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Trump's Temporary Replacement Choice for V.A. Secretary Raises Legal Questions; Oklahoma Teachers Walk Out Over Low Pay, Benefits; South Korean Singers Perform in North & Kim "Deeply Moved"; Dow Tanks on China Sanctions & Trade War Fears; Should Vladimir Putin Be Invited to White House for Summit. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: Donald Trump has nominated White House Physician Dr. Ronny Jackson to be the next V.A. secretary. We'll talk more about him in a minute.

This raises an important legal question. Now federal law says a president has broad authority to temporarily fill a job at a federal agency if the person in the job dies, resigns or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office. There is no explicit mention in the legislation of a president having the authority if the person is fired. As we just heard, Shulkin tell CNN he was fired, the White House maintaining he resigned in the phone call with White House chief of staff, John Kelly. What this means legally is actions that Robert Wilkie, from DOD, takes while he's running V.A. on an interim basis could face a legal challenge from political opponents of this White House.

More on Ronny Jackson. He is the president's choice to lead the department on a permanent basis. In the days since the president announced he would nominate him in that tweet, there have been questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill as well as veterans' groups. They say they worry while Jackson is a well-regarded doctor who served this country, he may not have the right experience to run this massive agency that's so important to the nation's veterans.

Confirmation hearing for Jackson has not been set yet. We'll watch the story as he makes the rounds on Capitol Hill.


SUMMERS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Tens of thousands of teachers from Kentucky and Oklahoma raising their voices today. Not in the classroom but at their state capitols. They are demanding lawmakers cough up more education funding for students and better pay for teachers.



(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Look at that scene. That's the Kentucky State House. All these crowds of protesters flooded the chamber chanting the name "Rocky" -- That's minority leader, Rocky Adkins -- as lawmakers made their way inside. Outside, more marchers circling the capitol building. Teachers are upset about a bill that would bring unwelcome changes to the pension plans.


UNIDENTIFIED TEACHER: I think we realize the election cycle is where we'll have the reality show through. What we want to say to all of them is that we are out here, vocal. We are apparently in front of you and we believe what you have done is wrong.


BALDWIN: In Oklahoma, a walkout shut down more than 200 schools there. Teachers say they'll keep protesting, forcing the Oklahoma City public school district to cancel all classes for tomorrow. State union officials say teacher pay has plummeted 28 percent over the past decade.

CNN's Bill Weir is there telling their stories in Oklahoma.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Donna Ross, the goal is to fill her classroom with such energy.

DONNA ROSS, OKLAHOMA TEACHER: Give me a high five, one, two, three!


WEIR: So the kids never suspect she works two other jobs to survive.

ROSS: I have been up since 5:00 this morning.

WEIR: She drives for Uber and caters weddings, because a master's degree and 20 years' experience barely bring a living wage in Oklahoma.

MICHAEL TURNER, OKLAHOMA TEACHER: But you can see where my net pay was less than $1200. I was being liberal.

WEIR (on camera): Wow. Just over $1,000.

TURNER: Correct.

WEIR: That's for a month?

TURNER: That's a month?

WEIR (voice-over): The most desperate sell blood. Some, like this former Marine and Special Ed teacher, rely on church soup kitchens to eat. TURNER: I have helped at food banks, helped deliver food. I honestly

never thought I would be on the receiving end. I have to swallow my pride a lot. And I hate asking for help.

WEIR: This state has long been the state with the deepest cuts to education.


WEIR: But something about the West Virginia strike helped turn Oklahoma anger to action.

ALBERTO MORGAN, OKLAHOMA TEACHER: I got on Facebook, typed in "Oklahoma walkout, teacher walkout" and nothing popped up. Why not be a guy that makes a group? Now it has 72,000 people.

WEIR (on camera): It started with you sending it to teacher friends?

MORGAN: They started inviting other teacher friends and next thing you know, it exploded.

WEIR: Wow.

MORGAN: You don't get 72,000 people in a group in three weeks if there is not a problem.

WEIR (voice-over): Just the threat of a walkout was enough to force the first new taxes here in 28 years. Enough to give teachers an average raise of about $6,000. But it is a fraction of their demands. So they are still walking. But for how long?

And how will this affect Arizona, where teachers are staging the next red-state revolt?


WEIR (on camera): The difference between a strike and a walkout is you're not defying the school. The superintendent is behind you. But could it turn into a strike if things got nasty?

MORGAN: A lot of the superintendents say they support teachers and support what teachers want to do. I feel like as long as teachers want to stay out to fight for what we are fighting for I think there will be a lot of support.

WEIR : But teachers aren't the only frustrated public servants in Oklahoma. State troopers have to ration gas, prisons are overcrowded, social workers are strapped but, at the same time, oil drillers and gas frackers enjoy the most generous sweetheart subsidies of any state of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At one point in time our lightbulbs were every other bulb in the building.

[14:35:07] WEIR: Really?

(voice-over): Meanwhile, in Inola, classes are crowded. They are on a four-day week and a math teacher mows lawns.

TIM COMBS, OKLAHOMA TEACHER: We do better at this than we do at the school teaching as far as money goes.

WEIR (on camera): Is that right? You make more cutting lawns?


WEIR: Do you service the lawns of your students?


COMBS: Yes, every now and then, we will.


WEIR (voice-over): A similar reality for Ms. Ross, who would like to do more teaching than driving, and was spotted waiting tables by one of her 4th graders and was mortified.

ROSS: He just said, "Miss Ross, you really work hard. You work a lot of places, don't you?" He said, "You must be rich." I said, "I sure am."


BALDWIN: Wow, Bill.

WEIR: Such an amazing resilient spirit despite it all, right, Brooke? Nobody gets in to teaching to get rich, but they have to take it to a grim new level here, as you can see.

BALDWIN: To go to church soup kitchens for a meal and mowing the lawn of their students, helps you just get a flavor of why they are out there and why they need more help.

Bill, thank you for that so much.

We'll talk to some teachers out of Oklahoma next hour.

Meantime, growing calls for a Democratic congresswoman to resign after she kept her chief of staff for months despite allegations of abuse and harassment against him. Hear how she just responded.

Also, North Korea's new, shall we call it, public relations push. Kim Jong-Un says he was "deeply moved" after a performance by South Korean pop stars who they once labeled propaganda. What is behind this change?


[14:40:56] BALDWIN: Remarkable pictures out of North Korea. Its leader, Kim Jong-Un, usually known for threatening nuclear attacks, seen this weekend at a K-Pop concert. Kim was reportedly "deeply moved," standing and clapping for the performance. Here's how rare of an occurrence this is. South Korean musicians

haven't been allowed to perform in North Korea in over a decade. It is a first for K-Pop.

Let me bring in Barbara Demick, the former Beijing and Seoul bureau chief for "The Los Angeles Times," and author of "Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea," and an Edward R. Murrow press fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.

So nice to see you again.


BALDWIN: Can you hit home for me and to my understanding North Koreans shouldn't -- they may -- but shouldn't be listening to this kind of K-Pop from South Korea. The fact that you see their dear leader applauding, what does that say to you?

BARBARA DEMICK, EDWARD R. MURROW PRESS FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think it was a very shrewd move on the part of Kim Jong-Un. He's been just two steps ahead of Donald Trump throughout this whole process.

BALDWIN: Why do you say that?

DEMICK: Because he's really endearing himself with the South Koreans. K-Pop is one of the great exports of South Korea, along with Samsung phones and Hyundai cars. K-Pop is a great cultural export. Him embracing it has to make the South Koreans happy. He's bringing up this feeling of pan-Koreanness, we are all one. It's really a way of protecting himself against the United States.

BALDWIN: At the same time, we know supposedly, location and date TBD, he's meeting with President Trump. He was on that no-longer-mystery train to Beijing and on a world stage with Xi there. I was reading that, Japan may want in on having a conversation with Kim. This is a man who months ago, no one wanted anything to do with. What's changed?

DEMICK: He's making himself, you know, the diplomatic hero. He comes with his attractive wife and his young sister. It's a very smart move. He's showing that North Korea is not that isolated diplomatically and bringing the -- reinforcing the old alliance with the Chinese.

BALDWIN: Are we to believe him?

DEMICK: Well, there's nothing to believe. You know, we don't believe him, but he's made a very good move. You know, he's brought the Chinese back into their fold. He's shown himself as a world leader. He gets a formal dinner -- not an official state dinner, but a formal, enthusiastic greeting in Beijing. That, in a way, is his insurance policy against the U.S. deciding to do a preemptive or preventative strike. He's done the same thing with the South Koreans. South Korea is nominally a U.S. ally. The U.S. cannot strike South Korea when they are great friends. BALDWIN: Two steps ahead you say.

Barbara, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

DEMICK: Thank you.

[14:44:08] BALDWIN: Thank you.

Next, his country meddled in the U.S. election and continues to attack the U.S. So should Russia's Vladimir Putin be invited to the White House? Fareed Zakaria joins me to discuss the possibility of a Trump- Putin summit.

And breaking news on Wall Street. President Trump taking on Amazon, again, sending stocks tumbling. How far is the president willing to take this?


BALDWIN: President Trump appears to be welcoming the Kremlin back into the Oval Office in the, quote, unquote, "not too distant future." The White House confirms President Trump and Putin discussed the possibility of a meeting at the White House during that congratulatory phone call when, of course, Putin was reelected, and Trump congratulated him. This happening despite Putin meddling in his own election, interfering with the U.S. 2016 election, actively targeting the current midterm election, and despite allegedly trying to kill a former Russian spy with a dangerous nerve agent.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued this statement, quote, "As the president himself confirmed on March 20th, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the not-too-distant future at a number of potential venues, including the White House. We have nothing to add at this time."

Joining me now is CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS."

It was the Kremlin who broke the news first, and the White House following up, which seems to be a theme that they're getting their information before we are. That said, what would a Trump-Putin Washington summit even look like?

[14:50:11] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS": Well, it would be a big media event and I think Donald Trump is not insensitive to that reality. I think he knows that it would be a huge media event. It would be covered all over the world.

Look, I think they should meet. You know, the president of the United States should meet the leader of Russia. This issue --

BALDWIN: At the White House?

ZAKARIA: I don't think it matters where. I think the issue is what they talk about. I think the most important thing is that, at the meeting, the issues you raised should be raised front and center, which is that the first thing we have to talk about, Mr. Putin, is your interference in the American election, Western elections, the French election, the German election, Brexit. Here's the evidence, and here's why it has to stop. And here's what we will do and here's what it would cost you if it doesn't stop. That seems to me to be -- you know, you've got to get past that before you can then get on to discuss modalities of what kind of ceasefire you want in Syria and what kind of transition to a different kind of government. I mean, those are all important issues, but here you've got the -- the giant elephant in the room is that the Russians have been engaged in this hybrid war. They call it -- that's their phrase, a hybrid war against the West. And we don't really talk about it.

BALDWIN: You mentioned Syria for a second. A lot of his senior aides in the Pentagon were like, what the what, when he made that comment at that speech in Ohio at the end of last week saying the U.S. would withdraw very shortly. What did you make of that when you saw that?

That was a sigh.

ZAKARIA: I have come to realize that with President Trump, you know, as I wrote last week, "Words are weightless." They really, they mean nothing. It means that, that day, he got briefed on something or he came up with an idea. You have to wait to see if those get followed up with actions, whether other administration officials affirm that, because otherwise, it means nothing. This is a man who said 150 times that we would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it within the first year of his administration.

BALDWIN: To China, the fact that China is slapping revenge tariffs on the U.S. and saying more are coming, is this the beginning of a trade war? I had a guest a few minutes ago saying it's the opening salvo. How do you read it?

ZAKARIA: It's a bad idea. It's very important to remember it's a bad idea for the American economy outside of anything else. When you start putting taxes -- and tariffs are just taxes -- on imported steel, it's important to remember there are many, many jobs at stake for American companies that use imported steel, whose costs have now gone up. The math on this is clear. I think it's about five times as many Americans are employed by industries that use imported steel and, therefore, for whom the costs go up than steel companies that export the steel and for whom this is presumably an advantage. So it's a bad idea for the American economy.

Also, the second issue is other countries aren't going to take it lying down. By the way, we're in a much more competitive world, a much more multi-polar world with regard to all this stuff. The Chinese import vast quantities of goods from the United States. What's interesting is the Chinese have been so ruthlessly political and strategic in what they announce. All the areas they chose were areas where the people involved and affected are non-urban, non- college educated. In other words, this is largely Trump voters. And so they have gone exactly for the people who would politically be most likely to be upset and then the administration is going to be likely to worry about it.

You know, this is the problem with these straight boards. Is the administration going to take this lying down and say, OK, the Chinese have slapped a whole bunch of tariffs, we are not going to do anything? Then it will stop. Generally, that's how it happens. Generally, the administration will feel we have to do something to retaliate against those tariffs, and the Chinese have made it clear, yes, this is our first set. We can keep going up as well.

BALDWIN: Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much. We watch you on Sunday mornings, 10:00 a.m., right here on CNN, "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS." Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

[14:54:26] BALDWIN: To our breaking news here and the markets. President Trump escalating his attacks on Amazon, pushing the stock market even lower again today. Is the president deliberately trying to hurt one of America's most-valuable companies? What is this about? We'll get into that coming up.


BALDWIN: All right. You're watching CNN on a Monday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Here's the breaking news. And we'll flash the numbers up on your screen so you can see how tough of a day it's been on Wall Street. The Dow down 640 points. An hour left to go in the trading day. Amazon stocks specifically plunging following another round of Twitter attacks from the president of the United States.

But there is also another massive reason for today's anxiety on Wall Street. Fears of a possible trade war have the markets concerned after China made good on its trade threats, slapping tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. imports starting today.

Adding to that drama, the president meeting in the past hour with Larry Kudlow, his new director of the National Economic Council. This is day one for him on the job, for the former TV personality, who has been a vocal critic of Trump's tariff plans.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Tariffs hikes are prosperity killers. They always have --