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Trump Stays No Trade War, Despite Saying Trade Wars Are Good; Trump & Netanyahu Amid Scandals Surrounding Both; WSJ: Trump Attorney's Bank Told Treasury of Payment to Porn Star; All West Virginia Teachers on Strike, 8th Day of No School. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 5, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Thank you so much. Good to be back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

The president has sent shock waves through global markets with a threat of a once in a generation trade war, a trade war the president insisted was a good thing but then in front of the cameras just a short while ago said that was not going to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not backing down. Mexico is -- we have had a very bad deal with Mexico. Very bad deal with Canada called NAFTA. Our factories have left our country. Our jobs have left our country. For many years, NAFTA has been a disaster. We are renegotiating NAFTA, as I said I would. If we don't make a deal, I will terminate NAFTA. If I do make a deal which is fair to the workers and to the American people, that would be -- I would imagine -- one of the points we'll negotiate would be tariffs on steel for Canada and for Mexico.

REPORTER: Not worried about a trade war?

TRUMP: Thank you.

I don't think we'll have a trade war.

REPORTER: No trade war?

TRUMP: I don't think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, those comments came during the meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is facing his own corruption investigation back at home. But it was the tariffs that dominated the questions today from reporters as the president now dangles this idea that his plan to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum may actually have some wiggle room at least for -- you just heard him -- Mexico and Canada. Quote: Tariffs on steel and aluminum will only come off if new and fair NAFTA agreement is signed. The president tweeted, punctuating his tweet a few minutes later with this: To protect our country, we must protect American steel, #Americafirst. This is a case that pits the president of the United States against his own staff, against his own political party, global economists and key foreign allies. But whatever global turmoil this might actually cause, it is matched by the apparent turmoil within his own administration. A new report indicating that the State Department has some $120 million on hand to fight Russian meddling. Guess how much they have spent of the $120 million? Zero.

Despite this, the president is now launching an attack on President Obama for, quote, doing nothing about Russia meddling. Once again, targeting everyone but the Kremlin.

So, let's start with Jeff Zeleny, our CNN senior White House correspondent.

And, Jeff Zeleny, starting on the trade wars bit, it was a bit of a whiplash. Last week, the president said the trade wars were a good thing and now, suddenly, we are hearing a different message from him today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. And that is leading some to believe here in Washington -- wondering if the president fully understands what his protectionist message that he, of course, campaigned on so much, what it means in real terms.

Brooke, I can't recall something as controversial inside the president's own party that this president has supported. It certainly has been a long time since he's been at odds with Speaker Paul Ryan, with all of these business leaders as well.

The speaker -- Speaker Ryan's office sent out something, Brooke, this morning that caught my attention. It was talking about how the stock market fell last week specifically because the president's own words on this. This is having a ripple effect on the price of aluminum, the price of beer cans, the price of other things. So, this, if it continues certainly is going to be felt. The president and some advisors here believe that he's protecting the American worker. Others believe that he's simply trying to live in the past by promising steel jobs and other things but simply have moved on.

So, we'll watch how that plays out. But there is no sign that the president is going to go forward this week and do what he talked about last week. They are still working on it. But it raises the question, why is all of this being discussed publicly? Was that the president's intent overall to sort of have a trial balloon here, or was he trying to change the subject last week from all the staff shake-ups in announcing this? It seems to be that. But certainly, there will be questions on this at the White House briefing coming up in the next hour, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We'll take the next hour. Jeff Zeleny, thank you -- perfectly teeing me up for the big discussion.

I've got some great voices, Chris Cillizza, let me bring you in, CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Rachael Bade, CNN political analyst and congressional reporter from "Politico" and Rick Newman, here with me, columnist for Yahoo Finance.

So, Rachael, let me just dive right in with you on, you know, Jeff's point on what we heard in the report sent out by the speaker's office, you know, earlier today. You have Paul Ryan, you have Republican leadership essentially saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, Mr. President, this is a terrible idea. What are you hearing from Capitol Hill and what recourse might Congress have to stop him?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Basically, they are making a Hail Mary, a last minute, last ditch attempt to try to walk the president back from the brink on tariffs. As you know, tariffs in general go against the fundamental principles that the Republican Party has long held dear -- free economies, free enterprise, free trade. And there is a worry that this is going to hike prices on voters and that is going to hurt them in the midterm elections. We're basically hearing Speaker Paul Ryan tried to make the case to him this weekend.

[14:05:02] We are also hearing that the top Republican who leads a panel that basically has trade jurisdiction is gathering Republican signatures, asking the president to take a step back, take a breath, and relook at this and how it could affect the economy. And we are also hearing that if this sort of persuasion campaign they are starting right now doesn't go through, they could try to take action congressionally to try to stop him. However, it sounds like that's going to be an uphill battle because there are a lot of Democrats who support this and they would need two-thirds of majority of both houses to override it.

BALDWIN: Interesting.

And, Chris Cillizza, to you, just to my point a second ago, now you had the president saying trade wars were good for the economy. And now, he's saying don't worry, huh?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. Well, he's a day-to-day president. What he said last week doesn't apply to this week. He believed it last week, he believes it this week, even though they're not the same thing and they would appear to be directly contradictory.

I do think in that appearance with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he did reiterate we are going forward with these tariffs. One thing we know Donald Trump doesn't like is people telling him he can't do something. So, Rachel is right, clearly a lot of dissension in Congress, both as soon as he did it on the Republicans and now. I just don't know if that's the best strategy to stop him from doing something because we see time and time again --

BALDWIN: What do you expect him to say? Mr. President, that's an awesome idea? Like reverse psychology?

CILLIZZA: I mean, yes, that seems crazy, right, Brooke? But everything we know is that if you -- I mean, there are countless examples -- small and large, big issues and small issues -- where the reporting -- the after action reporting is many people urged him, but Trump doesn't like being told what to do and he did it anyway. I mean, I'm not suggesting you should against your principles and say that's a great idea. But I do think the more you stake out the "you cannot do this president", the more likely he is to do it.

BALDWIN: Right. I got you.

I really dug into these, Rick Newman, on the numbers, just to fully understand the potential worst case scenario is retaliation globally. So, for everyone here, nearly 17 percent of steel imported into the U.S. comes from Canada. But the U.S. makes up half of Canada's imported steel. I mean, what's to stop Trudeau from saying, all right, you want to tax me, I'm going to tax you right back?

RICK NEWMAN, COLUMNIST, YAHOO! FINANCE: Nothing to stop him and he would probably do that. I mean, there are politicians in other countries, too, and they have to answer to their electorates and they're not going to let Trump push them around. They have to act tough the same way Trump has to act tough or he feels he has to act tough anyway. And that's the real danger here.

So, if we were to have one set of tariffs and that were it, nobody did anything after the steel and aluminum tariffs the U.S. puts on, this probably would be no big deal. But that's not what's likely to happen. What's likely is we have already heard threats of tariffs on U.S. products, blue jeans, Harley-Davidsons, bourbon from Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky and so forth.

And then what happens after that? Does Trump say, how dare you? I'm now going to punish you for those tariffs and that's the escalating cycle of retaliation.

BALDWIN: Not to mention that is the big picture, potential trickle down. The U.S. is the world's top steel importer. The value of steel shipped into the U.S. was just over $29 billion in 2017. So therefore that could start -- I mean, you point out everything from blue jeans to bourbon. I mean, this could affect lots of folks around the world, not just -- including our friends.

NEWMAN: Right. What happens to an ordinary person is that the price of -- you start adding costs in the middle of the process. So costs are creeping up everywhere. I mean, a tariff is just a fee that goes to a government. It's a tax basically.

BALDWIN: Because you can understand -- hang on a second. You can understand it first from the perspective of an American worker. Great, this is great for me. It will improve jobs and everything for me in the U.S. if my own steel and aluminum are being used within the U.S. because if we were penalizing other countries, but --

NEWMAN: Well, it depends which worker you are talking about. If you're talking about an auto worker, well, guess what? The automakers now are paying more for these products which means their prices are going up relative to other competing products. Maybe those prices aren't going up. And what studies of this sort of thing have found, there haven't been a lot of cases where it actually happened, but you get -- you might gain a little, a few jobs in the protected industry, but you also tend to lose jobs in the downstream industries because costs go up there and those companies adjust.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me turn the page away from trade, and, Rachael, back to you on Russian meddling, and John Brennan's reaction to Trump and his attack on Obama. Here is the tweet from him, from John Brennan. This tweet is a great example of your paranoia -- your being the president -- constant misrepresentation of the facts and increased anxiety and panic rightly so about the Mueller investigation. When will those in Congress and the 30 percent of Americans who still support you realize you are a charlatan?

It's like, again, it's Obama's fault, it's this person's fault, it's that person's fault. But it's never Russia's, for example?

BADE: Look, he's trying to change the subject right now. Obviously, the president, we have known this for a long time, this is one of the top most sensitive issues for him.

[14:10:02] He feels like the Russia investigation totally undercuts his victory and makes him look like, you know, he wasn't really elected president.

So, it really is his Achilles heel. So, he's going on a defense or going on the offense to try to point the finger and change the subject here. You know, from a congressional standpoint, I think that a lot of people on the Hill, both Democrats and Republicans, are wondering how they are going to stop this in the midterm elections? I mean, the FBI right now has come out, the DOJ has come and said the Russians are going to continue to try to do this in the midterms to swing votes, and change votes and basically just increase the turmoil here.

And the reality is there's been so much partisan bickering on the Hill that we don't really know how they're going to stop this in the midterms yet. It's a serious problem.

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, you had Denis McDonough, Obama's former chief of staff, saying this on "Meet the Press" over the weekend. And I just want to hone to everyone in on how he places the blame on the Senate majority leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENIS MCDONOUGH, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president asked the four leaders in a bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office to join him in asking the states to work with us on this question. It took over three weeks to get the statement worked out. It was dramatically watered down. You can ask Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Even the speaker --

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: And it was watered down on the insistence of Mitch McConnell?

MCDONOUGH: Yes.

TODD: And nobody else?

MCDONOUGH: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Yes, he says. I mean, that's news.

CILLIZZA: Well, I mean, remember, this would fundamentally undermine a lot of what Donald Trump said, but certainly as it relates to elections and Russian election meddling. You know, he's continued to say -- and he said it this morning in the tweet -- the reason that Obama didn't take it seriously is he wanted Hillary to win.

The logic obviously doesn't follow. He's also wrongly accused the president of the United States of wiretapping Trump Tower during the campaign, ordering the wiretapping of Trump Tower to help her campaign and hurt his. You know, I just -- every time we talk about this, I return to Bob Mueller in the Russia investigation, because at the end of the day, these tweets and President Trump's attempts to throw stuff as chum in the water, they'll work with some people.

But Bob Mueller now has three people cooperating him who are former senior Trump campaign officials. He's charged the campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, with a number of crimes. He's charged 13 Russian officials with a wide scale attempt to influence the election on behalf of Donald Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton.

So, it's sort of hard to argue with those things because if Mike Flynn or George Papadopoulos or Rick Gates did nothing wrong, and that why would they plead guilty to things and offer to cooperate with the probe? Those are to me indisputable facts and we just have to keep reminding people. This is not he said, she said. These are facts versus tweets.

BALDWIN: Point taken. Chris Cillizza, thank you. Rachael, thank you. And, Rick, good to see you.

Just in here at CNN, a new report sheds light on the payment the president's personal lawyer made to a porn star mere days before the presidential election. So, news on that. Stand by.

Also ahead, breaking news. Two leaders, both under intense scrutiny meeting today at the White House. President Trump hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We will show you what happened.

And public schools remain closed today for an eighth day in the state of West Virginia. Some 20,000 teachers striking because they want a raise over -- they are striking over pay and health care costs.

We'll talk to one of those teachers directly affected coming up. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:18:02] BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

You have two leaders facing mounting scrutiny within their countries meeting together at the White House today. President Trump hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

So, let's talk to CNN national security analyst Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. She's author of "Ashley's War" and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Gayle, welcome back.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thank you.

BALDWIN: So, it is interesting that you have the two leaders under scrutiny in their own countries sitting together. What do you make of this? Is this Netanyahu looking for some sort of Trump cover?

LEMMON: Well, it's fascinating, right? I mean, even if Netanyahu has very heavy political windstorms at home, he certainly faced only sunny skies in Washington. And that was pretty expected. But I think the real question is what comes out of this meeting. But certainly, that photo op while headlines at home say, you know, Netanyahu faces domestic trouble, but a warm reception in Washington is not lost on anyone, let alone Benjamin Netanyahu.

BALDWIN: I want to ask about Syria. We just got some news in from our chief White House correspondent, the administration official just telling Jim Acosta that the U.S. is considering all action including military over Syria's continued use of chemical weapons.

What's your read on that?

LEMMON: Yes. I mean, this is really an overnight crisis that has been months in the making, right? Syria is the crisis in which adjectives has lost the power to describe the hell on the ground.

BALDWIN: So well said.

LEMMON: So, what you see now is, you know, moms and dads facing chemical attacks, facing barrel bombs, facing hospitals. And an aide convoy that went in was actually stripped of medical supplies and food. So, you see an administration that is watching these pictures and is trying to figure out what it can do. And it's fascinating because we have talked about the last administration also analyzing the horrors coming out of Syria.

BALDWIN: Yes, what to do.

LEMMON: And trying to figure out, right, what it could actually do. And so, the question is, what are options left and how willing is this administration really to use them?

[14:20:01] BALDWIN: The quote from the senior administration officially, it's fair to say we are considering a number of options including military.

Gayle, thank you so very much for weighing in on both of those things.

LEMMON: Great to join you. BALDWIN: Just in to us, a new report sheds more light on the payment the president's personal lawyer made to a porn star just days before the election. We have those details for you coming up next. Also ahead, nearly 280,000 West Virginia kids are out of class for the eighth straight day as teachers return to the picket lines demanding higher wages and better benefits. We will talk to one of those teachers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:25:00] LEMON: All right. Here's the breaking news involving porn star Stormy Daniels who was reportedly paid $130,000 by President Trump's personal lawyer to keep quiet about this alleged affair just before the 2016 presidential election.

"The Wall Street Journal", they are the ones who broke this whole thing in the first place, they are now reporting today that the bank used by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen actually flagged that wire payment as suspicious and went on to report it to the Treasury Department. City National Bank launched an inquiry about the transaction a year after Stormy Daniels' attorney received the funds possibly because the bank received new information.

"The Wall Street Journal" also reports that after Trump's victory, Michael Cohen complained to friends that he had not been paid or, I should say, reimbursed for the payment to Stormy Daniels. When asked to comment on the story, Cohen called it fake news.

Last month, Cohen admitted he used his own funds for the payment and that the Trump administration -- organization was completely unaware of the transaction. CNN has also reached out to Cohen for a response.

So, Mark Geragos is back with me on all things Stormy Daniels, our favorite CNN legal analyst.

And so, Mark Geragos, you can understand how people are like a little bit suspicious over the story starting with if everything is above board, why not just go to your own bank?

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I would like to not refer to her as a porn star, but an adult actress. Second --

BALDWIN: Forgive me.

GERAGOS: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

GERAGOS: Second, I think if it is his own back, if First Republic is where he banks, then if they are filing a suspicious activity report that tells you something. And if it isn't his bank, then that tells you a lot more.

So, I think that's significant. The one thing also that when you combine that with they have these what they call SARs, suspicious activity reports, is also the fact that he's complaining to people in real time that I haven't gotten reimbursed yet, would seem to be a problem for him --

BALDWIN: What does it tell you?

GERAGOS: -- based on the declaration he filed with the Federal Election Commission, because there, he led them to believe that he was not expecting to be reimbursed and that he hadn't said anything.

BALDWIN: Do you think, just based upon all of this that has been swirling and we reported that the Stormy Daniels people believed the NDA was broken, therefore so she can talk. Do you think this porn -- do you this adult actress will step up to the mic and talk?

GERAGOS: Yes, I do. I have always thought from day one of the story, I didn't understand why it was somebody had not come out and said they would indemnify her to the extent that she gets into litigation. I mean, obviously, this is a story that would garner a lot of attention. There's got to be somebody who wants to click on eyeballs and would tell her, I'll indemnify you.

So, I think absolutely. If I'm going to make a prediction, she's going to talk and she's going to tell her story. It will be a lot more involved than the 2011 "In Touch" interview.

BALDWIN: Mark Geragos, thank you so much. Good to see you.

GERAGOS: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let's talk West Virginia. This is such a key story here. You have these teachers who are still walking the picket lines as the strike closes all public schools in the state for the eighth day.

These teachers want a pay raise. They are demanding a 5 percent pay raise, nothing less. Lawmakers today say they are scrambling to see if there's enough money to fulfill that wish in their state budget.

Well, West Virginia's teachers are all off the job, parents are looking for places to put their kids. A lot of striking teachers are actually bringing their own children out to protest with them at the state capitol there in Charleston.

So, let's go straight to Polo Sandoval. He's been covering the teacher strike in West Virginia.

And what's -- is there any sign of agreement? Will they get the 5 percent raise?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The short answer, Brooke, is no.

Here's what it boils down to. These are the nuts and bolts of this legislative battle. On one side, you have the House here who insists that there's absolutely no room in the budget, that they cannot do better than a 4 percent raise for teachers and other state employees. Opposite of that argument, though, you have not only the teachers but the backing of the House and also Governor Jim Justice who want that 5 percent. At this point, there has not been any sort of compromise, so there is,

what else, a compromise committee that's been formed by both chambers that now have representatives talking about this, trying to determine which way to proceed. Will it be 5 percent? Will it be 4 percent?

The teachers continue to get bigger and bigger, by the way, Brooke, insist that they will not go home unless they get that 5 percent. It is more about the raise. They consider this a sign of goodwill, good faith that these legislators will try to get to the real issue which is the insurance problem.

For now, all of these students across the state, Brooke, if they're not at home, they are in community centers. If they are not in community centers, they are here picketing with their parents.

BALDWIN: Polo, thank you.

Let's stay on this, I want to bring in Michelle Titus-Glover (ph). She teaches in West Virginia.

Michelle, thank you for all that you do for young people in this country. My mom was a teacher.

But let me just ask you, I mean, day eight. What if you don't get what you want?