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Interview with Rep. Francis Rooney; Trumps Wants to Deploy U.S. Troops to Southern Border; Rosenstein: OK for Mueller to Investigate Manafort; Trump Says He's Tough on Russia; Joint News Conference with Trump, Presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Answering Reporters' Questions. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 3, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Do you think it would be necessary to get legislation through Congress to authorize the deployment of large numbers of U.S. military personnel to the border if that's what he wants to do?

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY, (R), FLORIDA: I don't think that Robert Kennedy had to get congressional approval back in Little Rock and Mississippi back in 1961. Sounds like he could probably do it if he wants to do it. But a better question is, is it a good idea to escalate the tension unnecessarily?

BLITZER: You don't think it's a good idea right now, right?

ROONEY: I would rather it be handled in a civil context rather than a military one.

BLITZER: I think a lot of people would agree with you.

We just learned in this memo that has been released that, last August, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the United States, the person in charge of the Mueller investigation, said it's OK for Mueller to look into Paul Manafort, who had been the Trump campaign chairman, and to investigate collusion allegations against Manafort, that he colluded with the Russians in various ways. What does it say to you, the release of this memo now?

ROONEY: I think, first of all, Manafort asked for it by challenging the authority of the prosecutor with a motion to dismiss, so Rosenstein just basically reaffirmed that he was giving him the authority to investigate someone that had worked for a Russia-friendly government, took money from them, in the context of an investigation about Russian collusion. It all seems to kind of line up to me.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing -- as you know, the attorney general, Jeff Session, recused himself. Do you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein?

ROONEY: I don't know much about Rosenstein, but I know Director Mueller's reputation is far reaching, far standing and very good.

BLITZER: So you have confidence in what he is doing is the right thing? ROONEY: I do. He hasn't come up with much yet. We've talked about that before. He hasn't come up with any collusion or evidence or successful altering of the election, but let's find out.

BLITZER: Let's also talk about the president's attacks on Amazon, Jeff Bezos, in recent days. Let me play a clip of what the president just said when he was answering the reporters' questions at the White House.

Congressman, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TURMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- the post office, and the post office is losing billions of dollars and the taxpayers are paying for that money because it delivers packages for Amazon at a very below cost. And that's not fair to the United States. It's not fair to our taxpayers. And Amazon has the money to pay the fair rate at the post office, which would be much more than they're paying right now. The other thing is a lot of retail businesses all over the country are going out of business, so that's a different problem, and that's a big problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think, Congressman, about the president singling out Amazon for these kinds of attacks?

ROONEY: Well, when I first got there last January, I went to see the Judiciary Committee staff and the chairman and asked them why we don't pursue a Sherman Act market share case against Amazon and maybe even Google and Facebook, because they have the kind of market shares that tend to be a prima facie case of abusive market power. They told me they had all kinds of reasons why they didn't want to do it right now. But now that Amazon has bought Whole Foods and a few other things, it might be better to go after them under the Robinson-Patman Act for vertical integration dominance.

BLITZER: Explain that, because a lot of people think Republicans generally in favor of a free-market, a capitalist market. They want to see these companies go forward and make a lot of money.

ROONEY: Remember, it was Republicans that started the antitrust movement. When I was in law school, we had Bob Pataki (ph) and a lot of Republican leaders in the FTC that were prosecuting cases of abuse of market share. The idea of competition and free enterprise is embedded in our psyche, but it has to be fair. When someone can have excessive market share, either vertically, like Robinson-Patman, or horizontally across a defined market, like a Sherman Act case, and I think the government has a need to step in.

BLITZER: But do you think it's appropriate for the president of the United States to be singling out one company like this. Some question whether it's unethical.

Look at how Amazon stock has been tanking these last few days since the president went on a warpath. Take a look at how technology stocks have been going down over the past several days. Is it wise for the president to be doing this?

ROONEY: Amazon may be the Standard Oil of our day, I don't know. There are other companies that have been bought out, too. We've seen a massive increase in concentration of banks, a lot of other companies, as well as Amazon, and maybe all those should be looked at. But Amazon is kind of the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to market dominance.

BLITZER: So you don't have a problem with the president going after Amazon by name, almost on a daily basis?

ROONEY: I think the personality and related aspects of what you're saying are not good, but I think the antitrust enforcement is.

[13:35:00] BLITZER: Antitrust enforcement is very important and has been for a long time.

Congressman Rooney, thanks for joining us.

ROONEY: Thanks for having me on.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman Rooney, of Florida.

Moments from now, once again, the president will face reporter. He'll take questions. We'll have live coverage when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures coming in from the East Room over the White House. It looks like the foreign ministers, other top aides for the three countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia prime ministers -- presidents, I should say. They are entering the room right now. The front row is filling up. Momentarily, we'll be seeing the president of the United States, the Lithuanian president, the Latvian president and the Estonian president. They'll walk in. Presumably, we're told, the president of the United States will make an opening statement. They'll will be statements, we're told, by the three Baltic leaders. Then they'll open it up to four questions, a question from an American journalist, from a Lithuanian journalist, a Latvian journalist, an Estonian journalist. Then, presumably, that will be wrapped up.

No doubt, John Kirby, who has now joined our panel, Russia will be very high on the agenda. Moments ago, in an earlier photo opportunity, the president said, "Nobody has been tougher on Russia than President Trump."

[13:40:19] JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think that's a bit of an overstatement. If you look at the things he's done in totality, his administration has been fairly tough on Russia. They are the ones that approved lethal arms to Ukraine. He did dispel Russian diplomats in a number greater than was done previous. But he personally has been extraordinarily soft on Putin. And I think that sent shock waves throughout the international community about the uncertainty about where this administration really is going with Russia.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, Gloria, these Baltic states are deeply concerned about Russia right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BLITZER: They saw what happened a few years ago in Ukraine.

BORGER: Right. They're confused. They sort of want to meet with the president. They're all -- they spoke earlier about the president helping to make sure that more people paid more of their fair share of their NATO commitments, et cetera, et cetera. But I think the point in coming here is that they want to kind of figure out what the president's commitment is in that part of the world against Russian aggression. And I'm not -- I don't know if that's going to be clarified at all, because I think the administration speaks two ways about it.

BLITZER: Let's take another quick break.

Our coverage of this news conference will take place right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:46:00] BLITZER: Looking at live pictures coming in from the East Room of the White House, the president about to have a joint news conference with leaders of the Baltic States. The president has been having lunch with Lithuanian president, the Estonian president, and the Latvian president. All three of them have been invited. These are NATO allies of the United States. The president and the three Baltic leaders will make opening statements, we are told, and then they will answer questions, one question from an American journalist, one question from a Lithuanian and Estonian and Latvian journalist.

Four questions in all, we're told, Gloria. This is important. These are NATO allies. They are deeply concerned right now what the U.S. policy is towards Russia as well as other sensitive issues.

BORGER: Right. And as John was saying earlier, they're getting conflicting signals because the president is singing one song, saying --congratulating Vladimir Putin, reaching out to him saying he wants to meet with him, and on the other hand, we've taken pretty strong actions lately, the most recent being expelling the Russian diplomats.

(PHONE RINGING)

BORGER: Sorry about that.

So I think that these leaders have a right to be confused, and they want to find out exactly what the president is saying face to face.

BLITZER: They're finding out right now they've had a private meeting and now it's going to be open Q&A at this news correspondence, Carrie.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. There's a few different things. One is the president's statements today regarding putting troops on the southern border. It seems really at odds with what the whole purpose of today's event is. So it makes me wonder why he chose this moment when really he's supposed to be focusing on NATO. And I wonder if he is struggling with what his approach is towards NATO, and sort of this internal struggle that Gloria is describing, that he felt he had to completely shift the conversation to a domestic issue. This really isn't the group to be talking about issues on the southern border with at all. And I think it does add to the confusion that the NATO leaders that are here today are seeing.

And just with respect to the actions that he has taken with respect to Russia, expelling diplomats, sanctions, those are actions that he's taken. But there really is a big issue with respect to the Russian efforts on cybersecurity that have been taking place targeting the United States, including the election interference, that the administration has articulated no strategy or policy for.

BLITZER: I want to point out, April -- you cover the White House -- the president has had several of these joint news conferences with visiting foreign leaders, usually two questions from American journalists, two questions from the country that's visiting the United States. It's been more than a year that he's had a full-scale formal -- formal -- news conference where the president stands there, spends an hour or so answering reporters' questions.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold that thought. Here's the president of the United States.

[13:49:02]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.

Today I'm honored to host the president of Estonia, the president of Latvia and the president of Lithuania at the U.S.-Baltic Centennial Summit.

Thank you all for traveling to the White House for these really important discussions.

We've just spent a long time together and it was very interesting.

This summit proudly displays to the world America's deep and lasting friendship with the Baltic nations.

On behalf of the American people, thank you very much. And we are going to have another 100-year very long and beautiful relationship. This is your 100th year of independence. Congratulations.

For a century, the United States has stood with the people of the Baltics in support of their independence, sovereignty and self- determination. Through the decades of brutal Soviet occupation, the United States never ceased to recognize the sovereignty of the Baltic republics.

[13:50:04] In our discussions today, I was proud to reaffirm America's commitment to the Welles Declaration of 1940 and the U.S.-Baltic Charter of 1998. These same principles lie at the heart of America's approach to world affairs, honoring the right of peaceful citizens and nations to protect their interest and chart their own wonderful destinies.

All three Baltic republics are committed NATO allies. I want to express our gratitude to each of your countries for fulfilling your full obligations and meeting the 2 percent GDP benchmark for national defense this year.

Your commitment to burden-sharing is an example really that other NATO nations and partners all around the world will have to all get together and bear.

Some of them do not make the same commitment. Hopefully, they soon will.

When nations are committed to peace and to security, they have to pay their share. And we will all enjoy a much more safe and prosperous future.

Baltic countries are also providing security assistance and training as part of the coalition to defeat ISIS. The coalition has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by ISIS in Syria and in Iraq. And we will not rest until ISIS is gone.

In economic matters, our cooperation continues to develop and grow, as you well know. We're excited about several new opportunities for collaboration, especially in science, medicine and technology.

Immediately following this summit, the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host a U.S.-Baltic business summit to expand the mutual trade and investment between our nations. And they're all looking forward to seeing you.

The Baltic countries remain a key market for U.S. aircraft, automobiles, machinery and medical equipment, and we welcome increased bilateral trade with all three nations, based on the principle of fairness and reciprocity.

Finally, we are enhancing our cooperation on energy security. We're all collaborating to diversity energy sources, supplies and routes throughout the Baltic region, including expanding exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, of which you've become a bigger and bigger user. These are just some of the many wonderful opportunities we can seize together.

To all three Baltic leaders with us today, thank you again for helping to celebrate -- and this is really a very great celebration, because it's a historic milestone. Our friendship will continue to grow closer, and our cooperation will continue to bring about the greater security and prosperity for our citizens. And you have done terrific jobs as leaders, as presidents of your countries.

And we tell you that, for your citizens, we are there for you. As we begin the next 100 years of our partnership, the Baltic republics can trust the United States will remain a strong, proud and loyal friend and ally.

Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Please.

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE, PRESIDENT OF LITHUANIA: Probably it's my turn?

TRUMP: Yes. Whatever you like.

GRYBAUSKAITE: It looks so.

TRUMP: Ladies first.

(LAUGHTER)

GRYBAUSKAITE: So, of course, we are very thankful for possibility to be here, especially -- not only because of our anniversary in our region, but because of alliance, which we are reaffirming today with the United States by adopting the declaration, where we say that Article V is ironic -- iron-clad for all of us, and the collective defense issues are important to all of us. And we understand how important NATO is for all of us.

And why we, during our discussions, talk so much about the reforming, for -- the reforming NATO, the investments into our defense, the amounts of -- necessary to invest into our defense.

And, of course, together where it is necessary, all of us -- and Lithuania is with the United States -- on fighting the terrorists through all the world. We back in Afghanistan, we in Mali, we in Central African Republic, we in Kosovo, we -- in Ukraine together. So we are partners, allies and trustful (ph) allies.

And because of that, we are sure that the reforms of NATO which we are investing together and preparing together will be resultative, as it was before, but especially now.

[13:55:00]

Because we see in United States leadership, we see the willingness of the United States to see (ph) a different NATO, different quality of (ph) NATO.

And I can be, probably, open -- we talked to the president -- I would (ph) joke a little bit -- joking about that we need leadership, sometimes, for decision-making -- even (ph) unpredictable leadership -- to make enough leverage and pressure for the rivals to believe that we can make a decision. And, as -- we're seeing this kind of leadership in President Trump.

And this is good, because, without the leverage and pressure, there will be no additional spendings in our defense in NATO. There will be no additional decisions for rotating military forces of United States in our countries. There will be no willingness to look into the matter of air defense, which we need very much.

So, from all these point of views, we trust that our partner and ally is investing seriously in the future of our defense -- not only our region's, but the -- NATO's territory defense -- and in the peace and security of the world, as it was before.

Of course, the businesses are coming together, ally in military cooperation and those (ph) with economic cooperation. And I am very happy that, today, in our business forum, we will sign two agreements with two American companies on the -- on the liquid gas cooperation.

Lithuania has liquid gas station and factory -- so-called floating boat (ph) -- but we can be independent, all three Baltic states, on the gas supply because of that. And this gives us strength and a possibility to make our own decisions, not to depend on one supplier.

And American liquid gas will come on time and will make us more independent in our decision-making and diversifies our gas supply. And this is about a real friendship, about a real cooperation between our region and United States.

And this comes, also, together with trade matters, where, today, we see some discussions on the world level between United States and European Union. We are together with the decisions that the trade needs to be useful and equally fair to all sides.

There is no sense to go to the war (ph). But decisions, if there is dis-balances (ph), need to be find (ph). And this we will support as ally of United States.

So, together with international obligations in military, together with cooperation in economy, together with -- with the United States and European Union in solving their trade disputes and issues -- we are standing with and together. And we hope that, as the president said, next 100 years will be even better, closer together, and we will be able to achieve and make more.

Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please.

RAIMONDS VEJONIS, PRESIDENT OF LATVIA: Your Excellency, President Trump, my esteemed Baltic colleagues, dear friends, as the Baltic-U.S. presidents' summits are -- reaffirmed our assured commitment to fundamental values, our long-lasting friendship and the steadfast partnership that we have enjoyed for nearly a century.

The United States of America is our closest friend and ally. I appreciate that we help each other's -- mutual support, you know, endeavors, as well as in the security challenges we are facing.

Today, we reflected on our many achievements and set a course for our future undertakings. We have agreed to enhance our defense and security cooperation. The Baltic states appreciate the United States' commitment to deterrence policy in the Baltic region and the military assistance provided to our forces. We will continue to commit 2 percent of GDP towards the development of our military capabilities for the purposes of both strengthening NATO's posture in the eastern flank and contributing to international security.

The Baltic states and the United States acknowledged the need to continue the successful existing cooperation --

[14:00:00]