Return to Transcripts main page


Report: Stock Market Tanks as Amazon Tumbles and Trade War Fears Arise; Trump Says Dreamer Deal Is Dead; TV Anchors Required to Read Script Bashing Fake News. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: For our viewers in North America, "Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin" starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here we are. I'm Brooke Baldwin and you are watching CNN on a Monday afternoon. Here's the Breaking News. President Trump escalating his war against American internet giant Amazon. Look at this right now. The stock has plummeted down 700 points effectively the entire financial market is down, because of because of this, at one point really, really deep in the red.

Trump tweeted this today. Quoting him: Only fools or worse are saying our that money-losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. All in caps -- they lose a fortune. This will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country, not at a level playing field.

Listen, the President has been targeting Amazon on Twitter specifically for several days. But we remember back to the campaign, that was months ago, there is another big reason for today's anxiety on Wall Street -- fears of a possible trade war rising as China retaliates, slapping tariffs on some $3 billion worth of U.S. imports starting today.

So, Catherine Rampell is with me, CNN political commentator and columnist for "The Washington Post." And just starting on Amazon because we talked about this last week, but the fact is the president standing up there at the White House Easter egg roll and saying the economy is great. He's doing this to Amazon stock.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND COLUMNIST FOR "THE WASHINGTON POST": To Amazon stock, to the stock market in general because of fears of a trade war. These are self-inflicted wounds. We need to step back for a second and think about how bizarre it is that we have a sitting President who is tweeting apparently with the express intention of driving down a stock price. This is something tin pot dictators do, right. The idea --

BALDWIN: This is an American President, an American business.

RAMPELL: The leader of the free world. Somebody who wants to be great for the economy, great for stock markets yet he's trying to punish a perceived political enemy in Amazon. The reason he's going after Amazon, of course, is Amazon's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns "The Washington Post" which I write for. Full disclosure. But we are an independent news organization. We are not owned by Amazon. Yet basically every time Trump gets upset about something in "The Washington Post" he decides to lash out against Amazon to drive down the stock price. Perhaps to erode Jeff Bezos's net worth. Who knows?

BALDWIN: This is personal.

RAMPELL: This is very personal. It's part and parcel of his more general attacks on the media. He attacks CNN, the failing "New York Times," he attacks "The Washington Post." He's going after Amazon because it is a perceived political enemy, regardless of how appropriate it is or the actual specific criticisms he's made against Amazon about the postal service for example.

BALDWIN: What about China? This is obviously contributing to what we are looking at on Wall Street today and the fact is you now have these retaliatory tariffs that China has been slapping on. Is this a trade war? Would you go that far?

RAMPELL: We are at the opening salvos of a trade war. It is not catastrophic yet. The reason why stock markets are freaking out at this point is because they are afraid it would get worse. Right now, we have imposed tariffs. These are not a good idea. These are a dumb way to deal with any legitimate beef we might have with China and we do have concerns, right?

There are bad things China has been doing with regard to IP et cetera. This is a bad way to go about it. Precisely because it hurts American companies. Not only those that buy steel and aluminum in the case of some specific tariffs Trump has announced, but also those that might face retaliation from China. So far China has announced something like 128 different industries that it will slap tariffs on. They are not necessarily the ones that would have been most painful for us. In that sense, that's why I'm saying it's not a full-blown trade war yet.


RAMPELL: If China had gone after soybeans, for example, that would have been extremely problematic. It will already be painful for pork producers and lots of other companies.

BALDWIN: Heartland Trump voters.

RAMPELL: Heartland Trump voters. That's no accident for sure.

BALDWIN: Opening salvos. Thank you so much, Catherine. Good to see you.

Meantime a furious President Trump has spent the last two days venting his frustrations over immigration, border control and now the fate of Dreamers by the President's own words is dead. In a series of tweets, the President vowed in all caps -- NO MORE DACA DEAL. Claimed our country is being stolen by immigrants, threatened to pull out of NAFTA if Mexican didn't toughen it's border control and again called for a wall. He placed the blame squarely on the Democrats.

[14:05:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have really let them down. They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down. It's a shame. Now people are taking advantage of DACA and that's a shame.


BALDWIN: His outrage apparently fueled by migrants headed to the U.S./Mexico border. These are men and women seeking asylum. More on that in a second. First to our CNN political director David Chalian. He's blaming Democrats, but he ended the program in the first place and kicked it to congress to figure out. So, what's the strategy here?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think we could go back into our video files and find where he ended the Obama-era program and had the Justice Department rescind the program. Where we are is because of the actions of President Trump and his administration, not the Democrats, but strategically to your point, I think what we are seeing here is more and more from President Trump of a base play.

He's trying to get back to the themes that fueled his rise in the Republican nomination race that helped deliver him the White House. Not at all trying to necessarily solve this problem, but more utilize it in a way to make sure his core supporters know that he's not drifting from them at all. Brooke, if you were watching over the last month and a half, let's say, of just immigration news, just that topic you would see the President of the United States in the bipartisan meetings at the White House.

He was talking and sounding like he might want -- that's not at all the rhetoric his core supporters were expecting to hear out of this President. Our reporting shows he was chatting with Fox News personalities this weekend and clearly, he is concerned about some folks on the right thinking he's walking away from a core promise and I think that's why you are seeing the tweetstorm.

BALDWIN: I'll get to the people who were in his ear over the weekend in Mar-A-Lago. Let's get to what was perhaps the catalyst to some of the tweets, specifically on the migrant caravan. This had to do with a segment -- where else -- on Fox News.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An army of migrants is literally marching, riding or making their way from -- is it from Honduras?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most -- all of them from central America. The big question is what happens when they arrive in the U.S.? I know they want to seek protection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some are seeking asylum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They won't necessarily get it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They will be arrested. You can't come to the United States illegally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Will they?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think? If there is a small migrant army marching peacefully to the United States that wants to cross our borders, how should it be handled?


BALDWIN: How misinformed is the President, David, on this?

CHALIAN: Well, this is an annual protest march that has been going on for a few years now. My understanding, Brooke, is when they arrive at the U.S. border they make themselves known and they do seek asylum. It's usually not granted. The White House will make a point of the term catch and release. The issue we have seen with unaccompanied minors or families that they are trying to rid from. But this is not the immigration problem of why he wants to build a wall or what his stated issues were about undocumented immigrants already living in the United States throughout the campaign.

This is a separate issue, these central Americans coming through Mexico to the U.S. border. But, again, another opportunity reflecting back to the Fox News report of the "Fox-ification" if you will of talking to his supporters to assure them he'll remain tough on an issue he sees as the very core thread that runs through all of his support in the country.

BALDWIN: How about how he's also tough in another tweet on the Department of Justice and the FBI actually using air quotes around Department of Justice and referring to them as an embarrassment to our country. These are agencies that have been criticized certainly but to have the sitting President of the United States refer to the FBI and DOJ as embarrassments to our country, I think it's just sad.

CHALIAN: It also really shocks the system to some degree. What? These are people that work in these agencies whether they are political appointees, law enforcement officers, committed civil servants who are really there to serve the country and protect the American people. He said in the past he's criticizing the leadership and you are right, no organization is beyond reproach. You can have criticisms, but to hear from the President of the United States' own words to call the FBI and the Department of Justice an embarrassment to America is anti-American in many ways to say that.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Yes. David Chalian, thank you very much for that. We have other breaking news today. A show of force in the name of education. Look at these pictures. Public school teachers in two states today marching by the thousands. One state, Oklahoma, forced to cancel school tomorrow. We'll have a live report there.

And stunning remarks being likened to state media. One media company forcing local TV news anchors to read scripts that echo President Trump's messaging on fake news. Those conservative media owners now under scrutiny. Moments ago, how they are responding to the criticism. And his country meddled in the U.S. election and is still attacking

the U.S. so should Russia's President Vladimir Putin be invited to the White House? What we are learning about a possible summit between Putin and Trump. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. Chances are one of the TV stations where you live is owned by the giant broadcasting group called Sinclair company. There are nearly 200 Sinclair stations nationwide. There is a map for you. If you watch a Sinclair-owned station you have likely seen your TV anchor in one of these promos warning against fake news and echoing President Trump's disdain for most of the media. This is a Sinclair mandate. The website Deadspin took bits from dozens of Sinclair stations where anchors from all over the country say exactly the same thing. Hear it for yourself.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sharing of biased and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: False news has become all too common on social media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake news stories that aren't true without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias to control what people think. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.


BALDWIN: I know. Brian Stelter is with me now. I know. We have two people standing by to react to that. First to you. Sinclair has responded to all this the criticism. What are they saying?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: For the first time in a memo to staff -- an angry memo -- the head of news says this is misunderstood, he says that this is a corporate news journalistic responsibility promotional campaign. That's what they call this messaging effort to try to reach local stations.

We have put up the memo in full on for people to check it out. He says the company is trying to stand up for truth and honesty in journalism. He is not really addressing the heart of the matter which is it sounds like pro Trump anti-media messaging and it is uncomfortable for local anchors who didn't want to have to read this to have it come out of their own mouths.

It's one thing if an executive says it, but the anchors in the cities across the country are told to read the script and pretend it is their own beliefs. The memo is out on He's not addressing the heart of the matter.

BALDWIN: OK. Thank you very much. Here are two voices to get into this. CNN political commentators Ana Navarro, Republican strategist Ben Ferguson is a conservative radio talk show host. Ben Ferguson, to you first, that video we just played that is just a portion of it. Was that disturbing for you?

BEN FERGUSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It wasn't disturbing after I talked to several anchors I know that work for Sinclair. They said this is a marketing idea that came through from corporate about we are going to be a place where there isn't fake news. Many of the ones I talked to said I didn't think anything about it. I don't think it's a big deal. It's a marketing strategy to say, look, we are going to be good gatekeepers of solid information, that what we give you is factual. This is part of a new branding campaign from those higher up. They didn't seem that worried about it.

They also said it wasn't political in nature.

BALDWIN: But the thing is, Ben -- let me jump in on that.


BALDWIN: Absolutely. If those TV anchors have no problem with it, that's fine for them. What about the people watching? They have no idea they are being fed all these scripted lines.

FERGUSON: Look, I think that's where if you are going to put it in a marketing commercial you probably wouldn't have as much push-back as this being in a newscast script. That's a valid point. If you put it in a 15-second or 20-second promo that's completely different. I do agree with you that some people said it shouldn't have been in the hard newscast. It should have been in a marketing campaign that was 15, 20-second bumpers you see promoting the news station and your product.

BALDWIN: Ana, how did you feel watching it?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, if we were seeing this, if this were happening in a vacuum, Ben's point about his conversations with anchors, I think, would be valid and pass muster. The problem is this is not happening in a vacuum. Let's put it into context. Sinclair is in the middle of trying to do a merger with Tribune.

[14:20:00] What we are seeing play out is the DOJ, the Trump administration oppose the AT&T/Time Warner merger. Many people think it's because they don't like the coverage that CNN does. We are seeing Donald Trump attack, bully Amazon, an American company, drop their stock prices are dropping, many people think because he doesn't like the way "The Washington Post" covers his administration.

If you look at it in a vacuum, no problem. But we are not in a vacuum. We are in the midst of an administration that bullies and uses every regulations that every body and arm and ability they have at their disposal to try to bully the media, silence the ones that cover them in a way they don't like. And reward the ones that curry favor with them.

This is strategic by Sinclair. They are being strategic and trying to be a teacher's pet for Donald Trump. Joining Fox News on that list.

BALDWIN: Ben, I want you to respond to that, but let me just read this tweet from President. It's so funny to watch fake news networks among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with criticizing Sinclair broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair far superior to CNN and even more fake NBC which is a total joke.

So, is he claiming then that Sinclair isn't biased?

FERGUSON: I think he's clearly saying they shouldn't be attacked the way that they are being attacked right now. This plays into the definitely the President's narrative that you see him talk about all through the campaign and since he was

elected. This is red meat for him and many people that support him.

But I try to take that out of it for second. I know the president what is going to think about this. I know he's going to support them for the way they are being attacked. This plays into to that bigger narrative that works very well with the people that support him, very well with the base. A lot of people will like this.

But look at Sinclair in general. Does a company have the right to have a marketing campaign saying they are going to be good gatekeepers and keep out fake news? I think they have the right to do that. I don't think it has anything to do with Amazon or the President attacking Amazon. The President is attacking Amazon because he says it is unfair advantage for them not have to deal with taxes. It has nothing to do with bias in the media or anything else. And there's a lot of Americans --

NAVARRO: You think the President's attacks on Amazon have nothing to do with the fact that Jeff Bezos owns "The Washington Post" and he hates the investigative journalism and the things "The Washington Post" brings out about the administration? You think that's completely unrelated?

FERGUSON: I'm going to answer. I think this has been an issue a lot of governors, Republican and Democratic, have been talking about when he was on the campaign trail saying it was hurting local businesses and mom and pops because you could buy things cheaper without paying a sales tax depending on where you live. That's an unfair advantage. It's consistent with what he said about trade, about the issues of making it a level playing field, whether it be issues from China or in America. There are a lot of governors, Republican and Democrats, that agree with the President that it is an unfair advantage for Amazon to be able to sell their products in states without having to deal with a sales tax. It's hurting mom and pops. I don't think it has to do with "The Washington Post."

BALDWIN: Ana, you're not buying it.

NAVARRO: It depends on the spectrum you look at it from. If you are a Trump supporter, you are probably prone to give him the benefit of the doubt and buy ben's argument. If you look at Trump with skepticism like I do, there is no way the DOJ's opposition to the AT&T/Time-Warner merger is a coincidence. There is no way that Trump's attacks on Amazon have nothing to do with "The Washington Post" coverage. I think it is all about taking petty vendettas about people who do things he doesn't like and rewarding the ones who do things he does like. That's called being a despot. Not American values of freedom of the press.

BALDWIN: Ana Navarro and Ben Ferguson, thank you.

Coming up next, was he fired, or did he resign? The former Veterans Affairs Secretary disputing the White House account on why he is no longer a cabinet secretary and why that matters, why that distinction could be critical for the future of the VA.

Dramatic pictures out of Oklahoma where teachers are walking out. Many forced to work a second job just to get by. What they are fighting for goes beyond a paycheck. A live report next.


BALDWIN: Was former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin fired or did he resign? The answer depends on who you ask. He left his post at the VA last Wednesday but the circumstances surrounding his departure are still unclear. The White House says Shulkin offered his resignation in a phone call with the Chief of Staff John Kelly who informed him the President was looking to make a change. But on CNN this morning Shulkin maintained his fate was sealed not by his resignation but by a tweet from the President.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you fired or did you resign?

[14:30:00] DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Well, I came to Washington with the commitment to make our system work better for veterans. That's the commitment I went to work every day. I continue to feel strongly about that. There was no reason why I would resign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So why didn't you just say you were fired?

SHULKIN: Well, I think that's the alternative to resignation. I received a phone call saying the President wants to make a change. That's his prerogative and that's what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You received a phone call from Chief of Staff John Kelly who fired you?

SHULKIN: General Kelly gave me a heads-up that the President would most likely be tweeting out a message in the near future. I appreciated having the heads up from General Kelly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the tweet fired you?


(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Juana Summers is with us our CNN politics senior writer. The difference between him resigning and being fired matters. Tell me why.

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: It absolutely does, Brooke. President Trump tweeting last week that he was replacing Shulkin, bringing in Defense Department official Robert Wilkie as acting VA Secretary. You see him here. That was bypassing Thomas Bowman, he is the Deputy Secretary at the department. Donald Trump has nominated White House physician, Dr. Ronnie Jackson to be the next VA Secretary. We will talk a little bit more on him in a minute.

All of this raises an incredibly important legal question, no federal law says a President has broad authority to temporarily fill a job at a federal agency if the person in the job either dies, resigns or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and the duties of their office.