This is a rush transcript from "The First 100 Days," February 28, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, THE FIRST 100 DAYS ANCHOR: The biggest speech of President Trump's administration to date is here on this day 40 of The First 100 days. Good evening, everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum, reporting tonight from the nation's capital. So, just over an hour from now, we expect the president will depart the White House on this very rainy night en route to the capital. Aides are suggesting that this evening speech will be bright, optimistic in tone, that's the goal for him this evening as President Trump highlights the campaign promises that he has been filled today, he wants to enumerate those.
He also looks forward to talking about the goals that he hopes to achieve with the hopes of Congress. And they are the main audience tonight as well as everybody watching at home of course. So, one of which we're learning could include an immigration bill of comprehensive nature. We got a huge show lined up for you tonight including a preview of the speech with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt joins us on a brand new executive order to review the economic impact of a controversial water regulation.
We're also going to hear from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who I sat down with earlier today and House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCall. But we begin tonight with Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts. Good evening, John.
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Martha, good evening to you. We are still awaiting excerpts from the president speech tonight. I was told an hour ago that I would have them in five to 10 minutes, so we're going on being some 50 minutes late for that latest estimate. But one thing we do know that the president is going to talk about tonight, as you said, is this push for immigration reform. And not just some tinkering around the edges, comprehensive immigration reform.
Here's what the president told a gathering of the network news anchors and Sunday show hosts at lunch today. He said, "the time is right for an immigration bill, as long as both sides are willing to compromise." Now, there is no specifics, no details on this yet. But we are told that the president may consider some sort of legal status for many of the people who are in this country illegally and potentially citizenship for the so called Dreamers who were covered by the deferred action for childhood arrivals.
The president, you see roads and bridges there, will also talk about infrastructure tonight on the campaign trail, he said he'd like to create a one trillion dollar fund for infrastructure, joked today at lunch that he expects to get standing ovations from Democrats when he talks about infrastructure. He's also going to reach out to the middle class tonight with his push to create more jobs, grow the economy through tax and regulatory reform. Better education for people, creating the conditions to keep jobs here as opposed to allowing them to move overseas and to bring back American manufacturing.
He's also going to reach out to poor communities and tell them that with his administration, help is on the way. Safety and security will be a big topic as well tonight, border security, also removing criminal illegal aliens. He signed that executive order back in the -- at the end of January that would do that. Also, protections for law enforcement officers. A few of the special guests that he's tonight really Martha are going to echo that theme.
He's got the widows of a couple of police officers who were killed by an illegal immigrant. He's got the father of a high school student who was killed by an illegal immigrant. And all of this talk about immigration too is rather ironic in its timing because tomorrow the president is expected to sign his new executive order on the immigration ban. And that's expected to draw an avalanche of criticism from Democrats, in terms of immigration reform, we'll see what Foti gets off on, if tonight, tomorrow.
MACCALLUM: It would be fascinating. John, thank you so much.
ROBERTS: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, earlier, just a little while ago, I talked to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump with some details on what we can expect to hear specifically in just under two hours. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: What do you think the president's main goal is this evening? What does he want people to walk away from the speech with?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT FOR DONALD TRUMP: Martha, thanks for having me. It is indeed a big night here for President Trump, it's a beautiful speech that will be delivered from the heart. He has written and rewritten passages of it over time. And I think he seeks to do a few things tonight. One is to really detail his accomplishments that he has had in the first few weeks of his early administration and to show that he has kept the promises made to the American people.
And then to preview what's to come for a man who really does take action and have an impact on a day-to-day basis. He'll talk about health care tonight, the border, hell' talk about our relations around the globe. He will talk about education. He's honoring some of his special guests tonight, I had occasion to meet with a number of them today. Very exciting day here, it's a rare (INAUDIBLE) and he will be honoring Megan Crowley, who has Pompe's disease and affliction, a rare disease where young people were not affected to live past the age of five. She's 20 years old at a sophomore at Notre Dame.
MACCALLUM: It's a great story. I've read that earlier. You know, in terms of the communications, he said this morning that he feels that he or his people have not explained what he wants to do clearly enough. What is it that needs to fix? What does he want to fix in that regard tonight?
CONWAY: Well, the president has said many times, Martha, that he's surprised the coverage never really got better from when he was a candidate to when he was elected. The president-elect now, the president of the United States and he has a point and everywhere and not with everyone. But we just want-- he just wants fair coverage and I would also argue for full coverage. So he has, including today, he's put forth close to 30, probably about 25 or so executive actions of some sorts.
And one or two have gotten all the coverage. I mean, just today, H.R. 321, the inspire act, that encourages NASA to involve young girls in their science and space programs. It's very exciting, he's very committed to it. We just want full coverage of everything that he's doing. People can criticize it, they can ask a tough questions. But it ought to be covered. So that's it, he gave himself an A for effort and for accomplishment because he knows every single day he wakes up and he is determined to fulfill more of those promises.
From the communications perspective also, I think the president is his own best spokesperson. So when he goes out tonight in that joint session, when he does things like the rally in Florida when he gives a press conference, 77 minutes long, it takes 17 questions from reporters. That is Donald Trump I think at its finest because he is the one connecting, communicating like no one else can directly with the American people. And tonight at the joint sessions, certainly the great opportunity for that.
MACCALLUM: It is indeed. We look forward to it but we go to ask you one last question because one of the hottest stories out there is you sitting on the couch with your shoes dug into the back of the couch. Do you want to explain anything about that since it just seems to be everywhere today?
CONWAY: I heard it went viral. I really been probably busy doing the things that I have to think on Omarosa Manigault because apparently she gave all the quotes about the situation there to other Washington post at least where I was asked to take the picture. We had a crowded room, we never had so many people in the Oval Office in this young administration, gathering of men and women at one time to take a picture.
So, as Omarosa pointed out, there was literally nowhere to stand, the press had come in and a couple of them had asked me to take pictures and text it to them right away and I did that. And I just snapped at that angle. I needed to get a better angle, I hope people are showing that and then I texted it to a few of them and then it was over in a matter of very quick moments. So, I of course respect the office of the president and its current occupant.
I'm glad there is such a renewed interest in showing respect for the office of the president. Let's hope that trend continues. But obviously, I meant no disrespect, I'm just always amazed what actually qualifies as news on a day when there is so much of it. And I would really just implore people to look at the substance of what the president is doing with historically black colleges and universities. I had occasion to meet with a number of them yesterday and today. And I really want to applaud their work and they're --
MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, Kellyanne. Good to see you. Big night of course and we'll be watching with live coverage. Thanks for being here tonight. So in the run-up to the speech tonight, President Trump had a very busy day as you've seen including signing an executive order that did away with one of the most controversial environmental rules of the Obama era. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A few years ago, the EPA decided that navigable waters can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmers land or anyplace else that they decide, right? It was a massive power grab, the EPA's regulators, we're putting people out of jobs, it's what today's executive order, I'm directing the EPA to take action, paving the way for the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: So joining me now, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. Sir, good to have you with us tonight. Welcome.
SCOTT PRUITT, Environmental Protection Agency: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, I know farmers are very happy about the beginning of the rollback of this regulation. Tell us why.
PRUITT: Well, I think it is farmers and ranchers and oil and gas producers and those who build subdivisions. I mean, economic development has been impacted because it's waters of the United States Rule, Martha. What you had happened, the EPA a couple of years ago created a rule that literally said to the dry creek beds and puddles in certain parts of the country were considered a water of the United States.
And that's just -- it's inconsistent with the history of the authority of the clean water act of the authority of Congress. Historically, navigable waters have been interstate related. Obviously, that's important because the interstate commerce clause that you had a power grab that was taking place at the EPA, and they were trying to insert jurisdiction over land use decisions that were being made by private property owners in cities and towns and states across the country.
So the president is keeping his promises. He' promised regulatory rollback. He's promised that we're going to pass rules and regulations that are consistent with the authority granted to the agencies by Congress. And this executive order today is exactly what we needed to see to send that message to farmers, ranchers, oil and gas producers, economic developers, the economy and jobs across the country, that we're not going to operate within the rule of law.
MACCALLUM: So you now run an eight-billion-dollar agency with 15,000 employees, many of whom disagree with you on a lot of these topics. And now you're going to be asked as is every other agency and the government, a non-security agency, to cut 25 percent of your spending and your -- probably a number of your employees. How is that going over at the EPA?
PRUITT: Well this process, as you know, Martha, is very early. This is the beginning of the process, not the end of the process. And we've already communicated to our employees internally and we're having conversations with OMD and other agencies, federal level to send a message that we need to protect, you know, Grant as an example, about half of the EPA budget is Grant related that goes to water infrastructure.
And clean up superfund sites in Portland, Oregon, and Chicago and other places in the country, Butte, Montana. And so, we're going to continue to have that discussion, making sure that as Congress passes the budget, as --- it interacts with the executive branch and the White House and our agency that they know the priorities that we have as an agency to make sure we achieve clean air and clean water. But also with a commitment of finding this balance between growing our economy and also being a good steward of the environment.
MACCALLUM: It's going to be a tough challenge in many ways for you. Now, head of the EPA. There was another story that bubbled up concerning you that claims that you did not tell the truth in your senate testimony when you said that you had only used the Oklahoma government email for state business. And that public search unearthed some 2013 exchanges with lobbyist groups in the oil industry and fossil fuels industries and petroleum industry and they see that as a big problem. Did you not tell the truth in your senate testimony, sir?
PRUITT: Martha, we provided all the information with respect to the advocacy that I engaged in as an attorney general, it was about the state's interest. That issue was about hydraulic fracturing and the regulatory regime that the State of Oklahoma has in respect to that issue. And you had steps being taken by federal agencies that were trying to displace that. It was not on behalf of a company, it was not behalf of anyone other than the State of Oklahoma and our regulatory environment that we've since 1948. So, those things have been provided for a number of years, actually. And that information is out there.
MACCALLUM: But do you wish that you would answer that question differently in your testimony given what has now been released?
PRUITT: Well, I think the -- I think the response I provided the Congress was exactly right. I mean, we provided information, all those emails were reviewed, the emails both private and publics. So, that information has been reviewed. It's over 7,000 pages I understand it, Martha, that have been provided --
MACCALLUM: Yes. That's right.
PRUITT: -- by the State of Oklahoma. This has been -- I answered a thousand questions post in the confirmation hearing. We answered more questions in our senate confirmation hearing than any administrator in history. Sit over six and a half hours of more information. So, this has not been about information, it's been political theater. Tonight, the focus should be on with the president. Obviously he's going to be talking about the importance of regulatory reform, the regulatory breach.
MACCALLUM: Thank you very much for being here tonight. Scott Pruitt, look forward to speaking with you again. All right. So, President Trump got a lot of attention earlier today when he was asked about reports that President Obama was working to undermine the Trump administration. See what happened there. We'll show you that a sound bite from this morning. Plus, Hillary Clinton going after President Trump on Twitter earlier.
We'll show you why when Marc Thiessen and Mo Elleithee join us straight ahead. Hot controversy right after this.
MACCALLUM: It is a big night here in Washington, D.C., just over 90 minutes from now, President Trump will speak to Congress and to the nation on the hole, of course, charting the road ahead for his administration. But before he does, Mr. Trump today talked about the last administration and reports that President Obama and some of his loyalists are making trouble, he believes, for his presidency. Here is President Trump on Fox and Friends this morning. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KILMEADE, "FOX & FRIENDS" CO-HOST: Do you believe President Obama is behind it and if he is, is that a violation of the called -- so-called onside president's code?
TRUMP: You know, I think he is behind it. I also think it's politics. I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, you know, some of the leaks which are really very serious leaks because they're very bad in terms of national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Joining us now, Karen Finney, former Clinton campaign spokesperson. Karen, welcome. Good to have you here tonight.
KAREN FINNEY, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Good to be with you.
MACCALLUM: So what do you think about that?
FINNEY: That's ridiculous. I mean, you know, American citizens have the right to speak out and to say if they disagree with something of the president is doing. I think that's what you've been seeing all over the country, for example, in these healthcare townhouse where people are raising concern.
MACCALLUM: But he was talking specifically about the leaks that happened from phone calls that he had with foreign leaders which I know is one of the things that he is most upset about and the thinking is that some of the agencies who still have a lot of holdovers, that nobody would have any access to those transcripts except people who actually work inside the government, that's what I think he was referring to.
FINNEY: Again, I think that is ridiculous. I think the concern -- what we've seen reported at least is that people have real concerns about the way this president and we know to the point where Mr. Flynn actually had to step down the way they've been conducting themselves. And so to make those kinds of suggestions, I think, is a real distraction from the real issue, which is, we know that a hostile foreign government tried to impact our election.
We know that members of his inner circle have had communications during the election with members of a hostile foreign governments. It is fair to say, we want to know what were the nature of those communications. What did the Russians do what with the information I learned, so --
MACCALLUM: All those things are under investigation. There has been no direct line drawn between them as a result --
FINNEY: The investigation haven't quite started yet but certainly, we learn --
MACCALLUM: (INAUDIBLE) behind us and --
FINNEY: They haven't quite started yet in the house but hopefully they will, the FBI is investigating. I hope we will learn --
MACCALLUM: But had went underway for quite some time to Michael Flynn.
FINNEY: Yes. So the FBI is investigating and we know the house --
FINNEY: I think we want to know -- yes, I think we want to know the information but it's the very fact that that happened doesn't -- I mean, President Obama has nothing to do with that. That has to do --
MACCALLUM: But those are separate issues. They're separate issues. We are talking about the leaks that -- the transcript of the presidential discussion, which could only come from someone inside or his people or holdovers. Those are the only two people who would have --
FINNEY: Well, he was broadly talking about leaks. But let's also -- leaks out of those conversation, and certainly some -- he had been also talking about that in the context of some of these conversations with the Russians. Certainly he talked about that, certainly when Flynn stepped down. My point here is -- I mean, this is an administration where they have leaks. I mean, look at what Sean Spicer had to do in terms of asking people to turn over their phones.
Look at the reports that we've seen members of the administration, people who came in with President Trump who had been communicating with each other using these encrypted apps on their phone. So let's take a look --
MACCALLUM: But quickly, before I let you go, if he brings up immigration tonight, is that an area where you think Democrats and Republicans can come together?
FINNEY: It's possible but it really depends on the details. I mean, the devil is really going to be in the details and how much detail will he go into? I mean, we're talking about the second-class citizen status and we talk about a path to legalized status but not citizenship, what does that really mean? What does it mean for the DACA children and their parent specifically? So I think it really depends on the details and how will he pay for it? I mean, so much of what he's going to talk about tonight and from what we've heard, it really will depend how is he going to pay for it and what's the impact going to be on hard work in America.
MACCALLUM: All right. Karen, thank you very much. Good to have you here on this rainy night and of our tent (INAUDIBLE) over the capital.
FINNEY: Good to be here.
MACCALLUM: So we hear now with more on this. Bill Bennett, host of the Bill Bennett Show on iTunes and a Fox News Contributor. Bill, good evening, good to have you with us tonight.
BILL BENNETT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you very much. Great to be with you. Very interesting evening, very exciting evening.
MACCALLUM: So your thoughts on what the president said it is. You know, before we get into the big picture, your thoughts on what President Trump said this morning that he believes that, you know, there are Obama administration holdovers that may be trying to make things difficult for him in the form of these leaks. Do you give that any credence?
BENNETT: Yes. I mean, I ram a department, Department of Education and in fact, I was taking over from a Republican. It was really a Reagan or Republican but there were a lot of holdovers from liberal administrations from earlier. And they tried to put every obstacle in my path that they could. Of course they are, they're there. They've been there for eight years, of course they are. Whether Barack Obama had been to blew the whistle and gave the orders, I don't know if he did or not.
But he can sure stop this. If you told people to cooperate, which he said in some abstract sense, it would probably work. He also told people not to disrupt these town hall meetings. I think that would be a good message. It was all, you know, kumbaya when he met with Donald Trump but I don't know, is anybody listening to him? Maybe what I'm saying is futile, maybe if wouldn't listen to him and the more they love him but I don't know that he can give orders anymore.
MACCALLUM: We'll see. He'll be back in Washington, living here. So, he'll be right around the corner. In terms of tonight, what would you like to hear, Bill?
BENNETT: Well, you know, a great speech and reaching out, maybe we're going to see another dimension, Martha, of the art of the deal, where he stakes out a position over here and then moves to -- close to the middle. I'll be very interested to see this whole immigration thing that if it becomes what we are hearing. It will be really quite something. And, you know, I understand Democrats are upset, Karen probably would object to his suit and his tie.
But, you know, if he comes up with something that both sides can live with, where everybody has to compromise a little, remember, the willingness unprincipled to compromise is fine. They're willing to compromise on principle is not. And I am watching. I think this could be -- could be one of the most important speeches of his presidency early as it is.
MACCALLUM: Well, we were expecting a transcript. So, I think they may still be burning the nighttime oil over there making some adjustments as they go along which we know has happened in the past. So, we'll see. Bill Bennett, always good to see you, sir. Thank you very much.
BENNETT: Thank you. Can I tell my age cohort to search iTunes for the Bill Bennett Show, if you don't know what that means, find a millennial and they'll do it for you. Thank you.
MACCALLUM: OK. Well said. Thank you, sir.
BENNETT: And it's free.
MACCALLUM: So also tonight, our exclusive interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his plans for handling the Obamacare issue. We got into that with him this afternoon, fascinating stuff. Plus, after bomb threats at Jewish Centers across the country, some on the left are attacking the president for not doing enough. We're going to show you how Hillary Clinton is leading the charge there. She is back in the story coming up next.
MACCALLUM: It is getting pretty exciting around here. Live pictures just coming back Statuary Hall in the capital. You can see everybody sort of milling around in there. We just saw a motorcade of buses, as members of Congress were carried up to the hill. Moments ago, maybe you can hear the sirens going behind me and Mr. Trump of course getting his speech completely ready over at the White House. Will be arriving shortly as well and he faces a lot of pressure throughout the last few weeks and tonight form the left.
Following new reports on a lot of fronts, actually but this as well, reports of hate crimes and anti-Semitic threats around the country. Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to call out her former rival, writing this. "With threats and hate crimes on the rise, we shouldn't have to tell POTUS to do his part. He must step up and speak out." For more on this, we turn to Trace Gallagher on our west coast newsroom with some background here. Hi, Trace.
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Hi, Martha. Along with her comment on Twitter, Hillary Clinton also linked to a story in the Kansas City star detailing the shooting of two India-born engineers shot inside a bar in a Kansas City suburb. Witnesses say the shooter yelled, "Get out of my country." One of the man was killed, the other severely injured, a third man who tried to stop the shooter was also wounded.
The wife of the man who was killed said she wants answers from the government on how it will stop hate crimes. And though President Trump has not commented or tweeted about the shootings, the White House did today acknowledge the incident does appear to be racially motivated, although Press Secretary Sean Spicer says drawing correlations between the shooting and the president's rhetoric is absurd.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for reelection, did more than just draw a correlation between Trump and the uptake in New York hate crimes, saying, "the horrible hateful rhetoric that was used in this election by candidate Trump and by a lot of his supporters directly connects to an increase since the election in anti-Semitic incidents, anti- Muslim incidents, and anti-LGBT incidents." While the president has condemned a rash of bomb threats at Jewish community centers and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries, a host on an MSNBC also decided to point fingers. Watch.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look what is happening with these bomb threats at Jewish community centers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you blaming the bomb threats on the president?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't blame it on him, but to say that this is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: The fact is, it has always existed, for example, in 2014, 2015, the FBI tallied more than 1200 hate crime incidents targeting Jews. Martha.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS SHOW HOST: Thank you. Joining me now with more, Marc Thiessen, American Enterprise Institute fellow, and Mo Elleithee, founding director of Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service. Both are Fox News contributors. Gentlemen, welcome. Good to have you here. Mo, let me start with you. In terms of Hillary Clinton's statement and what you just heard there, what do you think?
MO ELLEITHEE, FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You can't blame the president for anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism has existed for centuries. Having said that, I do believe that during the campaign, Donald Trump -- I wouldn't say most of his supporters are anti-Semitic -- but he did -- his campaign ended up being a home for sort of the most fringe elements of our society.
People like David Duke and the Klan. That said, that we finally have someone who supports our agenda. We are in a really tough spot right now. And I think this president has an opportunity that I don't think he is quite seizing, to use his position to try to heal some of those divisions, to speak up more forcefully, to speak up a little bit earlier than he has in some of these cases, whether it is the desecration of these Jewish cemeteries or whether it is the terrible shooting of the two Indian men.
It's taking days for him to show any sort of reaction. And I think he could be more forceful if you truly wants to be a president, get past the stigma that he is divisive. He has an opportunity now that I just don't think he has been taking.
MARC THIESSEN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE FELLOW, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I love Mo, but to say that Donald Trump's home campaign was a home for David Duke is exactly the problem we are facing here today. Is that there is this anti-Trump hysteria and anything that happened has to be blamed on Donald Trump in some way.
Donald Trump is the least anti-Semitic president probably we ever had. He is a best friend of Israel we ever had. His greatest ally in the world is BiBi Netanyahu. His closest advisor is his son-in-law who is an orthodox Jew. His daughter converted to Judaism. He is most pro-Israel person. Barack Obama, he gave millions of dollars to the Iranian regime to call for a second holocaust, that doesn't make him anti-Semitic.
There was just today, two police officers shot in Houston. Is that because Hillary Clinton embraced Black Lives Matter during the campaign and had hateful rhetoric that sent a dog whistle that it is all okay to shoot police? Of course not. It is just ridiculous to blame these kind of incidents on.
MACCALLUM: The call for him to react and to react more quickly, is there any validity to him needing to say something?
THIESSEN: I think presidents should say something when there is a rash of incidents. Absolutely and he has. He has spoken. But it is also not the president's job to comment on every single crime that takes place in the country. His job is to run the country and lead our nation.
MACCALLUM: Here is this philosophy, you heard it on MSNBC, is that oh, you know, is anyone surprised that this is happening? That sort of tone. I think it's dangerous, Mo.
ELLEITHEE: I also think it is dangerous when you see reports like the one that came out today, where the president speaking to the state attorney general who gathered today in Washington and met with him, and this issue came up. He reportedly said to them, look, sometimes, it's the reverse. I think that was his quote. Sometimes, that there are people out there who do things like this to make other people look bad.
Leaving it an insinuation out there that this might be some sort of false flag incident. That is certainly is not helpful. And a president does not have to react to every single crime that takes place. If we are seeing this kind of a rash in such a concentrated period of time, there is something happening out there, and the president has a responsibility to be a unifier and to be a healer and to try to bring the country together. And I don't think the president has taken the opportunities that are available to do that.
MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, guys. Good to see you both.
THIESSEN: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: All right. Again, we are expecting big news from the president on immigration and Homeland Security Chair Mike McCaul just back from a visit to the southern border. He is just ahead on what he learned there and what we could see in a possible immigration bill, which was kind of a late start this afternoon.
Rumblings that we would get something new and different tonight. Also, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about to play a huge role in what happens next. I sat down with him earlier today on Capitol Hill. That is coming up.
MACCALLUM: Breaking tonight, President Trump will be heading over to Capitol Hill shortly. Earlier today, I had a chance to sit down exclusively with one of the main men who will help push the President's agenda through Congress. In fact, he may be the most important one, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. We discussed the goals moving forward, including what to do about Obamacare. Watch.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: We heard President Trump in the CPAC speech the other day say that the time of empty talk is over, and this is the era of action. Do you agree with him?
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I do. I do. Everybody talked about last year's election being a change election. Actually, it wasn't, for Congress. American people reelected a Republican Senate and Republican House, gave us a president who will sign our agenda. And I really like what the president is doing. I think the cabinet appointments have been terrific.
The Supreme Court nomination, truly outstanding. He is beginning to move on deregulating an over-regulated America. And of course, we are going to fix the health care system and do a comprehensive tax reform. All that stuff would amount to an incredibly successful Congress and we are excited about having somebody who will sign into law the things that we have been advocating for years.
MACCALLUM: So you sat down with him yesterday at the White House, you and Speaker Ryan. What was your sense of what is his top priority of the things you just mentioned?
MCCONNELL: Well, first, we are going to move with fixing health care. Repealing and replacing Obamacare. But in the meantime, we are also taking regulations that have over-regulated the economy off the books, both through his own actions, and other actions that we can initiate and he can sign.
MACCALLUM: Did he express any frustration that there isn't a repeal plan ready to go from Republicans? There is frustration out there.
MCCONNELL: No, I don't think so. You know, this is hard. This is not easy. We are working together with the administration and the house to come up with something that we think will replace ObamaCare.
MACCALLUM: You have constituents out there, Republicans across the country, who say, you had seven years to think about this.
MCCONNELL: But we didn't have a president.
MACCALLUM: Take out the wilderness to come up with your plan while there wasn't a whole lot going on, frankly. So, why did you not come to the table, now that you have the president in place and say, here we go, Mr. President.
MCCONNELL: I don't think this is taking a whole lot of time. You know, this is the end of the second month of the administration. We couldn't have moved any quicker to address this issue. Then if all Republicans had agreed. Now, we have a person who will sign whatever we passed into law. The president's decision on this is what gives us the way forward. It is not an exercise in futility anymore. In other words, what we are going to do will actually become the law of the land.
MACCALLUM: Do you think tonight he should reach out to Democrats? Because you may need ten Democrats to pass this new version of health care, whatever and ends up looking like. Do you want to hear that from him? Does he indicate that he will do that tonight?
MCCONNELL: I would like to see an optimistic address tonight. I think that would be more appealing to a broader number of Americans. The people who were protesting at home are active Democrats. They have a right to protest, no question about it. But they never voted for Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell in the first place.
But there are numbers of independent voters and more open-minded Democrats who I think would like to see the country move forward. And to do that, they have to deal with a Republican house, Republican senate, Republican president.
MACCALLUM: And who is driving the process? Because when President Obama did it, he sort of left it up to Congress to formulate that plan. He was criticized for that. Where is it coming from now? The White House or from Capitol Hill?
MCCONNELL: Well, the secretary of health and human services, under the law that was past eight years ago, has a lot of discretion. We are working with the new secretary, Tom Price, to stabilize health insurance market. Some of the things he can do on his own, some will require legislation. We are working hand in hand to come up with a better health care system that we have now, which is completely and totally unsustainable.
MACCALLUM: So do you feel like you can get the more conservative members of the senate and the house, eventually on the same page with that?
MCCONNELL: Well, here's the deal. You either forward what the president will sign or you are for the status quo. And I don't think there are many Republicans who think we were sent here on ObamaCare for the status quo. And the only way the status quo will ever change is with a presidential signature. So, the arbiter of this debate is the president of United States and his team. They will tell us what they are for and if we want to change the status quo, that is what will have to be for.
MACCALLUM: Senator McConnell, thank you very much.
MCCONNELL: Thank you, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Good to see you.
MCCONNELL: Good to see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: It is all up to the president, he said. We are going to hear from him in just a little while. Straight ahead, we do expect that he will try to sell his plan also for immigration. A comprehensive reform of some sort. We will get the details tonight and the door behind me. Homeland Security Chair Mike McCaul, plus Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley joining us moments away to tell us what you need to be listening for and watching in the speech when we come back.
MACCALLUM: Lots of action on the streets around the Capitol right now. President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress now just about an hour away. We are told that the president will push for an immigration bill by asking for compromise on both sides of the political aisle, so what the Democratic reaction gonna be?
Homeland Security Chairman Congressman Mike McCaul just took a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border with Speaker Paul Ryan. And the Congressman joins us now. Good to see you.
MICHAEL MCCAUL, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: (inaudible).
MACCALLUM: What was Paul Ryan's reaction to the border?
MCCAUL: It was his first time to go down to the border. I think it was very educational for him to see it. They had a big marijuana seizure when he was down there. He had an air flight in the black hawk helicopter, went on the river. I think he was intrigued by the concrete levees that could potentially operate like a concrete wall. But the local people like that because it protects them from a flood.
So, very important, he got an intelligence briefing also on the threat from the drug cartels, human and drug trafficking, and potential terrorists who can come into the United States. That is why this campaign promise of the president is fulfilling I think is so important to protect the homeland.
MACCALLUM: So we are getting winded that there will be some sort of outreach on immigration, perhaps comprehensive immigration reform tonight. What do you think about it?
MCCAUL: I think it would be almost like Nixon going to China. For this president, who ran on a very strong anti-immigrant platform to be able to open up, I think what the American people want, I think when I talked to my constituents, they want the peace of mind of security being performed at the border, which he is starting to do now.
And we will be working with him on that. The deportation of criminal aliens that pose a public safety threat to Americans. I think once that they see that that is being done, they may be more open to that conversation. We will wait and see what the president says tonight.
MACCALLUM: He will get a lot of backlash from his staunch supporters.
MCCAUL: Potentially. But only he I think can propose such an idea to move forward. But I don't think this could take place until Americans feel safe and secure at the borders, taking care of the dangerous people who are here in the United States are deported, and that terrorist can't enter the United States through other pathways.
MACCALLUM: Mike McCaul, thank you.
MCCAUL: Thank you, Martha. Appreciate it.
MACCALLUM: Joining us now, Democratic response, New York Congressman Joe Crowley, the house Democratic caucus chairman. Good to have you with us. Welcome, sir.
JOE CROWLEY, CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: Your thoughts on what we are talking about here, and the potential for an outreach to Democrats and Republicans to get together on comprehensive immigration reform. We have heard about it a whole lot.
CROWLEY: It is hard for me to give an analysis when we don't know what the details are. In this case, the devil is in the details. We would welcome the notion or idea or of giving peace of mind to millions of people, DACA children who were born here by their parents at a young age. And we are anxious to hear what those details are. But quite frankly, we just don't know what to expect from this president. He has been very erratic. You know, only time will tell.
MACCALLUM: What about on ObamaCare? If he says to Democrats tonight, look, there are issues with this plan, are you willing to work with me on that? If he lays that out there, wouldn't it be kind of difficult to shut it down and say, no, we want to talk about it?
CROWLEY: We are in the minority in both houses. The president will have to make those overtures to us. As President Obama said and I have said and members of the Democratic caucus have said over and over again, if the presentation is an opportunity to keep people who have insurance now on a plan, improve that plan, keep the cost down, keep the quality of that plan where it is, if not better, that is something we certainly can look at and can be supportive of. But we haven't seen anything like that coming out of the Congress, nor, quite frankly coming out of the White House at this point.
MACCALLUM: Yeah. You know, in terms of the mood that Democrats walk in there with tonight, are we going to see a lot of, you know, sitting on their hands or even perhaps shouting out a response to the president tonight? What is the Democratic mood?
CROWLEY: I've been in the house on my 19th year now. The only time I've ever heard a member ever shout out to a president was a Republican member from South Carolina a number of years ago who shout out to President Obama. I have never witnessed that before. I don't suspect that Democrats will do that now.
We respect the office of the president. We may not agree with this president on anything, quite frankly. But we do have a healthy respect for the office itself and we are hoping that what he says tonight is positive and not negative.
MACCALLUM: Congressman Crowley, thank you very much. Good to have you with us tonight.
CROWLEY: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: So the moment is fast approaching. A little bit more than an hour until President Trump delivers his most important address since his inaugural. Brand-new details. We are getting a look at some parts of what we may expect to hear tonight. All of that and the VIP guest list when we come back.
MACCALLUM: Now, we are about an hour away from President Trump's first address before a joint session of Congress tonight. The VIP attendees are already shuffling through the halls of Congress. We have seen their buses go by, they are looking for their seeds in the house chamber. For more on the special guest that we expect to see, we turn to our chief national correspondent, Ed Henry. Good evening, Ed.
ED HENRY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Martha. Six guests joining First Lady Melania Trump in the house chamber tonight, all to make political points, including 20-year-old Megan Crowley as a child. She was diagnosed with a rare disease but overcame it after her father founded a pharmaceutical company to look for a cure. The start-up now has 100 employees. Denisha Merriweather will be here, a big school choice supporter, as well as the widow of Justice Antonin Scalia, Maureen McCarthy Scalia, to showcase the push for Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace him.
Then to highlight the crackdown of course on illegal immigration, the first lady will have three guests who lost family members in killings by undocumented immigrants. Jamiel Shaw Jr. lost his teenage son, while Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver are widows of police officers killed by illegals. Meanwhile, some Democrats, like Maxine Waters, boycotting, while Eliot Engel, who for nearly 30 years, arrived hours in advance to get an aisle seat to shake hands with Democrats and Republicans says, nope, not tonight.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
ELIOT ENGEL, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE FROM NEW YORK: This goes beyond ideological and political differences. The president needs to work with all people. Therefore, I will listen to what he has to say today, but I will not greet him and shake his hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Meanwhile, many Democrats bringing guests, either Muslim refugees impacted by the travel ban, undocumented workers, or DACA kids who got protection by the Obama administration, trying to make a lot of political points tonight, Martha.
MACCALLUM: As always. Ed, thank you so much. Bill O'Reilly is coming up next. Then, stay tuned for President Trump's address to Congress. Bret Baier and I will be covering it all for you starting in less than an hour.
Watch the entire speech right here live on Fox News, followed by experts inside. An analysis by our fantastic panel. You won't see it anywhere else. Thanks for watching, everybody. I am Martha MacCallum. See you in a bit.
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