Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Tweets DACA Deal is Dead; Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Shulkin Disputes White House Claim He Resigned as Opposed to Being Fired; President Trump: "DACA Is Dead," Blames Democrats; Shulkin: President Trump's Tweet Fired Me. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 distraction to keep you away from the very real issues that he's having to deal with.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Monday, April 2nd, 8:00 in the east. Chris is off and Jim Sciutto and John Avlon join me. Great to have you here.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very nice to be here.


CAMEROTA: OK, let's continue because we have a lot of breaking news. President Trump tweeting a deal to protect Dreamers is dead, the DACA deal. The president putting the blame on Democrats, saying the party did not, quote, act or care. The president also pushing his border wall in response to a FOX News report referring to a caravan of migrants heading towards the U.S. from Central America. This morning CNN has new reporting about what's fueling the president's hard line on immigration.

SCIUTTO: And this morning former Veterans Affair Secretary David Shulkin telling NEW DAY just moments ago that he was, in fact, fired by the president over Twitter. The White House still insisting, though, that he resigned somehow, setting up a fight over his interim successor. We're going to have it all covered, but let's begin with Kaitlan Collins live at the White House this morning, Kaitlan, with our top story. Good morning, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Live here at the White House as the president is in there behind me continuing to tweet about the same issues that he started yesterday on Easter Sunday, talking about immigration, the border wall, DACA. This morning one of his many tweets saying that DACA is dead because Democrats didn't care or act and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon. He goes on to say it no longer works, must build wall and secure our borders with proper border legislation. Democrats want no borders, hence drugs and crime.

Now, two things I've got to point out there is the president is saying that DACA is dead, but then he's saying that people are hopping on the DACA bandwagon and taking advantage of it. And also secondly, one thing we should point out is anyone that is crossing the border now illegally is not eligible to qualify for DACA and therefore to get that legal status if they did work out a deal to have as such.

But these tweets this morning come after a weekend of tweeting from the president where he's declared that DACA was dead and even threatened to pull out of NAFTA if Mexico doesn't do more to bolster border security.


COLLINS: 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 that undocumented immigrants are pouring into the U.S. because they want in on the act.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 Dreamer program. It protects undocumented immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. as children but it only applies to those that have lived in the U.S. since 2007, meaning that no one crossing the border now would be 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. Mr. Trump's tough talk in stark contrast to these earlier promises.

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

This should be a bipartisan bill. This 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 for

his 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 had resigned rather than being fired. Shulkin denying this claim, saying he never submitted a resignation letter.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you were fired?

SHULKIN: I did not resign.


COLLINS: And if that wasn't enough in White House news, Larry Kudlow, the new direct of National Economic Council who's replacing Gary Cohn who resigned recently starts officially here at the White House today, and what it day it is especially with China threatening to retaliate with those $3 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. imports.

[08:05:03] CAMEROTA: And it's only 8:00 a.m., Kaitlan, so fasten your seat belt on a Monday. So we will check back with you.

Joining us now is CNN political analysts Josh Green and Julie Pace. Great to have both of you. So Julie, let's talk about how the president has landed in a place with DACA and the dreamers quite different than what he had been saying for months. And it seems that something happened over the weekend that changed his feeling and he's now sounding much more hardline about what should happen with the Dreamers.

So Ann Coulter has come out and been very vociferous about how he's disappointing the base and she demands a wall. And then there was this "FOX and Friends" talking point, moment, where they talked about a caravan coming from Central America, Honduras they think, heading north, people who might be seeking asylum. So watch this that we believe the president also watched.


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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most all of them from Central America. The big question is, what happens when they do arrive in the U.S.? I know they want to seek protection. But they won't necessarily get that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. They're going to be arrested. You can't illegally come to the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will they, though? I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think? If there's a small migrant army marching toward the United States peacefully but wants to cross our borders, how should it be handled?


CAMEROTA: So you can hear them casting about. They don't quite know what's happening. They've heard that there might be a van coming north, but shortly after that, the president tweeted, Julie.

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's always one of those strange things where you realize that the president actually could probably find out the answer to that question pretty easily through other means than watching "FOX and Friends" but he often chooses not to.

This is part of a larger dynamic that really is an important thing to remember about this White House. The president is obsessed his base. He is told by people around him that the only way that he could lose reelection, the only way that this core group of people around him will move is if he disappoints them on things like immigration. So he often can get pretty rattled when he hears from people like Ann Coulter or others that there is movement in the base, that they feel like he's disappointing them, particularly on this issue of immigration which I really think you can't overstate how important that was to his success. People sometimes put the policies aside when they talk about Trump's political success, but immigration is something that his supporters really believe in. He is conflating two issues here. The fact that DACA is in jeopardy right now is separate from any questions about border security, so he's conflating two different things, but I think a lot of this is motivated by his nervousness about disappointing his base.

SCIUTTO: And as so often happens with issues like this, we enter a fact-free zone. You got to fact check the president on this. First of all, you heard that FOX News rhetoric, an army of migrants. It's not an army -- it's a group of folks who are seeing asylum. The president tweeted there are caravans as if there are multiple groups of people storming the border. That's not true. It's one group. And as even the FOX News commentators noted there, they will be arrested at the border. They're not going to climb the wall and jump in. But when speaking to the base, John, do the facts matter?

AVLON: Facts should matter coming from the president, obviously. The question I think we have is, do we take this tweet, "DACA is dead," literally or seriously? Is it a statement of policy or is it just a rhetorical brushback pitch to play to the base? And there are two facts I think we need to emphasize here. One is that the president ended DACA. That was his action, not the Democrats. He did it allegedly to open up a possibility of a broader negotiation that could still be opened if he wanted to engage. And also, arrests at the border are down to a 46 year low. You've got to go back to 1971 to find fewer arrests at the border. So that sense of an epidemic, a wave coming is really just fear-fueled politics. But that's the real question for us to parse today is, is this a statement of policy or is there still room for negotiation? Because if there isn't, there are 800,000 dreamers in the crossfire.

SCIUTTO: Michael Caputo in the previous hour told me that the president is never done negotiating. He said it's still an open process here.

CAMEROTA: Josh, I'm sure you would echo that. Here's the president's evolution on DACA, and then you can tell us how you think he got here.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration, immediately.

It's a very, very tough subject. We're going to deal with DACA with heart.

This should be a bipartisan bill. This should be a bill of love, truly. It should be a bill of love, and we can do that.


CAMEROTA: Josh, how do you explain today his hard line?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Basically as we saw from that clip, Trump has been on literally every side of this issue, and there was a possibility to do a deal.

[08:10:03] Democrats would have been willing to give Trump money for his border wall in exchange for legalizing the DACA kids. It was Trump who decided not to do that because he was worried about blowback from his rightwing base.

I think the more recent problem with Trump and DACA has been the omnibus spending bill that Trump signed had large increases in spending in almost every area except the border wall. And as soon as that legislation was signed Trump began to get a light of heat from rightwing media, from Breitbart News, from Ann Coulter. This is evidently conveyed to him during the dinners he's had with the FOX News hosts at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.

So I think foremost in Trump's mind right now is the idea that his base is angry and restless and that they might abandon Republicans in November, and I think that explains why Trump has suddenly pivoted to a hardline position on DACA.

CAMEROTA: We just had Dr. David Shulkin on, formally the head of the V.A. And you know there's a question about whether he was fired as he said or whether he resigned as the White House says. So here's how he explained it to us.


DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: General Kelly gave me a heads up that the president would most likely be tweeting out a message in the very near future, and I appreciated having that heads up from General Kelly.

CAMEROTA: So the tweet fired you?



CAMEROTA: And John, why does this matter, this distinction?

AVLON: The tweet fired me -- it matters because it actually has to do with who would be acting director of the V.A. affecting an organization of more than 350,000 employees and a budget of over $165 million, that matters. But what's also stunning is what's old and busted is you're fired, his old rhetoric. The new hotness is fired by tweet, apparently.

SCIUTTO: We're also entering another fact-free zone here. You spoke to moments ago the former director of Veterans Affairs, the secretary, he told you I was fired. The White House still insisting he resigned, but there appears to be no factual basis for that.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he said he didn't submit a letter of resignation and Chief of Staff John Kelly told him that he would be fired by tweet.

All right, Julie, Josh, thank you both very much. So we'll have more about that revelation from the former secretary of veterans affair, David Shulkin, about how he was fired. We have a Republican Congressman on the Veterans Affairs Committee who's going to react to this news next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump continuing his tirade on immigration with this new tweet, "DACA is dead because the Democrats did not care or act and now everyone wants to get on to the DACA bandwagon. No longer works. Must build wall and secure our borders with proper border legislation. Democrats want no borders, hence drugs and crime!"

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. He's the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. Good morning, Congressman.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, Alisyn. Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. How do you think the president has landed at this hard line on DACA and the DREAMers after saying that he wants to treat them with love?

DENT: I'm not sure how he actually landed there, but there are several DACA proposals out there that tie DACA to border security. I've asked that the House leadership allow for us to call it queen of the Hill strategy.

Each one of those bills to be considered on the House floor and whichever one passes with over 218 votes is the one that is sent to the Senate. Pretty straightforward and then we should send the bill to the president and I hope he signs it but make him decide.

We can easily accomplish this goal. There are some Democrats to be sure who want the issue more than the solution. I certainly acknowledge that, but I do believe there are enough people on both sides of the aisle who will work in good faith to get a real solution to the president's desk.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that it's the Democrats fault that DACA is dead as he calls it?

DENT: You know, I don't want to cast blame on any one particular group. I think a lot of people are drawing lines in the sand. You know, to a certain extent in the House leadership -- the House leadership has said that they don't want a bill on the House floor that will not receive a majority of the majority of the House.

Now I do believe there are 218 votes for a DACA bill. So, that said, there's a lot of land to go around here. The point is we should have a debate, put these proposals on the floor and see which one passes and send it to the president and make him choose.

CAMEROTA: A couple of interesting things happened over the weekend and it's always interesting to try to retrace where the president -- what the genesis of his ideas or even policy are. So, Ann Coulter was quoted as basically saying that the president totally caved in the omnibus -- by signing the omnibus spending without money for the border wall, she, who personifies his base, is leaving him and is quite disappointed.

Here's a graphic of people that he dined with or hung out with at Mar- a-Lago, Janine Pirro from Fox News, Sean Hannity from Fox, Bill Shine formerly a Fox, Don King, Bernie Kerik, Mike Lendell, who owns "My Pillow," I'm not sure how he feels about DACA, but I do know that the first two are pretty hardline on immigration. So, do you think that that's what influenced him?

DENT: Well, hard to say what influenced them, but all I can say is that I supported the omnibus spending bill. I was responsible for $92.5 billion dollars' worth of it in the form of the VA and military construction funding.

That said, we -- we did exactly what President Trump and his administration wanted on defense. They wanted a robust increase, $700 billion for the Department of Defense. This is a very big win for the administration. Got exactly what they asked for. So --

CAMEROTA: I mean, the president said he couldn't stand that bill, you know?

DENT: Well, he was part of the budget agreement that set the framework out and his administration was part of the negotiation. CAMEROTA: He thought it was a lousy bill and he'll never sign another thing like that he said?

DENT: Well, I'll tell you what, his secretary of defense is very happy about this situation. We did exactly pretty much what Jim Mattis wanted us to do. It's hard to say on the one hand they appreciate what we've done for them and saying that's a terrible bill on the other.

I mean, that doesn't really bode well for the future in terms of these negotiations. I'd rather not do omnibuses either. I'd rather do these bills one at a time, but the nature of the U.S. Senate doesn't allow us to do that.

The Senate can't move appropriations bill quickly, so we can't negotiate them one off. But for the administration to say, that the president to say that he doesn't like this bill, then he should blame some of his own people because they negotiated this with us, and I think it was all done in good faith. By the way, we provided a 10 percent increase for the VA in this budget.

[08:20:05] CAMEROTA: OK. So, let's talk about the VA. So, as you know -- do you think that Dr. Shulkin was fired or resigned?

DENT: I believe he was pushed out. I believe he was pushed out. I've dealt quite a bit with Secretary Shulkin. He's a very fine man and capable administrator, but clearly, he was pushed out. This has been going on for several weeks.

CAMEROTA: So, if he was pushed out, that means that the White House is breaking protocol, there's a law that if he's fired, if the secretary's fired, his deputy must replace him, but that's not what's happening?

DENT: Well, not sure about that. I want to give Secretary Shulkin some credit here. I've worked with him. He's helped reduce backlogs. He has taken us down the road toward an integrated health record between the VA and the Department of Defense. We're making progress on that front.

More veterans are being able to access care outside the VA system through choice and other community care programs, about 36 percent. So, we made some progress and I really enjoyed working with him. He's a very capable administrator. He's from Pennsylvania and lived about 45 miles from me. And he's well-known and well respected, and he'll be difficult to replace.

CAMEROTA: Well, he says, and he just told us a moment ago that not only was he fired, he was fired by tweet, so listen to this.


DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: General Kelly gave me a heads up that the president would most likely be tweeting out a message in the very near future and I appreciated having that heads up from General Kelly. CAMEROTA: So, the tweet fired you?



CAMEROTA: And what do you think this means for the future not that he was fired by tweet, but the fact that he didn't want privatization? What do you think this means for the future of the VA, Congressman?

DENT: Look, I think really the issue -- the policy issue that probably got Secretary Shulkin in some hot water was this, I believe we need the better integrate the veterans health system with a civilian health system. Secretary Shulkin through choice was doing that. Now the question might be the pace of that integration.

I happen to believe that the VA needs to be a little bit less a direct provider of care and more of a coordinator and manager of care. Veterans where I live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, want to be cared for in the communities where they live.

They don't like to be schlepped up to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for scheduled in-patient procedures, 60 miles away, when they can get that done right in their backyard, in their communities. We need to do this.

There's a sustainability question too. On the one hand, we're trying to build all this infrastructure and capacity in the VA system to care for them within that system and we're trying to provide choice outside the system. We're going to have to pick a path. The sustainability of this is in question.

Over the long-term we must pick a path. I happen to like the choice path. Veterans should have access to the greatest health care institutions in the world in their communities. Too often they are denied that unless they are admitted on an emergency basis.

We educated our veterans through the civilian system of higher education. We called it the GI Bill. It worked great. Maybe we ought to think about that for some of our veterans.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Charlie Dent, always appreciate talking to you. Thank you very much.

DENT: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: John, what are your thoughts?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Charlie Dent is one of these old-school centrist Republicans and it's a shame he's retiring. The party is moved towards Donald Trump and away from guys like Charlie Dent. But you can hear from that interview that he's someone who still believes in governing over grand standing.

And he also made the point that Shulkin was trying to find a middle path with regard to more choice for people in the system, but not as fast as some folks on the far right you might like.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: He was willing to contradict the president and the White House on two points. One he said, it was clear he was pushed out. That Shulkin was fired just as he told you. You might want to believe him as opposed to what the White House is claiming now that he resigned, but also on the issue of DACA.

Let's get them to a vote on the Hill and make the president decide seeming to indicate there that it's the president who's been wishy- washy on this. Bring a deal to his desk, we'll vote on it, and let the president sign it or not.

CAMEROTA: It's hard to know today given all the tweets what the president's position is on DREAMers and DACA, but we'll continue to report that, Jim?

SCIUTTO: President Trump is blaming Democrats declaring DACA is dead. We'll talk with a Democratic congressman about his response to that. I'm guessing it might be a little bit different. Please stay with us.



SCIUTTO: And welcome back this morning. President Trump declaring that he has done working with the Democrats to find a solution for DREAMers. The president tweeting in part this morning, quote, "DACA is dead because the Democrats didn't care or act and just moments ago, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had this to say.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president made multiple offers on DACA. He wanted to see something get done and Democrats refused to actually put something on the table or work with the president to get anything done. They wanted to use DACA recipients as political pawns.

I think it's because we're getting close to an election. They don't want to see the president continue to win like he has for the last year and a half, and they're going to do everything they can, even if it means hurting people across this country if they think that it takes a hit at the president.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California, is a member of the Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, you heard Sarah Sanders there like the president saying it's your fault, the Democrats did not want to deal on this. What's your reaction? GARAMENDI: Give me a break. Give me a break. What is this guy doing? What is she doing? There are certain facts, certain things that are well-known. The DACA program was in place. There was a question about its legality. That's a court issue. So, what did the president do?

He promised during his campaign two things, one, he would terminate DACA. He did that. He created this crisis. He created this problem all by himself. It wasn't something that needed to be done. Maybe the courts would have ruled overtime that it had to be changed. OK. That could have happened, but he terminated the program.

Next, with regard to the negotiations, we have been negotiating with this president. He's the one that put the border wall up as leverage on DACA. You won't get DACA until the president gets his beautiful border wall. We actually offered --