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Britain Expels Russian Diplomats; Will Former FBI Deputy Director Be Fired?; Larry Kudlow Tapped as New White House Economic Adviser. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: This news comes about a week later, after Gary Cohn stepped down in protest after President Trump's new tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Kudlow too has spoken out against tariffs, likening them to taxes.

Here is what President Trump has said about Kudlow, a veteran economist who advised President Reagan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't agree on everything. But in this case, I think that's good. I want to have a divergent opinion. We agree on most. He now has come around to believing in tariffs as also a negotiating point.


BALDWIN: So let's start the hour with Kaitlan Collins, our CNN White House reporter.

Why did the president pick Larry Kudlow, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question on everyone's mind, Brooke, because clearly Gary Cohn resigned over these steel tariffs that the president signed the other week.

And now he's bringing someone who also disagreed with him on tariffs. Larry Kudlow penned an op-ed, telling the president please don't impose these tariffs. And now the president has selected him.

But it is interesting. The White House is not confirming this yet, Brooke. We have several sources saying it. Larry Kudlow is on the record with "The Wall Street Journal" saying that he has been picked by the White House to take this job, to take over for Gary Cohn.

And according to CNN reporting, even on Monday, President Trump was telling people he had settled on Larry Kudlow. Of course, nothing is final until it's been formally announced out of the White House.

And just now during a briefing of Air Force One, the deputy press secretary would not confirm that Kudlow had been selected. They have only confirmed that Kudlow and the president did have a conversation yesterday.

But CNN reporting shows that during that conversation, the president offered Larry this job, he accepted, and now he's here.

But it's going to raise a lot of questions about what the dynamic in the West Wing will be like with Larry Kudlow entering the mix, because, of course, as you know, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was a chief architect of those tariffs that the president imposed and he has gotten a lot closer to the president in the last few weeks, as we saw Gary Cohn's standing diminish a little bit while Peter Navarro's went up.

However, Peter Navarro, sources are saying that he and Kudlow get along well, that they often go back several years together in their relationship. But as we have seen just 10 days ago on our colleague Jake Tapper's show, Peter Navarro was saying that people like Larry Kudlow have never agreed with the president on trade and they're just wrong on economics.

So, it really makes you question what that dynamic in the West Wing is going to be like, because, as we know, Gary Cohn and Peter Navarro didn't get along. So, it raises the question of will Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro get along now that they are here in the mix.

But we are here in Saint Louis. The president is here. He will be arriving here shortly with the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin. They're holding a tax reform event. And that is one Cabinet member that the president has been getting along with lately, as we've been seeing all these ups and down.

And that is also one person that does get along with Larry Kudlow, Brooke, because they both advised the president on his economic plan back during the 2016 campaign. A lot of interesting dynamics going here in the White House. But according to the president, there is no chaos, Brooke.

BALDWIN: The one with whom he gets along. I heard you, Kaitlan.

Kaitlan, thank you so much in a windy Saint Louis. Appreciate that piece of news.

Here's the other breaking this afternoon. The ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, he may possibly face being fired just days before his planned retirement this Sunday. This is what we're getting from sources, that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now the one who is weighing whether or not he should fire McCabe before then.

The stakes here are incredibly high, because if McCabe is fired before Sunday, he loses his pension after a 22-year career at the FBI. This goes back, this issue stems from an internal Justice Department report claiming that McCabe misled investigators about his decision to authorize FBI officials to speak to the media about an investigation into the Clinton administration.

So, let's go to Josh Campbell, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory agent who resigned over political attacks the bureau.

And, Josh, obviously, this whole thing has put the attorney general in a tough spot to determine whether or not he's going to fire McCabe. But at the end of the day, this is actually the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility who is recommending the firing.


And I have been critical of this politicized Department of Justice. But in this situation, the fact that it's coming, the recommendation, from inside the FBI actually gives me hope and comfort that it's actually being done absent politics.

When you look at the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility, its inspection division, these are professionals who understand the gravity of their job and they don't care about politics.

But let me tell you, if I can, what I think is going on here.

BALDWIN: Please.

CAMPBELL: And let me step back first and just say that, I know Andy McCabe. Andy McCabe is a great man. I had the honor of briefly working with him as a presidential assistant after Director Comey was fired. He is a great man and someone who has sacrificed in the service of his country.


But what I think is happening here is, if you look inside the FBI, the FBI has a culture of having zero patience for lack of candor, zero patience. And you learn from day one when you step foot on the FBI academy grounds at Quantico that the FBI will not abide anyone not telling the truth.

And the reason that happened and the way -- the reason it is the way it is because at the end of the day, an FBI agent, when they rise in a courtroom, they have to be trusted, they have to be believed.

And if a defense attorney can look and say, well, there's an instance in your past where you were proven not to be truthful, it could completely tank a case. So every FBI agent knows that.

What I think is happening is that if you're the FBI leadership, if you're the Office of Professional Responsibility, you're looking at the situation and saying, how can we tell the young folks that are coming in, the new agents rising throughout the organization that we will have zero patience when we don't hold the person at the number two slot to the same standard?

I think if you're the attorney general, you have to look at all this, take what the FBI gives you, take what the inspector general gives you, look at the totality in and then make a decision.

BALDWIN: Got to make a decision by Sunday. We will wait to see what happens without Andy McCabe.

Josh Campbell, thank you so much, as always, for your voice and your expertise.


BALDWIN: Let's analyze all the above.

With me now, CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum, a Republican who was a Pennsylvania senator and a presidential candidate.

So, Senator, nice to see you, sir.


BALDWIN: We have got a lot to talk about first just done on Andy McCabe.

Do you think Jeff Sessions will fire him by Sunday? Again, I know that this is a recommendation that comes from within the FBI. The guy, yes, has served 22 years up for this agency, but would that be fair to fire him?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, I just listened to what your previous your previous guest.

And I think that the zero tolerance factor there and the fact that he is a senior guy and he certainly has been shown not to be truthful, and in this rather instance, would be actually a good reason.

I understand someone would lose their pension. I mean, it's a pretty dramatic step. But this is a pretty important aspect of being an FBI agent.

So, wouldn't be surprised if they did. I'm glad it wasn't political. At least it sounds like it didn't come up from a political purpose. And if it did come up through the agency and people feel very strongly about -- and I understand the culture there -- I would be surprised if he goes ahead and does it.


That is Andy McCabe.

Let's talk about Larry Kudlow. So the big news this afternoon, he's getting -- he's getting the job as the White House chief economic adviser, replacing Gary Cohn, who left last week really over the protests over Trump and the tariffs on aluminum and steel.

But I my guess my biggest question is, Kudlow feels the same way. He's a free trade guy. And he opposes tariffs as well, just like Gary Cohn who just left. And apparently Cohn didn't get along with Peter Navarro, as our White House reporter was just telling us.

So why will this scenario end any differently? SANTORUM: Larry gets along with everybody.

I mean, I know Larry very well. He is a great guy and he's someone who you can disagree. He can very intense about things. But he is an affable and, like I said, agreeable personality. And he understands.

I mean, Larry is walking into this job knowing who the boss is. He's not the boss. He has his opinions. I don't think Larry will be very shy about expressing his opinions.

But at the same time, he understands that President Trump makes the can call. And you have got to go along with what that decision is.

BALDWIN: All right, so let me ask about your home state of Pennsylvania, right?

What an evening and into the wee hours this whole story of this special election. We have the numbers on the screen. Look at the numbers. You have the Democrat here, Conor Lamb, he is poised to win this ruby red Trump country, this district, the 18th, where the president and his son, Don Jr., and Kellyanne Conway all passed through to stump for the Republican, Rick Saccone.

Senator, do you think the president's presence on the campaign trail was an asset or a liability?

SANTORUM: His presence on the trail was an asset.

His presidency has not been an asset. If you look at the overall environment...

BALDWIN: How can you have one, one way and one the other?


If you look at the environment of what the president is doing, I think his policies -- candidly, I think his policies are very popular in that area of the state, number one.

But I do believe he has turned off a lot of voters who voted for President Trump, particularly that section up in Allegheny County, the suburban areas.

He has turned off a lot of folks because of the things, the personality types of things, the Twitter types of attacks, those things that are I know talked about here as chaotic or unsettling, character types of things. I think that's had a corrosive effect and turning off some of those voters.


But, more importantly than that, it's energized the other side. I think this -- there was always an energy gap. I followed this race very closely and was checking with pollsters. There was always like a 20-point energy gap between the Democrats and Republicans, because, again, President Trump, because of I think personal issues and, frankly, because Republicans have not delivered on a lot of things they said they would do, like repeal and replace Obamacare, which is the number one thing they said they would do, I think there was a little -- there was depression on the Republican side and energy to oppose Trump, the person, on the other side.

And that created an environment that made this race close. Having said that, the president actually coming in did lift up that base that is depressed and energized turnout.

I think that's pretty clear that the race closed in the last few days. If you look at the absentee votes and you look at the actual vote totals on Election Day, Conor Lamb did better in absentees than he did on Election Day.


BALDWIN: We could talk about, though, the president hasn't always picked the winning candidate in the last couple of races.

In addition to that, we know that the White House has apparently just recently reacted, saying it was really the candidate to blame and not the president.

I just want to -- we heard Raj Shah, deputy spokesman for the White House, said the Democratic candidate, so in this Conor Lamb, they're now saying that Lamb embraced Trump's policies, and that is why he's winning.

SANTORUM: Lamb ran as a moderate Republican. He did. He just ran as someone -- or a moderate Democrat. Pick your poison there.


BALDWIN: You understand what that sounds like? He was running Trump- like, ergo, he's winning?

SANTORUM: Well, I wouldn't say Trump-like. I don't necessarily buy Trump-like.

I think he was running as someone who was a Western Pennsylvania traditional Democrat. The idea that -- the problem that the national party has had in Pennsylvania and particularly Western Pennsylvania is running folks like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and other progressives, John Kerry, very liberal folks that did not resonate with blue-collar labor Democrats that make up a lot of Western Pennsylvania.

And Conor Lamb ran as a Blue dog Democrat. He ran talking about guns, and talking about energy. You didn't see climate change. Barack Obama's number one thing, climate change. You have coal miners in this district. You have steelworkers and manufacturers in this district.

Lamb ran for the district. And you say, well, that's Trump. Well, yes, but it really is the district and it really was what Democrats once were and have abandoned. (CROSSTALK)

And that's the reason Conor did as good as he did. And one other point I think is important, really hasn't been mentioned, is that's a big labor district. And you heard Conor talk about -- thanking labor a lot.

Rick Saccone, of all the strength -- and I don't think he was a bad candidate personally. I think he was actually a fairly decent candidate. He didn't raise any money, but he wasn't a bad candidate.

But he was very tough on labor in his time in the state House. And that energized the labor vote. And the previous congressmen, me, when I was there, we were not a antagonistic to labor. Rick was. And I think that really hurt him.

BALDWIN: OK. Well, you would know. And that's why we're talking to you, Senator Santorum.

And, listen, maybe this is a memo to Democrats on how to pick a winner.


SANTORUM: I hope they don't listen.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

Before I let you go, let me ask you about this other huge story, all these walkouts across the country. Students walking out of schools, thousands of them. They're uniting today.

Most of them are not asking to ban guns. Most are asking for action on background checks and assault weapons, but just in, the White House says the president actually shares the students' concerns about school safety, not guns, Senator, but school safety.

SANTORUM: I hope he shares the concern. I share the concern.

I don't know of anybody that doesn't share the concern that schools need to be safer.


BALDWIN: But their point is about guns. They want to change the age limit. They want to ban assault weapons. They're talking about guns.

That's the difference.

SANTORUM: I know what they're talking about. But I would suggest that that is not going to make schools safer.

I think what will make schools safer is to actually do things in the schools to make them safer and actually do things to make sure that students who are potentially violent and would do these sorts of things are discovered well before they reach this point. And I find it funny that they're looking for more laws, when if you

look at law enforcement and how government responded, given the laws they had to protect them against the shooter, they didn't uphold the laws. They didn't enforce the laws. They didn't take advantage of what the law said to be able to detain this guy and stop him from doing what he is doing.


BALDWIN: You could argue had the age been at 21 -- forgive me for jumping in, but had the age been at 21 when one could buy a firearm, that that would have been preventative for this young man to get a gun.


And then you have, of course, what happened in Florida, and this act that was passed and signed by Rick Scott, where you have a Republican- controlled state House and Senate and a Republican governor.

And one major thing they did change was that age to 21, which flies in the face of what the NRA stands for, so a lot of Republicans. Are they wrong in doing that?

SANTORUM: I don't think this is going to solve the problem.

Look, I understand the passion of the moment, that people try to do things to appease the anxiety that people have.

And I'm not suggesting -- I don't think it's going to work. But I understand why people would do something like that. I just think we need to focus in on a more holistic solution of making sure the schools are safe, of dealing with the common thing, which I have talked about and will continue to talk about, the fact that the vast, vast majority of these boys who have committed these crimes since Columbine came from homes where there was no dad, there was no father influence in the home.

The role of fathers when it comes to raising boys and raising them responsibly is important. And the idea that this isn't a factor, that the culture, the violence in the culture, the video game, the music culture, all of those things contribute to this.

And to focus on one element, I'm not saying it's not an important element to focus on, to the exclusion of all else, I don't think -- I think is counterproductive.

BALDWIN: Sure. Listen, I'm with you that you're better off with a dad than without.

But I think it is a holistic, to use your word, approach which also would include guns.


SANTORUM: But we're talking a lot of about guns, Brooke, and we're not talking about any of these other things.

And I get it. I understand why there's an emotional response. And you want to make the kids feel like they're having an impact. But I am telling you, you can do all those things that are being suggested and it's not going to have an impact on these school shootings, unless you deal with it holistically.


BALDWIN: We will see what happens. They're having an impact. We will see what happens in the wake of the law in Florida.

For now, Senator Santorum, thank you so much. I appreciate you weighing in on all of that.

SANTORUM: My pleasure. Thank you.

Speaking of these walkouts, thousands of students have left their classrooms today all on the same day as this Parkland school shooter was in court. The question is, might he face the death penalty?

Also, pushing back on Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May expelling 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K. What will President Trump do in the wake of all this? And what will we hear from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley? She is expected to speak moments from now.



BALDWIN: All right, more on our breaking news.

Sources tell CNN Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now considering whether to fire the ex-deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe, before is officially set to retire this Sunday.

If Sessions does choose to fire him, that means McCabe would lose his pension after serving 22 years at the FBI.

So let's bring Ali Soufan, former FBI supervisory special agent who led the investigation into events surrounding 9/11 and author of several books, including "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda."

So, Ali, again, I feel the need to stress again the recommendation of this firing of McCabe isn't coming from the White House. This is coming from the FBI, the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility.



BALDWIN: The guy spent 22 years at the bureau.

What do you think? SOUFAN: Well, I will trust everything that the OPR says.

BALDWIN: You will?

SOUFAN: Yes, these people are very good agents. They are professionals. They know what they are doing out.

They are not political in any way, shape or form, nor partisan. However, we really don't know what's in the OPR report. We don't know if there is conclusion in the OPR report that, you know what, Andy did something that violate the FBI...


BALDWIN: Let me jump in, because this is at least what's been put out there so far.

This issue stems from findings in this internal justice -- DOJ watchdog report that he misled investigators about his decision to authorize FBI officials to talk to the media about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

SOUFAN: Right. And that probably is accurate, but we don't know yet.

And this is something that the attorney general has to look at. However, regardless, even if he deserved to be fired, I think Andy will have a very strong legal case against the attorney general, against the FBI against, against the DOJ.


SOUFAN: For his firing, absolutely.

Look at it from the prism of politics. You have the president of the United States tweeting at the attorney general of the United States, fire Andy McCabe. Why Andy McCabe still have a job?

So you cannot just not look at it without the politics, especially with everything that's happening. But, again, this will send a chilling message in law enforcement, the intelligence community. If you're willing to stand up against this president, if you're willing to testify in a criminal case, as Andy is, against this president, your career will be destroyed.

And not only your career will be destroyed. Your pension will be gone. You know, 22 years, and he's going to lose his pension. I cannot look at it but that the peak of pickiness here.


Let me move on to the president's pick to lead the CIA, a woman by the name of Gina Haspel. The reason we invited to have you on today, she's under scrutiny because she basically oversaw the enhanced interrogation techniques a number of years ago, or the torture program.

You actually have a little bit of an overlap with her. You were an FBI interrogator in '02, questioned Abu Zubaydah.

SOUFAN: Zubaydah.

BALDWIN: Zubaydah, the terror suspect water-boarded 83 times in one month at a detention facility in Thailand that she ran.

SOUFAN: Right.

BALDWIN: Tell me quickly what happened there.

SOUFAN: I cannot confirm or deny the location of the place. It's still classified.


SOUFAN: However, yes, I interrogated Abu Zubaydah.

A lot of the inquiries that has been out there ready, to include the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report. Abu Zubaydah was cooperating was before enhanced interrogation techniques and water- boarding.



SOUFAN: And a lot of the intelligence was generated based on regular interrogations done by the CIA and the FBI, not by the enhanced interrogation techniques that was later done by contractors

However, I think my concern with her nomination is not only the torture. My concern with her nomination is the destruction of evidence regarding the torture.

There is a person who basically was allegedly involved in destroying 92 tapes documenting the torture right in a facility that she supposedly ran.


SOUFAN: And they were destroyed in defiance of a federal judge order and the CIA's own legal department.

And I think she deserves a hearing, absolutely, but also America deserves the truth. We need to ask her, what does she feel about torture, what does he feel about enhanced interrogation techniques? Did she change her opinions over the years?

What was he involvement in the destruction of evidence, in a violation of a federal judge?

Look, Brooke, towards the end, we have to look at what's happening with the CIA nomination, what's happening in the FBI. And we cannot but notice the double standards.

BALDWIN: I'm listening really carefully, but here's the thing. I had someone on yesterday who knows a lot about covert operations and was saying to me essentially when she was overseeing this torture program, she was essentially though serving at the pleasure the president. And if the a president of the United States state at that time in 2002, where the country was in a much different place, believed in enhanced interrogation techniques, she was then to follow that order.

She may not want to do that. She may not believe in it. But that was what she had to do.

SOUFAN: And that's why she had to go and testify.

She had to have her hearing. And I think it is our right and the Congress' right on the American people's right to ask her some tough questions about this.


SOUFAN: There are so many men and women of the CIA -- and I know that from my personal experience -- who stood up against torture, who complained about it, who want all the way to the inspector general and complained about enhanced interrogation techniques and what they were seeing in the black sites.

And, actually, if you look at the report of the inspector general of the CIA, he talks about all these people who did it right, who stood up for the right thing.

And I think it is extremely important to ask her this question and give her an opportunity to explain that situation, and to explain the destruction of the tapes.


BALDWIN: Exactly.

We are hearing already from members of Congress who are saying there will be tough questions.

We should have you back during those confirmation hearings, Ali Soufan. Thank you so much for coming by and talking about her and also Andy McCabe.

SOUFAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: In the meantime here, this other huge story, that England is kicking out all these 23 Russian diplomats, kicking them out of the United Kingdom after this former Russian spy -- actually and daughter -- was poisoned in England.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is expected to have some harsh, harsh words about Russia's involvement any moment now. Live picture of the United Nations.

Quick break. We're back in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)