Return to Transcripts main page


National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster May Leave White House; President Trump Announces Steel Tariffs; President Trump Meets with NRA; Storms Hitting New England. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 2, 2018 - 8:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for coming on to mayor your case to the American people.

REP. BRIAN MAST, (R) FLORIDA: Absolutely, take care.

CUOMO: We're following a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get that the president ran on a bunch of this, but this trade policy will be disastrous.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been allowed to go on for decades, it's disgraceful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing we learned from this administration is if you hold your breath, they may change their mind on a policy issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a shotgun approach. This hits the whole world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General McMaster could leave his position in the White House as soon as the end of this month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're running people in and out like an NBA basketball game, it's not going to work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does Mr. President want to get rid of his attorney general?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not that I know of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In terms of the administration, is it in chaos?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ivanka Trump could be impacting by her own business deal, she could be being impacted by her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It raises profound ethics concerns.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 2nd, 8:00 in the east. President Trump's turbulent presidency is being felt around the world. If you take a look anywhere to see the futures in the global markets, you'll see all red arrows. Why? The president's abrupt announcement that the U.S. will impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The president defending his position, saying trade wars are good. Mr. Trump also making waves with his vacillating positions on gun. The commander in chief appears to be telling the NRA one thing behind closed doors and another to lawmakers in front of cameras.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And more drama inside the West Wing. Another major player in the Trump administration could be preparing to step down. CNN is reporting that National Security Adviser McMaster could leave by the end of the month. CNN learning exclusive also that Ivanka Trump is under FBI scrutiny for one of her international deals as part of a background check for White House security clearance.

So let's bring in CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, and associate editor at Real Clear Politics A.B. Stoddard, to talk about all this. Great to have you guys.

OK, A.B., obviously personnel affects policy. So when we hear that H.R. McMaster might be leaving and senior economic adviser Gary Cohn, Maggie Haberman has reporting that he threatened to resign over the president's surprise tariff announcement. So what is your sense of what's happening in the West Wing?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: I'm very concerned, obviously, about the departures of both of them and what's going on with General Kelly as well because although Maggie's reporting shows the president seems to be trusting the chief of staff more in recent days in this big conflict with his son-in-law and daughter, that can change on a dime. And that relationship is a really strained one, and I think that the forces in the family are trying dump John Kelly as well.

So the departure of talented people who have been stabilizing forces, who are the best experts on policy, is really unfortunate for this administration in a very challenging time when the entire world is watching and we are vulnerable as a result of this chaos and lack of stability.

And the tariffs decision aside, if everyone was watching what kind of news was breaking this week, the people who are accessing classified information and will continue to without any restraint, all of the business conflicts that make the top advisers, the two children targets of people around the world potentially for blackmail and other things, if you look at the departure of McMaster, it's a terrible stew, and I hope some of this doesn't come to pass.

CUOMO: Look, Chris, we're watching it play out in real time. Vladimir Putin plays a video of maybe imaginary missiles landing on Florida. Trump says nothing. There's no response out of the White House. They're dealing with whether or not people are going to be there to do the work. He puts out the tariff thing. His advisers are telling him not to but there's no cohesive strategy. He doesn't listen to anybody. He does it anyway. He just tweeted again saying we must protect our country and our workers. Our steel industry is in bad shape. If you don't have steel, you don't have a country. Any one of his economic advisers, any one of his main congressional leaders in his party will tell him that it is inaccurate and it's bad policy from their perspective.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: And I know you mentioned it earlier but saying trade wars are good and easy to win. OK. He has never grasped really that his words have impact on policy, on world markets, on foreign leaders. It's especially difficult because I think if you look at this week, Chris, the one that I was even more struck by than the tariffs tweets are the Alec Baldwin tweet, which is at the end of a week in which we have seen gun legislation be delayed in the Senate, where we've seen -- unclear where Donald Trump is on guns, where we've seen the Russia investigation continue. We've seen Jared Kushner struggling amid a downgrading of his security clearance. We've seen Ivanka Trump as you guys just talked about and her business dealings. We've seen Hope Hicks, one of Donald Trump's closest advisers, quit.

There's more, but you get the idea. We have him, for whatever reason, whether he saw it on TV, read something about it, we have him talking about a comedian who impersonates him on television. I think it's important to note it's easy to dismiss that tweet, but what it suggests is a president who is distracted by minutia at a time in which there are very real threats both domestically and internationally to the success not just of this administration but of the country.

And that's why I think you can't just dismiss some of the more inane tweets because it speaks to what he cares about, what he is focused on, and what his state of mind is, which is of critical import.

CAMEROTA: We'll get to those in a moment. But this just in. Sarah Sanders just stopped by the press briefing room at the White House and had some announcements that we want to let you know about. So she said that the president has not shifted his stance on guns since Wednesday, since we saw him meeting with lawmakers, so that the meeting with the NRA last night has not shifted his stance in any substantial way.

Hold on, Sarah Sanders said it was President Trump who called the NRA himself for the meeting, not vice versa, and she believes there were others in attendance. And on assault weapons ban, the president has not conceptually changed. The president still supports the idea but knows there's not a lot of support. She said this would not be all rifles across the board and it would give more power to the states.

CUOMO: A.B., where does that leave us? Both things can't be true. Cox can't come out of that meeting saying he doesn't want gun control and the president's position not shifted unless Cox is just making it up because banning even something as small an ingredient here as bump stocks is a form of fun control. Changing the age would be a form of gun control. And then the overt one would be any type of ban on specific weapons. But they're all related.

STODDARD: They're all vociferously opposed by the NRA and that's why they came out and tweeted before he did, saying he does not want gun control, just gun control of any kind. This is the president trying to cover up for this embarrassing situation where he wants to make nice with the NRA in private and then act tough in public.

I think taking on the NRA is a really smart thing for the president to do. I have a column on that today. I think he should reach across the aisle and get going. He has nothing left to lose. His administration is a hot mess.

That said, just the idea of him coming out and pretending he's still going to be in a conversation about an assault-style weapons ban with Dianne Feinstein is truly -- I think he's hindering himself instead of helping himself, unless he's ready to deliver.

CAMEROTA: Well, Chris, who knows? It's impossible to know.


CAMEROTA: And again, the people who like the president, this can work if he's keeping everybody back on their heels, if he's keeping everybody guessing, if he's not going to go along with the standard orthodoxy, he might be able to get everybody in a room. Of course the NRA has to be in the room. I think that's his thinking here. And he might be able to do something unconventional and unusual. But the only thing we know is that a policy -- a position paper from the White House was supposed to come out today and now we understand that that's being delayed.

CILLIZZA: That's right. And I would say honestly, even for some people who didn't vote for or don't like the president, you can see the strands of what could be a wildly unorthodox but successful move on guns, which is sort of playing both sides. No one really knows exactly where you are, and then you hammer at the end with what you want. It's the hammer them at the end with what you want and get it done piece that we have never seen from him.

I constantly bring this up, but I do think the immigration example is instructive. We had a very similar open public meeting in which Donald Trump was that kind of putting everybody on their heels, nobody knew where he stood, not down-the-line Republicanism. And then a couple days later he just reverted back because I don't think he necessarily meant it or felt constrained by what he said Tuesday on a Thursday.

I don't know that's all that different than what we're seeing right now. I think you are right, Alisyn, to say we can all be proven wrong because someone who is unpredictable does what? Unpredictable things. So the past is not necessarily predictive of the future.

CAMEROTA: I like being unpredictable sometimes.

(LAUGHTER) CUOMO: Listen, it takes us back to a rolling theme we've had here. The president would be well served to make his case more often directly to the American people. There's a lot of confusion going on, people don't know where you stand about things. There's mixed messages that come out of your surrogates. You are your best advocate, Mr. President. You always have been. That's why we think you should be making your case more. Some of this confusion would be going away.

CAMEROTA: A.B. Stoddard, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

We have some live pictures right now of this extreme weather, look at this. This is from WHDH, the affiliate from Boston, Massachusetts. Coastal communities up and down New England are bracing for this powerful nor'easter. Emergency officials have asked people who live near the coast to evacuate, and you can see why as you see the ocean churning up. CNN's Ryan Young is live in Scituate, Massachusetts. What's the situation at this hour, Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, look, the constant wind has been battering us around for quite some time. The rain is still falling here. And as we walk closer to the harbor here, you can see the water that is pushing in this area. What they're worried about is that storm surge that could come later, three to five feet, and waves that could be as high as 20 feet. This area could get hit with three high tides, and that is something that has some people worried.

We were told at 8:00 this morning, some firefighters will be going throughout this area to try to help residents who live here evacuate. The high school has also been open to make sure that if people need to evacuate from homes, they can. We've seen this area flood before, so these people who are hardy and have dealt with these coastal situations know that the water can come here quickly. Sometimes the roadways shut down. As you can see, as the wind gusts come pushing through, sometimes they're worried about structures coming apart and debris flying through the area. So you have those 40-mile-per-hour winds and this rain, it's going to be an interesting few hours. Chris?

CUOMO: This reminds me of one we had a few years ago where you have the moon tide, you have the full moon, and then three high tides in a row with all this storm surge and a lot of coastal communities here in New England get very washed out because of that. Be safe. Check back with us soon.

So the Trump White House hitting new levels of dysfunction and inner turmoil. Can the president govern amid the chaos? Let's bring in some experts, next.


[08:16:03] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Chaos in the White House, sending shock waves in Washington and around the world. Many of the issues are self-created, of course. The question becomes, is this good? Is this what the president really wants? Is this an atmosphere in which he can get things done? Let's discuss with CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Steve


Good to have you both.


CUOMO: So, Steve, you are a man on -- you were in the West Wing yesterday. What did you see?

CORTES: Well, you know, I have to tell you that contrary to the reporting on this show and on many networks, it's not a White House in chaos. As a matter of fact, there's incredible exuberance about the results of policy, consumer confidence at a 17-year high, small business optimism at an all-time high, the tax cuts are real. Gorsuch is on the court. Record number of circuit court judges already confirmed.

So, there's amazing progress already in this year-plus of the Trump White House. And this idea that there's chaos, I just is not -- it's not commensurate with the reality that I see in the White House, but more importantly it's not consistent with the reality in the country. I think in New York newsrooms, there's a lot of almost titillation with the comings and goings of the White House. But I think in America, people are a lot more focused on their pocketbooks, their security, their prosperity.

CUOMO: Well, both things can be true, right? People who voted for Trump, the base, can believe there are reasons for optimism, that he's in there, he's doing things that they wanted him to do. And, we'll put up the graphic as soon as gets it ready, I've never seen talent bleed out of a White House, out of a statehouse the way we've had here, that's a fact.

Now, what that means in terms of morale.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have never seen it bleed out of McDonald's the way it bleeds out of the White House. Turnover is crazy.

CUOMO: I mean, look, Steve, you see this. You don't see head counts like this going south.


CUOMO: Now, some of them arguably you wanted to get rid of, right? You know, you've got your boy, Gorka, over there, that was a good thing for you guys. Bannon, arguably, that wasn't the right direction for a president who wants to be the leader of everybody in the country.

But the talent is bleeding out. The leaks come all the time, Ana. And you have fundamental points of instability. How many times have we heard that McMaster may be out? Whether it's true or not, it's not good. If the president isn't doing things to make this better, he's making it worse. NAVARRO: Well, look, I think you're using the word talent a little

loosely this morning. Yes, a lot of people who have worked in the White House, who have been staff there have bled out. Some of them, frankly, should have been let go, should have been -- should never been in the White House.

I think part of what you've seen is John Kelly do a lot of cleanup work with folks like Gorka, with folks like Bannon, that should have never -- with folks like Scaramucci who should have never been in those positions. That being said, if there's no chaos in the White House, well, look, it walks like chaos, it talks like chaos and it looks like chaos.

In politics, perception is as good as reality. And the perception in America is that this is a White House in chaos.

CORTES: What's not chaos is 4 million American workers getting bonuses because of the tax cuts, is regulation finally getting under control, is optimism out there in the land, growth, opportunity, the diffusion of power away from Washington, that's real, right?

This supposed chaos in the Washington is not real.

I will also say this, look, he's a disruptive president to be sure. I'm the first to say that. I think that's part of why we elected him, it's part of why he won -- the first ever citizen president, meaning no previous government experience.

So, is it going to be in some senses chaotic? Of course, we expect that from a disrupter.

CUOMO: So, there's no chaos, but in some chaos --

NAVARRO: Chaotic, right.

CORTES: In some sense, fine. I mean, is it disruptive? Yes. I'll be the first to concede that. By the way, the swamp is powerful and the swamp is cunning. And the swamp --

CUOMO: The swamp has been getting new population from the people he's brought in there.

CORTES: And the swamp has been fighting back very hard against Trump and at times successfully against Trump.


CUOMO: His daughter and son-in-law are being investigated for doing business for themselves while also representing the people of the United States.


NAVARRO: Can we just take a look at the last month of what's happened at the White House? Look, you've got a senior adviser to the president, you know, doing confessionals on "Big Brother", talking about the White House as if it were a plantation.

[08:20:03] You have got the communications director in tears and saying she's leaving. Yesterday I went into a Broadway play, listen, when I went in to the Broadway play, we were talking about who was going to replace Hope Hicks. When I got out of the Broadway play, we were talking about who was going to replace H.R. McMaster. If it's not chaos, it looks like chaos.

CORTES: Far away from New York --


NAVARRO: -- tax reform bill in the midst of all this.

CORTES: Ana, far away from New York, from Broadway plays, far away from New York newsrooms and the Acela corridor --

NAVARRO: You name where you live.

CORTES: Yes, where I live --

CUOMO: Go ahead. Make your point that we're not in touch with people.

CORTES: What's going on in this country is growth, optimism, security. This is an incredible --

CUOMO: The polls don't show that, by the way. People are worried about people not having security clearances. They're worried that he didn't put the right people around him.

Case in point, these tariffs today. Paul Ryan, conservatives for generations, his own economic adviser, the people around him say, we know you want to win right now, we know you hate the headlines, we know you blame us. We get it.

And you know what I'm saying is right, Steve, because you're not the only one who has access to the White House. But then, he does it anyway. He puts it out there, he tanks the futures and the markets. He shouldn't govern by what happens in the markets. You guys have put a lot of pressure on Wall Street as an indicator of all this prosperity.

CORTES: Well, not me.

CUOMO: How do you explain that as something other than chaotic and a reflex reaction, it wasn't well thought?

CORTES: It's the opposite of chaos. He promised us from day one of his campaign, not just as president but as a candidate Trump, America has been abused by terrible trade deals for decades. It's wonderful for the elites. It's been fantastic for the 1 percent. It's been disastrous for the American worker. By the way, the very workers who elected him, blue collar people in the Midwest, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Ohio.

CUOMO: And you will strain your contracts and rolodex to find economists to say this will help American workers.


CORTES: I agree, because they have benefited from the globalist system --

CUOMO: Also, the economists are part of the conspiracy also?

CORTES: It's not a conspiracy. My point is bad trade deals are terrific for the owners of capital, if you own a lot of stocks, you own a lot of real estate.

CUOMO: But what happens --

NAVARRO: Can I tell you something --


CORTES: -- outsourced to China, and this president is stopping it.

NAVARRO: Can we talk about all these talking points about draining the swamp, and the elite and the 1 percent? His secretary of HUD just spent $31,000 on a dining room set. Most people he helps in that department don't make $31,000 in a year.

The other secretary, the guy at the Treasury, is telling UCLA not to release video where students are heckling him over the effects of the tax reform bill. You've got the other guy, Price, who had to quit in January because he was doing all sorts of things with a private plane. You've got secretary of the treasury and Marie Antoinette going to look at the eclipse all on the taxpayer dime.

So, really, can we just stop the hypocrisy about the elite and the 1 percent? The 1 percent and elite are in the White House. Look at his cabinet, look at his children, look how much money he's making off being president.

CORTES: Whoa, whoa, wait, wait --

NAVARRO: Let's not pretend he's some sort of blue collar guru here. He's not. To his credit, he was able to fool the blue collars into voting for him.

CUOMO: Final word.

CORTES: He didn't fool anybody. He's not making money off of being president. That's ridiculous.

What Trump did is he tapped into the anxiety and angst of the American worker. What he's doing now as president is following through on that with solutions, not just tapping into the anxiety, but actually delivering solutions. A big part of that is the tax cuts, getting more money in people's paychecks. Another part of it is smarter, better trade deals.

America has been -- CUOMO: A tariff is not a deal, Steve.

NAVARRO: It's a tariff that the AFL-CIO loves. The conservatives --


CORTES: -- for decades.

CUOMO: I get what you're saying the problem is, but we'll see. This does not end that. This may exacerbate it. If they retaliate the way the markets are thinking is going to happen, our workers have a big problem.

But, Steve, you made the case. We appreciate that here. Ana, as always, thank you.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, stick around for this. Gun owners responding to the massacre in Florida. Some of them rethinking their own collection of guns.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their lives meant something and it's going to mean something in the very far future because the kids, their friends are not letting them die -- not letting them be forgotten.


CAMEROTA: Our panel shares their personal stories of why they have guns and how they feel about them now.


[08:27:31] CAMEROTA: In the aftermath of the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, we wanted to talk to gun owners about their suggestions for stopping the violence.

Among them, New Yorker Scott Pappalardo. He filmed himself destroying his AR-15. And that video went viral.

Also on our panel we have a handgun instructor and an NRA member. It was quite a conversation.


CAMEROTA: I want to ask about your personal experiences. Scott, you have acquired some level of viral fame. You had an ar-15.


CAMEROTA: And you destroyed it.

PAPPALARDO: I did. I lost a niece to illness 16 years ago. So, whenever I see a parent

lose a child, it deeply affects me. Now, we come to Valentine's Day this year and then I see the kids' faces come out of that school and the stories they have to tell and what they have to live with for the rest of their lives and what they saw, me personally, I couldn't let that weapon get in anyone's hands.

It's hard for a lot of people to understand. It was like bringing my sick dog to be put down. I love that weapon. I took it to the yard and I said to my wife, I can't believe I'm going outside to do this.

CAMEROTA: How do you feel since you've destroyed it?

PAPPALARDO: I've gotten a tremendous amount of support and I've gotten tremendous amount of hate, but not as much. And it was just the right thing for me to do.

RICK PETERS, TRUMP VOTER, PRO GUN CONTROL: It's been a real change for me. I have an AR assault rifle, semiautomatic. I have a .9 millimeter pistol and I have shotguns. These weapons are designed to kill and they're designed to kill multiple people in the shortest amount of time.

CAMEROTA: And there was something about the Parkland shooting that made you feel differently about your weapon.

PETERS: I'm not going to wait for the police to come get burglar out of my house. He's going to get two shotgun shells down the hallway. I don't need 100 rounds to stop a burglar.

JASON MONTES, TRUMP VOTER, AGAINST GUN CONTROL: I disagree, because all weapons are designed to kill. If I ban the AR-15, where is the stopping point? And that's the problem.

PETERS: So, you'd rather do nothing --

MONTES: No, I'd rather do something but not banning, it's not the answer.

PETERS: This is not a gun grab. Everybody says it's a slippery slope, Second Amendment. This is not a gun grab. This is a changing of where the line in the sand is.

MONTES: It is not the weapon. We need to get down to the heart in the United States as to what is causing this. I was at University of Florida in 1990 when Danny Rolling killed six students. I was one of the few students that remained on campus. It was a horrific terrifying event for me. That's what prompted me to get a weapon. And from then forward, I have always been a big advocate.

CARRIE LIGHTFOOT, TRUMP VOTER, AGAINST GUN CONTROL: There's 120 million -- more than 120 million law abiding gun owning people in this country. And so, you know, the emotion is so hot.