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Trumps Wants to Deploy U.S. Troops to Southern Border; Mexico Has State Department for Clarification on U.S. Troops to Border; Trump Says He's Toughest on Russian; Dutch Lawyer Sentenced in Mueller Probe Rosenstein: OK for Mueller to Investigate Manafort; Trump Weighs in on Embattled EPA Chief; Trump Attacks Amazon Again, Affecting Stocks. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 3, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more coming up.

We've been told also the Mexican government asked the State Department for clarification on what the president means when he says that he will deploy U.S. military troops to the border with Mexico. A lot more on that coming up.

And much more on the other breaking news we're following, including the president of the United States suggesting that the U.S. military could be heading to that border. Did he catch the Pentagon off guard? We'll go to the Pentagon for a live report.

Plus, a judge handing down the very first sentence in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. This, as we learn that the Justice Department here in Washington told Robert Mueller to investigate the president's campaign chairman for possible collusion with the Russians. What does all this mean?

Our special coverage continues right after this.


[14:35:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We'll take it from here.

Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Moments ago, you heard the president of the United States making multiple headlines during the news conference with leaders of the Baltic States. Among them, the president declared nobody has been tougher on Russia than he has, on the day of the first sentencing in the whole Russia probe.

What is more, the president dropped this border bombshell, until the wall is ready, the plan is to use U.S. military troops.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, the border, the Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws. We have horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States. And we're going to be able to do something about that hopefully soon. Hopefully, Congress will get their act together and get in and create some very powerful laws, like Mexico has and like Canada has and like almost all countries have. We don't have laws. We have catch and release. You catch and then you immediately release, and people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back. So what we are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with General Mattis and everybody. And I think that it is something we have to do.


BALDWIN: Let's start there. CNN Espanol anchor and correspondent, Maria Santana is with me. And Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is with me as well.

Barbara, I want to begin with you.

Before we get into the Posse Comitatus Act and congressional approval, and we know Mexico just asked for clarification on what all of this means. Was the Pentagon aware -- you've been talking to the Pentagon. Did they know he felt this way or was going to say this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I don't know that they knew he was going to say it today in such strong terms, but it has been no secret that the president has talked in the past about the possibility, tweeted I think using military force in regard to the immigration issue.

But let's get right into it here. When the president says he wants to use the military to secure the border and that we don't have laws, perhaps one of the most crucial laws in the United States is that the U.S. military does not simply take to the streets. This is not a country where U.S. military force is used on the streets of this country. So the president will indeed face significant legal hurdles if he wants to proceed on doing that.

Now, we're talking about active duty troops, something like the 82nd Airborne Division. They don't just take to the streets. Things have to be properly done according to law. Could he use the National Guard? He has two options there. He could federalize the National Guard, but he can't just march into these states. Governors have to agree. The governors could activate the National Guard. We saw it in 2006 with President George W. Bush and President Obama in 2010. They had National Guard troops go to the border. But they worked mainly to support border security, Border Protection officers. They can help train, advise, assist, gather intelligence, do reconnaissance. But the line stops at arresting people, getting into direct deterrence activity and engaging in in law enforcement and the use of lethal force. There would be some very significant legal hurdles to overcome. You have to address all of that if you really want to do this Brooke?

BALDWIN: OK. So that is the military piece. The piece on the caravan, which is what the president has been

tweeting about, and now he spoke about it. It's this group of about 1,000 might have immigrants making its way from Central American through Mexico planning to seek asylum here in the U.S.

This is what Trump just said.


TRUMP: The caravan, which is over 1,000 people coming in from Honduras, thought they would walk right through Mexico and right through the border. As you know, NAFTA is a phenomenal deal for Mexico. It's been a horrible deal for the United States. We're renegotiating it now. But it has been a horrible, horrible embarrassing deal for the United States. This should have been terminated or negotiated many years ago. Mexico, we have a trade deficit with Mexico of over $100 billion a year. And I told Mexico yesterday that, because of the fact that their laws are so strong, they can do things about it that, hard to believe, the United States can't. I said, I hope you're going to tell that caravan not to get up to the border. And I think that they are doing that because, as of 12 minutes ago, it was all being broken up. We'll see what happens.


BALDWIN: So, Maria, he says, 12 minutes ago, it was all being broken up. Is that accurate?

[14:39:55] MARIA SANTANA, CNN ESPANOL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: No, not in the way the president is saying. So one of the organizers of the car caravan, World Without Borders, told CNN Espanol that members of the group had not been detained by the Mexican authorities. There is a group of about 400 people that have tried to join the caravan after it already got started and these people have been deported as of now. But the thousand or so people who originally joined the march, they are still on their way to the United States.

And now, is Mexico doing something? Yes, they are. This is what Mexico is doing and what they won't do. They have already deported people who they feel have no legitimate claim to be there. But they are also offering asylum and humanitarian visas to people with credible claims, including pregnant women, the disabled, and children who are part of this group hoping to reduce the number that actually makes to the United States.

What they won't do, according to the Mexican government, is deny their right to do this, the right of people, their dignity and humanity to seek asylum. A lot of these people are running away from poverty, from violence in their own country. They try to draw attention to this. And this is not new. This has been going on since 2010. So they will give people due process.


SANTANA: They won't do that. They won't detain or deport them while they are in the process of seeking asylum. BALDWIN: And again, the Mexican government is formally asking the

State Department and Homeland for clarification on with regard to the president saying military members will go to the border. They want to know what exactly he means by that.

Maria, thank you so much.

Barbara, thank you.

More breaking news, President Trump was asked, point blank, is Russia President Vladimir Putin, friend or foe. Trump declaring nobody has been tougher on Russia than him.

All of this as the first person is formally sentenced in Robert Mueller's Russian probe. The price for lying to investigators, next.



[14:46:00] TRUMP: Ideally, we want to get along with Russia.

Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Now, maybe we will and maybe we won't. And probably nobody has been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump.

Getting along with Russia would be a good thing, not a bad thing. And just about everybody agrees to that, except very stupid people.


BALDWIN: So as the president claims, nobody has been tougher on Russia than he has.

And we're getting news that the first prison sentence has been handed down into the FBI inquiry into possible collusion between Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia. This Dutch lawyer, the son of this Russian oligarch, ties to the Trump campaign officials, both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, getting 30 days behind bars and a $20,000 fine for lying to officials in Mueller's investigation. And the warning from the special counsel team that this should serve as an example for what happens when you lie to investigators.

All of this coming today as we get the bombshell from the special counsel himself, this memo -- this is back last August -- but attached to a brand-new court filing, it shows Mueller was explicitly authorized despite all this redacting here to investigate whether Paul Manafort colluded with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election. The green light coming directly from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

So with me now, former federal prosecutor, Lis Wiehl, also an anchor at

Nice to see you.


BALDWIN: Getting right into it, why is it significant that we're getting the information out of the court docs or the attachment and not from sourcing?

WIEHL: OK, right. Not from sourcing, because of the special counsel has to file this memo and the attachments can be filed with the memo because they have to file in response in a defense to Manafort, right? Manafort is sort of making the counsel file this in defense. So it is actually better as a P.R. sort of scheme here, not even a scheme, but better as a move because the special counsel is in a position of having to defend themselves. What better defense than to say, hey, we have the authorization. Hey, Manafort, you're saying we are not even allowed to be here in this game. And even if we are allowed to be here, we don't have the jurisdiction. We have absolute jurisdiction from the biggest boss and we had it back in August. Hey, we had it back in May even.

BALDWIN: This is coming from the deputy attorney general who was over the investigation because Sessions recused himself. And this is someone who the president has criticized, several have criticized. The fact that this is coming from him, no need for sourcing. Why is that a big deal?


WIEHL: Because special counsel does not have just authorization from going out and saying, I want authorization. The special counsel has to get authorization from the attorney general. That is where they got authorization.


WIEHL: Go back to Kenneth Starr, for example, independent counsel during the Clinton investigation. Kenneth Starr got investigation for Whitewater and other things like that. And then he was going along that path, really getting not very far until Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky was dumped on his lap. And then he had to go back to the attorney general and say whoa, wait a second, I have this woman telling me all these crazy stories about an intern in the White House, let me have investigative authority to go further and get that. He had to get special authority to investigate Monica Lewinsky/Linda Tripp. He had to get the authority to do that.

BALDWIN: And how about the news on the sentence. This Dutch national, son of a Russian oligarch, the first person sentenced in this whole Russian probe in federal government in Washington today, having pleaded guilty to lying --

WIEHL: For lying.

BALDWIN: -- to two federal agents about his work in Ukraine with Manafort and Gates.


BALDWIN: Is this Mueller saying, do you see what happens?

WIEHL: Yes, when you lie. Lying is -- coverup is always worse than the crime. We got only -- only -- I mean, 30 days and he is a lawyer. 30 days for a lawyer -- 30 days for anybody, but 30 days for a lawyer. He did come back from the Netherlands to face it. And he did say he was wrong and that he was sorry and all that, so he got 30 days.

Interestingly, I wonder if whether now there might be some talking, some cooperating. He hasn't thus far. Now that this man who is coming back from the Netherlands, pleading guilty -- looking at spending this time behind bars --


[14:50:26] BALDWIN: If he's cooperating.

WIEHL: -- in a hotel. He said he was really bored. Now he's not looking to be so bored, but spending behind bars whether he might cooperate.

BALDWIN: Lis, thank you.

WIEHL: You got it.

BALDWIN: Ms. Wiehl, appreciate it.

Moments ago, President Trump weighing in on another embattled member of his cabinet. EPA Chief Scott Pruitt now facing serious ethics questions. What we're learning about President Trump's frustrations, how he really feels about it, and the phone call the president made to Pruitt just last night.



[14:55:21] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Scott Pruitt, sir? Do you support Secretary --

TRUMP: I hope he's going to be great.


BALDWIN: President Trump stopping short of throwing his full support behind embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt is under scrutiny by the president's aides for renting a condo at a significantly lower rate from a family linked to a powerful lobbying firm. The same family who Donated to his 2014 campaign for Oklahoma attorney general. And "The New York Times" reports that that same lobbying firm got a pipeline expansion project approved as Pruitt stayed in the condo for just 50 bucks a night.

Under that cloud of controversy, CNN has learned Trump called Pruitt last night to tell him, quote, "We've got your back."

Don Fox is with me. He is the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Nice to see you, sir.

Just on that reporting from us, in "The New York Times," does that raise, you know, ethical flags, ethic violations to you, sir?

DON FOX, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR & GENERAL COUNSEL, U.S. OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Brooke, it raises all kinds of ethical flags. This is not Scott Pruitt going into the local Holiday Inn Express and asking for the government discount, which, in fact, he could accept because it's a discount available to all federal employees. This is a special deal for Scott Pruitt from someone who actually has business before his agency, and by any number of standards, it violates the standards of account that are applicable to all federal employees, including members of the president's cabinet.

BALDWIN: There was a piece in the "Atlantic" that reported that he defied the White House by giving two staffers he brought to Washington from Oklahoma, two raises. He wanted to give them the raises, went through the proper channels initially, was denied. He went through this provision, this Safe Drinking Water Act, where I guess he didn't meet congressional or White House approval to get them the money. Under normal circumstances, Don, what are the consequences of doing something like that?

FOX: Well, it certainly is riding roughshod over the personnel authorities and laws that are available to the EPA. A number of authorities have the authority to bring in highly qualified experts, such as for the provision, Safe Drinking Water Act. Those experts are people who their government needs for relatively short periods of time to do highly specialized work. Frankly, you may have to pay them more because they are in such demand. Those kinds of statues were never intended to supplement salaries of people you expect to have on the payroll at your agency for any period of time.

BALDWIN: Lastly, we talked about the economics of the president president going after Amazon on Twitter, and what that's done to their stock and the markets overall. There's the politics of it. But also, Don, what are the ethics of the sitting president of the United States attacking a successful American company?

FOX: Well, in my experience -- and I served under both Obama and the Bush administrations. The idea of any senior government official, let alone the president of the United States, attacking a private company in this country who, apparently, is not doing anything wrong or illegal, but simply attacking them because he doesn't like them or their owner, is just unprecedented.

BALDWIN: You worked under Obama and Bush 43. I don't know if you saw it. One of the president's tweets today, he has now given -- we know he mentions Obama a lot. He gave him a nickname on Twitter. Don, have you seen this? He calls him "Cheatin' Obama." Care to comment?


FOX: No, I did not see that. And anybody who worked in that administration or with the folks in the White House, particularly that counsel's office, nothing could be further from the truth.

BALDWIN: Don Fox, thank you.

FOX: You're welcome.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We continue on. Top of the hour. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Moments ago, President Trump made headlines on several fronts during the news conference with three foreign leaders. He hit on Russia and he hit on Syria.

But it's the U.S./Mexico border I want to start with. President Trump says he plans to send troops to protect the border until the wall is ready.


TRUMP: First of all, the border, the Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws. We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States. We're going to be able to do something about that, hopefully, soon. Hopefully, Congress will get their act together and get in and create some very powerful laws, like Mexico has and like Canada has and like all --