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China Hits Back Against Trump's Tariffs; Trump's Anti-Immigrant Easter Tirade; GOP Lawmakers Voice Support For Special Counsel; Spy's Poisoning Likely Had Kremlin Approval; U.S. And South Korea Begin Military Drills. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 05:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Starting today, China will slap tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. goods. Retaliation against President Trump's duties on foreign steel and aluminum. The Chinese tariffs hit 128 U.S. products ranging from agriculture products, pork, fruit, nuts to steel, pipes, and aluminum.

This move is the latest escalating tensions between China and the U.S., which may only get worse. The president has more trade actions in the works like tariffs on some $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Experts warn they could cause further retaliation and a trade war would be devastating for U.S. consumers, investors, and companies.

The president has long accused Beijing of unfair trade practices that steal American jobs. His first year in office did not make any major trade moves. However, the exodus of a number of globalists from the White House like Gary Cohn and Rex Tillerson maybe freeing the president to follow through on trade threats.

China has repeatedly said it does not want a trade war but warns it will take firm countermeasures if necessary.

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us this morning is "Washington Examiner" commentary writer, Philip Wegmann. Good morning, Phil.

Let's start off with trade. What does this do? We are seeing the United States made a move and now overnight China has made a move slapping on these tariffs. I mean, what does this do to the relationship between the two countries after all they both need each other. You look at China, the U.S. needs them as they try to work with North Korea to denuclearize. So, what does this do to the relationship do you think?

PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I think what this shows is that the casualties of this war on trade are much more widespread than just industries here and there. Like you said a moment ago, yes, this is going to have significant impact on markets here in the United States, but also has a significant impact on international relations.

Remember, China is actually our best friend when it comes to getting North Korea to behave. They are not the best actor, but they are the best negotiating partner we have when we are trying to get in that rogue regime to come to the table and start acting rationally.

So, not only do you have, you know, consumers here in this country who are going to see higher prices and perhaps see less growth in their industry. Think about farming industry in particular.

But also we are going to see a cost on the international stage and perhaps China will be less willing to work with us when it comes to getting North Korea in line because after all, we are going to war with them when it comes to the economy.

BRIGGS: Yes. It could have real impact on Trump voters in the middle of the country but stay tuned for that. It looks like that is down the road. Let's talk about just a nice, pleasant Easter weekend for most of us, except for the president, who decided to go on Twitter and Phil, this is why we need him to play golf on Easter Sunday and not tweet.

Take a look at this one on DACA, "Border patrol agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the border because ridiculous liberal laws like catch and release getting more dangerous. Caravans coming. Republicans must go to the nuclear option to pass laws now. No more DACA deal." I'm going to let you take your pick there. What are the issues with this tweet?

WEGMANN: Well, first off, I think that more golf is always a good thing for this president. I think it is always a good thing for presidents in general. I'm of the opinion that, you know, the government is the best.

If that means sending our leaders to the golf course, I think that that is OK. If you look at what he is saying here, he is kind of conflating the issues when it comes to immigration and DACA.

Clearly, he is doing that because this is something that the conservative base is up in arms about. But, you know, we have seen this debate play out. We know that Democrats declined some compromises that Republicans put forward and also vice versa.

But I think what this does show is that the president -- you know, he likes using illegal immigration as his hobby horse because that is his pet issue. He changes his message. He is saying right now that ICE agents and border patrol agents are not able to do their jobs.

Well, literally a year ago, in March, he was bragging about how ICE agents and border patrol agents were doing such a great job that border crossings were down 40 percent. This is inconsistent messaging at best.

I think that what this shows is that DACA was a strong suit for this president. Now he is kind of listing and I don't think that he can freewheel on this issue ahead of the midterms.

BRIGGS: Let alone, he mentions the nuclear option. He doesn't have the Republicans votes on the White House proposal. But extending that one more, when he says no DACA deal, theoretically that means no border wall, right, because if they don't give Democrats something, no chance he gets the wall, right?

WEGMANN: Well, we have gone through this back and forth. We remember right before what Republicans labeled the Schumer shutdown that President Trump was willing to give amnesty for these DACA recipients. He was able to hammer out a deal in exchange for funding for his border wall.

[05:05:13] I think what we've seen now is that this is empty rhetoric because the omnibus has passed. Members of Congress are going home. They are campaigning. They are not willing to get into a big fight over a legacy issue like this.

This is something the next Congress is going to have to deal with, and if control of the House shifts to Democrats, I think that President Trump lost his last significant opportunity to do something on the wall and on DACA.

MARSH: The little bit of time that we have left, help me understand the strategy here. Publicly both sides of the aisle say they do want a DACA fix. The president tweets and takes that option off the table completely saying no deal at all. Why would he abandon it? I mean, his own Republicans say they want a DACA fix. Why would they abandon it altogether?

WEGMANN: Not to be too cynical, but I just think that this shows that when it comes to both Republicans and Democrats, they see that a lack of DACA deal is actually advantageous going to them going into the midterms.

Republicans can say is that they were willing to do an honest good effort at finding the compromise and Democrats turned them away from the negotiates table. Democrats in turn can go to their base and say Republicans are heartless and never serious about getting anything done.

This is the sort of thing that will whip each of their main core voters into high gear ahead of the elections where if you were actually to do the hard work and actually come up with a compromise, I think that that would cost significant political capital and perhaps disenfranchised some of your base. So, the cynical play here is that Republicans and Democrats have more to gain by not getting the solution.

MARSH: Using DREAMers as a bargaining chip it sounds like.

BRIGGS: You mentioned midterms. I want to ask you next hour about some surprising numbers that show how unpopular Nancy Pelosi is or at least how Republicans think that's the case based on their ads. Philip Wegmann, we'll talk to you in just a bit.

All right. Two top Republicans giving a big load of confidence to Robert Mueller. Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy trying to shield the special counsel from attempts by some of the GOP to discredit him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm glad we have Bob Mueller. I'm glad we have an independent (inaudible). Congress has proven itself incapable of conducting serious investigations. Congressional investigations leak like the gossip girls. They're terrible. I would be telling you that if I were staying in Congress. They are just not serious.

SENATOR TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It reinforces why it is important for us to make sure that the investigation continues until it gets to the end. I hope to get there sooner than later. The reality is the more information we find out the better and the more confident the American people will be in truly are as a nation.


BRIGGS: Voices of sanity there, but a slightly different tone from Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who told "Meet The Press" he thinks Mueller was appointed far too soon.

MARSH: Breaking overnight, a source tells CNN British investigators believed the poisoning of former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal likely had the approval of the kremlin. CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow. Matthew, do they have any evidence of this?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not that they presented to us, but certainly that's the latest allegation coming from people who are close to the investigation in Britain. It seems to go further than the Brits have gone before. Previously the British government has said they believed it to be highly likely this chemical weapons attack was carried out by the Russian state.

They also offered an alternative theory that the nerve agent could have fallen into criminal hands and then used on the streets of Salisbury in Southern England. But it seems that if this is correct, the theory seems to be owing towards the side of Russian official involvement.

For the Russians that they've categorically denied any part of this saying that it is basically conspiracy to make Russia look bad. There's been more than a dozen different scenarios and conflicting narratives that have been put out by the Russians to explain what could have taken place with Yulia and Sergei Skripal on the streets of Salisbury.

The Russians have also demanded consular access to Yulia Skripal, which they say that the British have been remiss in not allowing so far.

MARSH: Matthew Chance reporting live for us this morning in Moscow. Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, military drills between the United States and South Korea resuming this weekend. Will this round be different with relations thawing on the Korean Peninsula? We are live in Seoul.



BRIGGS: It's 5:13 Eastern Time. U.S. and South Korea have kicked off their traditional springtime military training exercises. In the past, these drills have angered North Korea and upset Beijing. This year, the response may be different. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul. Hi, Paula. How might this be different?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, it certainly was a low-key, a discreet start to these military drills. They are going to be different this year because they are half as long as they usually are. They will last just one month where it is usually two months.

And clearly, the U.S. and South Korea militaries are trying not to annoy Pyongyang at this point. There are no media dates planned. There is no opportunity for us, for example, to go and film this and show this to the world, show the U.S. and South Korean military capabilities including to North Korea as they have done in the past.

So, certainly, there is this attempt to try and keep this low key. It appears at this point although the Pentagon says they are the same scale and scope as previous years. Now, of course, this is all part of this thawing in relations on the Korean Peninsula.

[05:15:04] And we said, and you saw that on Sunday night, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un was seen waving and applauding at a K-pop concert, South Korean pop culture in Pyongyang. Now it was a very rare concert. We have not seen the likes of this since 2005.

It is interesting as well considering Kim Jong-un was meeting the K- pop stars and his regime actually punishes his own people when they are caught trying to watch smuggled versions of this -- Dave.

BRIGGS: We heard early star like Kim Jong-un loves some K-pop, in particular, Red Velvet. Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, thank you.

MARSH: Well, China's defunct space lab made a fiery reentry into earth's atmosphere overnight. China's manned space agency says the spacecraft was mostly vaporized as it plummeted to earth over the South Pacific.

China launched the ambitious unmanned space lab in September of 2011. It was part of China's efforts to build a manned space station by 2022. The Chinese government later announced the spacecraft ceased functioning in March of 2016, but it did not say why.

BRIGGS: All right. Straight ahead, teachers in several states ready to rally at state capitols this morning as part of a growing wave and discontent on teacher's pay.

And a finish for the ages in the women's march madness. The second game winner of the weekend for Notre Dame and its star. The finish you have to see next.



MARSH: More than 40,000 teachers across Oklahoma have promised to walk off their jobs this morning. Last week, the legislature pushed through a $6,100 teacher pay raise, which the governor signed, but educators say it is not enough. Many schools are closed as thousands of teachers and their supporters head to the state capitol for a rally.

BRIGGS: Oklahoma only the latest state facing teacher trouble. Teachers are also expected to protest in Kentucky state capitol. More than 20 Kentucky counties had schools closed Friday. Angry teachers called out sick after the state legislature approved changes to their pension plans.

State Republican leaders call it a necessary compromise, but elements of that measure were tucked into another bill about sewage services. Many Kentucky schools are closed today for spring break.

MARSH: Teachers in Arizona are also threatening to walk off the job if they don't get a pay raise. A lot of this renewed frustration stems from the West Virginia teachers strike where teachers were off their jobs for nearly two weeks but did win significant concessions.

A new crime figures reveal violent crime in Chicago remains on a steady decline. March was the 13th consecutive month of declining gun violence in the city. Year to date murders have dropped 22 percent and shootings 25 percent.

Chicago police attribute the drop to hiring more officers, stronger community policing efforts, and investment in technology like predictive crime software to help deploy officers. Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson says despite the steady progress, the city still has a long way to go. He says it is a marathon, not a sprint.

BRIGGS: The car that went over a California cliff into the ocean last week may have been driving off intentionally. The authorities say data from the SUV reveals it accelerated about 70 feet before plunging off the cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Investigators say it appears that it went straight off the cliff. Two mothers, Jennifer and Sarah Hart (ph), and three of their children perished in the crash. Three other children are still missing. No suicide note was found at the family's house in Washington state, but investigators say they are evaluating some items found during a search.

MARSH: The calendar says April, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. Winter is refusing to leave the northeast. Let's bring in meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera. How long will it stick around, Ivan?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, guys. Good morning. If it helps, I will start off by saying that we will have temperatures by midweek in the 60s. We have a way to go. In fact, we have snow to go through here and we're talking several inches of accumulation. There is the winter weather advisory, which would not typically a big deal except for the fact that, yes, it is the first week of April.

It's been snowing all the way down towards Kansas City and it started in the central plains. It is on top of us here. It is a quick mover, though, so it will be a quick shot although of heavy snow. We'll continue to see this, by midday we are still snowing across portions of New England.

And this is out of here actually by the evening commute with temperatures warming up in the mid-40s this afternoon in New York. It will melt. Accumulations of 2 to 4 inches. Allegheny Mountains looking at 8 to 10 inches. There it is. Warm day. We'll cool back down with temperatures falling back in the 40s and 50s. No snow by the end of the week.

BRIGGS: All right. Thanks, Ivan.

It will be Michigan versus Villanova tonight in the national championship game. The Wolverines beat the tournament's Cinderella Loyola-Chicago in the semifinals. Michigan riding a 14-game winning streak and we had to say goodbye to Sister Jean over the weekend.

Villanova going for their second national championship in as many as few years. The Wildcats just crashed Kansas in the national semi setting a final four record with 18 three-pointers. Michigan and Villanova hard pressed to top the thrilling finish for the women's national title game last night.


BRIGGS: What a shot. Notre Dame beating Mississippi State on the last-second three by Arike Ogunbowale to win the national title. The fighting Irish trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half to come back to win the second national title. This was Ogunbowale's second game winner this weekend. She also knocked out UConn in the final four on Friday. What a weekend. Congratulations to the Irish.

MARSH: Congrats to them. That was a good final shot.

Coming up, fruits, nuts, wine, steel pipes and pork, just some of the American made products facing new tariffs in China. What does it mean for American manufacturers and relations with Beijing? We will talk about it next.