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Dow Futures Plunge as China Announces Retaliatory Tariffs; Reporting: Trump Not Currently a Criminal Target in Mueller Probe; YouTube Shooter Identified. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 4, 2018 - 07:00   ET


DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, "The Washington Post" reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has told President Trump's legal team that the president is a subject but not a target of the Russia investigation. "The Post" also reports that Mueller is preparing a report on the president's actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice.

[07:00:21] We have it all covered this morning. We want to begin with CNN's Ivan Watson, live in Beijing with the breaking news.


China has made clear that if the U.S. wants a trade war, it is willing to fight back. So hours after the Trump administration proposed 25 percent tariffs on some $15 billion worth of Chinese goods, Beijing has responded in kind, imposing -- announcing plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods and singling out some of the following goods. U.S. soy beans, aircraft, cars, and chemicals. Soy beans in 2016 were a $14 billion U.S. export to China. So were planes.

Now, again, this comes after the Trump administration proposed plans to impose these 25 percent tariffs. Some of those included aerospace equipment, tech industry, manufactured items, medical supplies. Among the list, surprisingly, flame throwers and fire extinguishers.

But the Chinese officials have made clear that the tariffs have not yet been imposed. A top official saying now is the time to negotiate and to cooperate.

The Trump administration says its proposed tariffs are in response to accusations of intellectual property theft on the part of China. A top Chinese official at a press conference today was asked about that. And he responded, saying he would use a term that the Trump administration is familiar with. He denies China steals intellectual property from U.S. companies and calls those accusations fake news -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he's at least stealing the term. Thank you very much, Ivan, for all of that.

So "The Washington Post" is reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has told President Trump's legal team that the president is a subject but not a target of his Russia investigation. Will the president agree to an interview, given this development?

CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House with more. Any reaction, Abby>


We're learning some new details about the potential scrutiny that President Trump could be under as a result of this Russia probe. And as you mentioned, "The Washington Post" is reporting this morning that the president could -- may not be a criminal target of this investigation, but he is certainly not out of the woods yet.


PHILLIP (voice-over): During negotiations last month between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and lawyers for President Trump, "The Washington Post" reports that Mueller said he was looking at the president as a subject of his investigation but does not consider him a criminal target at this point.

Mueller also relaying to Mr. Trump's team that investigators are compiling a report about the president's actions and possible obstruction of justice, stressing that he needs to interview Mr. Trump, according to "The Post."

Meanwhile, President Trump ramping up his tough talk on immigration, surprising Pentagon officials by announcing he wants to send the military to guard the southern border.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step. We really haven't done that before, or certainly not very much before.

PHILLIP: The White House later saying that the president had been briefed about a strategy that includes mobilizing the National Guard, a step that both his predecessors took. Details remain unclear, but a source tells CNN that the president has been working on the number of troops he's considering.

President Trump also taking credit for pressuring Mexico to block a group of Honduran asylum seekers from reaching the United States.

TRUMP: I have just heard that the caravan coming up from Honduras is broken up, and Mexico did that. And they did it because, frankly, I said, "You really have to do it."

PHILLIP: Mexico responding that the decision to break up the caravan was made solely by its members and not due to any external or domestic pressure.

President Trump also reiterating his interest in pulling U.S. troops out of Syria.

TRUMP: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.

PHILLIP: But just yesterday, CNN learned that the military is working on plans to send dozens of additional troops into Syria. And just minutes before Trump's remarks, the special envoy in charge of the mission to defeat ISIS said this.

BRETT MCGURK, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO GLOBAL COALITION TO DEFEAT ISIS: We are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission. Our mission isn't over. And we're going to complete that mission.

PHILLIP: The president's public statement in stark contrast to this earlier criticism.

TRUMP: I don't want to tell the enemy how I am thinking. Does that make sense?

Surprise. Remember, they used to call it the element of surprise?

We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable.

[07:05:04] I don't talk about military response (ph).

PHILLIP: Mr. Trump also touting the administration's actions against Russia.

TRUMP: Nobody has been tougher on Russia, but getting along with Russia would be a good thing, not a bad thing. And just about everybody agrees to that, except very stupid people.

PHILLIP: The outgoing national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, later contradicting the president's assessment.

H.R. MCMASTER, OUTGOING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Russia brazenly and implausibly denies its actions. And we have failed to impose sufficient costs.


PHILLIP: This new reporting on Robert Mueller's investigation comes just after the first jail sentence was passed down in this case. A former lawyer for a former Trump campaign aide will serve 30 days in prison, pay a fine, as well. Really highlighting the risks here for the people involved in this probe.

Meanwhile, today the president is going to have a pretty quiet day here at the White House before heading out to West Virginia for a private fund-raiser in anticipation of a tough fight in 2018 and 2020 -- Alisyn and David.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby. Thank you very much for all of your reporting from the White House.

Let's bring in now CNN political analyst and "New York Times" national political correspondent Jonathan Martin and CNN political analyst and national correspondent for "Bloomberg Business Week," Josh Green. Great to see both of you. Jonathan Martin, let's start with the -- China's retaliatory move against -- you know, now they're putting tariffs on these U.S. goods. How do you see it?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What's striking is this is an attack on the Trump coalition. If you look, Alisyn, at the states that are going to be affected most adversely by this retaliation, these are red states. This is the farm belt of America. You're talking about soy beans. That's the Midwest. And, you know, talking about, you know, making airplane parts, that's places like Kansas.

And this is the challenge for the Republicans, is that lawmakers from these states are going to be deeply concerned about this retaliation and the impact on their economies. But their voters still like Trump. So it's going to create political pressure going into the midterms on the governors and senators and House members from these states who are almost overwhelmingly, you know, on the GOP side. Their voters are very much loyal to Trump. But they're looking at the economic impact of this action by China. And that's putting them in a really tough spot.

GREGORY: It's a political story, because it's an economic story first. Look at the Dow futures this morning. Before the markets are even opening, after so much volatility just this week, let alone in the past month, Dow futures down over 400 -- over 500 points. Just under 500 points. About 2 percent, Josh.

This is -- I keep coming back to this. President Trump keeps telling us watch the markets. It's a sign of real wealth, and it's an important piece of the economy. And it's all me. It's all me, because it's gone on so long. But he doesn't want to own the down side that is a result of tariffs that the business community thinks are awful. And also the unpredictability of some of these decisions.

JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, speaking of people on Wall Street over the last couple of days. It is unanimous that Trump is responsible for the market. At least -- at least the slump we've seen over the last couple weeks, because this is a direct result of the tariffs that he's imposing on China.

But I think Jon is right. This is going to have a big effect, potentially, in the U.S. midterm elections. Because if you look at, for instance, the biggest states U.S. produces of soy beans, eight of those ten states are states that Trump won. And they include states like Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, even Minnesota where you have very critical Senate or House races.

Republican candidates in the states are going to have to answer for the effect of Trump's tariffs. And this is really going to hurt U.S. farmers in the Midwest.

CAMEROTA: Jonathan, is there any way to tell what is next in this tit-for-tat game with China and the U.S.?

MARTIN: I think it's hard to predict, because we don't really have a great sense for how serious the president is about pursuing some of his actions. I mean, if we've learned anything about this president, is that it's oftentimes more important to watch the actions of the administration than it is the words coming from either his Twitter account or his off-the-cuff remarks like those that you just showed.

In fact, I was talking to a lawmaker yesterday who said to me bluntly, he said, "I don't even pay attention to the tweets anymore or any stories about the tweets," because to me it doesn't reflect government policy. And so that's really the question, Alisyn. Is, you know, are we going to go through with these tariffs, or is this a president who has long held a view that free trade is not a good thing and it's sort of indulging that view.

But when push comes to shove, it's actually not going to make his government pursue these tariffs. We just don't know which is the case yet. And I think that the Chinese actions will hinge upon whether or not this is Trump blowing off steam or the U.S. government pursuing it as policy.

[07:10:12] GREGORY: But is there also room for negotiation, Josh? I mean, we have to hold out there are proponents of this toughening trade policy would argue this is a very small part of the economy. That we can -- we can withstand these shocks on a daily basis to the market. And who knows? Maybe there's a negotiation with the Chinese that ends up on -- getting more favorable terms for the U.S. Maybe Trump comes out of his with a win.

GREEN: Well, we'll see. I think one predicate for this we should keep in mind are the steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump announced a couple of weeks ago. Very broad. Spooked the markets. But almost immediately the U.S. began carving out exemptions.

It's possible that these tariffs, which at this stage are proposals still on both sides. The U.S. has 60 days to take comment. Then the government will decide what actually goes into effect. It's entirely possible that not all of these things will go into effect, and there will be some ratcheting back. But that's going to depend to a large degree on whether Trump goes through with these or whether he walks them back the way he did with some of the steel and aluminum tariffs.

CAMEROTA: OK. So Jonathan, let's move on to the other big story, one of the other big stories of the morning, and that is -- and that is that "The Washington Post" has learned that Robert Mueller's team has shared with Donald Trump's legal team that the president is a subject, not a target, of Mueller's investigation. What's the significance?

MARTIN: Well, it's obviously good news for Trump that he's not a target of the investigation. I think that's the big takeaway. But obviously, it's got to be politically, if not legally, disconcerting to the Trump folks that he is even a subject of the investigation and that Mueller, as the story reports, is sort of looking at the possibility of bringing forward reports about obstruction efforts.

If you are on the ballot this year in 2018, and you're hearing about the possibility of a prosecutor bringing forward reports about obstruction of justice, that's got to be a daunting, daunting thing to hear. GREGORY: Well, especially because this then gets -- there's a lot of

talk about whether the president can be indicted, whether he's going to -- if he were to be interviewed, that he would invoke the Fifth, which someone like our own Jeff Toobin thinks he can do.

But Josh, this becomes fodder for a political process. If Mueller writes a really tough report about actions that the president took, maybe it coincides with the fact that Jim Comey, whose book is coming out, is going to launch a very public, you know, campaign against him and all the things that he did, this is something that Congress has to take in and make a decision about.

GREEN: Yes, it could. There are a few ways in which this could go badly for Trump. One is, you know, a subject of an investigation can quickly turn into the target of an investigation if, for instance, Trump testifies under oath and Mueller gets material that he can use to build an indictment. So that's one option.

The other option, as Mueller has indicated, is that he could write a public report that could come out, present Trump in a very bad light. You know, we don't know what Mueller's timing will be. But this could either be on the eve of the midterm elections. It could be problematic for Republicans. It could be after the midterm elections.

And if Democrats win back the House or the Senate, could lead to impeachment proceedings. So there are all sorts of ways in which this could go badly, potentially, for Trump.

GREGORY: It is interesting. First of all, the president has been silent on Twitter. His legal team is still so thin. Because he apparently doesn't listen to lawyers, doesn't pay them. He's not going to get any really good lawyers, criminal lawyers with that deal, apparently. And so he's kind of alone and increasingly vulnerable as they make these negotiations on whether he's going to do an interview.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

GREEN: Thank you.

GREGORY: Fifty years ago today, civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. This morning, his legacy being honored. You're looking live down in Washington at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. A silent march will take place on the National Mall in the next hour.

CAMEROTA: Wow. Well, what a day. You know, when you listen to his his prophetic speech.

GREGORY: The night before, yes.

CAMEROTA: The night before, I mean, obviously, it's been the study of lots of history lessons, but it's eerie. It gives you goosebumps. It -- he seemed to know that something was going to happen and seemed to be comforting the country and all of his supporters that it would be OK and that he feared nothing. GREGORY: Well, and that -- that they would have to go on without him.

I mean, we're in the spirit of Passover, where he was invoking Moses not going to the promised land. That was still his vision that others would have to carry out. And that legacy lives on in a beautiful moment. And he's here now.

Coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk to Dr. King's son, Martin Luther King III about his father's legacy and how they are trying to still realize that dream.

[07:15:00] CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, there's an investigation underway this morning after police say a woman opened fire at YouTube's headquarters in California, injuring at least four people. The shooter is believed to have killed herself.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in San Bruno, California, with more. What's the latest, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we are awaiting a news conference. We're hoping that police might be able to shed more light on a possible motive. What would have led a woman who lives in San Diego to get in her car, drive all this way up here to Northern California to the YouTube campus where, with one handgun, she turned this tech campus into an all-too-familiar shooting scene in America?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a report of a subject with a gun. This will be from the YouTube building.

LAH (voice-over): New details about the woman police say shot three people at YouTube's headquarters before taking her own life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She shot that person up really bad. No remorse, no nothing. I mean, it was Death Row.

LAH: Authorities identifying the shooter as 39-year-old San Diego resident Nasim Aghdam. "The L.A. Times" reporting that law enforcement is looking at this website, created by Aghdam, as part of their investigation. On the site, Aghdam repeatedly criticizing YouTube, accusing the website of filtering her channels to keep her videos from getting views, something she blames on "new close-minded YouTube employees."

NASIM AGHDAM, YOUTUBE SHOOTER: My new (ph) videos hardly get views. On my old videos, that used to get many views, I stopped getting views.

LAH: Aghdam's brother, who did not want to be on camera, telling CNN affiliate KGTV that his sister used YouTube to advocate against animal cruelty, one of her passions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was a nice person. Innocent person. She never hurt any -- any creatures.

LAH: "The San Diego Union-Tribune" posting this picture from 2009 of Aghdam protesting with PETA. Aghdam's brother tells KGTV that his family reported her missing this weekend after she stopped answering her phone. They then located her car in a city near YouTube's headquarters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had a problem with YouTube, so we called the cop again and told him that she went -- there's a reason she went all the way from San Diego to there.

LAH: Local police did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Authorities say Aghdam opened fire on a group of YouTube employees that she did not know shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via phone): All of a sudden, we heard two sirens, and then we saw some people quickly running out of the building.

LAH: Two minutes after the first call, police arrived as employees fled the scene before locating Aghdam's body and ushering the injured to safety.


LAH: The YouTube and Instagram accounts that you saw there now down. We are told by the local hospital that three people were shot. They range in condition from fair to critical. One other person was injured, but that was just an ankle injury.

And David, we are hoping that law enforcement this morning will be able to clarify some conflicting information we have. Two law enforcement sources tell CNN that the shooter knew at least one person here at this campus. But law enforcement says, as of right now, officially, they don't believe she knew anyone -- David.

GREGORY: All right. Thank you so very much this morning.

When we come back, he spent four days tweeting about immigration. Now President Trump wants to send the military to guard the southern border. What is behind this renewed focus on the issue? We're going to ask a Trump supporter coming up next.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been speaking with General Mattis. We're going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall with proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step.


GREGORY: A big step. President Trump just tweeted about border security again, just seconds ago, this morning saying, quote, "Our border laws are very weak, while those in Mexico and Canada are very strong. Congress must change these Obama-era and other laws now. The Democrats stand in our way. They want people to pour into our country unchecked. Crime. We will be taking strong action today."

Let's discuss with former George W. Bush political director, Matt Schlapp. He is the chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Matt, good to see you. Good morning.


GREGORY: So the tweet, the background of the past few days, the president wants to strengthen our stand on the border. What's driving this now?

SCHLAPP: Well, I think specifically, I like the tweet this morning, David. I think, which is generally not understood. We use all these terms like DACA and DREAMers. And what's not understood is every day at the border, at the southern border, every week, there are kids that, because of what judges have ruled, that when they come to the border, we have to accept them and send them to families, relatives, or to institutions to take care of those kids. There's no vetting of them. Sometimes it's not just the minors that are allowed to be in America.

So the Department of Health and Human Services pointed out that last month, 3,000 of these people were taken into America. Over the course of the last year, it's almost -- or during this year, it's been almost 20,000 people.

So we're creating a whole new group of folks who are allowed to come to this country who are not, you know, going through the legal process of coming into this country. We're a good-hearted nation. We try to accept people that are in desperate circumstances. But we're creating these whole new populations that come into this country. And then we have to face this question of, OK, they're here. Do you give them permanent legal statuses? Do you make them a citizen? And this is -- this is a problem that DACA has focused a lot of attention on. But it continues every day.

GREGORY: And but we should also point out, you say we're a big- hearted nation. So many of these families, I mean, there's this specter of militarizing the border and that gang members are pouring across or caravans, as the president talks about. You have a lot of people, you have a lot of single mothers, you have a lot of families who are fleeing abusive situations in the countries from which they came.

[07:25:05] SCHLAPP: That's right.

GREGORY: And so you're right. This is a tough issue. But the notion of just pouring military onto the border solves what exactly?

SCHLAPP: Well, I just don't believe anybody should come into this country unless they go through the same process everyone else has to go through. There should be a process, whether or not you're coming here to work temporarily or to get temporary protected status or to be here, to be on the path to citizenship. This should be the same process for everybody.

And what we've done, because judges have intervened into our immigration laws, is we've created these special categories. And so when you read about this caravan of a thousand people, I don't know what term you want to describe it as. But people who are coming to the border, even if they're fleeing desperate circumstances or not, you know, they will eventually be able to reside in our country and subvert the normal process.

The country can't keep doing that. Because we have this -- it creates great political havoc as people are in this country who then can make the political case "I should get special treatment, and I should get amnesty by congressional action." This is the problem. This is why the president says it's not just about DACA. It's about solving these problems that create DACA 2, DACA 3. It's happening every day.

GREGORY: I want to pick up on one point, though, that the president keeps emphasizing. The Democrats stand in the way of the wall. It is a fact that Democrats were willing to do something that seemed really unforeseen, and that is fund the border wall, fund his signature promise. That was part of the deal he could have had, and he walked away.

Don't you have to own that as a supporter of the president?

SCHLAPP: I do. Except you know that you've covered the appropriations process forever, including that you didn't go back this far, and I didn't either. But even when Ronald Reagan got his deal for tax cuts with spending cuts, you can't bind future congresses, David.

So the idea that they were going to give money over the course of the next several years and several Congresses to fund a border wall, any future Congress could change that financial arrangement. So that's a tough thing to do. This is why the border all, I mean, it's such a big question. President Trump actually has to -- he has to get the money in the current Congress. Otherwise, a future Congress can take it away.

And as we all know, we have November elections coming up. If there's Democrat majorities in the House and the Senate, are they really going to hold true to an agreement for $25 billion? I don't think so.

GREGORY: Let's talk about tariffs. The president on record again this morning on China with all this talk of a trade war with the markets tumbling. He writes this: "We are not in a trade war with China. That war was lost many years ago by the foolish or incompetent people who represented the U.S. Now we have a trade deficit of of $500 billion a year with intellectual property theft of another $300 billion. We cannot let this continue."

You worked for a president who imposed steel and aluminum tariffs. That was unsuccessful. Certainly, conservatives, Republicans in the business community and elsewhere are staunchly opposed to the idea of tariffs. You see the potential impact on American farmers, a key part of the Trump political coalition, and you see the impact on the markets moving forward. Is this a bad course the president's on?

SCHLAPP: Look, tariffs over the long haul that turn into retaliation from the opposing country are bad for the U.S. consumer. That's the person we should focus on, is does the consumer have options and choices in the marketplace that would have to pay more for those options and choices?

But in the -- the question about the trade war, the president is absolutely right. The trillions of dollars that the Chinese government have already stolen from American entrepreneurs, has -- we've turned a blind eye toward it. And what the president is saying is we're not going to do that anymore.

So he has started this pushback with these tariffs. I hope they go on for a short period of time, and China is driven to the table. Actually, I think China's statement with these announcement of retaliatory tariffs is that they haven't actually imposed those tariffs.


SCHLAPP: Which is their way of saying, if we could all get around the table and resolve this, it would be better for everybody, which is true. But it starts with no more theft of American intellectual property. That must end

GREGORY: Fair enough. Is the president responsible for the market tumble?

SCHLAPP: You know, David, there's all kinds of factors into the market tumble. The one thing Wall Street is -- that's always true about Wall Street, is they don't like the idea of instability. And there's no question that a U.S. president imposing sweeping tariffs on China is -- is new and creates a concern in the marketplace.

But here's the real question. What happens over the course of the year? And that's what I'm more focused on, is does the Chinese government realize that the American government is serious about this theft from American entrepreneurs and inventors?

GREGORY: Fair enough. Before I let you go, I want to ask you about Russia in the broadest sense. Not the investigation but the actual act of Russia seeking to manipulate the 2016 election. The president's national security adviser, General McMaster, who is on his way out, as we know, was very critical of the Russians and the response. Listen to this.


LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, OUTGOING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Russia brazenly and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs.