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White House Defends Steel, Aluminum Tariffs; Trump Administration Pushing Back On Tariff Warnings; SNL Takes On Trump Tariff Talk; "Shape Of Water" Wins Top Oscar; South Korea Officials Travel To North Korea; Florida Senate To Vote On Gun Bill. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired March 5, 2018 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- defending the president's new tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. The president set to deliver on this key campaign promise, tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He gave no further details, but last week's surprise announcement caused an immediate outcry from U.S. businesses, trade partners and fellow Republicans.

One fear it risks jobs in industries that rely on steel and aluminum. If you drive a car, fly, drink beer, basically consume any kind of manufactured products in the U.S. with aluminum and steel, prices could go up.

But White House officials were on a PR offensive this weekend. Promising tariffs will not hurt the broader economy adding that no countries will be exempt even key allies. Here is trade adviser, Peter Navarro.


PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: There will be an exemption procedure for particular cases where we need to have exemptions so that business can move forward, but at this point in time, there will be no country exclusions.


ROMANS: That was a surprise to the Australians and others who thought that they might have an exclusion there. Navarro was backed up by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The president he says plans no exceptions.


WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: As of the moment, as far as I know, he is talking about a fairly broad brush.


ROMANS: Over the weekend, British Prime Minister Theresa May had deep concerns about the tariffs. Experts worried this could spark a trade war. The E.U. already threatened to slap tariffs on quintessentially American exports, Harley Davidson motorcycles made in Paul Ryan's Wisconsin, Bourbon made in Mitch McConnell's Kentucky, and Levis jeans.

So, in return, President Trump threatened to tax European cars. If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs, he will add a tax on their cars. The U.S. already taxes European cars. Europe imposes a 10 percent tariff on American cars.

But European automakers also employ tens of thousands of workers in the U.S. But Trump's announcement was made against the wishes of many top advisers, including we are told his economic director, Gary Cohen. But the administration downplaying reports that Cohen threatened to leave over this.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's bring in Philip Wegmann, a commentary writer for "The Washington Examiner." Good to see you, sir. Christine mentions Gary Cohen reportedly was against this so is Rex Tillerson so is James Mattis, just about every Republican lawmaker there is to mention. Not many in the party favor this. Will the president follow through on the tariffs? If so, what will it tell us about the future of the economic direction of the administration?

PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, we know one thing when it comes to President Trump and his campaign promises. He tries to be a man of his word and he's going to try to follow up through here. But look, if the president wants to lose his majorities in Congress, this is the best way to do it because so far, the economy has been his saving grace.

The job growth is what has propped up the administration and if he starts slapping tariffs on aluminum and steel, then that's going to have a very negative impact on manufacturing and I think that we can even see some of the negative economic influence ahead of this election.

So, I don't think the electorate is going to look on this favorably when they see that a lot of the job growth could be threatened.

ROMANS: It's interesting because I saw the stock market go down 500 points in a couple of days. I honestly think that if the stock market really believed that the (inaudible) wisdom of stock and bond market really believed he was going to follow through with this with no exceptions, it would have been much, much worse.

There is this big question among economists and you know, the Republican orthodoxy, do tariffs undercut pro-growth tax reform? That is what Orrin Hatch has said and many others. The White House is going to have to make a harder sell on that. They aren't actually negating their pro-growth policies by doing this.

WEGMANN: Yes. I mean, they are going to have to try and argue that the 1930s economic policy is somehow fit for the modern world when it really isn't. We know economics says that this is not going to be good for the market. No one will win here. But I think what is really frustrating and something that is not being pointed out is that this is incredibly disingenuous for Republicans.

They can't mock Nancy Pelosi for her comments about crumbs and then send Wilbur Ross on cable television and make this jokes about a can of soup will go up by a dime and a pack of beer is only going to in this much more expensive.

Those tariffs are going to disproportionately hurt people in job growth on the lower end of the spectrum and then also people who are actually doing the shopping for the home.

ROMANS: It is people who the things that they buy, the manufactured goods they buy every day are disproportionate part of their salary. So, it is the very people who looked to Donald Trump to help with jobs and the economy are the very people who get hit first. Wilbur Ross used the example of the $35,000 car and how it only adds a couple of hundred bucks to the price of steel. A lot of people in America have a hard time affording a $35,000 car.

BRIGGS: Perhaps a tad tone deaf. Humor was really on the agenda for the president this weekend, both for and against the president. Let's start with Alec Baldwin on "Saturday Night Live." He was called Alex on Friday. No clue if we have another Twitter feud between these two. But here is the SNL joke about trade Saturday Night.


[05:05:10] ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I announced these steel and aluminum tariffs (inaudible) going nuts about it. I brought back the steel industry by destroying the auto industry and taking the stock market, impressive.

Look at that. Both sides hated it. I don't care. I said I was going to run this country like a business. That business is a waffle house at 2:00 a.m.


BRIGGS: The president didn't tweet about that and he did not make some interesting jokes Saturday night in front of the D.C. media including this one about Melania at the Gridiron Dinner.

He said, "So many people have been leaving the White House. It has actually been really exciting because I like turnover. I like chaos. It is really good. Now the question everybody keeps asking who is next to leave, Steve Miller or Melania."

Fascinating to see this president laugh at himself. Self-deprecating is not his strongest quality. Would it help if he did more of that?

WEGMANN: Well, I think we are getting japed. President Trump's Twitter game would have been so much better if he got the writer who helped him out with that Gridiron speech --

BRIGGS: I hear it was Steve Miller.

WEGMANN: Well, Steve Miller should be in the oval office every morning when the president starts tweeting because it was actually pretty funny. Some of the stuff about Melania taking a hike from the White House especially when the Stormy Daniels situation is ongoing is especially awkward.

But I think that we saw the president can make fun of himself. We saw even he knows not everything is going according to plan and that there is some serious chaos. So, hopefully, this was also a moment for levity, but also self-introspection.

ROMANS: While many of our viewers are waking up right now may have missed what happened last night in the Oscars. Jimmy Kimmel pretty funny, a couple of political digs at the president. But really it was the "Me Too" and "Time's Up" movement that was on full display last night.

They managed to really incorporate it into the program, embrace it, but not overdo it. What was your assessment? You know, a lot of times the conservatives just hate these displays of liberal elitism. How do you feel about it?

WEGMANN: Jimmy Kimmel, we knew that he was going to make jokes and fun of the president. That's to be expected. What awards show is not an opportunity for Hollywood to lecture. But I think this one was really telling.

And I was actually really disappointed to see that Kobe Bryant on the night of the "Time's Up" is going to get an Oscar. I mean, it shows that Hollywood is willing to forgive and forget.

I mean, I think that what we saw with the "Me Too" movement that was kicked off by the Harvey Weinstein was something that was especially needed for our country and take a step in the wrong direction on the Oscars was pretty disappointing.

BRIGGS: Kobe Bryant also took a shot at Laura Ingraham's shut up and dribble comments in his acceptance speech. But you're right, most people don't even remember what happened with Kobe Bryant in Colorado many years ago. Philip Wegmann, thank you.

WEGMANN: Thank you for having me.

BRIGGS: Speaking of last night's Academy Awards, not entirely free of politics. The "Me Too" focused show and "Time's Up" capped by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway getting a second shot at presenting best picture. Last year, they threw the final moments and the turmoil when the read the wrong winner after getting the wrong envelope.


WARREN BEATTY, ACTOR: It is so nice seeing you again.

FAYE DUNAWAY, ACTOR: As they say, presenting is lovelier the second time around.

BEATTY: And the Oscar goes to -- "The Shape of Water."


ROMANS: Guillermo Del Toro who also won best director even double checked the envelope to make sure his film had taken the top prize. In one of the more unpredictable best picture races in recent years, "The Shape of Water" was nominated for 13 Oscars and won four.

Three of Harvey Weinstein's accusers, Ashley Judd, Anabella (inaudible), and Selma Hayek, shared an emotional moment on stage before introducing a video highlighting the importance of diversity in Hollywood.


ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: The changes we are witnessing are being driven by the powerful sound of new voices of different voices and of our voices. Joining together in a mighty chorus that is finally saying time's up.


BRIGGS: Frances McDormand won best lead actress for her role in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and delivered a message of female empowerment.


FRANCES MCDORMAND, OSCAR WINNER: If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight. The actors, Meryl, if you do it, everybody else will, come on. The filmmakers, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, the composers, the songwriters, the designers, come on! OK.

[05:10:11] OK, look around, everybody. Look around, Ladies and Gentlemen. We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don't talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple of days or you can come to ours. We will tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen, inclusion rider.


BRIGGS: An inclusion rider, a clause in an actor's contract that requires diversity among the cast and crew. Other top winners included Gary Oldman won for Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour."

ROMANS: Allison Janney won best supporting actress for her turn as skater, Tonya Harding's mother in the dark comedy, "I Tanya," and Sam Rockwell won best supporting actor for his performance as a racist police officer in "Three Billboards."

One other female focus note from the show, we learned who is in charge when "House of Cards" returns in the fall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just getting started. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The first promo for the sixth and final season of the Netflix show aired during the Oscars. Robin Wright stars now Kevin Spacey has left following his sexual misconduct scandal. They have been filming since January. They had to start all over.

BRIGGS: I have not seen it in a while, but I think I'm back in with --

ROMANS: I'm back in. Right now, the highest-level talks between North and South Korea in a decade. Will those talks help Pyongyang and the U.S. get to the table? We are live in Beijing next.



BRIGGS: Got some major news this Monday morning, a delegation of officials from South Korea has arrived in Pyongyang and right now, we believe they are meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un. They plan to raise the possibility of talks with the United States with the latest heated exchange between the U.S. and North Korea raises serious doubts about getting both parties to the table.

Will Ripley tracking the latest for us live from Beijing. Interesting, will, to have the president talk about North Korea in the midst of making all these jokes at this Gridiron Dinner on Saturday night, but some serious comments?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I have to say that the fact that this South Korean delegation is meeting with Kim Jong-un is actually a sign that things must be going pretty well because they arrived in Pyongyang during the overnight hours Eastern Time.

And initially they had a first-round discussion with a number of lower level officials in North Korea, their counterparts. I wouldn't say lower level. These are pretty high-ranking officials on both ends.

South Korea sent their spy chief and their top security adviser. But the fact that from those meetings then they got the green light to have dinner with Kim Jong-un. That means that at least there was some common ground.

Obviously, the number one focus is to set up a dialogue with the United States. They are going to be flying back to the U.S. shortly after they leave Pyongyang tomorrow. They'll do a quick debrief in Seoul then they head to Washington to talk with U.S. officials and try to keep the ball rolling here in terms of discussions about North Korea's nuclear program.

But the U.S. and North Korea are so far apart. President Trump saying over the weekend that North Korea called up and said they want to talk, but he said, they have to denuke. North Korean state media today essentially saying they absolutely will not denuke. And if the U.S. would be ridiculous to think that they are willing do that, obviously negotiations can change the situation. At least right now in every discussion I have had with North Korean officials repeatedly over the last three years, they have given zero indication they are willing to give up their nuclear weapons.

Here in China, another big political story that's developing, President Xi Jinping is poised in the coming days to complete his power grab by a change in their Constitution is going to be approved by China's top legislative body abolishing presidential term limits essentially allowing Xi Jinping to become Chinese president for life.

They are thinking long game. President Trump talking about it over the weekend saying maybe he would like to give that a shot someday. The president is joking.

BRIGGS: Right. But I'm sure that raised a few eyebrows where you in Beijing. Will Ripley live for us. Thank you.

ROMANS: About 18 minutes past the hour this Monday morning. Israel's prime minister heads to the White House today. It comes with controversy over the U.S. Embassy move and Benjamin Netanyahu's own legal troubles. We are live in Jerusalem.



ROMANS: Today, President Trump is set to host Israel's prime minister at the White House. But at this point, no reporters will be allowed to ask questions. The meeting comes with Benjamin Netanyahu under increasing scrutiny in Israel. Police say there is enough evidence to indict him on charges including bribery.

CNN's Ian Lee is in Jerusalem. Ian, clearly these two men are simpatico in terms of the U.S.-Mideast policy at the moment, but he's got a lot of trouble Bibi does at home.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, I think he is happy to be in Washington away from his legal dramas here in Israel. You know, he is being investigated as a suspect in three cases and just last Friday investigators questioning him for the eighth time.

But his trip to Washington, he says he has a focus, and it is all about Iran. He sees Iran as one of the major threats to Israel. He doesn't like the Iranian nuclear deal, which he constantly says fix it or nix it.

We also know French officials are going to be in Iran talking to the Iranian government about this deal, ballistic missiles, and their involvement in the region. that's something the prime minister is also worried about, Iran's involvement in the neighboring civil war in Syria as well as Lebanon.

We are expecting the president to talk about the peace process, the ultimate deal. Something he's brought up time after time again with the special envoys. We are hearing that there is a plan, although, none of us have seen it.

We have talked to officials, they have not seen it as well, but they say it is there. Another issue they are likely to bring up is the moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem sometime in May.

We are also hearing that the Guatemalans say that they are going to move their embassy in May. This is something though that has had large international condemnation from the international community, this moving. We are hearing that possibly President Trump could be on hand to cut the ribbon.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right. Thanks for that, Ian Lee for us this morning.

BRIGGS: It's final week of the Florida legislative session begins today. The State Senate expected to vote on a broad new gun bill less than three weeks after the Parkland school shooting. The bill would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. Require a three-day waiting period with some exemptions and ban bump fire stocks, which automate a semi-automatic weapon. The measure would also give law enforcement greater power to take guns from people deemed mentally unfit.

[05:25:10] ROMANS: The most controversial provision would allow teachers to be armed as long as they are trained and meet other criteria. Arming teachers would be voluntary. Many teachers and students are still opposed to that idea so is Governor Rick Scott, but he did not say whether he would veto the bill if it includes that particular provision.

BRIGGS: West Virginia school teachers entering day eight of their strike. State legislators did not meet their demand for higher pay and better benefits. Last week, Governor Jim Justice and the union leaders agreed to a 5 percent pay raise for teachers.

The House passed the 5 percent raise, but the Senate's version was 4 percent. Not clear when a conference committee will tackle the difference, so the walkout could last several more days keeping nearly 277,000 students home.

Ahead, the White House says new trade tariffs will apply to all countries even as Republicans are calling the idea a huge mistake.

ROMANS: A big time's up theme for Hollywood's biggest night.


MCDORMAND: The filmmakers, producers, directors, the writers, the cinematographers, the song writers, the designers. Come on!