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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization In Russia Probe; White House Refuses to Answer Whether Putin Is Friend Or Foe; Trump Administration Finally Imposes Russia Sanctions; Source: Trump Feels Less Inclined To Listen To His Advisers; Source: Trump More Open To Embracing Chaos; Trump Brags He Made Up Trade Claims in Trudeau Meeting; Deadly Bridge Collapse in Miami Crushes Cars Below. Aired 7- 8p ET
Aired March 15, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Special Counsel Robert Mueller now targeting The Trump Organization, the heart of Trump's financial matters. Did he just cross the President's red line?
And is Vladimir Putin a friend or foe? The White House refusing to answer that question, tonight.
And more breaking news this hour -- a deadly bridge collapsed, cars trapped underneath, rescuers now scrambling to find survivors. We are live at the scene. Let's go up.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Robert Mueller is now inside The Trump Organization. The special counsel tonight closing in on the heart of the President's business dealings, issuing a subpoena to The Trump Organization, a source telling CNN, Mueller's team is seeking business documents. And according to "The New York Times," the subpoena includes documents related to Russia and other topics Mueller is investigating and other topics he's investigating.
Think about that for a second. That means the investigation could now be at the heart of Trump's business, possibly looking at issues beyond Russia. And it's news that could rock this President. After all, he said Mueller looking at his finances beyond Russia is a red line.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": If Mueller was looking at your finances or your family's finances, unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I would say yes, yes. I would say yes.
(END AUDIOTAPE) BURNETT: And when pressed at the White House today about whether Mueller subpoena of The Trump Organization is crossing that red line, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried to dodge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President still believe -- does he draw a distinction, do you know, between a red line on family finances separately from family finances or business finances relating to a Russia as it pertains to this case?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President believes very strongly, there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. We're going to continue to cooperate with the special counsel. And for questions specific to The Trump Organization I would refer you to them.
BURNETT: I would refer you to them. Of course, the President has not sold his stake in The Trump Organization and merely transferred his day-to-day operations to his sons. Both of whom vocally defend him politically constantly.
So let's be clear, tonight's breaking development shows Mueller's investigation could be extremely wide ranging, and if it is looking beyond Russia, then it is looking at the financial dealings of a family run private organization that has been shrouded in darkness, which stretches from golf to hotels to real estate, entertainment and television. And according to a CNN analysis, Trump owns or has a position in more than 500 companies. That includes about 150 that have done business in at least 25 foreign countries including Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Places like Dubai where President Trump and his family attended opening galas for golf courses. Places like India, where Donald Trump Jr. just last month traveled to promote luxury apartments. Places like Vancouver, there Ivanka Trump, led the Trump International Hotel project a project CNN knows the FBI is already scrutinizing. Places like Baku, Azerbaijan, Ivanka Trump reportedly the most senior Trump Organization official on a tower there, never came to fruition.
All of this, including any financial dealings the President may have had with Russia now appear to be fair game, according to the "New York Times." We are way over Trump's red line tonight.
And Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington tonight. Evan, what are you learning about what this means for Bob Mueller's investigation?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Erin, it's clear that for -- as far as Bob Mueller's concerned, there is no red line here. Look, the -- we don't know the details of exactly what the documents of the special counsel is asking for in this subpoena, which was received in recent weeks, we're told. But it's clear that the top of the list it has to be the Trump Tower Moscow project, which was something that was entered into letter of intent by The Trump Organization in 2015. It is a project that never actually came to fruition. But we've known for years that this was sort of Donald Trump's great white whale. He was chasing a deal in Russia for decades.
And we also know that according to people we've talked to, that some witnesses who've been brought before the special counsel, they've been asked specifically about that deal. So it bears to mind that essentially that project is at the top of the list of the things that the special counsel would be interested in getting documents for. What's interesting about this subpoena that was sent to The Trump Organization, Erin, is also the fact that the organization had previously voluntarily turned over thousands of pages of documents. The documents that they had previously turned over to Congress and they had also given to the special counsel.
So this indicates that there are documents that perhaps the special counsel believes have not been turned over or they're trying to make sure that everything they needed has been turned over. We did get a statement from Alan Futerfas, who is the -- an attorney for The Trump Organization. He says that the organization is cooperating with the investigation. He says its old news. But I got to tell you, Erin, the fact that they received the subpoena, that's new.
[19:05:13] BURNETT: Right. That is new. And obviously hugely significant. Thank you very much, Evan Perez.
And I want to go now to John Dean, Nixon White House Counsel during Watergate, Kim Wehle, Associate Independent Counsel during the Whitewater. And David Gergen who served as adviser to four Presidents.
John let me start with you. You heard the reporting as Evan saying there, you know, could be -- looking at things like that Moscow Tower, they've asked a lot of questions about, the "New York Times" saying Mueller wants some Russia documents, and others related to other topics. He's investigating. What is the significance of this? How deep could this go, John?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, it's significant in a number of ways. First of all, it does show the breadth and depth of the investigation. He's being very thorough. It doesn't -- as Evan said it's not clear whether he feels docking with are missing or he's testing to see if they're being responsive in turning overall the documents. But it certainly will get to that point. And it's not surprising. This is a man who plays by the book, the special counsel, and he's doing it by the book, and he's -- on the strongest ground to get this information when he issues a grand jury subpoena like this.
BURNETT: Kim, does it mean that -- that he doesn't trust The Trump Organization? I mean that's an important point Evan made that John picked up on. They handed over thousands of pages voluntarily. Do you go and put a subpoena out if you think they were cooperating and gave you everything you want or not?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, here he is being really thorough. I mean the difference with the subpoena is that we have a contempt power behind it. And any respondent can't get cued and forget to turn over documents and then say, whoops I didn't mean to, if it were to be uncovered through some other source, right. So here the Mueller team knows that they're going to have to produce documents with the awareness that if they fail to produce documents, they might be in court and could ultimately be held in content. So they're doing it, as was said, by the book, and to ensure that there's -- they have some strength of the subpoena power, the contempt power behind it if there's noncompliance.
BURNETT: David, I want to play again what the President said in that interview with the "New York Times". It was last summer and when he laid this red line out very explicitly if the investigation goes into finances beyond Russia. Here it is.
SCHMIDT: If Mueller was looking at your finances or your family's finances, unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yes, yes. I would say yes.
BURNETT: David, does this appear to cross the President's red line to you?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It certainly could in the President's mind. And I think there is some evidence to support the idea that he has anticipated this a little bit. You know, it appeared the President and his team thought this whole thing was winding down. But last week they decided they needed new legal help in the White House, they're expanding their team. They must have anticipated this to some degree.
But the cynic in me raises the question, Erin, of whether in the last few days the rumors that have been surfacing that the President is about to fire Sessions, attorney general, would suggest that perhaps he does think a red line has been crossed. If he fires Sessions, I think a lot of us will be reinforced in the view that he did that because he thought Mueller was getting too close. Because if he has a new AG, he may well fire Mueller. So I think there's a lot going on here that may -- historically may look back and say, there lot of dots to be connected.
BURNETT: Yes, they were in hindsight it may all appear clear. I mean, Kim, the subpoena we understand is for business documents from The Trump Organization. What is the significance of that specifically? What do you get from these business documents, which again could be about, as we said, anything, Russia, Azerbaijan, Vancouver, we don't know the combination.
WEHLER: Sure. So I think there are three lines of inquiry here. One is, what if there are any crimes committed the connection with what we know was Russia influence in the election. Right. So, Mueller is concerned about provable crimes before a jury trial. The second would be following the money. And here we have transactions that occurred with or potential negotiations for a transaction that occurred during the campaign. We know from his own team that his tax returns include some transactions with Russians over the past 10 years. That doesn't include any intermediary transactions, so we know that Mueller has gone after money laundering.
And then third is obstruction of justice. So to the extent to which there is some kind of shady dealings that would create a motive for some other crime, it's squarely within the scope of the mandate which is matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.
BURNETT: I think that's the key point, arose, right. So arose doesn't mean has to be related to it, means that arose in that investigation, and maybe it takes you over here, maybe it's related, maybe not, still came from that original inquiry.
[19:10:03] I mean, John, The Trump Organization claiming today they've been fully cooperative. The White House says they're going to continue to fully cooperate. But Mueller did issue a subpoena. So is fully cooperative fair to say?
DEAN: Well, it's interesting that we're just getting word of the subpoena today or late yesterday. And what is true in all these investigations, it was true in Watergate, it was true in other investigations I've looked at, that the news reporting generally follows anywhere from two weeks to two months behind what actual events happen, often internally during the investigation itself. So this subpoena has been out there, and the Trump people haven't really made any noise about it. They may have well have been the leak that provided this information to the "New York Times." So they -- they're slow in reacting. They haven't -- in other words is, he didn't blow his stack anywhere over this that we know of. And, so there may be some degree of cooperation in trying to deal with this.
BURNETT: And yet, David, it's interesting, you know, when you look at the set up here at The Trump Organization. Donald Trump by this didn't divest of his holdings, he divested of day-to-day leadership right and running of The Trump Organization, which his sons have taken over. And they have done so frankly even as they have continued to do television appearances, defend him on Twitter, and even overseas on Trump Organization business talked about politics.
GERGEN: Absolutely. But I think, Erin, what is a bit of a surprise tonight is that there is something that -- the working assumption has been the investigation was centering on activities in his political organization were they colluding, were they conspiring in his campaign and in his White House with the Russians. So the issue has been, how far into the White House has the investigation proceed? Was it coming close to the Oval Office? But tonight it's actually they're looking now at a different organization, not as political organization, but as business organization.
And that's a much more labyrinth sort of a affair that will take a long time to sort out. But maybe Mueller and to go to John Dean's point that, you know, that this two weeks ahead of what we're talking about and maybe he's connecting up down that the business organization and the political organization. And for Donald Trump that could be a formidable problem.
BURNETT: I mean Kim, is this -- is it fair to say that business is where somehow -- it something occurred? It's where the motive would be, it's where the evidence would be, isn't it?
WEHLE: Well, certainly, as was mentioned, the scope and breathe of this, it could be absolutely massive in this context. And the big distinction I think here between prior investigations including Whitewater which I worked on, is that we've got the Russians involved. We have another government that our democracy is currently under attack by. And this administration and Congress hasn't done much to stop it. So I really hope we're not at a situation where this President is going to consider dismantling our system of justice at the very moment where every American needs to see this through.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all, very much. Obviously, the big question tonight what is the President's response to his red line being crossed publicly now that we all know. Thank you all so very much.
And next, new sanctions against Russia for U.S. election meddling. The White House tonight refusing to say whether Russia is friend or foe. Plus Trump could be on the verge of making more major staff changes. And the White House tonight saying it is all part of a grand plan.
And breaking news, we're live in Miami. A rescue mission is under way at this moment. A deadly bridge collapsed crushing cars on a major highway.
[19:17:23] BURNETT: New tonight, the White House refusing to say if Russia is friend or foe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In simple terms, is Putin a friend or foe of the United States?
SANDERS: I think that's something that Russia is going to have to make that determination. They're going to have to decide whether or not they want to be a good actor or bad actor.
BURNETT: This is the head of the U.S. European command, warns that Russian military activity in the air, on the land, and at sea is at levels not seen since the Cold War. Tonight, Moscow threatening to retaliate to new sanctions from the Trump administration.
An OUTFRONT now, is Democratic Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, you know, a lot about this. Let's start with Sarah Sanders. What's your reaction to her not labeling Russia a friend or foe to the United States?
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Erin, Russia has acted as foe to the United States. They attacked our free election system in 2016. They're taking action right now on regards to our 2018 elections. They have attacked our allies. As we saw in UK, they're involved in poisoning in the UK. They have invaded other countries, such as Ukraine. They have interfered directly in opposition, the funding opposition in certain countries, they finance a coup in Montenegro. Russia is clearly a foe against the United States. And against our western allies.
BURNETT: So, you know, obviously, Sarah Sanders wouldn't say that today -- you know, she said it was up to Russia. And then she was asked specifically if Putin is playing President Trump and I wanted to play that exchange for you, Senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Vladimir Putin playing President Trump?
SANDERS: Not at all. The President has said in the past that if we can work together to combat world threats on things like North Korea, then we should. But the President has also shown that he's been extremely tough on Russia throughout his administration.
BURNETT: You heard her, she says extremely tough. Today the Trump administration did finally impose sanctions, 19 Russian individuals, five Russian entities. Is that extremely tough, Senator? Is it proof Trump is now standing up to Putin or not?
CARDIN: No, it's not been extremely tough. These sanctions should have been imposed well before now. Some of these sanctions are duplicative of what has already been done. There's a long way yet to go that from the sanction authority given to President by Congress, by an overwhelming vote. Some of these sanctions are mandatory that have yet to be imposed. No.
When you look at what other countries have done that were attacked by Mr. Putin, their actions were very definitive. To this date, President Trump has yet to say that Mr. Putin was involved in our elections, where everyone knows that he was -- that they were.
[19:20:11] So he has yet to take President Trump, a tough stance publicly against Mr. Putin. And if you don't, Mr. Putin will take it as far as he possibly can. Look, we want to work with all countries in the world.
CARDIN: We want to work with Russia. But if you allow Mr. Putin to continue to take these actions against our interests, with no repercussions, he'll take it further and further.
BURNETT: Well, of course, you know, as we pointed out, air, land, sea, the U.S. head of European Command, now saying we're at levels not seen since the Cold War when it comes to Russia Army and presents (ph). You know, the President, Senator has repeatedly referred to the special counsel's investigation as a witch hunt, a hoax. It's important though all 13 people that were indicted by Mueller for election interference are on the sanctions list that came out today from this administration.
Do you think the President will now admit the Russian investigation is not a witch hunt since he's using part of it himself?
CARDIN: Well, the only thing I would hope the President would do, is allow the Mueller investigation to proceed without any interruptions and stop threatening the way he has in the past. It's important that -- that investigation do its work, let it go where it needs to, let it do all the investigation it needs to happen, connect as many dots as it possibly can, and give a full report to the American people. But we still need a complete investigation as to what Russia is doing here in the United States in order to protect ourselves.
BURNETT: So a source is confirmed to CNN and the special counsel has subpoenaed The Trump Organization for business documents and the "New York Times" is saying, as you know, some of those documents are related to Russia and others are related to other topics, Mueller is investigating. How significant do you think this is?
CARDIN: Well, again, I'm going to allow Mr. Mueller to do his complete investigation. If he needs to see the Trump records, he should. Mr. Trump put himself in a very bad position when he didn't divest himself of conflicts when he took over as President of the United States. He's the first President that remained in control of his individual assets, business assets. That sets up the potential for conflict. The President never should have done that. Mr. Mueller is fully within his rights to see whether there are any connections there that are worthy of investigation.
BURNETT: All right, Senator Cardin, I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.
CARDIN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Trump embracing chaos at the White House, why he said to be no longer listening to any of his advisers tonight.
And the President, bragging about making up trade figure to a world leader. Tonight, the White House trying to play games with numbers to desperately prove him right.
[19:26:47] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump flying solo, a source familiar with the President's thinking telling CNN, he doesn't feel the need to listen to input from his advisers and aides. This is the White House, says the mass turn over at the White House is totally normal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do you think the changes will end? When will he have everybody in place?
SANDERS: Well, as you move through an administration, you have different priorities that you're focused on and different people that are going to lead those efforts and lead those priorities.
BURNETT: Different priorities. Can that seemingly innocuous term account for losing nearly half of your staff in first 14 months of a presidency?
OUTFRONT now, former Republican candidate governor -- candidate for New York governor and friend of Donald Trump for more than 15 years, Rob Astorino and national affairs correspondent for "The Nation," Joan Walsh. Thanks to both of you.
Joan, Sanders says this is normal. Priorities have just changed.
JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not normal. We've never seen anything like it. It's half the administration. Other administrations would do this if it was normal and a good thing and cleaning up. I mean --
BURNETT: But the average number is what, nine or 10 percent?
WALSH: Nine or 10 percent.
BURNETT: Breaking statement (ph) on a whopping 17.
WALSH: Right, that was huge.
BURNETT: We got to be about 50 here, of course.
WALSH: Yes, because the "New York Times" did the numbers, I'm just -- I'm bad at math Erin. But the "New York Times" did the numbers about two weeks ago, and it was 43%. And we've had three or four people leave, so I can't do that. But it's bad. It's just -- it's not good, it's not a plan, its dysfunction. I'm not buying their spin today.
BURNETT: Different priorities.
ROB ASTORINO, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I'm going to -- I'm going to take you back to 1978. Bear with me for a second.
ASTORINO: The New York Yankees for 14.5 games behind the Red Sox. It was complete chaos, George Steinbrenner was considered a lunatic, right as the owner. He fired three managers that year. It was chaos in the Club House. You know what, they won the world series that year. Get the right people in the right positions, don't worry about the chaos, eventually things fall into place.
WALSH: There's an analogy.
ASTORINO: How was that?
WALSH: I love it. I'm a baseball fan Rob.
ASTORINO: Don't tell me your Red Sox fan.
WALSH: San Francisco Giants. But I'm not buying that. This isn't baseball. This is the world stage. This is a super power. And it's not like people are leaving for good reasons. I mean like Steven Mnuchin should leave because he just took million dollars of taxpayer money to fly on military aircraft. His predecessor flew commercial. He's not leaving. He's fine. The people --
BURNETT: Well that's because the list of offenses and how relatively bad they are that's kind of low on the list.
WALSH: Well it's apparently low on the list.
BURNETT: And I'm not saying that to be funny. I'm not saying that to be funny.
WALSH: It's high on my list. Low on his list.
WALSH: But when you're talking about somebody like John Kelly. I have no political affinity for him, obviously. But the people that he's talking of getting rid of, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, maybe Jeff Sessions too, it's all because they stand up to him. He doesn't like it. They're tough on him. And so it seems like his looking for yes men. Is that what Steinbrenner did?
ASTORINO: No, actually because he fought the way he more and all the time. But, you know, eventually they got the right mix in there. And I do think the President when he came in had zero political experience, right. So he was listening to so many different people, none whom he probably trusted immensely other than his real close friends. And so a lot of people are mixing and matching, and it didn't work out all the time. As he said, he's feeling his ought (ph) now, at least he's comfortable in his own skin, as president according to what he had said.
[19:30:02] So now, he's seeing what works and who should be on the bus. And if you're not 100 percent on the team or if you're not really doing what you're supposed to do in your job, then either move the seat or get off the bus.
BURNETT: I'm glad you said feeling (ph) votes rather than selling votes, that would be another aspect to the story.
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: We haven't heard that yet. That's all past tense. BURNETT: Commenting on the story today and about chaos. Clear on
chaos. I remember Tom Barrack coming in here and saying, that's what he loves, he loves chaos, he likes everyone being insecure. This is the way that he likes. But that's not -- he says that's now false. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They wrote a story about staff changes today that was very false. We made a wonderful change. I think Mike Pompeo is going to be incredible secretary of state.
So, they'll always be change, but very little. It was a very false story. It was very -- a very exaggerated -- a very exaggerated and false story. But they'll always be change. And I think you want to see change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: There will always be change.
BURNETT: Very little, but very little change.
WALSH: But some.
Well, you know what's interesting is, Erin, there might actually -- somebody's job might have been saved because of this "New York Times" reporting about chaos and turnover, because we have seen this before, "Times" reports Tillerson is out.
BURNETT: Well, all reports say Tillerson for a few months.
WALSH: Exactly. I'm not saying maybe for a week. I'm saying maybe we won't have a Friday massacre. We'll have next Wednesday massacre that we can talk about. So he wants to push back on that. He's stubborn, OK, maybe I won't do it now but he's going to do it.
ASTORINO: But Tillerson's case, so he brought somebody in. That was completely, you know, very different than what normally you would see on a secretary of state, right? So, he, tried it, OK, points for trying it, and it didn't work out.
BURNETT: Then why didn't he get rid of him when he wanted to get rid of him, when the reporting was he wanted to get rid of him? It was more important to him to say fake news and try to prove the media wrong for a couple of months. What does that say about him?
ASTORINO: No, I think, look, at some point, you got to pull the trigger. And maybe he wasn't ready for a variety of reasons. You don't know what he was working out what needed to be finished now. Now going into a difficult period of time with North Koreans and he wants to make sure he's got the right people there to do the right job.
BURNETT: So, this is the guy who said, let's talk to the North Koreans --
WALSH: -- for talking -- for saying we should talk to the North Koreans, so I don't know. You are trying to make sense of this?
BURNETT: What about Jeff Sessions? The big question now, I mean, there's a lot of questions about a lot of people, right? We can go down the list of cabinet members. But Jeff Sessions is obviously top of the list, especially now with the new Mueller reporting about subpoenas on Russia and perhaps beyond way beyond at the Trump Organization.
BURNETT: Congressional Republicans, powerful ones, have made it clear they are against this. Do not get rid of Jeff Sessions. And, he was one of their own, but Lindsey Graham said, I'd be surprised and concerned. Chuck Grassley says, I would think it would be wise to fire Jeff Sessions.
Is he afraid? Is that the one person he's afraid to fire, is Jeff Sessions?
WALSH: I don't know if he's afraid of anything, really. He knows there will be blow back.
I hope to god he's afraid to fire Jeff Sessions, honestly, because I believe the reason he would do it would be to put somebody in charge, we hear it could be Scott Pruitt, who would then fire Robert Mueller and that would be a disaster. That could be a constitutional crisis. None of us wants to see that.
BURNETT: Do you think he sees Jeff Sessions as an untouchable third rail or, OK, dare me?
WALSH: Dare me.
ASTORINO: I think -- no, I think conservatives do like Sessions, so he wants to keep him there for that reason. But also, I think he in his gut, he knows, if he got rid of Jeff Sessions for the wrong reasons, i.e., to fire him, to do the dirty work and the probe, all that stuff, that would be that's a non-starter, you can't have that.
At this point, you got to let the Mueller probe finish up, even though going in all these different directions, nobody should be surprised they are subpoenaing the organization.
ASTORINO: I mean, they throw subpoenas everywhere to see what they can get. So, I don't think that's a big shocker.
BURNETT: Right. Of course beyond Russia, but we don't know the details. We know it's beyond topics that we don't know what they are. Thank you, both.
All right, next, Trump admits he made up figures about trade deficit with Canada. Is he tripling down on a lie?
And breaking news, deadly bridge collapse in Miami, flattening cars that were in a major highway underneath it. We're there live, the search right now desperately continuing to try to get survivors out and cars who are underneath that bridge when it fell.
[19:38:18] BURNETT: New tonight, the White House standing by President Trump's claim that the United States has a trade deficit with Canada. This after Trump said at a fundraiser that he told the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau there was a deficit even though he had no clue whether it was true or not.
Trump's saying, quote, Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin, he said, no, no, we have no trade deficit with you. We have none. Donald, please.
Nice guy, good-looking, comes in -- Donald, we have no trade deficit. He was very proud. I said, wrong, Justin, you do. I didn't know. I had no idea. I just said you are wrong.
OK. OUTFRONT now, former labor secretary under President Clinton, Robert Reich, and former senior economics adviser to the Trump campaign Steve Moore.
All right, gentleman, let's get to the heart of this.
Robert, president insists to Canada prime minister, there is a trade deficit even though he doesn't know if that's really true or not.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, what's the significance of that? You might be asking yourself. Does it matter whether he's ignorant or whether he knowingly lies or knowingly knows that he doesn't know and says something --
REICH: You know, I think after 14 months of this, honestly, Erin, most of the rest of the world and a lot of the United States just doesn't give any credence to anything that comes out of his mouth. I mean, whether it's a lie, knowingly or it's just ignorance, it doesn't matter. Nothing that comes out of this man's mouth is given an assumption of credibility, of truth, and that is sadly where we are right now.
BURNETT: So, Steve, before we get to the numbers, I mean, let's go with what the president said. You know, I didn't even know. I had no idea.
[19:40:01] I just said you're wrong.
Does that trouble you? He didn't care. He just decided to contradict him and said something that he had no idea if it was true.
STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR, 2016 TRUMP CAMPAIGN: He knows the trade numbers. I've talked to him a lot about it, and he does know we're running a trade deficit with virtually every country in the world.
BURNETT: But he said he didn't have any idea when he said it to Justin Trudeau. I didn't even, I had no idea. It's quote.
MOORE: But, Erin and Bob, he is not wrong. We do -- I just looked on the numbers 15 minutes go before we came on the air. United States is running a merchandise trade deficit $17 billion. Well, look, most talk about the trade deficit -- the merchandise deficit. That includes everything from cars to machinery to food and things like that.
Now, look, if you want to expand the definition to services and then capital imports, right now, we run a trade deficit because we actually import capital from the rest of the world, which is good thing.
Look, I'm not hung up on the trade deficit. I think one of my few complaints with Donald Trump is I think he's too hung up on the size of the trade deficit. I don't know where you fall on that, Bob, but I don't think the trade deficit is really all that important because --
BURNETT: I think you are trying really hard, our economy is service economy, right.
MOORE: That's true.
BURNETT: Technology and services so to say let's leave those out, that's twisting the numbers to try to find a way to have the guy be right. I'm sorry, that's hard to call it any other name. Can I go through the numbers?
BURNETT: Sarah Sanders today then came out in a tweet to cite statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau to prove that there is a deficit. So, you she did what you did, she said goods only, right, only object, cars, toys, right? And so, she said that's $17.6 billion deficit.
MOORE: That's right.
BURNETT: Obviously, when you add in services which, you know, again is the lion share of the economy, there is a surplus. So, we're running a surplus with Canada.
MOORE: Well, that includes things like computer services software things of that nature. Look, I think that's fine. I think we shouldn't obsess on the trade deficit issue.
But when it comes to these other countries like Canada -- I mean, like China, we are running $350 billion trade deficit. So we run a half a trillion dollar trade deficit with the rest of the world right now. So, it's not as if we are exporting anything and not importing stuff, just the opposite.
And Trump wants -- let me make one other point. Trump wants to rebuild the industrial base in the manufacturing sector. That's why he -- you know, I disagree with some of the policies but he does wants to bring those jobs back, Bob, to Michigan, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where the factories have been leaving.
MOORE: What are we going to do? I mean, how are we going to bring those jobs back?
REICH: You know, what troubles me about all of this, here's a man who ran on sort of isolating America, bringing those jobs back, so to speak, Steve, as you just talked about. And Canada is one of largest trading partner, and here he says to his donor's yesterday, you know, I came out with a fact, I didn't even know what the deficit was. I said something, I didn't know about.
It's that attitude that the facts don't matter. That facts that are -- you know, Steve, you and I might say bipartisan trade deficit doesn't matter. But in terms of where this man has come from and how he is framing the issues for the American people, it does matter. And to say that he simply made it up for Canada, and then for you and I to get into sort of a data match about whether it's $24 billion or $12 billion, or whether the United States Trade representative is right or somebody else is really beside the point.
BURNETT: Well, you all will sit here and argue about facts, that's one of the things I think our viewers respect so much about you. And I'll say, Steve, I wish the president at least showed that he cared a little more about facts.
MOORE: Oh, yes --
BURNETT: I know it. By the way, who gives a you know what -- it's the attitude maybe.
MOORE: We are running merchandise trade deficit. As long as I've covered this issue, people talk about --
BURNETT: In a services economy.
MOORE: OK, I got you on that.
REICH: Look, you want me to enter into this thicket here, I will. The United States Trade Representatives office, and this is the USTR. This is the group that is negotiating NAFTA, they say that our trade surplus -- it's a trade surplus with Canada of $12 billion -- that is we have a goods deficit of $12 billion, we've got an overall surplus of $24 billion. And so, if you look at the data, you can see that it's a $12 billion surplus.
And why are we getting into this? I mean, this is absolutely clear. BURNETT: Well, if anything, I want to ask you about Larry Kudlow,
BURNETT: -- but I'll make the point before NAFTA, we ran massive deficits with Canada.
MOORE: Good point. I like NAFTA. It's been great for our three countries.
BURNETT: Whatever you want to call it, even slightly positive or negative, NAFTA has worked, OK?
MOORE: You know what, Erin, I helped negotiate NAFTA in 1994. So, I'm in favor of that. I don't know where you are on NAFTA, Bob, I'm very much in favor of it.
And I think Larry Kudlow is very much in favor of it.
BURNETT: OK, so that brings me to my question about Larry Kudlow because I know you wrote an op-ed with him on "The Wall Street Journal" this week.
[19:45:04] He's in favor of NAFTA. He thinks tariffs are bad. They raise prices. They're not good for consumers. Those are things he said in the past week.
Now, he's going in and working for a guy who wants to get rid of NAFTA and impose tariffs.
How is Larry Kudlow going to stay and do that?
MOORE: I don't believe we are going to get rid of NAFTA. I think we'll renegotiate it. And I think there are things that need to be updated. It's a 20-year trade deal.
But, Robert Reich, you served in the Clinton cabinet, I believe, isn't that correct? And there were things that Bill Clinton stood for that you disagreed with.
You're not going to find someone -- look, I know Larry and I know Donald Trump, they agree on 90 percent of the issues. And on this issue of tariffs, Larry was very clear last week, if you are going to have this tariff policy, aim it at the countries who are our enemies like China and like Russia. And that's pretty much where Donald Trump has ended up.
REICH: What worries me about Larry Kudlow, honestly, is that he's a supply-sider beyond even the normal range of reasonable supply-siders. I mean, Larry has not seen a tax he didn't want to cut. And every time there is a tax cut, he predicts a big economic windfall. It never happens. Every time there's a tax increase, he has predicted over the last 25 years. And, by the way, Steve, you know, you and I used to be on his show and
we debated this, and I always me against the two of you. And he's always been wrong.
MOORE: Wait a minute.
REICH: And he always wants to cut taxes. Wait a minute.
BURNETT: We are out of time. I'd like to say I hope Larry will come on -- guys.
MOORE: I'm having dinner tonight with Larry. I'm going to tell him you both said hello to him, right?
BURNETT: I hope you tell him to come on, because I want him to be able to come on and answer all these questions. There's so much to talk about.
REICH: He wants another tax cut. He wants another tax cut right now. He's talking today about another, a second big tax cut. And this is absurd, absolutely absurd.
BURNETT: Thank you both very much.
And next, breaking news, new bridge spontaneously collapsing onto cars at a major highway in Miami. A rescue mission underway right now. You can see this. We're going to go there live.
And President Trump's bizarre test to make a point about trade.
[19:51:00] BURNETT: Breaking news: at least one person is dead, 10 transported to local hospitals. A pedestrian bridge collapsing at Florida International University in Miami. It's a horrifying scene. Dozens of emergency workers there, eight crushed cars underneath the fallen bridge, which had just been installed on Saturday, just finished.
Rescue teams at this moment are searching for victims, trying to see if there are more people that they can pull out alive. We are moments away from a press conference.
We're going to get the very latest on this. Dianne Gallagher is there.
And, Dianne, what are you learning?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Erin, that is mainly what we are waiting for at this point. We had an update a couple hours ago, the last time we spoke with law enforcement. At that point, they insisted that this still was very much a search and rescue mission. You mentioned those eight cars that were crushed underneath that
bridge. They actually moved away near helicopters, asking them to back off, so they could listen to see if there were sounds coming from any of those vehicles underneath the bridge there. They had the K-9s out searching. They don't know how many people might be in those vehicles, but they believe it is still a search and rescue operation.
Again, we're waiting for a little bit more information from law enforcement at this point. According to the Miami-Dade County mayor, he said there was at least one fatality. But police and rescue have not been able to confirm any of those for us at this point.
BURNETT: I think, Dianne, it's unbelievable that they are, where you are, trying to see if there are people who are alive there. They just don't know. I mean, it's pretty incredible because this bridge, right, had just been finished. I mean, this was brand-new.
GALLAGHER: It wasn't even technically finished all the way at this point. It had just been installed. This is called accelerated bridge construction. The people at FIU, the people here in Miami, Sweetwater, they were really proud of this bridge here. It was something they actually constructed, Erin, because they wanted to prevent deaths, because it's such a busy six-lane highway that students were crossing and a pedestrian had recently been killed.
This was a project to prevent students from getting hurt or getting killed. Now, they are on spring break here at FIU right now. So, this potentially could have been much worse, because when I spoke to witnesses, they said the bridge just disappeared. It just crashed and there was a bunch of dust and dirt that came up afterwards. Some people said it sounded like an earthquake or an explosion when it dropped to the ground.
This was something that they swung into place. They built it on the side of the road, kind of adjacent to it, and then they used a vehicle to install it for about six hours. But they have to figure out what went wrong. The NTSB has 15 members of its go-team coming down here now.
BURNETT: All right. Dianne, thank you very much. As we await that press conference, and, of course, hoping for people who are underneath that bridge in those cars. That there will be some miracle stories of survival, as they hunt for survivors right now.
Jeanne Moos is next.
[19:57:59] BURNETT: Tonight, a crash test of sorts, floated by President Trump.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Most people use bowling balls to bowl. Though we've also seen people drop them on ax blades, onto iPhones, into water buckets.
And then there's a certain president who used bowling balls to highlight unfair trade practices against American cars imported to Japan. It's called the bowling ball test. President Trump said, in a recording the "Washington Post" obtained, that's where they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and drop it on the hood of the car. If the hood dents, then the car doesn't qualify.
It's horrible, the way we're treated. It's horrible -- which led a reporter at the White House briefing to wonder.
REPORTER: Where did he get this from?
MOOS: Twitter had some suggestions. It's called bowl Trump. Those are crap factoids he just makes up. Or maybe he saw this old Nissan commercial featuring bowling balls run amok.
Someone joked, I found the bowling ball test as performed by noted Japanese car king pin David Letterman, having a guest drop them off the roof.
While the Internet is having a ball, maybe we should spare President Trump some the ridicule, talk about a strike.
There is actual video of a safety test performed in Japan involving a weight that looks like a bowling ball. Some countries have higher standards to protect pedestrians heads when they're struck by vehicles. This test how hood design can reduce the impact on pedestrians. But what did the White House say about the president's example?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, he's joking about their particular post.
MOOS: If that was a joke, it was a gutter ball. One twitter user chimed in at that this is the only bowling ball test I need.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: When in doubt, they say he's joking.
Thanks for joining us.
2"AC360" begins right now.