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China Slaps Tariffs on U.S. Products; Trump Vows No DREAMEers Deal, Threatens NAFTA; Shulkin Goes on Media Blitz After Ousting From V.A. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world.

[05:59:33] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: China is striking back, imposing new tariffs on nearly $3 billion of U.S. goods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should have gotten the world together and taken on the Chinese through diplomacy.

TRUMP: A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA. Can't happen that way anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the kind of tweet that will stir up opponents of this program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats are going to feast on this and say that this is an example of a White House that does not know how to lead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House insisting that the outgoing V.A. secretary resigned.

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: There would be no reason for me to resign. I made a commitment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all blue smoke and mirrors. It's all a distraction to keep you away from the very real issues that he's having to deal with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, April 2, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off today. And Jim Sciutto and John Avlon join me.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You're stuck with us.

CAMEROTA: I was explaining to you guys, it takes two guys to fill in for Chris. And what -- I don't know what madness is about to unfold, but here's our starting line.

China makes good on its promise to strike back. The Chinese government slapping tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. exports in response to President Trump's tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The retaliatory move heightening fears of a trade war between the world's two largest economies.

And President Trump declares there will be no deal for DREAMers and threatens to pull out of NAFTA unless Mexico does more to protect the border. We have new CNN's reporting on what's fueling the president's hard line on immigration now and who had Mr. Trump's ear over the weekend.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin tells CNN that he was fired. The White House insisting that he resigned. Setting up a fight over his successor, the former cabinet member on a media blitz. He will be joining us live in the next hour.

Plus, President Trump back at the White House after the holiday weekend with his inner circle shrinking. A new report in "The Washington Post" suggests the president is calling his own shots and, quote, "unhinged." Is the president done cleaning house?

We have it all covered. Let's begin, though, with CNN's Ivan Watson. He is live in Beijing with our top story.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim.

That's right. China has announced it's retaliating for the tariffs that the U.S. imposed last month on all imports of steel and aluminum. The Chinese finance ministry saying that those tariffs seriously damaged China's interests. So it has slapped tariffs on 128 U.S. imports/exports to China. Fifteen percent on one group that includes fruits, nuts, wines, steel pipes. A 25 percent tariff on pork and recycled aluminum.

This is about $3 billion in U.S. exports to China. It is a drop in the bucket if you compare it to the overall bilateral trade between the world's two largest economies, which is around $650 billion in 2016.

But make no mistake, certain industries are going to feel this. The pork industry, for example, according to the National Pork Producers Council, China is the third largest export market for the U.S. It's a $1.1 billion market, and they just saw their prices jump 25 percent. So you're going to expect to feel that in places like Iowa, which are big pork producers.

Now is this a trade war? Probably not yet. This might be the first skirmish. But the Trump administration has warned that it might slap an additional $50 to $60 billion of tariffs on -- $50, $60 billion of Chinese exports to the U.S. for retaliation for alleged intellectual property theft. If that goes into effect, expect a Chinese retaliation, and then we're much closer to a real trade war -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: A lot of U.S. companies, a lot of U.S. workers depend on that business. Ivan Watson in Beijing, thank you.

While we wait for reaction from the White House to China's retaliatory tariffs, President Trump is vowing that there will be no deal on DREAMers, and he is threatening to exit the NAFTA deal.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House with more this morning. Kaitlan, what are you hearing this morning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. After a few days of relative silence from our tweeter in chief, he unleashed a series of particularly fiery ones yesterday on Easter, saying that there would be no deal for those DREAMers hoping to get legal status and also threatening to pull out of NAFTA if Mexico does not do more to curtail those border crossings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump spending the Easter holiday weekend venting about immigration. In a series of combative tweets, the president saying he wouldn't make a deal for DREAMers, claiming the undocumented immigrants are pouring into the U.S. because they want in on the act.

TRUMP: A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA. And we're going to have to really see.

COLLINS: The president seemingly confused about the parameters of the DREAMer program. It protects undocumented immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. as children, but it only applies to those who have lived in the U.S. since 2007. Meaning that no one crossing the border now would be he eligible.

TRUMP: They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it.

COLLINS: President Trump also blaming Democrats for failing to broker a deal to protect DREAMers, despite the fact that it was Mr. Trump's decision to end the Obama-era program in the first place.

[06:05:07] Mr. Trump's tough talk in stark contrast to these earlier promises.

TRUMP: Very, very tough subject. We're going to deal with DACA with heart.

This should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should be a bill of love. And we can do that.

COLLINS: The president's outburst prompting criticism from members of both parties, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, who tweeted, "A true leader preserves and offers hope, doesn't take hope from innocent children who call America home."

The president also lashing out at Mexico, threatening to pull out of NAFTA if Mexico doesn't curtail the flow of undocumented immigrants.

TRUMP: Mexico has got to help us at the border. They flow right through Mexico; they send them to the United States. Can't happen that way anymore.

COLLINS: Mr. Trump using that argument to again stress the need to a border wall. Sources tell CNN that the president's tweet storm came after he had conversations with a number of allies associated with FOX News over the weekend, who told him that his base believes he's softening on immigration. Multiple people pointing to hardliner Ann Coulter's recent media tour, calling Trump a disappointment.

All this as the Trump administration continues to insist that ousted Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin resigned rather than being fired. Shulkin denying this claim, saying he never submitted a resignation letter.

SHULKIN: I would not resign, because I'm committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So you were fired?

SHULKIN: I did not resign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, it's unclear whether the president's tweets actually represent a change in policy or whether he was simply venting after reading an article or watching a television news program. But it's important to keep in mind that it goes -- it goes to show just how capricious this president can be, especially when it comes to immigration policy. And it's important to remember who he spent the weekend with, a series of FOX News hosts, and certainly, Steven Miller, his aide, who is certainly the most hard line on immigration -- John, Jim, and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan. Thank you very much for all of of that very interesting reporting. We will get into it right now.

Joining us are CNN political analyst Brian Karem and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Great to see all of you guys.

OK. John Avlon, let's start with the -- China retaliating about the tariffs. OK, so here's our graphic. There are 128 U.S. products. A hundred and twenty involve fruits, nuts, wine, steel pipes, eight products, pork, recycled aluminum. Obviously, the administration had to see this coming for what they started. And what do we think is going to happen now?

AVLON: Well, it's a step towards trade war. But if another shoe drops, that's when it really escalates.

What's interesting to me is that pork on 25 percent. That is a specific brushback pitch to Iowa. And the Chinese ambassador, Terry Branstad, is the former governor of Iowa. So that's actually -- this time it's personal. They're actually, you know, that is in some ways targeted to Iowa, designed to inflict pain on the ambassador. But worse can come. Because right now, this is only $3 billion. It's not even approaching what the U.S. has done. So watch for escalation. That will have impact.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: So what determines whether there's escalation or not?

AVLON: Whether China does another round.

TOOBIN: That's -- that's the only thing? I don't know. I'm just asking.

AVLON: What CNN's reporting is that this is simply about the first round of aluminum tariffs. The second round, if China decides to match that, then we've got real problems.

SCIUTTO: China plays Trump interestingly, right? Because they could have easily gone at the same level. Right? And U.S. tariffs are worth about 50 billion bucks. These are $3 billion. So this -- it's a brushback pitch, but it's kind of a subtle strategic brushback. It seems like they're plating to see whether he's going to double down on this, right?

CAMEROTA: Brian, what are your thoughts?

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a nice brushback pitch. It hits at about 95 miles an hour right around the chin. So it's probably chin music more than anything else. And of course, it's meant to find out exactly how far the president is going to go. Because no one knows, including the president himself, until he takes to the Twitter litter and comes out and tweets policy based solely on what he thinks that morning or who he's talked to recently or what he had for breakfast.

I think no one really kind of knows what's going to happen, because the president doesn't know what's going to happen. I think we all can see where it's headed, but where it ends up, I think, anyone's guess at this point.

CAMEROTA: I mean, this is a calculated risk. Right? He knew that this could set off a trade war. But he felt -- he has felt, and the president has always said that the U.S. is being screwed over by places like China. This has been a long-time battle cry of his. And so I think the people around him figured, OK, as you point out, the numbers still don't equal -- the U.S. still wins in this calculation at the moment.

AVLON: They're going to keep arguing that until it's impossible to argue otherwise. But this is --

KAREM: It is impossible to argue it. What they argue has little basis in fact. I mean, it's the voice of the moment. I think, Alisyn, you make a great point, in the fact that right now it doesn't seem like it's all that much compared to what the U.S. has done.

[06:10:12] But where does it -- again, where does it go from here and how long does it take to get there? Jim, like you said, brushback pitch. And so are we going to blink or we going to take one step forward? One thing you can count on from this president is that he doesn't like to have his manhood challenged. So I guarantee you this is probably not going to be the last step. It's just where do we go from here?

AVLON: And what's also extraordinary is the impact of the last person in his ear, as we've said, right? This weekend, Mar-a-Lago. Look at the cast of characters here.

CAMEROTA: We have the graphic. Here's who the president hung out with this weekend. We know do -- I mean, not only do they have his ear, they make a point of explaining to him where they think he should go.

AVLON: Right. And this is three FOX News hosts, two ex-cons and a pillow salesman.

Jeff Toobin, is this Jeffersonian level?

TOOBIN: Sounds just like my weekend.

SCIUTTO: Remember all the talk of the team of rivals, right, in the Obama administration? I mean, the thing is, though, that's just the weekend. If you look at his cabinet, right? I mean, the cabinet is shrinking to a group of folks that he feels comfortable with, one, but also that are frankly a more agreeable group, right? The folks who challenge this president in this cabinet, this don't last long. And that's an echo chamber in the White House.

TOOBIN: And nothing matters more to him and to his -- and to those folks than immigration. And immigration is the issue. You know, build the wall. Mexico is going to pay for it. That's -- that's the core issue. That's what Ann Coulter has been criticizing him for.

And you know what never gets talked about these days anymore is that there are 800,000 human beings. There are people whose lives are in serious jeopardy of major, major disruption because these DACA people, these young people who have lived their entire lives in America, their status remains completely in limbo. And Donald Trump, he clearly doesn't even understand the program.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that. Because I'm so glad that Jeffrey -- hold on. Hold up. I'm so glad that Jeffrey brought this up, because we can now connect the dots, OK, between the seeds that are planted, the bee that he gets in his bonnet from different places, and policy. OK?

So here's the tweet. Let me -- I'll work backwards. Here's the tweet that the president sent out, and we can fact check it: "Border Patrol agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the border because of ridiculous liberal Democrat laws like catch and release. Getting more dangerous. Caravans coming. Republicans must go to the nuclear option to pass tough laws now. NO MORE DACA DEAL!" in all caps, exclamation point.

OK. John, if we're going to fact check that, catch and release is not a law. But it is a policy that, obviously, Donald Trump and Republicans have

long objected to. There's not room for everybody who's caught. They are released. Sometimes they come back in. Sometimes they commit crimes. OK?

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Then, if you check it, "they must go to the nuclear option." That's not what Republicans are talking about. "No more DACA deal." The person who said he was going to protect the DREAMers.

AVLON: Right. I mean, he's been all over. I mean, obviously, he's the one who suspended that executive order. Then he said the Democrats are the ones who are risking the deal. Now it's tied up in the Ninth Circuit, as Jeff Toobin well knows. So this is a president who doesn't have his hands around the policy. But the fact he decides to go on offense and talk about a nuclear option against DREAMers on Easter morning says a lot about where his head and his heart is.

KAREM: Well, and it's not even, to the point, catch and release. I mean, that goes back to the Reagan era. This is not new. And it's not news.

And by the way, on Easter Sunday you're going to tweet this out. And, what, last year at the same time, he's tweeting out how immigrants, there's 40 percent less illegal immigration coming across since he came into office. So what happened? Suddenly, there was a swarm of them?

And then you talk about the problem of drug -- drug addiction because of illegal immigrants. And that's just bogus. You have a drug problem, problem with the United States, because there's a demand for the drugs. Not because, you know, there is better weed grown in the United States and Mexico. And it's coming across. An opioid epidemic has nothing to do with illegal immigration. It's all disingenuous. It's all to feed a base that's very, very, very much not involved in what's going on in the United States.

CAMEROTA: Well, the other part is that, actually, this tweet was six minutes after a "FOX and Friends" weekend segment, where they talked about caravans coming across the border.

So in the next hour, we will play you that segment and show you how the president cobbled together what he wants policy made out of it.

Thank you, gentlemen, very much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Did David Shulkin quit or was he fired? The former V.A. secretary says White House claims that he resigned are wrong. Why that matters and how he departed, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:18:37] CAMEROTA: Former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin was on a bit of a media blitz in the five days since the White House announced that he was out. The White House maintains Shulkin resigned, but he tells a different story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHULKIN: I would not resign, because I'm committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end.

TAPPER: So you were fired?

SHULKIN: I did not resign.

We actually spoke the day that he sent the tweet out, just a few hours before. In fact, we had set up a meeting for the very next day.

But there were some political appointees within my administration that didn't see it that way and really wanted us to take a much harder stance towards privatization.

Every cabinet member serves at the pleasure of the president and it is the president's prerogative to have a team around him that he thinks is doing the job.

CAMEROTA: All right. Let's bring back Jeffrey Toobin and Brian Karem.

So Jeffrey Toobin, it matters whether or not he resigned or fired for protocol reasons in terms of who replaced him?

TOOBIN: And how much discretion the president has. If he resigns -- let me see if I get this right. If he's fired, that means that the deputy immediately takes over.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

TOOBIN: Deputy secretary. If he resigns, the president can appoint an acting, which he's done.

CAMEROTA: And that's what the president has done.

TOOBIN: That's what he's done. This came up again with the Consumer Finance Protection Board.

CAMEROTA: Right.

[06:20:00] TOOBIN: The only significance is who is in charge of the agency until a successor is confirmed. At that point, that person takes over and the president's doctor has been nominated, and we'll see whether he gets confirmed.

SCIUTTO: John Avlon, isn't this as simple as the White House again creating its own reality here? Right? I mean, they fired the guy, by all indications, including the guy involved. They discover, it seems, that, "Oh, well, there's actually a law here. He has to resign."

They say, "Oh, no, he resigned." AVLON: Right. They're just sticking their guns. When you're going to have pretty provable reality based on the guy itself, something like didn't resign. You know, but they're just going to keep insisting, because they have got this statute they need to play ball with. But it is a syndication of the reality of distortion that this administration embraces. So it comes from the top.

CAMEROTA: Brian Karem, I am more interested in what happened with Shulkin when he had a job, he had an armed guard, reports say, outside of his office to protect him from some of his staff members, because there was a mutiny that he had on his hands, because he didn't want privatization.

SCIUTTO: You have one of those, right?

CAMEROTA: Maybe I need one.

KAREM: We've all heard the story. It just speaks to two matters. One, going back to what John just said, yes, there is a huge distortion bubble inside the White House. They create a reality, and they want you to buy into it.

And meanwhile, those who are suffering through reality have to have armed guards. It's kind of scary when you think about it. I mean, we've all heard the reports. I didn't see the armed guards. I wasn't there. But I can tell you that the very idea of what that man has had to go through and what's been said about him coming out, it's frightening. You know, there are such things as facts, folks.

TOOBIN: But it also, it relates to something real in the world, which is privatization. I mean, look at what the administration wants to do. Whether it's for-profit charter schools in the education field. Whether it's the infrastructure plan, which means turning over highways to, you know, private companies that will build them and collect tolls. Whether it's here in the V.A., which will privatization significant parts of the V.A. system.

I mean, this -- you know, there's a lot of silliness here. But it's also about actual government and how it works or does not work.

KAREM: It doesn't work. And the idea is they're trying to solve a problem by throwing it into the private sector with things that have traditionally been what we consider, you know, public sector. You know, everything that affects us: roads, schools, V.A. benefits. All of those things privatizing them and turning them over to the private sector has an inherent risk. Evidence can be very dangerous.

SCIUTTO: And it folds in under what we've talked about on a number of these moves, right? You have a V.A. secretary who clearly wasn't on board for that plan. Right? It seemed to express those concerns internally and then was beaten out, you know, now because of that disagreement.

Meanwhile, he's going to be replaced with someone who's with -- and listen, a president has every right to have folks who are with him in the program. I suppose the worry is that there's no one challenging his impulses here, any term.

AVLON: Ronny Jackson is the president's former physician. We don't know his position on these policies. Presumably, those will come out. And look, the government should be about great debates about policy. But increasingly, we're seeing personality injected into this, personal whim. This is about personal chemistry more than policy. And that becomes a real problem. And if the president increasingly is vowing personal chemistry over competence, that's bad news for the government. That's bad news for the American people.

KAREM: That's -- John, that's the bottom line. It's the competence part of it. I mean, it's having people in place that have knowledge, education and are able to debate the issues based on knowledge and education.

And if it is a personal whim, and it boils down to personality instead of reality and education and facts, that's where the problem is; and that's what this administration is running on. Seat of the pants. Anything that the president tweets, anything that he wants. And join him or die. And that's a very, very -- again, inherently dangerous way to run a federal government.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the new "Washington Post" reporting from over the weekend. The president's inner circle is shrinking, who he gets advice from, who his confidants are. Hope Hicks left. And so what does that mean? Where does that leave him?

Here's how "The Washington Post" describes it. And by the way, they say they had 23 sources they used. I mean, it's interesting when newspapers reveal how many sources they are so that you get the scope of who they're talking to. They say these are internal close aides and people who have left the White House. So 23. Here's the description.

"This is now a president a little bit alone, isolated, and without any moderating influences. And if anything, a president who is being encouraged and goaded on by people around him. It really is a president unhinged."

TOOBIN: Well, look -- look who he was with this weekend. I mean, it was all these FOX News people who care deeply about cracking down on immigration. And that's -- and that's what we see, including, you know, statements like people are coming across the border to take advantage of DACA, which is just factually inaccurate. DACA only applies to people who've grown up in this country.

[06:25:12] CAMEROTA: And who were here in 2007.

TOOBIN: Right. You can't come across the border and take advantage of DACA. But that -- that's the people that he's getting advice from, and that's the policies.

KAREM: And unhinged is --

SCIUTTO: This is the way he ran his company, though, right? I mean, it's a tiny group. He's at the top. He's got folks around him who are on with the program. Right? And you survive if you follow the lead.

AVLON: This is instinct masquerading as insight. The problem is the president of the United States -- here's the core reality where we are. The president of the United States is taking action based on things he sees on TV rather than his intelligence reports. That's objectively troubling.

KAREM: Not only that, I think -- I think he's taking action based on whatever -- who he's spoken to, what he ate last night, what he ate this morning, what he saw on TV. It really doesn't matter.

Unhinged is something that we've seen in the White House, covering this White House from the very beginning. What you're now seeing are the people that tried to protect him and, via gatekeeper, are leaving him. So that is seeing itself out in the open a little bit more.

But anyone who's covered that White House in the last 15 months has seen that man act in a very unpresidential manner on a number of occasions. And it drifts down to staff. And I can tell you, those 23 people that have talked to him, they said that to many reporters. Just read anything that's come out. It's not news. It's scary.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We should let you know coming up in our next hour, former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin will join us live. He can answer some of these questions himself.

SCIUTTO: And Michigan and Villanova have a tough act to follow after the last-second heroics that gave the Notre Dame women the national title. Amazing. Second last -- second winning shot in a row for this team. Details in "Bleacher Report." That is next.