 days ago.

BOLDUAN: No.

BURNS: A Republican in Washington.

BOLDUAN: I just started getting some texts saying keep an eye on Kansas.

BURNS: This is a seat Mike Pompeo, new CIA director, former Congressman, won by 30 points in November. Republicans nominated their candidate and thought, reasonably thought our work is done here. Last week, they got a pullback showing that was actually a close race. I think people in Washington do believe, at the end of the day, the Republican will prevail, but not by 32 points. We've seen this happen with the last couple of presidents, but whichever party is in control of the White House, their voters often think they don't need to show up for anything else. That's why Trump is out there saying make sure you get out there. BOLDUAN: Make the argument you're not worried. Make the argument

that it speaks to something larger. The Democrats are making a comeback.

CONANT: I'm not worried because Pompeo won by 32 points. We won't lose a seat by 32 points.

(CROSSTALK)

CONANT: All politics is national now. The fact is Democrats and liberals are energized. Republicans are discouraged after the first three months of Trump's presidency, not replacing and replacing Obamacare, not moving the tax plan forward. If that holds through the midterms next year, that will be a problem. That's why we're hopeful. We've got to get moving on Trump's agenda.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Democrats really see an opening.

BOYKIN: Yeah. It's not just Pompeo's seat, but the 27-point lead that Donald Trump had winning that district in the election last fall. Add that to Sam Brownback's unpopularity in Kansas. You mentioned John Ossoff (ph), who is doing well in Georgia.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: Yeah. And so it looks like with Donald Trump's popularity in the hole, his approval ratings are flatlined, it's an indication that Republicans -- now that they've got control of Congress and the White House and the judiciary, they don't know what to do. They have no control over their own caucuses and are unable to govern. That's what we're seeing now. The American people are unhappy with what they're seeing.

BOLDUAN: We'll find out how unhappy Kansans are, and Georgians are.

Great to see you, guys. Thank you so much.

North Korea says it's ready for war after President Trump deploys a group of warships to the Korean peninsula. We'll go live inside North Korea, next. Be right back.

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[11:42:43] BOLDUAN: President Trump with a strong warning for North Korea. In a tweet this morning, writing this, "North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them."

This comes after the president, of course, sent a warship strike group to the Korean peninsula. What is North Korea's reaction? Essentially, "Bring it on."

Let's bring in Will Ripley. He's the only American journalist in Pyongyang, North Korea, right now. Will, thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate it.

How is this being received? What are you hearing from inside North Korea right now?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you would think with all of these warships, 60 planes, a 90,000-ton aircraft carrier almost arriving in the waters off the Korean peninsula, that might intimidate this country, which is clearly outgunned and outnumbered. Yet, it is having the opposite effect. North Koreans say they're ready to defend themselves against what they call an aggressive United States. They say they want to push forward and accelerate the development of nuclear weapons, missiles and warheads, that they hope to have a viable intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland, U.S.

There is new video just out showing North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, presiding over an assembly of lawmakers, where they all vote unanimously for whatever policy he puts forward. He has it written into the country's constitution that North Korea will be a nuclear power, a road they are pledging to move forward on. Even faster right, given what they believe is an eminent threat of attack from the United States. These actions by the Trump administration are being reported extensively inside the country, and it plays into the government's narrative when they tell people that they have to go without things like food and regular electricity because their government spends so many of its resources on developing these weapons of mass destruction, weapons they say are crucial to protecting the North Korean government led by Kim Jong-Un -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: The tension is only growing.

Will Ripley, thank you very much for bringing that to us from inside North Korea. Thank you so much.

We will discuss this and more with retired Army Brigadier General A.J. Tata. He was a deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, also the author of "The Siege."

General, thank you for coming in.

BRIG. GEN. A.J. TATA, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: Great to be with you, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: As we heard from Will Ripley there, the president was tweeting, not only sent this strike group to the Korean peninsula, he tweeted this morning about North Korea saying, if China doesn't help with North Korea, the U.S. will fix the problem alone. It does beg the question, what are the options realistically with regard to North Korea beyond a show of force?

[11:45:22] TATA: Kate, I think the first option is to not do what we have been doing. And the previous guest said that they have been going without food and water, and this plays into the North Korea narrative. They've been going without food and water for years, decades, because this is what North Korea is, a totalitarian state. They oppress their people, and they enjoy the sabre rattling.

Right now, we're playing a bit of brinksmanship with them. So, I got to believe that President Trump and the president of China had a conversation about this, and there might be some strategic messaging going on here through the tweet that you read. That's how President Trump communicates.

And so, as we look at where North Korea gets its power from, it's one- minute MIG flight from Seoul, one of the largest economies of the world, the Republic of Korea, and it can hit with ballistic missiles, Japan, one of the largest economies of the world. That's where it gets leverage from.

This has been a festering problem. We need to do something about it. What I would anticipate is a range of flexible deterrent options, as they're called. You can do a show of force, which we're doing now. We have, I'm pretty sure, pinpointed most of their nuclear sites and most of their ballistic missile sites. And it would be a big deal, obviously, if we were to reach out and touch Korea with our weapons and with our cruise missiles and with our B1 and B2 bombers and so forth.

BOLDUAN: A huge deal. The question is, what does the president have planned with regard to this.

General, thank you very much for the time. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, lawmakers are battling over how the U.S. should respond to Syria and any further actions in Syria. Many demanding that President Trump consult with Congress before he takes new action, but does he need to? We'll talk with a member of the Democratic leadership ahead.

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[11:51:19] BOLDUAN: President Trump has received bipartisan support and praise for his decision to conduct a missile strike in Syria. What is not bipartisan is support for what he should do now.

Joining me to discuss, a member of House Democratic leadership, Congressman Tony Cardenas.

Congressman, thank you for coming in.

REP. TONY CARDENAS, (D), CALIFORNIA: My pleasure. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Did the president make the right decision ordering the airstrike in Syria?

CARDENAS: I think the president made a point, but we need a long-term strategy. We need to hear what POTUS has to say. It's important to understand the world looks to us for leadership and, right now, we're not getting leadership out of the White House.

BOLDUAN: You praise the strike, but you want to hear more?

CARDENAS: I wouldn't call it praise --

BOLDUAN: OK.

CARDENAS: -- but I know we had to do something. It's horrendous whenever any government attacks its own people. They used chemical weapons. We're talking about children and innocent people across the board. I think it's important people to understand we stand for something, but at the same time, the president made a point, but now it's time for us to understand what is our long-term strategy.

BOLDUAN: There's some confusion over what the president's position is towards Syria in a couple of regards. The red line is one of those. Where do you think the red line should be for this president? Should it be chemical weapons or should it be if he -- if he deploys barrel bombs like Lindsey Graham believes?

CARDENAS: Exactly. When you hear somebody like Sean Spicer say something about barrel bombs and then he just walks it back, the White House walks it back right away, again, it's confusing people. That's not the leadership we need out of this country. The world is looking at us. This president took on that responsibility and he needs to act responsibly. His team needs to get their act together. We need to make sure they consult the Congress if they want to take any more actions. This is not a one-off situation. The United States is not --

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BOLDUAN: Where is the red line? Where should the red line be, Congressman?

CARDENAS: Well, the red line should be that Assad is someone who is a tyrant. Assad is someone who should not be there. But we need to have a plan. How do we go about working without coalition partners around the world to make sure that we bring justice to that part of the word?

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this. The government's view is that Assad and his regime were behind the attack. Your Democratic colleague, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, was on CNN last week and said that she was skeptical. She was skeptical that Assad was behind it. Do you share that view?

CARDENAS: Well, I think that Assad was behind it. I think it's consistent with who he has been, as a tyrant and a leader of a country, but at the same time, we need this presidency to go around and lay out what the plan is, lay out what evidence they have, so we can move forward.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman Gabbard has been facing criticism for that position that she took, she was skeptical Assad was behind the chemical attacks. Some big Democratic names, including Howard Dean, they're calling on her to be primaried over this. Do you think that she should be?

CARDENAS: Well, I think what she's doing is she's taking her responsibility as an individual elected official seriously and she is entitled to her opinion, but at the same time, what you just said, she has not been quoted that Assad was not responsible. So, again, she's taking her individual responsibility in her own direction, so in that instance, I think the people of her district need to judge her as such.

BOLDUAN: Where for you personally would the red line be? Is it chemical weapons or barrel bombs? I know I keep returning to it, but it's an important question today.

CARDENAS: The red line needs to be, what is the plan, how are we going to treat this particular leader, Assad --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: No, but the red line, of course, is if you cross this, we are going to have to respond. The red line for the president was chemical weapons he said. Do you think the red line should include barrel bombs?

CARDENAS: I think it should include both. It should include all of those kinds of atrocities. But at the same time, what we have is a president who is saying and people out of this administration giving red lines and then walking it back. That's why we need consistency. We need leadership and we need the president to take on that responsibility.

[11:55:18] BOLDUAN: Your perspective is very important, and interesting that you would support the red line that included barrel bombs, and more clarification is needed.

Thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate the time.

CARDENAS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, new outrage erupts after a man was dragged off an overbooked flight. Is it overbooked if they put United employees on? That's a question to ponder in the break. Also this, is United blaming the passenger? Hear the CEO's response.

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(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You busted his lip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Look what you did to him.

(SHOUTING)

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[12:00:05] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow. Syria tops the agenda. And the kremlin already making clear it doesn't --