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Trump Shifts Back to Hard-Line Immigration Stance. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired April 3, 2018 - 07:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems.


[07:00:09] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: President Trump renewing his attacks on Amazon, sending the company's stock downward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in never, never land right now with this president, not knowing from day to day just exactly what he's going to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scott Pruitt has made headlines that have been unflattering for the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in a place where he agrees with Trump and the conservatives' policy view.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This president does not like this kind of waste. Pruitt is definitely on the list.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off. Jim Sciutto and John Avlon joining me. Great to have both of you here. We have a lot of news this morning.

A newly-classified -- declassified memo has been released and provides new details on the scope of Robert Mueller's investigative mandate. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explicitly authorized Mueller to investigate whether Paul Manafort colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election and to probe any crimes related to payments that Manafort received from the Ukrainian government.

SCIUTTO: Meanwhile, President Trump's focus continues to be on curtailing illegal immigration. The president tweeting once again about caravans, he says, of immigrants taking advantage of what he calls our nation's weak border laws. It comes as the White House is making a new legislative push aimed at strengthening border security. Let's begin our coverage this morning with Shimon's Prokupecz live in

Washington with our top story, the Mueller investigation, a lot of folks who have been predicting its end, but I mean, he's still working at it.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and certainly this memo was just filed in court, which lays out the scope of the special counsel investigation shows that it's not coming to an end any time soon.

Now the memo was written as authorization, which was given by the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia probe, and as we know at times has been himself criticized by the president. This memo, it was written in August three months after Bob Mueller was appointed to run the investigation.

And in a significant move, the special counsel made parts of this memo public, and here is some of what it reveals. Certainly, some of the allegations that Mueller is investigating against Manafort. And one of those is allegations that he committed a crime or crimes by colluding with the Russians.

And then the second one is that it also says that Mueller is authorized to investigate Manafort for money he received while working for the pro-Russian head of the Ukrainian government. And as we know, Manafort was charged with some of that money, money laundering that he made from that work. His attorneys have been arguing that Mueller overstepped his jurisdiction by bringing those charges, because essentially, it has nothing to do with the Russia investigation.

Now this three-page memo is also notable for what we don't see. And that is parts of it, actually most of it, is blacked out. And it appears to indicate other allegations and people that Mueller -- that the Mueller team is investigating. The memo's existence has been classified up until now, and it was released as part of Mueller's response to Manafort's motion to dismiss one of the indictments against him.

And guys, certainly, this memo shows that any notion that the collusion investigation is over and that Manafort isn't potentially facing Russia-related charges, Alisyn, is clearly not true.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you, Shimon, for all of that reporting. Let's talk about what the president appears to be focused on this morning. He has tweeted now ten times about illegal immigration in just the past 48 hours as the White House makes a new legislative push on immigration.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House with more. So what's changed, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, Alisyn.

President Trump is clearly pivoting hard to his base with these tweets, implying a new hardline immigration stance. He tweeted just this morning more about this issue of caravans supposedly coming up from Central America into the United States, he said. "The big caravan of people from Honduras now coming across Mexico and headed to our weak laws border has better be stopped before it gets here. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allowed this to happen. Congress must act now."

So the president there threatening foreign aid to Mexico and Honduras, also threatening NAFTA just at the same time that the White House is planning a new push to encourage Congress to pass new hardline immigration laws.


PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump continuing to vent about U.S. immigration policies, calling current laws weak and an Obama joke and urging Congress to act. The White House beginning another push to pass a series of hardline measures that failed to gain steam last fall, including removing protections that prevent the immediate deportation of undocumented children and allowing authorities to keep families in detention for longer periods awaiting deportation decisions, according to "The New York Times."

This effort coming after the president declared that any deal to protect DREAMers is dead.

[07:05:08] TRUMP: 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.


PHILLIP: President Trump announced he intended to end the DREAMer program last fall. And immigration negotiations collapsed earlier this year after the president signaled he was open to a bipartisan solution.

TRUMP: This group and others from the Senate, from the House comes back with an agreement, I'm signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I'm not going to say, "Oh, gee, I want this" or "I want that."

PHILLIP: Democrats offered $25 billion for the president's border wall in exchange for citizenship for DREAMers. The White House was not satisfied, saying there were too few measures to curb immigration overall. Sources tell CNN that a number of the president's allies warned him this weekend that his base thinks he's softening on immigration.

The president is also ramping up his attacks on Amazon, accusing the company of hurting the U.S. postal service and brick-and-mortar stores, arguments he made on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems.

PHILLIP: The latest criticism causing Amazon stock to drop 5 percent. President Trump also renewing his rebuke on his own Justice Department, accusing the DOJ and the FBI of slow walking documents requested by Congress for ongoing investigations, calling the institutions an embarrassment.

This as sources tell CNN that embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt's job may be in jeopardy. The president is reportedly angry with recent reports that Pruitt rented a room for well under market value from the family of an energy lobbyist.

"The New York Times" reports that the EPA signed off on a proposal from a Canadian company linked to the lobbying firm last month, the same time Pruitt was renting the condo. The EPA and the firm deny that there is any connection.


PHILLIP: Well, a spokeswoman for the EPA is now saying that Scott Pruitt is focused on advancing President Trump's agenda amid all of this controversy over his use of taxpayer dollars. And we will see President Trump today in a press conference that he will host with the leaders of the Baltic states this afternoon.

Back to you guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby, thank you very much for all of the reporting. So joining us now, we have reporter and editor at large, CNN Politics Chris Cillizza and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. He worked as Robert Mueller's special assistant at the Department of Justice.

Let's begin with immigration, because Chris Cillizza, that seems to be very much on the president's mind in the past 48 hours, probably not coincidentally this weekend. Ann Coulter was interviewed in "The New York Times" about how disappointed she is in his not building a wall, how disappointed she thinks the base is and what they think was his sort of quintessential campaign promise, and he hasn't kept it. They don't like that he signed the omnibus spending bill without the money for the wall, and so he seems to have churned up the Twitter machine now into overdrive with harsher rhetoric than he has used for the past months about DREAMers and DACA.

So, look, I mean, we've often talked about what should we pay attention to the tweets or policy. Where do you think these two intersect?

CILLIZZA: I mean, I've always been on the pay attention to the tweets, because it's what he really thinks. It's what he really cares about. Now that changes quite frequently, as his Twitter feed reflects. I do think it is a window into his mind. I think this is largely, Alisyn, as you lay out a reaction to what he heard over the Easter weekend.

Remember who he was talking to. Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Bill Shine, a former FOX News executive. So there's a -- there's a lot of people in his ear who are reflective of that Trump base. I don't want to necessarily conflate it with the Republicans but the Trump base.

And the Trump base believes wholeheartedly that when he said he was going to build the wall. It was not symbolic. It was not sort of a campaign promise that politicians make, that it was the core central, most important thing he can do. And if he does not do it, it is an actual betrayal, maybe the one thing that actually leads some of them to jump off the Trump bandwagon.

SCIUTTO: Here's a question, Chris Cillizza, because he needs Congress to make that happen. Listen, he's creating a stir. There's no question. He's great at driving at what people are talking about, but is he going to get Congress, the Republican leadership in Congress to move on this?

CILLIZZA: Well, like we see so much, Jim, with Trump, the rhetoric is at 10. The policy solutions are at 1. So while we're going to close these loopholes? OK, well, what specifically, is it related to the caravan, people seeking political asylum? What's it going to be?

[07:10:04] That will determine, I think, what Congress is willing to do. I will say, I mean, remember, Republicans control the House and the Senate. I don't think it's out of the question that we could see some level of reaction by Mitch McConnell in the Senate and by Paul Ryan in the House to this to try to get something done, but when you say Congress, you have to say what they would act on, and that will determine what will happen.

AVLON: Well, and look, the president's tweeting that DACA is dead. That would mean the bill of love is dead. But we had the broad outlines of a grand bargain offered up. Republican -- Democrats offering $25 billion for border security.

You know, the question, I think, is can that be built on by people in both parties who want to see a win? And the president then comes out looking like a hero. Or is it just prosecuting a negative?

But part of this hardline tact that's coming right now, Michael Zeldin, is from Trump's own Justice Department in the last few hours late yesterday, saying that there is a -- Michael, there's a new policy in place they want to impose a quota of 700 cases for deportations per year. Do you think that is going to fly?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's not clear exactly how they intend to implement it. I think these judges get reappointed every period of time, and this may be part of their evaluation criteria for reappointment.

If however, it's an effort by the executive branch to impose on, I guess, these are judicial branch people, even though they're executive appointees, there's a separation of powers implication to what this is doing.

So we have to see exactly what this means. There's nothing good about it on first, you know, evaluation of it, but it's a little bit too soon, Jim, to understand exactly how they intend to implement this.

CAMEROTA: So Chris Cillizza, help us fact check the big caravans of people coming, heading to the U.S. border that the president has tweeted about many times. So there is this group, People without Borders, they have done this in the past. They say that they are fleeing violence and persecution in generally Honduras and Central America.

The president acts as though they're a marauding band that is about to overtake our border. So, how is this going to work?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. OK. So first, the fact-checking piece. You're right absolutely, Alisyn, it's not the first time it's happened. It's happened five previous times, organized by this People without Borders group.

In 2017, there were two caravans about 200 people. Three people out of that were granted political asylum. The others remain in sort of legal limbo. You're talking about over 1,000 people. It's the largest caravan yet. So those things are true, broadly speaking.

The issue is the way in which Donald Trump has seized on it. So remember yesterday the -- that they're going to take our country over. It's the whole "they" versus "us" thing. They are challenging what it means to be an American. They don't share our values.

CAMEROTA: And they're taking advantage of DACA, which is patently false.

CILLIZZA: I mean, that's right. That is something that is just simply -- that's apples and oranges. It's in the same universe. It's not on the same planet.

But the point here is that this is a political conflation -- I'm often in the Donald Trump doesn't -- the strategy is that there's no strategy. I actually think he knows what he's doing to an extent here, which is the "us" versus "them." The -- they're going to take what is yours away. They are a marauding horde en route to the United States. That is a powerful symbol and image. It's not entirely accurate. It's not mostly accurate, but it can be used and weaponized politically. That's what he's doing.

SCIUTTO: So Michael Zeldin, briefly to the Mueller news here, it seems like the headline is that you've heard from Trump. You've heard from his supporters that Manafort's charges, they're all about his business dealings long before he joined the campaign. But in fact, we're learning now, based on these court documents, that Mueller believes he has the OK and that the deputy attorney general gave him the OK to look at collusion involving Manafort.

ZELDIN: Exactly right. What we learned in the new filing, the August 2 filing, is that Rosenstein elaborated to Mueller upon his mandate; and that mandate as it relates to Manafort includes two things. One is allegations with respect to collusion and second with respect to financial dealings with Ukraine, perhaps independent of the collusion or perhaps as a predicate to understand how a collusive relationship may have been formed.

So both of those things are very significant in terms of our understanding what Bob Mueller is looking at, which is collusion and financial crimes, because why the financial crimes is important because, if it relates to Manafort that way, it may also portend how Mueller is looking at it in relationship to the president.

So this is a significant day in terms of the revelation of what Mueller's thought process is and what his mandate is, as elaborated upon by Rosenstein.

[07:15:23] CAMEROTA: There you go. That is great context for all of us to have.

Michael Zeldin, thank you.

Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

OK. The White House sending mixed messages on Syria. Should the U.S. keep troops there or not? We ask former Navy SEAL, Congressman Scott Taylor next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump taking to Twitter to stoke fears about the nation's immigration policies and insinuate that caravans of immigrants are trying to overtake the U.S. border. What's fueling the president's change on this topic?

Let's talk about this and more with Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. Great to have you here in studio with us.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me.

[07:20:02] CAMEROTA: Do you understand today where the president is in terms of DACA and the DREAMers?

TAYLOR: Well, I still believe that there is a deal to be had that has more border security and has more distance for future illegal immigration and has a fix for DACA. I know that the president just said something, but I don't think that's a hard and fast, you know, position what the president just said.

CAMEROTA: And so, I mean, meaning the deal that Democrats say they offered up, which was -- we can put it up -- $25 billion to help build that border wall that the president wanted to secure a pathway in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 DACA recipients, DREAMers, no legal status for the parents of DACA recipients and no changes to the family-based visas. He rejected that.

And so do you have a sense of what changes he would want, you know, other than these?

TAYLOR: I don't on that specific deal. I imagine -- I think that was with the Senate. I will tell you that in the House where I am, that's not what I was hearing from my counterparts, my colleagues on the Democrat side. They were, you know, clean DREAM Act. Clean DREAM Act. That's what they were -- there are several folks, however, in the House that do want a bipartisan deal from both sides that they were trying to work something, but it never really gained traction.

So I'm not sure exactly what the president wants, but I do believe that there is a pathway there there that gets enough votes on both sides.

SCIUTTO: Where are Republican voters on this issue? I mean, voters in your district, are they pushing you for a solution to protect the DREAMers? Or is it not a priority for them?

TAYLOR: I don't believe it's a priority. I think that, in general, I think folks want to do something about this population, but I will tell you that probably the majority of my voters also want more border security, also want disincentives for future illegal immigration so as not to have the same issue again in a few years.

But I don't think it's a top priority, but I think that, in general, I think people do want a solution for this population.

AVLON: What Alisyn just laid out, the outlines of that Senate bill, right, some more money for border security, 25 billion, end of chain migration, which I know you oppose. But a path for DREAMers but not their parents. Does that fit the broad outlines of what you see as a bipartisan bill that you could support in the House?

TAYLOR: I believe so. I mean, devil is in the details, obviously, but I think so. I mean, I know that -- that Senator Durbin was saying that they're -- they put these options there, and the president rejected it.

He was also -- there was also. You know, he was leaking basically -- not leaking, but he came out and said that the president said, you know, mean things and stuff like that.

I think that there was some on both sides. There was some tension there that basically resulted in a deal not happening, which troubles me. I think that we should have a deal. I think that we should come to a solution that again has border security, has future disincentives but also deals with that population. I mean, there are people who are really worried out there, right? Very anxious whether they're in that population, their families, their friends, their employers.

I think it's important that we come to a solution. And I do believe there is a path to make it happen.

CAMEROTA: The president has tweeted about this ten times in the past 48 hours. He seems to be using different rhetoric than he had in the past. It seems to be harsher, frankly, towards immigrants, certainly not the deal of love that he had been talking about for DREAMers. What do you think is motivating that?

TAYLOR: That's a good question. I mean, I'm not really sure, to be honest with you. I know, you know, that there's images, of course, on TV of the caravan that you're seeing there. And that's powerful on either side, right, whatever side that you fall on the debate. I'm not really sure why he's doing that.

But again, I believe there is a path forward, a deal to be made, a bipartisan one. It has to be a bipartisan one, and I think that there is. CAMEROTA: And just the last on this point, do you think that it's

helpful when the president dreams up the language like this, brings people to the table and gets the deal going, or do you think that it alienates people?

TAYLOR: I think it could go both ways, which, you know, you can't predict which way it will go. But I mean, he's had success in getting people to the table by having this kind of language, and he's had failures, as well. So it could go either way.

SCIUTTO: Looking ahead, is the Republican leadership working on a proposal that they think that the president is willing to sign here?

TAYLOR: I can tell you in the House that the Republican leadership from -- I will tell you that, you know, there's been a lot of rumors there, too, about the leadership and the speaker. They're all committed to keeping the majority.

And I will say that they have been -- there's a good bill that we're working on in the House that isn't in the posture that it needs to be to get enough votes. But they're having listening sessions, and bringing people in from all sides of the debate to try to figure out a way to get a bill passed through the House.

SCIUTTO: So Syria, the president surprised a number of folks with his comment that seemed to even surprise some of his close advisers saying that the U.S. is going to withdraw from Syria. In light of the fact here is a president who criticized President Obama for leaving Iraq too early and sort of laying the groundwork for ISIS running rampant there. Why withdraw from Syria and, in your view, is it premature?

TAYLOR: So I think there were a couple of things here. No. 1, the president's got, of course, as I think actually right in some ways. You know, to not have this huge footprint around the world.

We talked about that AMF just before the segment, which the third president working off a 16-year-old AMF, I've got a problem with that. However, what I will tell you, and we talked about it, as well, I'm sure that the Pentagon gave the president several different options, one keeping -- having more people there, pulling them back.

[07:25:07] I will tell you I was in Iraq for Christmas, and you can -- if you need to do something in Syria, you can do it from Iraq, as well.

AVLON: But just as a former Navy SEAL, we've got around 2,000 troops there, if the president pulls out, the United States pull out, does that benefit Russia and Iran?

TAYLOR: Well, let's face it, you know, international relations is like a chess game, right? Every single move the whole battlefield changes. Everything changes. Exponentially sometimes.

I think we made a mistake years ago when we did disengage and pull out, which Russia filled that vacuum. They're there now. Assad has the upper hand in his country right now. I mean, that's just the fact. So -- and we're all playing in the same sand box militarily. So that's dangerous, you know, in terms of having a flash point.

You know, I think that it's important to understand what the strategy is, what we're doing there, what we need -- you know, when you look at Iran and you look at that land bridge from Tehran, you know, right into Syria. That, of course, makes our allies nervous and Israel and our Sunni allies, as well.

So we need to be able to make sure that we're engaged that we can deal with that issue if it does come up in the way that fits American grand strategy and best benefits us and our allies. And I think you do that. You can do that. I don't think -- I think you can do that from Iraq.

SCIUTTO: But just to be clear, that would mean that Russia and Iran would have a stronger hand in the region. That would be the geopolitical implication?

TAYLOR: That's the worry, right. The worry, geopolitically, is Iran, which I'm telling you they already do.

SCIUTTO: They're there.

TAYLOR: Because of mistakes I believe we made years ago under the last administration.

SCIUTTO: Very quickly, Senator Lindsey Graham says it would be the worst, single worst decision the president could make, pulling troops out. Now do you agree or disagree?

TAYLOR: I don't think it's the single worst decision that he could make. So, you know, with all due respect to the senator, I don't think it's the single worst one. I think that there are options and I think that they've been presented to the president. If they haven't, they certainly will moving forward.

So I do think we have to be engaged in that region. I do think we have to have a pulse in what's going on in Syria. I think we have to have a seat at the table, but the reality is now that the Russia and Iran do have a seat at the table. And that's because of past decisions.

SCIUTTO: Big military bases there, as well. Congressman Scott Taylor, thanks very much for taking the time with us.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

SCIUTTO: Teachers in several states are walking out of their classrooms. What exactly are they fighting for? We're going to discuss that right after this.