Return to Transcripts main page


Poll: 60 Percent Think it's a Bad Idea for Kushner to Work in The White House; Confusion in The White House Over Tariff Plan Rollout; Florida Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns; "Pope: The Most Powerful Man In History" Premieres Sunday Night. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 8, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:32:21] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A new national poll shows 60 percent of Americans think it is a bad idea for Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and, of course, son-in-law, to work in the White House.

Kushner has been stripped of his top security clearance but it is not stopping him from taking high-profile assignments. He just met with Mexico's president yesterday.

Joining us now is Senator Angus King. He is part of the Intelligence Committee which conducted a hearing into security clearances yesterday.

Senator, thank you for joining us as always.

Help me understand this. So, Kushner has the clearance stripped, which has all this political mishegoss attached to it that we'll leave to the side.

He then goes to meet with Mexico's president, so that raises a question about well, what information did he have going into that meeting and is it true that he didn't bring the expert from the State Department, who has been in the post for 30 years, with him on this trip?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), MEMBER, SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well, I can't speak to the latter question but if he didn't that's a mistake because little a knowledge is also very helpful in situations like that.

But here's the -- here's the situation with the security clearance. What he lost was his top secret clearance and without a top secret clearance you can't see information supplied by assets or agents.

You can't see information supplied by what's called signals intelligence, which is intelligence intercepts abroad. And you can't see intelligence that's supplied by another country. In other words, you can't see a lot of material.

And he's assigned to do things like work in trying to bring a solution to the Middle East. You just can't do that without that kind of information. It's trying to -- it's negotiating with one hand tied behind your back.

So I don't see how -- I mean, he could still work in the White House if that's the president's choice, but I don't see how he can work on this high-profile international questions.

I understand he also is supposed to be working with China. I don't know how he can do that without having that clearance. It just -- it's just virtually impossible, it seems to me.

CUOMO: Well, I guess the question becomes when does he get that clearance?

KING: Well, he hasn't gotten it yet and he didn't get it -- it's been a year or more and I think the understanding is that the FBI report basically created a situation where John Kelly decided he could not -- he couldn't get that clearance.

And I just -- as I say, I think it would be very difficult for him to do the jobs that the president has assigned to him --

CUOMO: Right.

KING: -- without the ability to see that very important information.

CUOMO: Well, if he's not capable or whatever -- if he's not worthy of that kind of clearance why would you want him close to the president on such sensitive matters?

[07:35:04] KING: Well, that's a question for the president. I mean, the president has to -- you know, this is not a confirmable position. It's not a --


KING: -- role that the Senate has in this, and the president can choose to have the people around him that he chooses.

CUOMO: He could also choose to show them information that the clearance doesn't justify showing him. Isn't that true?

KING: Yes, he could. The president has the power to unilaterally release any secret or top secret information but he would have to do that on a case-by-case basis. It would be like every day he'd call in -- he'd have to call in and say OK, Jared, here's what I'm going to tell you today.

It's -- he couldn't give him a kind of special clearance to get this material. That's a pretty cumbersome way to do business.

I saw some top secret material this week on the Middle East -- very significant, very informative information. And again, without that information I don't know how you could adequately represent our interests in any part of the world.

CUOMO: All right. Speaking of representing interests help me understand what's going on with tariffs, from a congressional perspective. The president promised -- that he's been saying for years American workers get a raw deal. But it seems by every economic calculus more workers could be adversely affected by these tariffs than helped by these tariffs.

Is that how you see it?

KING: Well, I think that's right and I've already heard from a couple of companies in Maine that use steel that is -- are -- they've seen their prices go up eight or 10 percent in the last few days. That's going to have to be passed on to their customers. That's going to affect their business.

I think the general consensus is it could cost as many -- or actually, significantly more jobs than it saves.

The other piece of this is it's a worldwide tariff, at least as of now. We don't know what the president's going to announce this afternoon but it applies to everybody -- Canada, Germany, France, Japan, China, which by the way, only supplies about three percent of the steel that we get in this country although they affect the international market.

So it's a -- I said the other day this is really delicate and important stuff and you should be doing it with a scalpel. You should be going after just where you want. It should be targeted and you don't do this stuff with chainsaw, and that's where we are today and that's what worries me.

The other piece Chris, of course, is the process by which we got there. This is very important, significant stuff. And what are the results going to be, what are the retaliations?

The Europeans are already talking about retaliation and this is where ugly things can happen that are unanticipated when you unleash something like this without sufficient talking to the Defense Department, the State Department, the other countries, the allies, and that's what worries me here.

CUOMO: How real is this notion that people in Congress may change legislation and create new legislation to hem in the president's power to tariff because obviously, he still has to make the case that this is in the interest of national security?

KING: Right, and that's one of the problems with this decision.

And by the way, I think there are areas where we definitely need to renegotiate some of these trade agreements. I don't think they're fair to the United States. This is a place where I think the president's on the right track. The question is how do you do it?

Now, will Congress do something about changing this section? I doubt it, although there's been a huge uproar on both sides. Interestingly, the Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan -- most of the reaction has been on the -- on the Republican side so I think it's hard to say.

But the other piece here Chris, and you said the right word -- this whole tariff discussion is under a provision of the law that allows the president to do this in the name of national security and that's the -- that's the purpose. So, the question is does cutting off steel from Canada affect national security?

And now, apparently, he's saying well, we're going to lift the Canadian and Mexican tariff but only for 30 days if they make concessions in other areas. That's sounds more like a trade dispute than it does national security.

CUOMO: And if he can't make the case, who is the arbiter of whether or not he makes a legitimate case for national security interests?

KING: Well, probably -- my guess is they'll be multiple forums. The World Trade Organization would certainly be the first place our allies would go to to say this is a violation of the treaty of the World Trade Organization.

CUOMO: But in terms of the U.S. statute what is the recourse in the statute? If he -- you know, is it on your guys, is there a certain committee? Who judges whether or not he's right about the national security interests?

KING: Well, the Congress can rewrite the law if they decide that it's being used improperly. That's always --

CUOMO: Oh, so that's the only recourse?

KING: That's really the recourse that I see.

CUOMO: All right. Senator King, always a pleasure.

Oh, the president just tweeted. Somebody tell me in my ear -- what did he say? Angus and I -- looking forward --

KING: He said look, King's a great guy.

CUOMO: He says Angus King is distractingly attractive. He's got to go.

No, it says "Looking forward to 3:30 meeting at the White House. We have to protect and build our aluminum and steel industries." So what does that mean to you?

[07:40:03] KING: Well, it certainly means he's going to keep going -- he's going to go forward with these tariffs in spite of the reactions from both Congress, allies, and other people around the world. I think the remaining question is whether he's going to narrow the focus and focus on China, for example, or it is going to be this sort of blunderbuss approach that hits our allies harder than it hits China.

CUOMO: Senator King, as I said before, I'll say it again. Thanks for being on the show.

KING: Thank you.

CUOMO: Appreciate your perspective -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, another topic obviously, the nation is watching, gun violence. Florida lawmakers are set to take action after the Parkland school massacre so we'll tell you what's in their bill that they have put on the governor's desk and whether the governor is inclined to sign this. We have a live report, next.


CAMEROTA: Taking action on gun violence and school safety in the wake of the Parkland massacre. They have sent a bill to the governor that would raise the age limit to buy some guns and to arm some teachers. They would provide the funding. So, will the governor sign this?

CNN's Athena Jones is live in Tallahassee with more. What have you learned, Athena?


Well, this bill would do a number of things.

It would raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21 years old from 18 years old and it would require a 3-day waiting period to buy a firearm, with some exceptions. It would also ban the sale or possession of bump fire stocks. Those are the accessories that allow a semiautomatic weapon to fire more like an automatic weapon.

[07:40:14] The bill would give police more power to seize weapons and ammunition from anyone deemed mentally unfit or otherwise a threat. And it would provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and for mental health services in school districts across the state.

The most controversial provision in the bill is one that would allow some teachers and other school staff to be armed after they undergo training. Now, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said he opposes arming teachers. He said teachers should teach.

He also is opposed to this 3-day waiting period included in the bill. One thing we don't know is whether he would veto legislation -- this legislation that includes those provisions.

The governor said yesterday that once he receives the bill he's going to be reviewing it line-by-line. But one important thing to note here, he has 15 days -- once he receives the bill he has 15 days to make a decision. After those 15 days if he hasn't made a decision, it automatically goes into effect.

All this as we learned yesterday that a Florida grand jury returned a 34-count indictment against the Parkland shooter who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree -- Chris.

CUOMO: Boy, it's really such a window into how jumbled the politics are when it comes to access to weapons. The governor down there saying teachers shouldn't have weapons.

That's not part of safety. But a 3-day waiting period is somehow offensive top him.

It's an interesting look. It'll be interesting to see how he justifies that.

So, another story this morning. Police in Alabama calling a deadly shooting at a high school in Birmingham an accident. At least two shots were fired at dismissal time Wednesday killing a 17-year-old female student at Huffman High School. A 17-year-old male student was injured.

The school has metal detectors and resource officers who were on duty. Authorities are not saying why they would consider a deadly shooting accidental. We await details.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we need a lot more answers there.

OK, so the powerful nor'easter that slammed the northeast continues dropping snow in New England. This storm toppling trees and power lines. It's left nearly 800,000 homes without power -- oh my gosh, look at that -- across New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

Forecasters say yet another winter storm could hit the east coast next week.

CUOMO: A new travel alert for the Mexican resort city of Playa del Carmen. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico posting on its Website that it received information about a security threat in that city.

The context here, this comes after a ferry explosion that injured 26 people there last month. The embassy did not specify the threat or say if it was linked to that explosion.

CAMEROTA: OK, it's time for "CNN Money Now."

Confusion over the timing and the details of President Trump's new tariff plan that was set to roll out today. Let's see what information chief business correspondent Christine Romans has in our Money Center -- Christine.


Well, you know, aides were still working overnight on the plan. That's because the policy hasn't been finalized yet, including the fate of two of America's biggest trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

Here's trade adviser Peter Navarro last night.


PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: The proclamation will have a clause that does not impose these tariffs immediately on Canada and Mexico.


ROMANS: Reversing what he said last weekend that no countries would be excluded and echoing what Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also said yesterday that Canada and Mexico would be exempt based on national security.

Just a hint of exemptions helped U.S. stocks rebound, guys. The S&P 500 ended flat after being down one percent earlier.

Wall Street fears broad tariffs could spark a trade war if other countries retaliate but it's not just investors here. Trump's tariff plan faces opposition from allies, from aides, from fellow Republicans.

A hundred House Republicans sent a letter saying don't do this, to the White House. Many are concerned tariffs could hurt other U.S. industries like manufacturing and agriculture.

China warns it will make a necessary response in the event of a trade war.

Chris, the president tweeting this morning he's looking forward to a 3:30 meeting this afternoon about those tariffs so maybe we will get news after all -- Chris.

CUOMO: Let's not forget the statute that gives the president this power to put these tariffs in place requires that he make a case of national security interest. How does he make that case? We'll see.

Thank you, Christine.

So, Pope Francis is making it his mission to help Syrian refugees. Boy, has this been an ignored area of need.

CNN's Bill Weir takes us to the Vatican to meet some of the people the Pope helped rescue, next.


[07:53:49] CAMEROTA: CNN has a new original series called "Pope: The Most Powerful Man In History." It premieres on Sunday night. It explores how Popes have influenced political, military and cultural events through the ages.

And, CNN's Bill Weir is just back from Vatican City where he got an inside look at how Pope Francis is responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. He joins us now. Great to have you here.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, friends, yes.

CUOMO: He's got a holy glow to him.

CAMEROTA: He does have a little glow.

WEIR: Yes, I got blessed. It was really impressive to see him bless people and personally see the looks on their faces. Next week will be the 5-year anniversary of his election and few imagined back then that this would be the most liberal pope in recent memory on the environments, on income inequality. And on one topic which is literally tearing Europe apart, countries apart, and tearing families apart here in the United States.


WEIR (voice-over): Even before day one it was obvious that Francis would be different.

WEIR (on camera): They sent him a first-class ticket to come to the papal election but he traded it in for coach. While all the other cardinals were arriving in limousines he walked to the Vatican every day. And though he could live in the finest room in the finest palace here, he chose a humble little abode inside the Vatican guest house.

[07:55:00] WEIR (voice-over): From this room, the first pope to name himself after the poorest saint planned an agenda for the neediest souls. You can see it in the form of the homeless sleeping under priceless Vatican frescoes.

Or when you knock on the door of an archbishop and it is answered by a family of Syrian refugees.

Days after Gandhi and Madeleine were married she was kidnapped by ISIS. After ransom was paid by Syrian Christians they were welcomed here by Roman Catholics.

WEIR (on camera): Oh, Stella, you can't cry. You don't know you're the luckiest baby. You're the luckiest baby in Italy.

WEIR (voice-over): Nearly every day, the pope mentions the suffering in Syria and on a visit to a refugee camp he even brought a dozen Muslims home.

WEIR (on camera): So, many people lose their lives trying to leave Syria. Some are taken advantage of by traffickers. You ended up on the Pope's plane.


WEIR: It's fantastic, Nour says. He's a real human being, an example to leaders of all religions.

WEIR: Has he tried to convert you?



WEIR (voice-over): But despite his example, Matteo Salvini, the Trump-inspired politician who vowed to round up migrants and segregate Muslims saw a surge of support in the recent election.

THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, ROME BUREAU CHIEF, "BREITBART": And they do listen to the pope when he says you should be Christian and welcome the stranger, but they also see a situation where you reach a critical mass and you say we don't know how much more of this we can do.

WEIR (on camera): The pope said recently if you split up families because of immigration you can't be pro-life.


WEIR: You agree with that?

PIMENTEL: Definitely.

WEIR (voice-over): Sister Norma works on the Texas-Mexico border and says this pope is her model for how to treat everyone who crosses it.

PIMENTEL: We feel encouraged that we're doing the right thing. That his presence, his words, his message is a sense of strength for us.

WEIR: Francis has tackled so much in his first five years but opening hearts in a world of closing borders may be the biggest faith project of all.


WEIR: Francis is largely popular within the church, even among different countries, different parts of the world.

But there is this small passionate minority of conservatives who really do not like him. They think he might be a heretic based on him softening the rules on gay marriage or priests getting married.

And then there's those who worry he's a socialist from South America who wants to impose this open border, Venezuela model on the rest of the world.

So the dynamic to see him in the Vatican was really interesting.

CUOMO: And he's had some American Catholics who have pushed on him that he hasn't taken on enough things --

WEIR: Exactly, yes.

CUOMO: -- on it, so he was in a tough spot. Maybe that's why he didn't want this job the first time around, as the story goes.

But in terms of the dedication to the principle that was just laid out by the nun there, being pro-life means you don't split up families --

WEIR: Right.

CUOMO: -- in the name of immigration policy. That's going to be a tough sell in the United States.

WEIR: It is a tough sell which is -- you know, the feeling about this is very different from evangelicals to Catholics. Catholics think the right to life doesn't end once the baby squirts out, you know, and that you should take --

CUOMO: A medical term.

WEIR: -- it all the way through. Whereas, anti-death penalty and pro-immigration -- those sorts of things -- it does depend country-by country. But, you know, the -- your religion, your faith, the rubber meets the road when 50 immigrants from a completely different culture move in next door and suddenly everybody at the grocery store is wearing burkas and speaking different language.

Yu know, that tension -- we feel it in this country, we feel it around the world. That, I think, is the story of where civilization is headed in this century.

CAMEROTA: And, I mean, is it fair to say that the pope doesn't look at the politics but sort of the more biblical message of --

WEIR: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- embrace the stranger, embrace the poor refugee.

WEIR: Right, and by that logic Jesus would not win elections in Italy or the United States today. You know what I mean? It's -- and that's what I found so fascinating. He has such adoration and such fidelity from the faithful that when they go to the ballot box it's a different decision.

CUOMO: Yes, that's another good point, Bill. I mean, look at the elections they just had in Italy --

WEIR: Right.

CUOMO: -- and what ethos won over there, not the one the pope is espousing.

Boy, we have the right storyteller on this at the right time.

WEIR: Thanks.

CUOMO: It's good to have you. And I see that the Catholics won you over there. That's a Lenten color that you're wearing there.

WEIR: I got this in Rome. My very own tie.

CUOMO: Be very careful. Don't put it on yet. You won't see it coming and then you're one of us.


CUOMO: Great to see you, pal.

WEIR: It's sucking in.

CUOMO: All right. So please, be sure to tune into "POPE: THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN HISTORY." It premieres this Sunday, 10:00 p.m., only on CNN. CAMEROTA: OK, we're following a lot of news this morning, including some breaking news out of the White House, so let's get right to it.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was no knowledge of any payments from the president.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: The idea that President Trump didn't know anything about this is patently absurd.

STORMY DANIELS, PORN STAR, TRUMP ACCUSER: Hopefully, I'll be able to tell my side.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We are urging caution that this could send the economy in the wrong direction.