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President Trump Considers Vetoing the Spending Bill; Trump Named Third National Security Adviser; France Supermarket Deadly Hostage Situation; Trump White House Shake Ups. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:20] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have major breaking news out of the White House. There's a ton of stuff going on there with staff shake-ups, the Russia investigation, you know, women coming forward with stories, but moments ago, the president did something that I don't think anyone saw coming, which he threatened to veto this huge $1.3 trillion spending bill that was finally passed by the Senate overnight.

It had bipartisan support in both sides of Congress thought it had presidential support until moments ago, where out of nowhere, the president said he is considering a veto.

Let's get right to the White House. Our Abby Phillip is there -- Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John. This is a really stunning development in part because as soon -- as early as this morning, the White House has been preparing for a bill signing for the spending bill, and yesterday they said that the president supported it and would sign it. He is now saying on Twitter that he doesn't support it and is considering vetoing it in part because it does not include funding for Dreamers, any DACA funding, and it also doesn't include a significant amount of money for the border ball.

The bill does include some border security funding, but it's a relatively small amount and nowhere near some $25 billion that Trump had wanted for the border wall system. Those negotiations broke down in the last week and just this morning, President Trump was also tweeting about that, blaming Democrats for failing to negotiate with him on the border wall.

This situation is kind of 11th hour move by the president and one that will surely come as a surprise to people on the Hill who were expecting this bill to finally sail through to avert a government shutdown, the president now threatening, just hours before he's expected to leave for Florida this afternoon, threatening to veto this spending bill.

Again, John, the White House said yesterday that he supported it, that he intended to sign it. And now he is saying something completely different. This coming at a time when frankly the White House is trying to get settled, there's a lot going on here, a lot of shake-ups happening and the president is throwing another wrench in the plans pretty much everybody had for today.

BERMAN: All right. Abby Phillip, at the White House, stand by. We're going to come back to you in just a moment because as I said there's a lot going on.

Let me read the president's statement just so you can hear his own words. This is what he wrote moments ago. "I am considering a veto of the omnibus spending bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats, not even mentioned in bill. And the border wall," all caps, which is desperately needed for our national defense is not fully funded."

Joining me here in New York, Dana Bash.

Dana, this I think will come as a shock to every member of Congress who had been assured that the president would sign this bill.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. Look, since this just was tweeted moments ago, I've been trying to reach out to sources, and haven't had luck yet but obviously as the time goes on, we're going to get a sense of where the president's thinking was on this.

But just to try to take a step back, the fact that Congress had to work through so many issues to pass something that was must-pass, a basic function of Congress, funding the government, which by the way this isn't even the way they're supposed to do it. This is, you know, them at the end of the day not really doing their jobs properly by lumping all this spending together.

But the fact that they got through all of the twists and turns of this spending bill, passed the House, passed the Senate, it's going to the president's desk, and now he says publicly wait a minute, I need to take care of the DACA recipients? I mean, this is exhibit of presidential leadership.

If the president wanted to take care of these DACA recipients, which, you know, I think people -- both parties would applaud him for saying this. He missed the boat. You got to start at the beginning, because there were negotiations between Democrats and Republicans to try to get something into this bill.

And Republicans wanted to make it limited, Democrats wanted to make it broad, to include a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and they couldn't come to an agreement. You know who could have helped come to an agreement? The president of the United States.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, yesterday his Budget director Mick Mulvaney was flat-out asked, will the president sign this? His answer was, "The answer is yes." The White House said he would sign this yesterday.

Here's a prediction. I mean, I predict in the end this is just bluster, he's just bluffing, he will sign this because if he doesn't sign this, the government shuts down.

BASH: It's on him.

BERMAN: The House and Senate are done. The House and Senate are done. They've gone home at his point. They have other things to do. If the president doesn't sign this, the government shuts down at midnight.

BASH: The government shuts down at midnight. And when you say got him, it's spring break.

BERMAN: I mean --

BASH: Yes, they've gone home and they're going to be home for a week for Easter break. So yes, it could be bluster.

[09:05:01] It could be him, you know, just trying to change the conversation, which he's doing as we speak.


BASH: But I do think it bears repeating that this is a classic Trump move. I can't imagine that his aides knew that he was going to send this tweet, or at least the people who helped negotiate it, like you said, the Budget director, who promised that this was going to, you know, be a done deal that the president would sign the spending bill.

But again, at the end of the day, if the president wanted to help these DACA recipients, he would have called back members of Congress, the key members who are negotiating how to deal with these Dreamers, and figure it out. And said to his base in particular, you know what? You're not going to get what you want, and to Democrats, you're not going to get what you want. That's the art of the deal.

BERMAN: Look, it seems to me he's playing games here, we will wait and see what happens next in this. You will wait and see --

BASH: You also have to wonder, what was he -- who was he talking to.

BERMAN: Right.

BASH: What was he watching.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

BASH: What prompted this.

BERMAN: Absolutely. We will wait if you hear from congressional leaders on this in moments.

BASH: Will do.

BERMAN: We have some other things that we're going to cover right now. It's a morning already of extreme consequence at the White House. A new National Security adviser with a strikingly different view of war, the potential for huge financial fallout as the United States already seems to be in a trade war. The president loses one lawyer, gains one woman, telling a compelling story of an alleged affair that was covered with money and possibly lies.

The president has tapped his third National Security adviser in just 14 months, replacing General HR McMaster with former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. The switch could mean drastic changes in U.S. foreign policy. Plus the president's top lawyer on the Russia investigation, John Dowd is out, he's resigned over growing disagreements with the president, and as I said, this is just the beginning.

Our Abby Phillip back again from the White House -- Abby.

PHILLIP: Well, this is all in keeping with the theme this morning, the president making some snap decisions. Yesterday his decision to finally oust his National Security adviser HR McMaster and bring in John Bolton was something that unfolded in a matter of hours. John Bolton said in an interview that he did yesterday that he did woke up yesterday morning not knowing that this decision was coming down the pike.

He came into the White House that afternoon for a meeting with the president and was offered the job. That was a matter of six hours or less and the president then goes and tweets the decision on social media before many in the White House even knew it was coming and I can tell you National Security Council people were completely unaware that this change was happening.

That being said, we have reported for several weeks that the president was ready to move on from HR McMaster, the two did not get along a whole lot. The president didn't like the way that he was briefed and wanted his own team. See, White House officials are saying he wanted this in place before these sensitive meetings with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, were coming up.

He wants his team in place. But at the same time, John Bolton is a character who is a little bit different from what we're used to when it comes to President Trump and foreign policy. He advocated for the Iraq war. He was someone who advocated for a preemptive strike on North Korea. And he made it clear yesterday and he also made it clear to the president according to our sources that he was going to go along with the president's foreign policy, not with his own past statements.

He said that the statements he's made in the past are in the past and he's now going with what Trump wants him to do. But we'll see what that means for Trump's foreign policy. A lot of people are looking at this decision and wondering how a former hawk in John Bolton will match up with this America first Trump policy -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Abby Phillip for us at the White House. Abby, we'll let you get back to reporting, because Lord knows there is a lot to report on right now.

Joining me now is CNN national security analyst Shawn Turner and Samantha Vinograd. Shawn is a former director of Public Affairs for U.S. National Intelligence, Samantha, a former senior adviser to the National Security adviser. And Shawn, I want to start with you. John Bolton, you know, the

former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, he is not just anybody. Right? He comes with clear position. We know where he stands on many issues and this represents a major shift toward a hard line, correct?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. Look, the selection of John Bolton to be the next National Security adviser is a reflection of the administration's move away from traditional sort of approaches to foreign policy and national security. This is not an approach that involves diplomacy, this is an approach that involves a much more hawkish and much more kind of war hungry type of approach to foreign policy and national security issues.

There's no secret with regard to where John Bolton stands on these issues. As Abby pointed out in her report, he has been a big and strong advocate of military action in Pyongyang. He was in support of the war in Iraq and even after we knew that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, he was still someone who thought it was the right thing to do.

And then, you know, on Russia, he has also been someone who's been very strong more recently with regard to his language on Russia.

[09:10:03] So we know absolutely where John Bolton stands and I think that as we also know that the president is somewhat impulsive, I think it's potentially a dangerous combination when we have someone with his views as well as the president's impulsive nature.

BERMAN: So, Samantha Vinograd, though, all of this only matters if he listens to his new National Security adviser, correct?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Correct. And so, John, I think we're actually between a rock and a hard place here. We either have a scenario whereby the president does not listen to the hard work that the National Security Council is doing. That's what happened under McMaster, we saw that play out with the Putin phone call earlier this week where he congratulated Vladimir Putin, even though no one wanted him to, or we have a scenario where the president does listen to John Bolton, and we know where John Bolton stands on the issue.

And John, just to clear something up, every National Security adviser should have a view and does have a view. The rub here is whether they allow the process to unfold in an unbiased way, and whether they allow all views from across the government, from across the Cabinet to make their way to the president. John Bolton may prefer war as an option, but is he going to let the secretary of State, the United Nations and the development agencies for example let their views be heart to the president?

BERMAN: The National Security adviser is saying he or she is the filter by which the president receives national security information and in some cases the last stop before it reaches that information, correct, Sam?

VINOGRAD: Exactly. The National Security adviser can be a sensor for information that makes its way to the president's desk. He or she can stop what we call a package of information from making its way to the Oval. But, John, they also control what meetings are scheduled in the situation room and what topics are discussed. So if for example, John Bolton did not want to have a discussion on diplomacy as a tool with North Korea, he could just not schedule a meeting.

He could just decide that various visitors, foreign delegates would not make their way into the Oval Office. He has complete control.

BERMAN: So, Shawn, I want to read a statement that has been repeated in many places over the last 12 hours or so, to get your take on it. The president is assembling a wartime Cabinet. That's what people are suggesting, with Mike Pompeo moving to the State Department, with John Bolton coming in, and people like Rex Tillerson and McMaster going out. Is that a reasonable statement?

TURNER: Unfortunately, John, it is a reasonable statement. I mean, if we look at what Rex Tillerson represented over at the State Department. Rex Tillerson was an advocate of a more traditional approach to diplomacy. He and General Mattis were kind of that last front standing in the way of more military action -- with regard to more aggressive military action with regard to Pyongyang and some of the other challenges that we're facing.

So by moving Pompeo over to the State Department, we know that he's been very big on taking some sort of action to hold Russia accountable, which I think a lot of people in the National Security space agree with and then by moving John Bolton in, and as I said before we know absolutely where he stands, he actually -- he really is putting together a Cabinet that is really focused on a much more aggressive approach to foreign policy and national security issues.

And as we saw with this tweet that the president just sent regarding the funding bill, we know that the president can be impulsive, we know that his mind can change in a moment, and so when you've got a war footing sort of Cabinet and you've got a president who's impulsive, that's a dangerous combination.

BERMAN: We also know he sometimes says things that just flat-out aren't true. Right? And that has been the case in regards to specifically the National Security adviser, it was like a week ago I think when he put out, well, Sarah Sanders on behalf of the president put out a statement that she had just spoken to the president, that HR McMaster and the president have a good working relationship. There are no changes at the NSC.

And just finally, Sam, because I do think that honesty is a matter of national security, people look at how this has all been handled I imagine from around the world and they're thinking what?

VINOGRAD: I think they're thinking that we have a White House in chaos. We have musical chairs happening every second of every day, which really undermines the credibility of our National Security Council system. And frankly, John, it plays to Putin's advantage. He's not shifting around his Cabinet, he's not pushing people in and out. And it is a fact that during a transition from one National Security adviser to the other, you're more vulnerable because you have more to do. So none of this really plays to a message of stability or credibility in the national security space.

BERMAN: Samantha Vinograd, Shawn Turner, great to have you with us.


BERMAN: Interesting discussion and one that will go on I think for some time, a revolving door at the White House, the president as we just said replaces his National Security adviser just hours after his lead lawyer on the Russia investigation resigns.

What this legal shake-up means for the president's strategy with the special counsel? And a former Playmate sharing intimidate details of her alleged affair with President Trump. This was a fascinating CNN exclusive. She says that Donald Trump told her he loved her and also this.


[09:15:00] KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL, CLAIMS HAD AN AFFAIR WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP: After we had been intimate he tried to pay me. And I actually didn't know how to take that.



BERMAN: We're following breaking news out of Southern France. At least one person is dead. Several hostages have been taken at a supermarket in the town of Trebes. According to police it began when the suspect opened fire on several officers as they were jogging. One officer received a minor injury. According to police the suspect kept driving, proceeding to a supermarket in a nearby town. When he reportedly entered the supermarket, he shouted "Allah Akbar" and shot his weapon.

According to a CNN affiliate the attacker is demanding Paris terror attack site - a Paris terrorist attack suspect be released from custody. We will keep on following this as it develops through out the morning. The Presidents lead personal attorney John Dowd of the Russia investigation, he's quitting. He's jumping ship after reportedly battling with the President over the best way to handle Special Council Robert Mueller's Russia Probe.


Dowd it was said was all about cooperating with the probe, the President maybe at this point not so much. I'm joined now by CNN's Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey generally speaking when a lawyer quits the case this deep into an investigation it's not a good sign.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well it's a sign that the lawyer is not being listened to. It's a sign that the lawyer feels like he can't be the lawyer. He -- that the client is not taking his advice and that's the only conclusion you can draw from a departure like this.

BERMAN: And in this case we believe that John Dowd was the one who was about cooperating with the Mueller probe. So given that he was Mr. Cooperation, if he's the one who's leaving what does that tell you?

TOOBIN: Well it -- it is not unrelated to the McMaster departure, the John Bolton arrival. You know, President Trump has clearly decided he is going to be the Donald Trump that he wants to be. He is going to be as confrontational as he wants. The so-called grown-ups in the room, that approach to the Presidency is ending in several different areas, and John Dowd, Ty Cobb who is part of the White House Staff now.

They have been arguing, give Mueller the documents, let's negotiate a time for you to talk them -- for the two of you to talk. And they're being marginalized for people like Joe DiGenova, the new arrival. Who is a much more confrontational figure?

BERMAN: It Strikes me the timing here is fascinating. It was one week ago CNN reported that the President's legal team was given these broad areas the Special Counsel waned to ask the President about. And they all had to do specifically with the Presidents action. That spurred, we believe the President to go on the attack, mentioned Robert Mueller by name. All of the sudden in statements for the first time over the weekend, so you have that, you have him getting rid of his personal attorney here, it seems to suggest the President doesn't like where this case is going.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. It suggests that he has been told that this investigation was winding down, if you look at how Mueller is behaving, he doesn't look like he's winding down. Another factor which I think is relevant here is the subpoena to the Trump organization, to the business. Another more confrontational tactic by Mueller which seems to have increased the President's irritation, anxiety, anger and leading to, you know, him wanting to take a more confrontational approach.

BERMAN: If John Dowd was the point person for dealing with the special counsels team. And now Dowd is gone, does that not slow things down again in this?

TOOBIN: Yes, I mean it is unclear to me. I mean I follow this pretty closely who's in charge? I mean DiGenova is brand new. Jay Sekulow who remains on the team was never the person in charge of the Presidents defense. Ty Cobb is not the President's personal lawyer; he works in the White House. So the President's legal team I think is very much up in the air at this point.

And you're right without someone for the Mueller to negotiate with, that certainly is going to slow things down. But also I think the odds are, it's becoming more likely that the President won't talk to Mueller at all and I think the chance that the President fires Mueller has certainly gone up. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but the chances have increased with Dowd's departure. BERMAN: Let's game out the not talking to Robert Mueller here. The

way that works is that Mueller's team tries to set up a voluntary interview.

TOOBIN: That's what's been going on.

BERMAN: That's what's been going on, right now. The President says no. Then the special counsel has the chance to subpoena if he wants to appear before the grand jury.

TOOBIN: Then there are two choices.

BERMAN: Exactly.

TOOBIN: One is that the President fights it in court on constitutional grounds, because the President is not like any witness. However, he is not so unlike any other witness that he will probably get out of testifying all together.

BERMAN: So let's say he looses that.

TOOBIN: He loses that. Then the question arises is will the President simply take the fifth? Because he could, like any other witness and he could do so while attacking the Special Prosecutor. On the other hand, the spectacle of the President of the United States saying I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate myself, may incriminate me is something that's without precedent in American history, but a lot of things Donald Trump had done --

BERMAN: It would come in theory at huge political cost, but maybe that's why he's trying to muddle the political waters so much right now, put is all together. Jeffrey Toobin, great to have you with us, thank you very, very much.

[09:25:00] US markets minutes away from the opening bell, after a heck of a Thursday. Stocks were rocked by the President's announcement on new tariffs with China. This morning China is fighting back, what will happen today? Minutes away.


BERMAN: all right, we're just a few seconds away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stocks crushed yesterday after the President announced new tariffs on China. China suggesting it will respond let us watch this all together. Joining me now, CNN's Chief Money Correspondent Christine Romans, Claire Sebastian is at the New York stock exchange, Liz Ann Sonders Chief Investment Strategist for Charles Schwab as well. Claire first to you, you've been talking to investors, what are they saying as the market gets ready to open?

CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, I think investors are basically feeling that any bid of an all out trade war may have been slightly exaggerated. They're taking part from a couple of things. One the scale of the Chinese response we've been in an entire 50 or even 60 billion that we had from President Trump yesterday.