Gorka: Trump is not an interventionist president; Rep. DeSantis talks health care overhaul, tax reform

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This is a rush transcript from "Sunday Morning Futures," April 16, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARIA BARTIROMO, HOST: Good morning. North Korea's missile test fizzles, just as Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea for a 10-day visit to Asia.

Meanwhile, Washington is looking ahead this morning to next week with a renewed focus on health care and tax reform.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Maria Bartiromo. Happy Easter to you and yours. This is "Sunday Morning Futures."

North Korea's show of force failing, a missile test over almost before it began. What's the next step for the White House in dealing with the rogue nation?

Trump adviser, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, joins me momentarily, live.

Also, my exclusive interview with President Trump on the foreign policy challenges facing America today. The President pulls back the curtain on his meeting with Chinese president, and how he reacted when Mr. Trump told him that the U.S. was in fact launching missile strikes on Syria.

And will an ObamaCare repeal be back on the table after the Easter recess for congress? How will that affect the timetable for tax reform? A member the Freedom Caucus is with me, Ron DeSantis, and tax reform advocate, Grover Norquist, will join me live as we look ahead right now "Sunday Morning Futures."

North Korea defies the world again, attempting to fire a missile, but it fails almost immediately, blowing up on the launch pad. This, only a day after the regime rolled out a huge display of the tanks, rockets, missiles in a parade through Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence arriving in South Korea this Easter Sunday for the beginning of a 10-day trip throughout Asia. This morning, he told U.S. service members their mission is vital.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world.

Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear inspires our nation and inspires the world.


BARTIROMO: Dr. Sebastian Gorka is Deputy Assistant to President Trump. Good to see you, Dr. Gorka. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Happy Easter, Maria. And congratulations on your interview with the boss.

BARTIROMO: Thank you so much. The President, in that interview this past week, said that we are sending an armada toward the Korean peninsula. What is the goal?

GORKA: The goal is to reassert American leadership around the world and to reassure our allies, our partners and our friends that America is back. We are jettisoning this idea of leading from behind, which itself is an oxymoron, and the principle of the Obama administration's national security strategy, which was so-called strategic patience.

That means doing nothing and creating vacuums around the world, whether it's in Europe, whether it's in the Middle East, or whether it's in Asia, vacuums that bad people will exploit. That era is gone and the president is showing leadership.

BARTIROMO: Well, he's certainly showing that, the era of leading from behind is over. He's saying that very strongly.

Let me ask you, Dr. Gorka. there's some conversation happening this morning about what role the U.S. played in that missile failing out of North Korea overnight because apparently, there is some talk that the U.S. could have done something gone on offense with a cyberattack to core -- to cause the North Korean missile to blow up. True?

GORKA: This is not the Obama White House. We don't give our playbook away. That is very bad strategy. But we have an incredible team, whether it's Secretary Mattis, whether it's H.R. McMaster, whether it's Tom Bossert that is responsible for some of our most amazing cyberwork.

But we're just not going to tell people what we do. So people need to draw their conclusions, but understand, the use of the MOAB, the use of the cruise missiles, these things send a clear message but we're not going to comment whether or not we were involved in anything happening in North Korea. That's not good strategy. I'm sorry.

BARTIROMO: So having the armada there is just a reminder that the U.S. is ready. It will act if it needs to -- you know, North Korea is getting just as tough, a top North Korean official threatening a preemptive strike against the U.S. if his nation believes America is taking what he's calling, quote, "reckless military action." Are we ready for that?

GORKA: I'd like to make one thing very clear because there's been a lot of misreporting on this. The President is not an interventionist commander-in- chief. Nothing has changed from November the 7th to today. He's been explicit. We're not invading other people's countries. We're not occupying them. This isn't some neoconservative Bush era administration.

Nevertheless, we have obligations to our friends in that region, and on top of that, things like weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue regimes, chemical weapons, those will not be countenanced because they are a threat to Americans as well. And that's why you're seeing the leadership out of the White House that you're seeing.

BARTIROMO: Yes. It's extraordinary, Dr. Gorka. We recognize that.

Let me ask you about the mother of all bombs. This is another incredible story, sir, because the U.S. dropping the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on what is said was an ISIS cave complex in remote Afghanistan, incredible to see the number of ISIS fighters that were killed as a result of that, and no civilians.

GORKA: Yes. This is really the untold story of the last few years and this is why the action had to be taken. ISIS isn't just something happening in Iraq or Syria. It is stunning, within the last two years, we have seen Afghan warlords swear (INAUDIBLE) swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new so-called caliph of the Islamic State.

That is a very bad sign. That happened because of the leading from behind, that somebody in South Asia is pledging allegiance to a terrorist group in the Middle East. That's why we had to send the signal.

And of course, Maria, a cave's complex is very similar to a bunker complex, and as a result, other questions, other conclusions are being drawn by rogue actors.

BARTIROMO: That weapon was so massive that it had to be dropped from the rear of a cargo plane. I thought it was really interesting that there was a little bit of a nuance to what the President was saying in terms of the U.S.'s approach to foreign policy, and that is he's listening directly to the generals on the ground.

This is a change strategy, because I remember, during the Obama administration, many of the generals on the ground were upset that they weren't being heard, Dr. Gorka. Is that part of the strategy for the president?

GORKA: Absolutely. Our great men and women in uniform were shackled for eight years. We have what I call the 8000-mile screwdriver. There were people here in D.C. that were making tactical decisions of the lowest level, and not allowing our war fighters to do their job.

That has changed. We trust our men and women in uniform. The President trusts their leaders, and we're telling them, "You have been trained to do a job. We're going to let you do the job." That's leadership. And President Trump knows how to delegate. Look at his business career, look at what he's doing now. Let the professionals do their job and that's why morale is skyrocketing in the armed forces right now.

BARTIROMO: So the mother of all bombs dropped in Afghanistan. You've got an armada headed toward the Korean peninsula. Listen to what the President told me about that armada when we discussed North Korea earlier this week.


TRUMP: We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That, I can tell you.


BARTIROMO: What was he trying to say there, Dr. Gorka? I mean, for the longest time, we've been hearing about how our military is so depleted, and that we are needing to update, to advance in terms of technology. And here we are, looking at some of the weaponry which is the most sophisticated we've ever heard of.

GORKA: Yes, he's -- the President is sending a very simple message. This is a man who understands that diplomacy, without force to back it up, is just a bunch of words, just a piece of paper.

And that's why he's saying we have the most incredible military the world has ever seen, and that's going to back up what we're saying. It's not just going to be declarative statements. We're replacing divisiveness with decisiveness. That's how you need to interpret the President's words.

BARTIROMO: Dr. Gorka, it's great to talk with you this morning. Thank you so much for weighing in.

GORKA: Happy Easter.

BARTIROMO: We will be watching you. Happy Easter to you, Dr. Sebastian Gorka joining us there.

Coming up, more from my exclusive interview with President Trump this week. He told me he wants a deal on health care before tackling tax reform.


TRUMP: We have a great health care plan that I think will happen. And if it happens, then I go immediately to tax reform, and that will happen -- that will be easier than health care.


BARTIROMO: So when will this happen? I will be asking congressman Ron DeSantis, next, of the Freedom Caucus. Plus, follow us on Twitter, @mariabartiromo, @sundayfutures. Let us know what you would like to hear from Congressman DeSantis. He's up next. We're looking ahead right now on "Sunday Morning Futures."


BARTIROMO: Welcome back. President Trump keeping his sights set on health care and a deal, and making it a top priority.

In my exclusive interview this past week with President Donald Trump on Fox Business Network, the President said health care has to come before tax reform. Congressman Ron DeSantis of Florida is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and he sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Congressman, it's wonderful for you to join us, especially when so many of your colleagues are on vacation. Thank you very much for being here this morning.

REP. RON DESANTIS, R-FLA..: Happy Easter.

BARTIROMO: Happy Easter to you. Let me kick it off with such an important part of that interview with the President earlier this week. I want to get your reaction to this. Listen to what he said about health care and then tax reform, congressman.


TRUM: We're going to have a phenomenal tax reform, but I have to do health care first. I want to do it first to really do it right.

BARTIROMO: But you have to do health care before tax reform? When I speak with business managers, they say tax reform is so much more impactful to moving the needle on economic growth. So why do you --

TRUMP: They're all right, but because I'm saving a tremendous amount, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars we're saving on health care. So we're going to have a much better plan than ObamaCare, which is failing.

So we're saving tremendous amounts of money on health care when we get this done, number one. And most importantly, actually, we're going to have great health care and all of that saving goes into the tax.


BARTIROMO: OK. So congressman, before this, we all thought that once the GOP bill fails in the House, that you were going to change your focus and you were going to turn immediately to tax reform. No we know that tax reform is hostage to health care reform. What is stopping you from going forward on health care reform, sir?

DESANTIS: Well Maria, I think if you look at when that bill failed, we had only spent 17 days on it. We have been promising for seven years as a party that we were going to repeal and replace ObamaCare. That bill didn't quite get there. I think the CBO said it would increase insurance premiums 15 to 20 percent over the next three years. That would've been a disaster if that would have happened.

And so, I think a lot of people looked at the bill and said we need to do something about lowering premiums and giving people a chance to purchase the plans they want. That is why people don't like ObamaCare because the cost and the restrictions on prices.

And so, the White House has been doing a lot of good work behind the scenes, working with members of congress, from the vice president to the White House staff, and they generated a number of ideas that I would be comfortable with because I think it would provide relief to consumers.

And so I think it's important to do, and obviously, we do want to do tax reform. But I agree that the tax reform and lowering those rates is going to be more impactful for economic growth. Although ObamaCare is a drag as well, but I think you've got to get the ObamaCare right and get the repeal right. If we can do that, I think that will give us a huge amount of momentum going into tax reform.

BARTIROMO: Yes, and he was very specific on that. He said $900 billion in savings once you overturn all of the ObamaCare taxes and the Affordable Care Act, that will go toward paying for tax cuts. Is that the plan?

DESANTIS: Well, I think so. I mean, when you do this in Washington, they score these things and so we're kind of held hostage to a certain extent to how they run the numbers. I actually think that's a mistake and I think a lot of these numbers don't end up bearing out to be accurate.

But you basically have more slack with tax reform, so you're talking about real significant reductions in business tax rates, which we need to do because we're not competitive internationally. You're going to have the ability to drive those rates down further. I mean, I'd like to see -- the President said 15 percent, I think that's a good target. The House bill, I think, is 20 percent. Either one, I think, would be a huge improvement over where we are now.

BARTIROMO: Oh, you made a really important point just there when you brought up the 15 percent. I want to get back to it in a second.

But let me follow-up on health care. If you were to see this health care bill, mean lower premiums and the tax is eliminated, that savings of all -- that $900 billion, will you vote yes to this health care bill? Can you get this done soon?

DESANTIS: Oh, yes. Look, if we're able to get people relieved from the onerous ObamaCare regulations and mandates such that premiums will come down and people will be to choose plans that are good for them, not what the government tells them they should have, then that's the whole ball game. And so, I would be happy to vote for a bill like that.

BARTIROMO: All right. You just mentioned 15 percent. We know that that is what the President campaigned on. Fifteen percent corporate tax rate. We know that Paul Ryan's plan in the House is 20 percent.

Why should we believe that you're going to get a tax deal done when health care just failed? Are you going to have the same battle when it all comes down to it, over 15 percent corporate tax rate versus 20 percent over possible border adjustment tax, over deductions that everybody wants to hold onto their deductions and they have their lobbying groups -- isn't there a lot of battles right now brewing over this tax reform package as well? How do we know you're going to get that done?

DESANTIS: Well no, I think you're right. To me, the 15 to 20 percent won't be a dealbreaker because that's so far in the right direction that I think that that's just something that you take, if you get 20 instead of 15.

But I think you're right. When you start hearing people talk about carbon tax, border tax, and some of these new taxes, that does make it much more difficult because I think republicans didn't campaign on any of that.

And so I think that we've always said with tax reform, we want to really dramatic the lower the rate, get rid of some of the deductions loopholes which, I agree with you, can be challenging. And so you're broadening the base. And so, if it's within that framework, I think we can get there.

When you start talking about things that have imploded, like a carbon tax, that makes it way more difficult because a lot of republicans -- they're just not going to go for that.

BARTIROMO: Well, a lot of republicans are not going to go for eliminating the property deduction, eliminating the state income deduction. A lot of congressmen have told me they can't sign anything if those two things are eliminated.

Let me ask you this. Who's going to be responsible if -- I mean, the thing about the republicans is they all stand on their own principles. You're not going to vote for something that you don't agree with. And then there's just, you know, backup.

And the clock is ticking, sir. The democrats get all in line. They just move it forward. Who's going to be responsible if nothing gets done in 2017, health care and tax reform? Is there any way you would allow that to happen?

DESANTIS: I don't think we can allow that to happen. I think that with health care, we campaigned so hard against ObamaCare. And let's just be clear, we would have never won the House or the senate unless we were opposed to ObamaCare. That was really the key issue. And so, to just walk away after 17 days is not acceptable. We've got to get it right. It's not always easy. You may have to take a tough vote or two, but that's just the way that it goes.

Taxes, I think that we have a good path. There are a lot of complications. I think the key is, are democrats going to help at all with taxes? They may not. I think they've done really aggressive --

BARTIROMO: Shouldn't you assume they're not? Shouldn't you assume they're not?

DESANTIS: I think you're --

BARTIROMO: Don't you need to be unified without the dems? They're not there now. They haven't been there at all.

DESANTIS: I think you're probably right. And so, that obviously makes it more difficult. You know, what Reagan did to tax reform in '86, he got 90 votes in the senate. That's inconceivable that that would happened today because I think they've gone in the direction of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren flavor of liberalism.

So, the taxes -- we're probably going to have to do it ourselves, but it would be nice to get somebody's moderate democrat say in the senate to help us doing things, which really will increase our economic growth rate, which -- that's going to be good for everyone when that happens.

BARTIROMO: And that's certainly a priority of the administration. All right, congressman. We'll be watching. I know you have a lot on your plate.

DESANTIS: Thank you.

BARTIROMO: Thanks so much for joining us this morning. Congressman Ron DeSantis, Happy Easter to you, sir.

So if tax reform does not get -- happen very quickly, what can the White House realistically accomplish? We'll be talking with Grover Norquist next, the President of Americans for Tax Reform, as we take a look at what's possible in tax reform this year. We're looking ahead right now on "Sunday Morning Futures."


BARTIROMO: Welcome back. As we just heard, tax reform still in the works, but the August deadline set by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin is likely not going to happen. It is up in the air.

Grover Norquist is the President of Americans for Tax Reform. He joins me right now. And Grover, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.


BARTIROMO: You know, when the President was going on about health care needing to be first, I pushed back and said, "But people want tax reform, businesses in particular, because that's going to move the needle on economic growth." Do you still see tax reform happening in 2017?

NORQUIST: I do, if those republicans who undermined Trump and the republicans in House and senate by not passing health care reform a couple weeks ago, if they come back to the table and understand that we're not going to solve all of the world's problems in one blow. It's going to take many, many bites at the apple, and step one was to eliminate -- and this is what they didn't vote for. This is, what, $1 trillion -- 900 billion -- $1 trillion of tax reduction. That was in the ObamaCare tax repeal bill.

It also block granted an entire (INAUDIBLE) Medicaid, something republicans have wanted to do, going back to the Gingrich years. As well as expanding HSA. If you do that, you are $1 trillion closer -- $1 trillion every decade -- to where we want to be with tax reform. And then you'd take the corporate rate 20 percent, the subchapter as past the (ph) rate to 25 percent go to full business expense and go to a territorial tax system.

Together, you've taken two giant leaps forward towards growth. By holding things up for two weeks, they may have killed reforming health care if they don't get back to the table. They could have permanently damaged, tripled tax refund. They could pass something, but you'd be $1 trillion short. This is not just a bunch of guys obsessing about they didn't get their way because they didn't pay attention to get their homework in on time.

BARTIROMO: Right. They want to -- I want to go through the battle with you and talk about some of these things that people are fighting over, like the deduction -- the property deduction.

I had one congressman tell me recently, "Well, I can't vote for anything if they eliminate the property deduction because my constituents are paying $25,000 a year in property taxes." There's also a state income tax deduction.

If those things stay in, there's going to be a big battle. There's also going to be a big battle around the border adjustment tax idea. So are we going to see the same kind of drawn-out fight that we saw for health care, do you think?

NORQUIST: I think it's less so because -- look, they've been working on this for months, years on health care. Not 17 days. Anyone who wanted to participate was in on this a year ago, six months ago, two months ago. They showed up late to the party, and all of a sudden wanted to edit everybody else's work.

We're even further along than that on tax reform. Because this has been in play. If you haven't been at the table making the case, then you should be fired by your constituents. If you've come up with some new idea next week that you can't live without, you should be fired. Because this has been vetted for some time.

BARTIROMO: Well, that's what viewers and voters are saying. Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, Grover. I mean, at one point in my interview with the President, he said, "Look, if we just can't come to an agreement, I'll just do tax cuts."

So do you think that there is a likelihood that in 2017, we just simply see a cut in corporate taxes, a cut in individual taxes and not this overall tax reform package that includes the elimination of deductions, that includes the border tax? Is that a possibility or do you really believe that we're going to see a tax reform package this year? And tell me what it will look like.

NORQUIST: I believe we'll get a tax reform package this year. If, however, the Freedom Caucus sinks health care and sinks normal tax reform, we could end up with a very shrinked down version of tax reform. That's -- the guys who torpedoed health care are threatening to torpedo tax reform because by delaying it -- here are the congressmen saying, "Other people are talking about carbon taxes." Well, where'd that come from? That came from two weeks of delay.

BARTIROMO: You're right. All right, so lower corporate taxes. You think a border adjustment tax is in there? Real quick.

NORQUIST: I think something that allows you to go to full territoriality, probably border adjustable with a whole bunch of -- with a longer phase than others might've had originally.

BARTIROMO: All right, we'll leave it there. Great to see you, Grover. Thanks very much. Grover Norquist joining us.

Coming up, more of my exclusive interview with President Trump. The President talks about foreign policy challenges facing America right now, including Russia's involvement in Syria, as we look ahead this morning on "Sunday Morning Futures."


TRUMP: Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia. I think it's very bad for mankind. It's very bad for this world.



BARTIROMO: Welcome back, the U.S. missile strikes on Syria, growing tensions with North Korea, battle for Mosul, all of these topics are on the table. And my exclusive interview this past week with President Trump on the Fox Business Network. He began with the brutal chemical attack by the Assad regime.


TRUMP: Just so you understand, we're not going into Syria, because, you know, there were some questions, Nikki Haley is doing a great job, Rex is doing a fantastic job, our Secretary of State. General McMaster, fantastic. But if you add it all up, and if they take every little word, they'll say, "Oh, they're different." Just so you understand, we're not going into Syria, but when I see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons, which I agreed not to use under the Obama administration but they violated it.

BARTIROMO: They said they got rid of them.

TRUMP: Look, what I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it, and you would have had a much better -- I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been.

BARTIROMO: Obama pushed - he resisted doing it.

TRUMP: When I looked he - well, he didn't do it, I don't know what happened but he didn't do it. And in fact, they had a big attack right after he draw the red line in the sand, they had a very big attack, and everybody waited, what's going on, and nothing happened. And even the Obama people admitted he was wrong for not doing it. I will tell you that when I looked at pictures on any show, or any newspaper, but especially when you see them on -

BARTIROMO: Children.

TRUMP: -- television. And you see these beautiful kids that are dead in their father's arms or you see kids gasping for life, you know, they're - it's over, it's over for them. They're hosing them down, hundreds of them. When you see that, I immediately called General Mattis, I said, "What can we do?" And they came back with a number of different alternatives. And we hit them very hard. Now, are we going to get involved with Syria? No. But if I see them using gas and using things that - I mean, even some of the worst tyrants in the world didn't use the kind of gases that they used. And some of the gases are unbelievably potent. So, when I saw that, I said we have to do something. You should have peace in Syria, it's enough.

And frankly, you know, we talked chemicals because, you know, people just don't see this, the level of brutality, the level of viciousness but when they drop barrel bombs and bombs of any kind right on top of a civilian population, that's the worst thing. I've never seen anything like it. And frankly, Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia. I think it's very bad for mankind, it's very bad for this world. But when you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs, you have these massive barrels with dynamite, and they drop it right in the middle of a group of people, and in all fairness, you see the same kids, no arms, no legs, no face, this is an animal.

And I really think that there's going to be a lot of pressure on Russia to make sure that peace happens. Because, frankly, if Russia didn't go in and back this animal, you wouldn't have a problem right now. He was going to be over thrown. I thought he was gone, he had another week. I mean, he was finished. He had nothing, nothing. And then, Russia came in and saved him, and then Obama made one of the worst deals in history with the Iran deal, so you really have Iran, and you have Russia, and you have Assad.

BARTIROMO: You redirected Navy ships to go toward the Korean peninsula, what are we doing right now in terms of North Korea?

TRUMP: You never know, do you? You never know.

BARTIROMO: That's all you're going to say?

TRUMP: You know, I don't talk about the military. I'm not like Obama where they talk about in four months, we're raining - we're going to hit Mosul. And in the meantime, they get ready and like you never (INAUDIBLE) they're still fighting in Mosul which supposed to last for a week, and now, they've been fighting it for many months, and so many more people died, I don't want to talk about it. We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that, I can tell you. And we have the best military people on earth. And I will say this, he is doing the wrong thing. He's making a big mistake.

BARTIROMO: Do you think he's mentally fit?

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know him. But, he's doing the wrong thing. I had a very, very good meeting with President Xi of China, really liked him, we had a great chemistry, I think. I mean, at least I had a great -- maybe he didn't like me, but I think he liked me. We were going to have a 10 or 15-minute sit down that lasted for 3 hours, then the next day, it was another schedule, because everything is very orderly with the Chinese, frankly. And we had meetings schedule - well, the 15 minutes on the first day lasted for 3 hours. The 15 minutes on the second day lasted for 2 hours, just one-on-one, the two of us with interpreters. And, I mean, we understand each other. I think he is, you know, a person that I got a long with really well, we had a good chemistry.

BARTIROMO: Did he give you any suggestion that he would help with North Korea? Did you get into trade and currency?

TRUMP: Well, we had the meeting -- first thing I brought up was North Korea. I said, "Can you help us with North Korea because we can't allow it, and it's no good for you. And you have a tremendous power because of trade." Now, he then explains thousands of years of history with Korea. Not that easy. In other words, not as simple as people would think. They've had tremendous conflict with Korea over the years. Now, his father was in China four times, he was never in China.

So I said, "Look, you have a tremendous power because of trading through the border. They don't get food, they don't get - you know, they can't sell their coal. In fact, I hear today, two massive coal ships from North Korea were sent back to North Korea heading to China. They were sent back, which is a very good sign. But I think China can help us, I hope China can help us. We talked about trade, and I can tell you China will do much better on trade if they help us with North Korea.

BARTIROMO: And you think he knows that?

TRUMP: I think he knows that. I told him that, yes.

BARTIROMO: When you were with the President of China, you were launching these military strikes. Was that planned? How did that come about that it's happening right then, because right there, you're saying, "A reminder, here's who the super power in the world is."

TRUMP: You have no idea how many people want to hear the answer to this. I have had - I have watched speculation for three days now on what that was like when (INAUDIBLE) but I'll tell you.

BARTIROMO: When did you tell him? Before dessert?

TRUMP: But I will tell you. Only because you treated me so good for so long. I have to tell you, right? I was sitting at the table, we had finished dinner, we're now having dessert, and we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen, and President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do? And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.

And I said, "Mr. President, let me explain something to you," this is during dessert, "we've just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit. Amazing.

BARTIROMO: Unmanned.

TRUMP: Brilliant, so incredible. It's brilliant, it's genius. Our technology, our equipment is better than anybody by a factor of five. I mean, what we have in terms of technology, nobody could even come close to competing. Now, we're going to start getting it, because you know the military has been cutback and depleted so badly by the past administration and by the war in Iraq, which was another disaster. So, what happens is I said, "We've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq.

BARTIROMO: No, you - headed to Syria.

TRUMP: Yes, heading toward Syria. And I want you to know that. Because I didn't want him to go home. We're almost finished. It was a full day in Palm Beach, we're almost finished. And what does he do, he finishes dessert, and go home, and then they say, "You know, the guy you just had dinner with just attacked the -

BARTIROMO: How did he react?

TRUMP: So, he paused for 10 seconds, and then he asked the interpreter to please, say it again. I didn't think that was a good sign. And he said to me, "Anybody that uses gases," you could almost say, "or anything else, but anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that to young children and babies, it's OK."

BARTIROMO: He agreed.

TRUMP: He was OK with it. He was OK. But we got along. There was a great feeling, I think, between both of us. Now, we have two very different countries, two very different peoples, but I think he understood the message, and I understood what he was saying to me.


BARTIROMO: That was President Trump during my interview this week, earlier in the week, of course, the president ordering a U.S. airstrike on Syria during the meeting with the Chinese President. What kind of message does that send to China and the rest of the world? Our panel is on deck next as we take a look, and we are looking ahead right now on "Sunday Morning Futures." Back in a moment.


BARTIROMO: Welcome back, more now on my exclusive interview with President Donald Trump, and the moment he told Chinese President Xi Jinping about the U.S. military strike against an airfield in Syria, he broke the news over dessert -- over chocolate cake, he told me.

I want to bring in our panels to talk about that. Ed Rollins is a former White House advisor to President Reagan, Brad Blakeman is a former Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush, and Mara Liasson is National Political Correspondent for NPR. It's great to see you, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us. What do you make of that?

ED ROLLINS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER TO PRESIDENT REAGAN: I thought it was extraordinary, I thought it was a deliberate message, he sent two very loud messages this week. One, obviously, to Syria, this behavior is not going to be tolerated in the future. The second is the big bomb that he dropped in Afghanistan, which has been sitting there for years and he let the ground commander make that decision. Once, is we're back in the game, two, we're going to use power politics, and three, to our military -- I'm going to let you tell me what you need to do to get the job done.


BARTIROMO: I agree. It was a reminder to the President of China, Brad, that the -- just the reminder who the super power in the world is.

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No doubt about it, but it's also a sign of respect. The president was meeting with the president of a very significant country, not only to us economically, but in a -- important region in the world. And he wanted to hear it directly from the president, as opposed to going back to his suite and hearing it from Chinese advisers, so, it sent a powerful message from the president, just as Ed said, but it also showed a sign of respect to President Xi that he would tell him as it was happening.

BARTIROMO: Yes, but, you know, he's such -- he's so often taken real, Mara. I mean, obviously, I was not smiling or laughing over the atrocities happening in Syria, or anything having to do with war, but the idea of this whole chocolate cake narrative, it was funny.

MARA LIASSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and look, it was reality television, although, I do think this was the week where you had reality television without the television because a lot of reality came into Donald Trump's world, and he reacted to it. But the big picture, I agree with Brad, showing respect for China, there's been a tilt this week away from Vladimir Putin towards China, it's very -- like Henry Kissinger is back. And I think he sees the President of China as somebody he can do business with him, all the tweets since then have suggested that saying, "Well, why would I call them a currency manipulator if they're going to help us with North Korea," that was what he just tweeted today. So, I think you see a real shift towards China as a potential ally and helper.

ROLLINS: And when you look at the week between your interview and The Wall Street Journal interview, he reversed course on about six major issues that he talked about in the course of the campaign, and I see that as a learning process. I think he's basically getting a team around him, that's giving him the council that he needs, and it's -- and it's a complicated job. He worked for president, I worked for president, every day you learn something new about it. But the key thing, I think, and a lesson is the military people have a team that he trusts the most. Tillerson, I think, has become a star in this administration. And I think he basically is saying to his team, "Give me good counsel. I'll basically follow your counsel."

BARTIROMO: I also like the idea that the president is taking counsel directly from his team, directly from the generals who were on the front lines. That had not been the case in the prior few years.

BLAKEMAN: No, they were hand cuffed, and now, our president says to them, you are the professionals. The mission is to eliminate ISIS. You tell me the best way to do it, the most functional way to do it that will save lives, and I'm going to do it. And he's done it now several times and to great success.

BARTIROMO: But what about -- I mean, look at how the world has changed. You made the point, Mara, this last week in terms of reality: North Korea, Syria, Russia, China, is he -- is he going to be a war president?

LIASSON: That would be a big red line for President Trump. He ran on not getting involved in Middle Eastern wars, but also bombing the expletive (INAUDIBLE) out of ISIS and putting an end to them completely. Those two goals might be in conflict. But I do think that if he becomes a war president, gets involved with the actual ground wars in the Middle East, that will betray what he ran on.

ROLLINS: Well, the critical thing is we have a very serious ally in South Korea. And the threat is to South Korea not the threat, you know, that the China -- North Koreans can talk about all the time attacking us, they can't get to us, but they can get to South Korea. So, we have a very important ally there that we have to be careful of, but I think the show of strength, and I think dropping -- that bomb sat there for two years, and Obama wouldn't use it. You didn't need that bomb to basically blow up 100 people. He could have done it with a cruise missile, or what have you, but that bomb sent big, big message.

BARTIROMO: Talking about the mother of all bombs.

ROLLINS: It's the biggest bomb we've used since World War II.


ROLLINS: And sends the message that we have the tools, the resources, and we're willing to use them to win the battle.

BARTIROMO: It sure does. And look at that, they killed 94 ISIS fighters, no civilians. It's a really important point, Ed. We'll take a short break. When we come back, after running as an outsider, President Trump is winning praise from the D.C. establishment. Has anything really changed? More with our panel after the short break as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures" this Sunday morning.


BARTIROMO: Back with our panel, talking about the domestic agenda, what's your take in terms of health care first then tax reform? Will they get it done, Mara?

LIASSON: I just don't see healthcare going anywhere. I understand why Donald Trump wants to do healthcare first. I understand why he wants to extract all those savings because it will make tax reform a lot easier, you'll get like whatever it is, $900 billion. But, I just don't see how there are any further along today in putting together the coalition of moderate republicans and Freedom Caucus people to pass something, to replace ObamaCare.

BARTIROMO: This is a big problem, Brad. It's a big problem if you don't get healthcare and tax reform done. No, it's a big problem if you don't get tax reform done. That's what's going to move the needle on economic growth. What do you think happens?

BLAKEMAN: Well, my message to republicans is you ran, not just the president, the entire republican platform, 2016 ran on these kinds of reforms. 2017 must be the year for action because 2018 is going to be the year of decision, again, for the American people. We gave the republicans all the power we could possibly give. They better deliver and they have to deliver this year.

BARTIROMO: They know that, right, Ed?

ROLLINS: They do. I would have argued. You know, obviously, I'm not the strategist in the White House. I would have done repeal immediately. I would have done an HR1, and repealing ObamaCare in two years. Right, you're on ObamaCare today, you have two years to, basically -- for us to come up with an alternate plan and move forward. They're trying to do all of this in a very short period of time with a brand new team and a brand new congress is very, very difficult.

BARTIROMO: Instead, they tweaked it.

ROLLINS: They tweaked it. And it's not -- it's still, 17 percent on the country thought it was a really good deal. You can't -- the more important thing that he promised, and it was more important to most Americans is getting this economy moving and creating jobs. The business tax will do that.


ROLLINS: Basically, the infrastructure will do that, and those are the things he's got to move forward on.

BARTIROMO: The other thing is the repatriation. You know, the president was very clear. He said, "You know, Maria, you keep saying $2.5 trillion is overseas. It's $5 trillion. It was $2.5 trillion 5 years ago." So, he's trying to make it easier and cheaper for companies to move that money back to the U.S. That will probably be in the tax cut, right?

LIASSON: That could -- you could do that in corporate tax cuts --


LIASSON: -- for repatriation. You get some boost to the economy, maybe not as much as a big, huge tax reform would give you, but that would be something that's a smaller bite of the apple that would be more achievable.

ROLLINS: You could - you could throw - you could also throw in the beginning of the infrastructure reform in the same use some of that resources to build infrastructure.

BARTIROMO: Which is also a job creator. Let's not underestimate the power of the resistance. They're not getting any democratic votes on any of these.

ROLLINS: No. No, they won't.

BLAKEMAN: But that's why you marry infrastructure with taxes. If you do that, then I think you have a better chance of horse-trading between infrastructure and taxes. The corporate rate has got to be dealt with, that's for sure. The president promised 15 percent, it's close to 40 percent now. Let's bring it down even to 20 percent. It's a victory. Repatriation of money. And then if we can help, the individual rates, there are 7 rates now that go from 10 to 40 percent. Let's give the individuals a break, as well, and I think it'll jimmy up the economy in short order.

BARTIROMO: And you think they'll get it done?

BLAKEMAN: They have to get it done.

ROLLINS: It took forever to get health care through, and the democrats have a lot more members. They got 60 senators, they had 25, 30 more members than we have today. The problem is our numbers are so slim. We basically got to do what we could do. And I think the - I think the infrastructure and the business tax will do.

BARTIROMO: All right. We will leave it there. Great to see you, all, Mara Liasson, Brad Blakeman, and Ed Rollins, thank you so much.


BARTIROMO: Fantastic panel this morning. From all of us here, have a blessed Easter this morning. Everybody, thanks for being with us. I'll see you tomorrow on the Fox Business Network "Mornings with Maria", 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern. "MediaBuzz" begins right now.

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