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Trump Talks DACA; Immigrant Caravan Heading to Border; Trump Meets With Allies; Trump on FBI and DOJ; Trump Discusses Meeting Putin; China Hits Back; Trump's War With Amazon; Sinclair Under Scrutiny. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


13:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Damascus, 1:00 a.m. Tuesday in Beijing. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

A presidential outburst in which President Trump declares any dreamer deal is dead, says the country is being stolen and warns of immigrant caravans heading to the United States.

The beginning of a possible trade war. China now retaliating against President Trump's new tariffs, slapping $3 billions' worth of taxes on U.S. products. So what happens from here?

And, local news anchors across America, required to read a script that echoes the president's rhetoric against the news media. And now tensions are on the rise inside those local TV stations.

All that coming up.

But first, President Trump sounding off in a series of new Twitter outbursts, unleashing on everything from undocumented immigrants, DACA, Amazon and the FBI and the Justice Department, calling the FBI and the Justice Department actions, a, quote, embarrassment to our country. All of this after a weekend spent with close allies in Mar-a- Lago, down in Palm Beach, Florida, without his chief of staff, John Kelly.

CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us right now.

Jim, you just heard from the president.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BLITZER: You had a little Q&A with him. What did he tell you?

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. We have no White House briefing today, so we wanted to ask the president some questions about all of these tweets that he's been posting over the last 24 hours. And one of the big topics he's been pounding over the last day or so, as you noticed, Wolf, is DACA, the program that protects young, undocumented immigrants from deportation. We can show one of those tweets from early this morning. He basically

says DACA is dead and that Democrats are responsible for this. He says DACA is dead because Democrats didn't care or act and now everyone wants to jump -- or get onto the DACA bandwagon. The president trying to link that program to his desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

So during the Easter Egg Roll event here at the White House, I asked the president, should the kids, should the young recipients of protection under the DACA program, be concerned that they're going to be deported? And here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Mr. President, what about the DACA kids? Should they worry about what's going to happen to them, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have really let them down. They've really let them down. They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down. It's a shame. And now people are taking advantage of DACA and that's a shame. It should have never happened.

ACOSTA: Didn't you kill DACA, sir? Didn't you kill DACA?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And if you notice there at the end, Wolf, I tried to ask the president a follow-up question, didn't you kill DACA? The president, of course, ended the DACA program that was started under President Obama. So it is a bit rich to hear the president go on and on blaming Democrats for problems with the DACA program when he's the one who ended it to begin with. The president, of course, as you saw there, did not answer the question.

BLITZER: And why is there no White House press briefing today? Certainly lots of questions for the White House.

ACOSTA: Absolutely, Wolf. And one of those questions would obviously be this apparent invitation that the president extended to Vladimir Putin to have some sort of meeting potentially over here at the White House. That is something that the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, confirmed earlier this morning.

But as to why there's no press briefing, Wolf, it is a bit of a mystery. They have said in the past that when the president speaks to the cameras, that, you know, he is basically speaking on behalf of the administration on the message of that day. And so in those instances, they feel like they don't need to have a press briefing. But as you and I both know, there have been many occasions where the president has a spray or something in the Oval Office, talks to reporters a little bit and they still have a press briefing.

There's a number of questions that need to be asked. One of them, obviously, being this DACA issue. But, Wolf, as you saw earlier this morning, the president likes it when the news sort of fits his tailored message. That is why it's no mystery, I guess, that he was defending Sinclair Broadcasting earlier this morning and going after news outlets like our own which, of course, like to ask those questions that they don't want to answer at the press briefing.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta reporting from the White House.

We're also following the progress of that caravan. The caravan, as it's being called, has become an annual event. A group calling itself The People Without Borders. And they say their primary goal is to flee violence and political unrest in Central America and seek asylum either in Mexico or here in the United States.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Mexico City for us.

Leyla, what more can you tell us about the movement of this group?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, so let's talk about where they are right now, Wolf. They are in Wahaka (ph). So that is about 2,000 miles south of the U.S./Mexico border. Who they are, families, women and children, men from Central America that are right now in Mexico trying to make a statement with this caravan.

[13:05:13] Now, let's put this into context here. When people typically say caravan during holy week here in Mexico, they're usually talking about what they call (INAUDIBLE). These are sort of pilgrimages that have become so symbolic over the years as an annual tradition that many use it to make a statement. So for this group in particular, working with -- with (INAUDIBLE), this group out of San Diego, they have become -- they're getting a lot of attention because it's quite a big group. We're talking about more than a thousand people who started in Chiap (ph), so right there in the southern part of Mexico, on the border with Guatemala, and they're making their way up.

The goal for them is to raise awareness of these issues with the immigrants and what's happening right now from their point of view in Central America. And some, we're told, will make it to the U.S.-Mexico border, and they plan to seek asylum upon reaching there. When that exactly will happen, well, we know that organizers are right now in a meeting trying to decide what their next move will be. So still a little bit up in the air as to what their route will be and when they will arrive, Wolf.

BLITZER: Leyla Santiago in Mexico City. Thank you.

Joining us now to discuss this, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, CNN political analyst and national political correspondent for "Time," Molly Ball, and CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

You know, the -- what does it say, the president spent a large part of the weekend meeting with some of those major supporters, several of them affiliated with Fox News. He's hearing what they have on their minds and it's clearly reflected in some of his tweets and his statements. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Well, it's kind of

like a meeting in the Fox green room, all these people coming to Mar- a-Lago to meet with him and to let him know that his base was unhappy about immigration, mentioning Ann Coulter, who had been tweeting about this, for example. And suddenly you see this flurry of tweets from the president.

And it seems to me that it's really reflective of the fact that this is now Donald Trump's sort of version 2 taking over his own White House, bringing in people he feels comfortable with, who agree with him on everything, and listening to them. We know that the chief of staff, General Kelly, was not there with him this weekend and so you can just imagine the people who were talking in his ear, and that's what he was -- that's what he was tweeting out, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: It was -- it was their agenda.

BLITZER: Yes, DACA is dead, he tweeted, because the Democrats didn't care or act.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: No everyone wants to get in on the DACA bandwagon. He said Mexico's making a fortune on NAFTA. And he's going on and on and on.

Molly, I want you to listen to what he said about DACA, though, the dreamers, in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a very -- it's a very, very tough subject. We are 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now he's walking away from that. He's saying it's dead.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was already dead, to be clear. I mean I think that it -- only in Donald Trump's mind was there still a deal on the table and some kind of negotiation happening. In the Democrats' mind, he walked away from that some time ago.

But it's true that in the past he seemed motivated primarily by compassion for the dreamers. And he expressed that time and time again. Going back to his inauguration, when he told Dick Durbin that he cared about these kids. And now you don't see that in his rhetoric. He seems to have just decided that because this is a political matter that he's dissatisfied with, he is -- he is dropping it, and so -- and then going further and further on all of these border controversies, calling for new immigration legislation that I don't think even has support from his own party in Congress. And I think that, as Gloria was saying, you know, what John Kelly knows is, the person who controls the information feed to Donald Trump controls what's on his mind. And when he is getting all these voices in his ear that are concerned with this kind of thing, that's what he's going to be saying.

BLITZER: He's also going after the Department of Justice and the FBI, John. His latest tweet, quote, so sad that the Department of Justice -- and he puts Justice in quotes -- and the FBI are slow walking or even not giving the un-redacted documented requested by Congress. An embarrassment to our country.

Here he is accusing the Department of Justice and the FBI of being an embarrassment to the United States.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. The real embarrassment is this constant criticism of the Department of Justice and the FBI. Who, by the way, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, said publically, you know what, I know I'm not producing these documents fast enough and he doubled the number of people and resources applied to that task. And having worked at the State Department, when we were making all of the Hillary Clinton e- mails, going through all the FOIA process to make those public, I can assure you, this is a cumbersome, time-consuming, difficult bit of work to get through. And so they are making that effort.

[13:10:09] But it's shameful, absolutely shameful, that the president of the United States continues to attack men and women, thousands of them across this country, who have no other job and no other purpose than to protect and defend their fellow citizens.

BORGER: You know, it's -- I think it's very difficult, though -- and he's walking this fine line because he is attacking the FBI, but he will say he's attacking leadership but not the hard working men and women of the FBI. That's get -- that gets very difficult for him down the line. I think, you know, people in this country respect certain institutions. One of them is the Justice Department. The other one is the FBI. These are the institutions that balance out our government.

KIRBY: Right.

BORGER: And if he is continually attacking them -- and we know what that's all about, too. That's all about the Russia investigation. So --

BLITZER: And, Molly, the president named Christopher Wray, the FBI director.

BORGER: Yes. He's the director.

BLITZER: He nominated -- and he nominated Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general, the leader at the Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein to be the deputy attorney general. These are the president's appointments.

BALL: Well, in his view they were and then they didn't -- they turned against him because he views them -- BLITZER: Then he should fire them if he feels like that.

BALL: He views them as having betrayed him by not protecting him, because, in his view, the only purpose of all of these people is to serve as his personal lawyers --

BORGER: Right.

BALL: His personal enforcers. They're doing their job according to what they view as the letter of the law.

And, you know, I spent some time with Jeff Sessions for my profile in last week's issue of "Time" magazine and he views what he's doing as following the rules, behaving according to the letter of the law. And the president's threats are starting to sound a little bit empty because if he were to fire any of these people, it would be a huge outcry, I think you might even finally see the Republican Congress act to protect some of these institutions because they are so crucial to preserving the rule of law.

BLITZER: You did a very strong cover story in "Time" magazine --

BALL: Thank you.

BLITZER: I should point out.

But if the president has lost confidence in the leaders of the FBI, the leaders of the Justice Department, you know what, he's the president, he can fire them. He's not doing that.

(CROSS TALK)

BLITZER: He's just -- he's just insulting -- he's just insulting them.

BALL: Yes.

BORGER: But how can you support law enforcement, as he says, and then continually tweet against law enforcement. I mean at some point people are going to have to say, well, these are your people running the show here, so if you don't like the way law enforcement's being run, fire them.

KIRBY: Don't think for a minute that the attacks from our leadership aren't having a deleterious effect on the morale of the rank and file, too.

BORGER: Exactly.

KIRBY: Even though they may not be a target of these tweets, they're feeling that.

BLITZER: Very quickly. We now learned that in that recent phone conversation that President Trump had with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, they not only spoke about getting together soon, but the president raised the possibility of Putin coming to the White House for a formal meeting with the president. The Russians are confirming this. The U.S. side now confirming this.

This comes at a time when the U.S. just expelled 60 Russian diplomats.

KIRBY: Yes, this is not the time to do this. I mean business as usual with Russia is -- we're not ready for that. And this is a terrible time to -- to have a meeting with Putin anywhere, but certainly not at the White House. He doesn't deserve that. No after what he's done. He is becoming a pariah leader of a pariah state. He's becoming further isolated from the international community. It frustrates him. That's a good place for him to be right now based on his misbehavior, not time to come to the White House.

BORGER: But if you -- but if you can meet with Kim Jong-un, why can't you meet with Vladimir Putin if you're the president and you think that only I can fix this, that maybe there is a sense that he can be the good cop while everybody else is going to be the bad cop. I think that might be his thinking. I'm not sure.

KIRBY: It could be. But, I mean, there's a vast difference between Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin and the situation --

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: And I don't think the president's going to invite Kim Jong-un to the White House.

BORGER: I'm not defending it. I'm not defending it.

BALL: Yes. No, no, I --

BORGER: I'm just sort of trying to get into his mind.

KIRBY: I get that. And the Kim meeting's going to come after a series of pre-summit discussions.

BORGER: Maybe.

BLITZER: We'll see where that meeting, if that meeting takes place.

KIRBY: Even happens.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: I would be pretty surprised if Kim is invited to the White House.

BORGER: Yes.

BALL: But like the Kim meeting, there's nobody who wants this more than Vladimir Putin, right?

BORGER: Right.

BALL: I mean it's a huge political victory for him. And this is the tendency of this president to just sort of agree to things out of the blue. It creates these situations where, as candidate Donald Trump might have said, it looks like we're being taken advantage of.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens. If either of these meetings ever takes place in the near future.

Guys, thanks very much for that.

A stunning video of local news anchors here in the United States reading a script that echoes the president's so-called fake news attacks. Why tensions are rising against the conservative owner of those local TV stations.

Plus, it begins. China now retaliating against the president's trade moves, slapping the U.S. with $3 billion worth of tariffs on products. How this impacts Americans.

And, once again, the president going after one of America's biggest business. Why he says only fools believe the U.S. Post Office makes money with Amazon, as his tweet sends stocks way down today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:19:07] BLITZER: China firing back at the United States, making good on its trade threats. The country slapped tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. exports to China starting today. It's a direct response to President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs.

Right now, look at this, the Dow dropping as fears grow of a potential all-out trade war between the world's two largest economies. The Dow down 547 points right now.

So what does all this mean? Tax and economics reporter for "The New York Times," Jim Tankersley, is joining us to break it all down.

This is a serious international issue that's unfolding right now with enormous ramifications.

JIM TANKERSLEY, TAX AND ECONOMICS REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Absolutely. This is a huge amount of commerce potentially impacted. And we're staring kind of small, but this is where China said it was going to go and then it's quickly actually making it happen.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk a little bit about the specifics. Break it all down.

TANKERSLEY: Sure. First up there's -- the United States exports a lot to China, $505 billion in 2017, and so that puts a lot of U.S. products and services at risks to tariffs. Now, what the Chinese are talking about are two sets of tariffs, 15 percent tariffs on a bunch of things, including fruit and wine, and 25 percent tariffs, and the big one there is pork. That's going to really bite President Trump's supporters in the farm belt.

[13:20:21] BLITZER: And that's a big deal because if you take a look at how much U.S. exports for oranges, grapes, other products involved, that's a lot of money. TANKERSLEY: It's a lot of money. And farmers and farm state senators are upset about this. They've been worried about it. They hammered Trump administration officials last month in hearings about this. They didn't have a great answer for them about how they would make this better. And so this is a real concern in places like Iowa, in places like North Carolina, in places like Ohio, where they actually do have a lot of pork production.

BLITZER: These are states largely that -- where President Trump did well in, but a lot of the farmers, the agricultural products, others, they're going to be hurt as a result of these tariffs. The $3 billion that China announced today, that's only just the beginning if this continues.

TANKERSLEY: Right. When you talk to trade experts, one things they talk about constantly, and the people on Capitol Hill, is that China is very good at targeting pain when it comes to its own tariffs. And so we could see even more of this. Next could be big tech companies, other big things that the United States exports, like airplanes. We could really see a broadening impact if this escalates on both sides. And we are still waiting to see where the Trump administration is actually going to put its tariffs on Chinese products.

BLITZER: And these Chinese products, if there's huge tariffs coming into the United States, going to result in American consumers having to pay more when they go to Walmart or other stores to buy all these products.

Let's talk a little bit about the president's war with Amazon. Jeff Bazos, right now, he tweeted, only fools or worse are saying that our money losing post office makes money with Amazon. They lose a fortune. And this will be changed. Also, our fully taxpaying retailers are closing stores all over the country. Not a level playing field.

Let's talk a little bit about this tweet. Is it accurate?

TANKERSLEY: Well, first off, it really depends on the way that you view the relationship between the post office and Amazon. It's true that some reports have found that Amazon could pay more for what it gets from the postal service, but it's also true that the postal service says that it makes money on its contracts with Amazon. And so this is a level of presidential involvement in negotiations we've never seen before. He wants to renegotiate the postal service's contract with one company.

BLITZER: He -- and he also says that because Amazon is selling products online directly to customers is hurting a lot of retail operations. But a lot of people want to buy their products online. They don't necessarily want to go to a store.

TANKERSLEY: Right. I mean it's true, Amazon's put a lot of, first book stores and now retail establishments out of business. It's also true that that's something that is driven by consumer choice and that in the free market that we have right now, absolutely something where people are getting products for less money. And so these are the tradeoffs. You are losing some local jobs, whereas Amazon is creating jobs in different ways.

BLITZER: Good point.

Jim Tankersley, thanks very much for that analysis.

A conservative media giant ordering local news anchors to push its script that attack the news media. Now critics are calling it a chilling propaganda machine. Hard to believe this is happening.

Plus, was the Veterans Affairs chief fired or did he resign? The White House refutes that it was -- that it terminated David Shulkin. You're going to find out why the semantics really matter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:27:33] BLITZER: All right, this just coming into CNN. President Trump's personal lawyer has filed a notice of appeal in a defamation suit from former "Apprentice" star Summer Zervos against the president. This is the first step in the appeals process. Both sides agreed not to hear the appeal, though, until September. Zervos' former attorney, Gloria Allred, withdrew from the case last week. More on that story coming up.

President Trump jumped to the defense of Sinclair Broadcasting on Twitter this morning. So funny to watch the fake news networks, he writes, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticized Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more fake NBC, which is a total joke, closed quote.

The company is under fire, Sinclair, for a new promotional campaign that echoes the president's anti-news media rhetoric. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA HEADLEY, FOX SAN ANTONIO: Hi, I'm Fox San Antonio's Jessica Headley.

RYAN WOLF, FOX SAN ANTONIO: And I'm Ryan Wolf.

MULTIPLE VOICES: Our greatest responsibility is to serve our --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Treasure (ph) Valley (ph) communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The El Paso Los Cruz's (ph) communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eastern Iowa communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mid Michigan communities.

MULTIPLE VOICES: We are concerned about the (INAUDIBLE) be responsible one-sided news stories plaguing our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's discuss this with CNN politics reporter, editor at large, Chris Cillizza.

Hard to believe this is happening here in the United States. They own -- Sinclair owns about 170 local TV stations --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes.

BLITZER: And they're forcing their local anchors to all read the same script, echoing the president's hatred of what he calls the fake news media?

CILLIZZA: Right. And I would remind people -- I grew up in rural Connecticut. I would remind people how big a deal local television anchors are in most part -- places in the country, particularly outside of large, urban areas, Washington and New York. These are people that come into your home. They're trusted every night. I mean my parents watch the local news every night. I still remember the people who were my local TV anchor. So this is a big deal.

And I think it -- take President Trump out of it for a second. A large-scale media company, as you pointed out, Wolf, 170-plus stations demanding that anchors across all of those stations read a pre- prepared document, statement. Whatever that statement is should be a little bit concerning, particularly when it echoes what we know is one of Donald Trump's hobby horses, which is the news is fake and people -- there's too much falsity out there.

[13:30:05] What's false? What's fake? Absolutely something local and national television should cover.