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Trump: North Korea Must "De-Nuke" Before U.S. Talks; Trump Defends Tariffs Despite Pushback at Home & Overseas; DACA Recipients Call for Action on Legislation; Will Congress Act on Gun Legislation; Brother of Florida School Shooter Speaks Out. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired March 5, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Speaking at a free-wheeling media event with journalists the other night, President Trump said about the North Koreans, and I'm quoting now, "They called up a couple of days ago and said, we would like to talk. And I said, so would we, but you have to de-nuke. You have to de-nuke. So let's see what happens."
Let's go to Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, the U.S. and North Korea are very far apart on this issue. Can they come together and meet face to face?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, it doesn't look like that, if you believe the North Korean rhetoric. The North Koreans responding to that suggestion from the president calling it preposterous and ridiculous.
But what do we really mean, what does the president really mean when he says "de-nuke?" A very odd word. What it means, by all accounts, is North Korea would have to pledge to give up its nuclear weapons and its missiles, as a precondition, if you will, to sitting down and talking. They would have to pledge to abandon their weapons program. There is simply no indication the North Koreans have any intention of doing that right now, even as they suffer, supposedly, from diplomatic and the economic pressure of sanctions. Their sources of currency are drying up. Where they are getting the components and the materials to continue the program, to keep building, remains an unanswered question. But they are giving no indication that they are ready to abandon and have that as a precondition for sitting down.
Exactly the opposite, Wolf, may be taking place. U.S. officials are telling us that since November they see the North Koreans making progress in their weapons program, even with the sanctions, that they are improving their missiles, their nuclear warheads, guidance. They're still struggling to get the technical capability to get a missile and a warhead to a precise target of their choosing at a point in time. That's a highly technical matter. But on everything else, the North Koreans appear to be making progress and appear to be doing everything but agreeing to abandon it all -- Wolf?
BLITZER: I'm still struck by the fact that the vice president, when he was in South Korea for the Olympics, he was apparently ready for a sit-down meeting with the sister of Kim Jong-Un, but it was the North Koreans who canceled that meeting two hours before it was going to be taking place. So the U.S. -- the Trump administration clearly ready for a direct dialogue. The president suggested that at the Gridiron Dinner Saturday night as well. We'll see what happens down the road.
Barbara, thank you very much.
BLITZER: More on the breaking news. A new twist in the president's threat to start a trade war. What he just said only moments as global backlash erupts.
Plus, today is the president's deadline for lawmakers to come up with a solution for the so-called DREAMers, but they are nowhere close to a deal. So what's next for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of these young people?
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[13:37:02] BLITZER: Top Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee in Washington are circulating a letter expressing deep concern about the president's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The proposed measures are also sparking outrage among some of the U.S.'s closest allies. Right now, you see the Dow Jones up about 245 points. Canada, the European Union, the U.K., they've all talked about retaliatory measures. China is also weighing in.
Our reporters from around the globe have the latest reactions.
Let's begin with CNN's Will Ripley.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Here in Beijing, the Chinese government says they don't want a trade war with the U.S., but they also say they won't sit idly by to watch their interests harmed. That being said, this announcement of tariffs from the Trump administration on steel and aluminum doesn't really affect China much because, even though China is the world's largest steel exporter, it exports very little to the U.S., account for just 2 percent of steel imports to the U.S. last year. The reason for that, huge tariffs that were set up by the Obama administration, which means this announcement from President Trump hurts key U.S. allies far more than it hurts China.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Here in Berlin the word is incomprehensible. That's how Germany's foreign minister described Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. The country's supply is about 4 percent of U.S. steel, and it's about the biggest steel manufacturer in Europe. So as you can imagine, the E.U. is not going to take this lying down. In fact, they have already threatened to slap tariffs in response on some all-American products including Harley-Davidson's motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, and Levi's jeans, just to name a few -- Wolf?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Here in Canada, officials are huddled at this hour trying to figure out how to retaliate. If President Trump goes through with tariffs on steel and aluminum, Canada is the number-one exporter to the United States. For that reason, they say they will hit back, they will hit back quickly, and they will hit back hard. What's interesting about the way they're going to do it, Wolf, is they're trying to hit the Trump administration politically. They'll look at those swing states, states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Those states are also top trading partners with Canada, and they will do what they can to have Donald Trump know that, look, this is going to hurt the United States as much as it's going to hurt Canada.
BLITZER: Paula Newton, thank you very much.
Atika Shubert and Will Ripley, thanks to you guys as well.
Let's talk about the potential fallout from these proposed tariffs. I'm joined by the former commerce secretary, Gary Locke. He served as the U.S. ambassador to China during the Obama administration and also served as the governor of Washington State.
Thanks so much for joining us, Governor.
GARY LOCKE, FORMER U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY FOR CHINA & FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA & FORMER WASHINGTON STATE GOVERNOR: Good to be with you, Blitz (sic).
BLITZER: Let's talk a little about -- you're a commerce secretary. What concerns you most about the possibility of these steel and aluminum tariffs?
[13:39:50] LOCKE: What's going to happen, Wolf, is you'll see prices going up in the manufacturing of American products, so that's going to hurt the American consumer. So much as you, as your report indicated, of the steel and aluminum comes from Canada and Mexico, but not from China. Perhaps they'll go for our agricultural products. But the reality is American producers will have to pay more, whether they're going to pay more from the American producers of steel and aluminum, or they're going to pay more from the supplies that they get from Canada or Europe. That's going to ultimately cost more to make these things, and those costs will be passed on to consumers.
BLITZER: The president now says, and we just heard a little while ago, suggesting -- and he tweeted about this as well. If there is a deal to renegotiate NAFTA, the American Free Trade Agreement, with Canada and Mexico, he'll forget about the tariffs. Is that a good idea?
LOCKE: I don't think that's going to work. In fact, it's really boxing people in. It's going to raise their ire and they're going to be even more out to push back against the United States. So I don't think this is a good negotiating tactic. And if he's saying that this is justified on grounds of national security, so much of the aluminum and steel that we're getting from our allies are being used for military purposes. So it's going to raise the cost of the military production as well.
BLITZER: I want you to list 10 to what the president said this weekend about China's president. Listen to this.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China is great, and Xi is a great gentleman. He's now president for life.
TRUMP: President -- (INAUDIBLE). He's able to do that, I think it's great. Maybe we have to give that a shot someday.
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BLITZER: You were the United States ambassador to China. Clearly, the president was trying to make a joke, but what do you think of the president's statement in that specific regard?
LOCKE: I think all of us have to be concerned about the growing strong man rule that's creeping all across the world. Certainly, if you're a fan of whatever China is doing now, you're going to like the fact that Xi is in there for life. If you're concerned about whether it's his military buildup in the South China Sea and the North China Sea or human rights, intellectual property thefts, the lack of rule of law, then you ought to be very concerned. Because a person who is there for life, the people that work for him will have no incentive to really push back. It will be unbridled power that they feel they have. They can ultimately, and the people who serve him, will ultimately feel they can do whatever they want.
BLITZER: How will President Xi's move to extend term limits impact the U.S.-China relationship right now?
LOCKE: Well, I think the U.S.-China relationship has a lot of tension in it right now. There are a lot of disputes between the United States and China on trade, rule of law, human rights. Obviously, the buildup of the islands in the South China Sea, islands that are contested by many other countries, and our concern is what that will do with respect to the free navigation in those areas. But he's also embarked on some major economic policies, really political, diplomatic policies with his One-Belt, One Road initiative, $18 trillion of infrastructure for other countries in Asia, Africa and eastern Europe. That's going to give China a lot of influence. And so what Xi Jinping is really trying to do is build up stature, power, the clout of China. Not just militarily, not just economically, but also politically.
BLITZER: Former commerce secretary, former U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke. Thanks so much, Governor, for joining us. LOCKE: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, why calls to action on gun control legislation have come to a screeching halt on Capitol Hill.
Plus, why a former CIA director now says the president's latest tweet shows he's panicked, quote, "panicked," over the Russia investigation.
[13:48:31] BLITZER: Today was supposed to be the deadline for Congress to come up with a solution for the so-called DREAMers, the young immigrants brought to the United States as children. A series of court rulings has made today's deadline moot. Supporters of DACA, D-A-C-A, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, are holding a march on Washington. They are pushing for action by Congress. They want quick action. That's what President Trump called for when his administration announced last September that DACA was ending. Listen.
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JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded.
TRUMP: We all have a great heart for the folks we are talking about, a great love for them. Hopefully, now Congress can help them and do it properly. I can tell you in speaking to members of Congress they want to do something and do it right.
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BLITZER: Joining us now to talk about DACA and more, Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar, of California.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
Where do things stand now? The president said he wants a deal, you want a deal. He's ready to give a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers in the United States, more than the 700,000 who have officially registered with DACA. What's wrong with that?
REP. PETE AGUILAR, (D), CALIFORNIA: Nothing wrong with that. A path to citizenship is legitimate. It's what we should be doing. Let's keep in mind, this is a crisis the president created. Unfortunately, Congress hasn't acted in six months.
BLITZER: What's the problem now?
[13:50:02] AGUILAR: Right now, look, I'll tip my hat at least to Mitch McConnell for giving the Senate an opportunity to vote. They didn't meet the 60 threshold. But in the House, we can't even get a vote. While there are Republicans committed to the issue, I have a bill with 27 Democrats and 27 Republicans, a bipartisan measure that was the McCain-Kuhns bill in the Senate. We could pass it, but the president keeps getting in the way. BLITZER: Will Hurd is a Republican Congressman from Texas. You are
working with him. He says we'll give the 1.8 million DREAMers a pathway to citizenship. They will be allowed to stay in the United States and eventually be citizens. He wants better border security. How far are you willing to go to meet the demand?
AGUILAR: We are willing to meet him halfway. That's what the bill does. We get operational control of the southern border. We have Homeland Security tell us what we need to do, whether we need to use a physical barrier or technological barrier. If there is a barrier we can use for one-fortieth the price that's what we should be doing. Will Hurd says this is a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem. It doesn't make sense to have a physical wall when we can use technology to meet the same goal.
BLITZER: What about if you get what you want for the DREAMers in exchange for the physical wall? Would you be willing to go that far?
AGUILAR: We'll consider everything, absolutely. We are willing to meet the president halfway. When he issues veto threats on bipartisan bills, that's not helping us. It's not helping the bipartisan compromise we have.
BLITZER: Deal or no deal? What do you think?
AGUILAR: I hope we can get to a deal. We owe it to these young people. It's a dark day, March 5 now. That's the deadline.
BLITZER: Their families are nervous. They want to stay here legally. They don't want to be forced out of the United States into countries they have never lived in, for all practical purposes.
AGUILAR: Absolutely. The only reason we are having this concern is they don't have a single piece of paper. They are business owners. They work in the communities. They serve in our military. You have heard Secretary Mattis talk about this extensively. We need to give them the protections they deserve, a path to citizenship. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and I are committed to that. We'll keep working in a bipartisan way to get that done. We hope we have the will in Congress to get there.
BLITZER: Anything going to happen on guns as far as the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate is concerned?
AGUILAR: Well, it depends. Just like DACA, do you get the Tuesday president or the Thursday president? You don't know. He was willing to talk about significant measures in the White House last week. I absolutely think we need -- I'm a cosponsor of the assault weapons ban. We had it for 10 years. That's a reasonable place to land. You also heard him talk about the Fix NICS bill. I'm an original co- sponsor of that as well. And background checks. These are reasonable common-sense solutions we can have. Last time you and I talked was after San Bernardino, a tragedy in my home district where 14 people lost their lives to an A.R.-15-like weapon. This is personal for me and my community.
BLITZER: Presumably, you liked what the president said during the meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House, when he seemed to please Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was sitting next to him. Not so much John Cornyn, the Republican majority whip.
AGUILAR: The body language was telling there. The White House had to do what they always do. They have to clean up on aisle four after the fact. That's unfortunate. But if that president said I want a background check bill, an assault weapons ban, Fix NICS all in a single bill, we are confident he could muster the Senate in order to get a vote.
BLITZER: He seemed open to raising the age limit to 21 for certain weapons.
AGUILAR: Absolutely. We have seen private industry do that.
BLITZER: National Rifle Association opposes that.
AGUILAR: Of course. They oppose all these measures, any common-sense solution. That's unfortunate. This is where Congress can lead. This is what we should be doing.
BLITZER: He said he's ready to sign a regulation banning bump stocks, which you can attach to a rifle to make it like a machine gun. You are with him on that.
AGUILAR: Absolutely. Let's keep in mind, he said he loves DACA individuals, too. The proof is in the pudding. We want to see the president put some of this stuff in writing. We want to see his commitment to meet these issues. Whether it is bump stocks or DACA, he needs to mean what he says.
BLITZER: See what you guys can do together with the White House.
AQUILAR: Thank you so much.
[13:54:26] BLITZER: Congressman Pete Aguilar, of California.
Other news we are following, including a Russian sex coach saying she has secrets about the president and his Russia ties, and she's willing to spill them for a price. The jailhouse interview, coming up.
Plus, the brother of the Parkland high school killer speaking out now. What he says he regrets.
BLITZER: The younger brother of the Florida school gunman said he feels guilty about the shooting, and he wonders whether he could have prevented the massacre. In an interview with investigators, Zachary Cruz discussed his relationship with his brother, Nikolas Cruz, seen here during a court appearance. Zachary told authorities he bullied Nikolas when they were younger. He said he now regrets doing that together with his friends. He wishes he had been nicer to his brother. The massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school left 14 students and three teachers dead. Certainly, set off a national debate over gun control here in the United States. That debate clearly continues right now.
That's it for me. Thank you very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next.
For our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.
[13:59:59] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, 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 the threat of a once-in-a-generation trade war, a trade war the president insisted was a good thing. But then, in front of cameras just a short while ago, said --