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AT THIS HOUR
Trump Slams Amazon & Jeff Bezos; North & South Korea Set 1st Summit as Trump Prepares to Meet Kim Jong-Un; Judge Greenlights Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Against Trump; "Roseanne" Gets Huge Ratings, Star Scores Call from Trump. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired March 29, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:31:56] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump today confirming reports that he has a bone to pick with Amazon. Tweeting this morning, "I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state and local governments, use our postal system as their delivery boy causing tremendous loss to the U.S., and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business."
This comes a day after an Axios report that said the president was obsessed with the online retailer, causing Amazon shares to tank. But it is not first time the president has slammed Amazon or its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns "The Washington Post."
Joining me now to talk about this, CNN correspondent, Alison Kosik, and CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson.
Alison, tell us how Amazon stock is doing right now.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, Amazon shares are down. They're off their lows at this session. If you count the losses from today and yesterday, you're looking at $30 billion market value loss for Amazon, based on that Axios article and also based on that tweet today. Investors are spooked. They're worried that if Donald Trump goes after Amazon, either through antitrust enforcement or some sort of tax rule change, that this is going to really hit the company hard. I looked at the recent annual report from Amazon and saw that they paid $957 million in taxes in 2017. Amazon did not pay anything in federal taxes, that's nothing new. A lot of companies, they don't pay federal taxes because that's just how our tax structure is. The other irony of this, Amazon said in its annual report that it is going to be getting a $789 million tax cut, thanks to Donald Trump because of that tax reform package. That's a big irony there. The interesting thing here is, the president is going after the very company that he's handed a nice pretty wrapped gift to -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Why, Nia, is Amazon in the crosshairs? You think of other companies that would -- you might expect it right now, Facebook. However, of course, the complaint with Facebook has to do with the 2016 election and we know the president likes to steer clear of that topic. Why is he zeroing in on Amazon?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it is really probably two things, one of which is Jeff Bezos owns "The Washington Post." "The Washington Post" famously won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 because of the reporting on Donald Trump and his charities. And also, Jeff Bezos is the richest man on the planet. He's worth about $130 billion, maybe a little less because of some of the things that are happening with the stock. That seems to be what is driving. And it is true that he's talked about Bezos and Amazon before but mainly within the context of the election. If you look at his Twitter account, most of his references to Amazon before he entered the real political realm were, like, congratulations to somebody about a book and top seller on Amazon or something like that. In December 2015, he started to zero in on Amazon and their tax status, you know, owning "The Washington Post" and things like that. The other irony is here, if you look at the stock market, part of the wealth in the stock market jump has to do with Amazon. Their stocks have risen over this last year or two or three years.
[11:35:15] KEILAR: The president loves to hang his hat on that, right?
HENDERSON: You think about Amazon opening up headquarters in one of these towns or cities over the next couple of months, that's going to bring 50,000 jobs to some city or town. So there is a lot of, I think, irony here, and it does seem to be something personal with Jeff Bezos.
Fact check this for us, Alison, this claim of the president's that Amazon uses the postal service as its delivery boy and it is causing tremendous loss to the U.S.
KOSIK: Yes, saying delivery boy in a derogatory fashion. I don't think Amazon has hurt the United States Postal Service. Amazon does pay the USPS to deliver all of its many packages. Amazon does get a lower rate because it is a bulk shipper, but then again, all bulk -- all bulk shipments get that discounted rate. There is no special treatment going on for Amazon. Also, Amazon -- the U.S. Postal Service added Sunday delivery because there are so much to deliver. That's helping the USPS grow its business. In fact, the USPS calls the partnership that it has with Amazon mutually beneficial -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Mutually beneficial, says the postal service.
Thank you for that fact check, Alison Kosik, Nia-Malika Henderson, to both of you.
The date is set. North and South Korea agree on the first summit between the leaders in more than a decade. What this could mean for the looming meeting between Kim Jong-Un and President Trump.
[11:41:03] KEILAR: History in the making on the Korean peninsula. The North and South setting a date for their first high-level summit in more than a decade. North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit on April 27th, just south of the Demilitarized Zone. This comes as President Trump is prepping for his own meeting with the North Korean leader.
We have CNN national security analyst, Sam Vinograd, with us now.
This comes on the heels, this meeting we're going to see at the end of next month, of Kim Jong-Un's meeting with the Chinese president, right? We're also learning that Japan kind of wants to get in on this, maybe get its own meeting. What does that tell you about what Kim Jong-Un is doing here, what his play is as a statesman?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Let's look at what we know. We know Kim Jong-Un will leave North Korea. That's something we didn't know that before. We know that countries are really willing to roll out the red carpet, have a bunch of cameras, and make this a really positive P.R. opportunity for Kim Jong-Un. But, Brianna, something we also know is that North Korea hasn't stopped its nuclear program. As Kim goes around on this world tour and other countries, perhaps get into line to welcome him with open arms, North Korea's nuclear program is proceeding at pace. They have stopped drills, but they haven't stopped development. The question for me is, when John Bolton comes in, how long is he willing to let this world tour continue without the North taking real steps?
KEILAR: If he's saying to the president, he's just playing you, right, he may not be doing drills, but behind the scenes, come on, he's just proceeding as he was before. A person familiar with Japanese efforts tells CNN that Japan's trying to let President Trump know about some of the pitfalls of dealing with North Korea. The president seems pretty optimistic. Is that optimism misplaced? Is it OK?
VINOGRAD: It is interesting because the press secretary has actually tampered down some of the language. I think yesterday she said cautiously optimistic. We don't need the Japanese to tell us the pitfalls with negotiating with North Korea. You just have to look at history books. So I think the question is, as John Bolton comes in, is the assessment from the intelligence community and the third parties, the Chinese, the South Koreans, maybe even the Russians, that North Korea is actually willing to denuclearize. And the real question for me is, does North Korea believe that President Trump's military threat is credible? If they do, I think they'll be more willing to negotiate.
KEILAR: Interesting. Maybe that's what got them to the table in the first place.
Sam Vinograd, thank you so much.
VINOGRAD: Thank you.
KEILAR: Sex, Russia, and money -- one of multiple fronts in the president's legal battle is heating up this morning after a judge gives the greenlight to a lawsuit alleging that Trump took illegal foreign gifts. We'll have details ahead.
[11:48:19] KEILAR: President Trump's legal tangles becoming even more complicated after a federal judge gives the go-ahead to a lawsuit over the president's ties to his businesses. This suit alleges the president is profiting illegally from governments patronizing Trump- owned properties just blocks from the White House. The Maryland and D.C. attorneys general who brought the case argued that the Trump International Hotel puts nearby hotels and entertainment businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
CNN commentator and former Obama ethics czar, Norm Eisen, is a co- counsel in the case. He's board chair of a watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.
So, Ambassador Eisen, we appreciate you joining us on this.
What do the plaintiffs, as we just understand now that you represent, what do they need to prove in this case?
NORMAN EISEN, CNN COMMENTATOR: Brianna, thanks for having me back. The plaintiffs will need to establish in this case that President Trump is sucking in illegal cash and other benefits through the vehicle of the Trump hotel, just a few blocks from us, and a few blocks from the White House, in violation of the United States Constitution, which prohibits exactly that, foreign government cash and benefits, and ones from other domestic governments as well.
KEILAR: Let me play devil's advocate on this. The hotel is in a beautiful location, right? It is a beautiful building, the old postal building. There were multiple bids on it and Trump won the bid on it. Wouldn't it be possible that any hotel in that location, in that gorgeous building, designed the way this one is, would put other hotels at a competitive disadvantage just because of the merits of the business?
[11:50:02] EISEN: No. It is a good devil's advocate question, but we already know that they were losing money on that hotel before the president went into the White House. And, guess what? He gets election, suddenly diplomats from all over the world are saying, we have to stay there. Brianna, they openly admit they want to tell the president they stayed in his hotel. And it swung to a profit. So there is no question that his unconstitutional acceptance of foreign government cash and also cash from U.S. government states and the feds -- he's not allowed to do that -- there's no question that's helping him. That's just what the founders of our country, the framers of our Constitution forbade.
KEILAR: So how does the president right now, what is the nature of the Trump Organization, and how does that effect this case?
EISEN: He is the Trump Organization. He broke a 40-year tradition of presidents of both parties stepping away from their businesses, setting up blind trusts, setting up businesses, breaking the connection. He's making money from the hotel. According to press reports, he's even asked how the hotel is doing. They hired a director of emoluments. That's not what he's called. He's called the director of diplomatic sales. But when the Constitution forbids sales to diplomats from other countries and you're hiring someone to go out and do it, it's shocking, and he's personally profiting.
KEILAR: Ambassador Norman Eisen, thank you for being with us.
EISEN: Thank you.
KEILAR: Coming up, the "Roseanne" reboot scores huge ratings, and the star scores a call from the president. We'll have the details next.
[11:55:51] KEILAR: It seems that America was very ready for a "Roseanne" revival. More than 18 million people watched the old sitcom's return to television last night. The characters, and maybe that couch and dining table are the same, but the times have changed. A lot has happened since the original "Roseanne" went off the air back in 1997, like 9/11, social media, and of course, President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURIE METCALF, ACTRESS: How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?
ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS: He talked about jobs, Jackie. He said he would shake things up. I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house the way things are going.
METCALF: Have you looked at the news? Because now things are worse.
BARR: Not on the real news.
METCALF: Oh, puh-leeze!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Apparently, President Trump was among the 18 million Americans watching. CNN has learned that he actually spoke to Roseanne Barr on the phone yesterday.
And our Brian Stelter is here with more on this.
We know, of course, Brian, the president, he loved those big ratings. What do we know about this call?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Yes. He called Roseanne to congratulate her on the ratings and also to that her for her support. She's been an outspoken supporter of President Trump. They've been friends going back decades and she supported him during the campaign.
That makes her an unusual figure in the entertainment industry. We all know lots of A-list stars in Hollywood have a liberal bent. There's a sense that this "Roseanne" program is unique because it's showing the political debate that's happening in real life in living rooms and dining rooms, and it's expressing the Trump supporter point of view. So it is a notable moment to see this program scoring such a high rating. Just to put this in context, if I launched a sitcom, if you launched a drama and you had five million viewers, that would be considered a hit in television these days. There's so many programs, so much competition. So to see a show launch with 18 million viewers tells us, yes, people love reboots. They love a show coming back to life after 20 years. But there's also something special here going on about the show reflecting political diversity.
KEILAR: Yes, because there is political diversity. I think it probably reflects, you know, when some folks go home for Thanksgiving dinner or something, and they end up having a conversation with all these different points of view in their families. They get to see a political debate, though, every day in real life.
STELTER: That's true.
KEILAR: Is there any concern that they're not going to be as into seeing that on this show?
STELTER: Normally, the argument would be about escapism. They don't want to hear about politics when they turn on ABC at night or CBS. They just want to be entertained. But I think it's pretty smart here. These producers are going towards politics rather than running away from it. I don't know about you, Brianna, it seems all roads lead back to Trump, all conversations lead back to Trump. It's a unique moment in American life where so many people are so interested in politics and the president, either because they love him or don't love him. And "Roseanne" is reflecting that debate.
There is also argument that lots of late-night shows find a way to make fun of the president. Here is a show going the other direction. Hollywood cares about diversity and here is an example of diversity.
But when it comes to the president calling Roseanne Barr and congratulating her, it speaks to his obsession with ratings. As "The New York Times'" writer put it, it shows his desire to be validated by Hollywood, even as he attacks and criticizes Hollywood. And it shows that much of life, much of American life, for better or worse, is split up as pro-Trump or anti-Trump. When the president sees something that's viewed as pro-Trump that's succeeding, that's doing well, he wants to support it and celebrate it.
KEILAR: Brian Stelter, thanks so much for that.
STELTER: Thank you.
KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar, in Washington.
"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King will return next week.
In the meantime, President Trump is on his way to Ohio right now to sell his infrastructure plan. And it comes a day after he sends another cabinet member packing. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is the latest to spin the revolving door at the White House. He becomes the seventh high-profile departure, and that's just this month. The embattled Shulkin publicly fired by presidential tweet joins a dizzying list of other administration officials to be shown the door. Keep in mind, all of these departures have taken place in just 14 months. Shulkin leaves Washington calling it "toxic, chaotic and disrespectful."
The president wants to replace him with the White House physician, Ronny Jackson.