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Trump Embraces His Impulses in Ever Chaotic Oval Office; Trump Irritated with Military about Syria Withdrawal; Trumps Interest in Syria Counters His Claim Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton Created ISIS; Scott Pruitt Warned Against Interviews on Raise Scandal. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 5, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, talk to us about the recent decisions by the president that have really sent his aides scrambling.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Brianna, it's important to remember this president often says things and then his administration have to make policy against what he says, sort of behind what he says. He gets in front.

Let's go through a few examples. Number one, military at the border. Obviously, this is our newest thing that is representative of this. Donald Trump says we're going to be sending the military to the border after several days of tweets in which he expressed dissatisfaction with border security because, why? We think at least one reason, because he saw a FOX News segment that talked about the caravan moving through Mexico toward the United States. His administration is saying we were talking about the National Guard. We've got it all under control even though we know they didn't have it all under control.

Let's go to the next one here. The terror faceoff with China. Donald Trump, unbeknownst to lots of people, including Gary Cohen, his former economic adviser, says we're going to do this, have steel and aluminum tariffs, 25 percent, then more tariffs with China, huge fight internally that he ends, unbeknownst to many of them, by simply announcing it. And his administration having to run behind him saying these are the policy constructs that define the decision. When it appears when he said it they didn't have those.

The next one, Donald Trump is at a rally last week and said we're going to be bringing U.S. troops home from Syria. If you check in with the Pentagon they say they may not have been aware of that. Again, reloading policy behind something that he has said. Some of this you could say he's just reading. But there are real complications and many military people say the U.S. is not ready to withdraw from Syria right now and it would be dangerous to do so.

Agreeing to meet with Kim Jong-Un. Again, we learned of this, Brianna, same time lots of people who worked for Donald Trump said, yes, we are going to do it when it was broached by a South Korean delegation that Kim Jong-Un would be open to a meeting. There's obviously a huge amount of not just symbolic but policy and logistical concerns that go into something like this, that his administration has to, again, run behind him and say, yes, no, we expected all of this. This is all planned. Here is the policy behind it. Time about time again, Donald Trump speaks, his administration scramble scrambles to make policy solutions, ideas to back up what he's saying.

KEILAR: Does seem like a pattern there.

Chris Cillizza, Thank you for that.

President Trump's Syria surprise really leaving his administration scrambling for answers on their next move. Ahead, what new CNN reporting reveals about the president's feelings towards his top military brass.


[14:36:54] KEILAR: The president is in West Virginia today, touting tax reform by Republicans. He also weighed in on border security. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody said, oh, he was so tough. I used the word "rape." And yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don't want to mention that. So, we have to change our laws. And the Democrats, what they're doing is just -- it's insanity. I don't -- nobody understands what's going on.

So, we have to have strong borders. We're going to have the wall. We already started building it. We have a billion, six. Fixing miles and miles of wall that's already up. And fence. And we're going to have our wall. And we're going to get it very strongly. The military is going to be building some of it. But we're going to have very strong borders. We have to change our laws. We're working on doing that.

And believe it or not, if you look in California and you see what's happening, it's an incredible phenomena. Because sanctuary cities, it's the worst. It's basically a city to protect a lot of people that are bad people, really bad. You look at Kate Steinle, you look at so many other things that have happened in our country. And they're protected. How about the mayor of Oakland?


KEILAR: All right. President Trump there, as he has been doing here in recent days, really playing to his base and throwing out some red meat when it comes to the issue of immigration. We will continue to monitor his remarks there in West Virginia.

Mixed messages from the president on how he's going to keep U.S. forces in Syria. The president saying that he wants to bring troops home real soon and telling his national security team that he's willing to keep American forces in Syria only for the short term. And now sources telling CNN the president got testy with his top military brass and national security team after advisers warned him that an immediate withdrawal of troops from Syria would be unwise.

The president's sudden interest in withdrawing from Syria seems to run counter to several of his previous claims, including his 2016 false statement that then-President Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS. Here is what he said then.


TRUMP: I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They're the founders. In fact, I think we'll give Hillary Clinton the -- you know, if you're a sports team, most valuable player, MVP. You get the MVP award. ISIS will hand her the most valuable player award. Her only competition is Barack Obama.

But one of the things I think you've noticed about me is that, militarily, I don't like to say where I'm going and what I'm doing. And I watched past administrations say we will attack at such and such a day, at such and such an hour. I'm not saying I'm doing anything one way or the other.


KEILAR: Except that seems to be exactly what he's doing.

Elise Labott, our CNN global affairs correspondent.

You have fascinating reporting, an inside look at this NSC meeting where the president was meeting with his top national and military advisers. What can you tell us about how he responded to what they were telling him?

[14:40:08] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, sources tell me and CNN White House producer, Kevin Liptak, that this was a contentious meeting. President Trump made clear to his military advisers that he wants troops out of Syria. He is very upset about the money that is being expended. He looks at the money and says the Americans have gotten nothing for it, particularly looking at gulf states and why they're not stepping up more. And he said I want U.S. Troops out. And he told them, you know, let's try to get them out between four and six months. Our understanding is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford and Jim Mattis said the job is not done, you want an enduring victory. It's going to take more time to make sure that ISIS does not return, that Russia, Iran, Turkey, other countries don't use a U.S. withdrawal to kind of fill a vacuum there and President Trump was pretty emphatic, we understand, saying, listen, get the job done within six months. I want those troops out -- Brianna?

KEILAR: That's the concern, the vacuum. Is there a way to do this? The president wants allies to put more skin in the game in Syria, according to the White House. Is it really feasible in a way that would allow the U.S. to leave that region in part without -- not just in full but in part even, without leaving a vacuum, that you would have Russia and Iran jumping right into?

LABOTT: Look, I think we have all come to see that President Trump says he wants something, says he wants to do something and then he does something maybe which is not -- maybe a little bit short of that. I think this is the way he feels is he making a deal, putting pressure on the Arab states, gulf states, on U.S. military advisers, to kind of step it up. He doesn't want an open-ended commitment. Our understanding is that he got very upset with the speech that he has signed off on, by the way, by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, that the U.S. was going to be in Syria for the long haul, was going to be looking at the civil war, was going to be looking to counter Iran. And President Trump wants everyone to know he made clear to his supporters he was going to stop military expenditures overseas unless they were in the national security interests. He wants to not spend that money. He doesn't understand why the U.S. has to be solely responsible for this. And so I think this is partly him trying to light a fire under his military advisers, under Arab states to step it up a little bit. And I think you've seen even in the last 24 to 48 hours, he is kind of showing that he will show some flexibility. But I think he wants to start off with a very hard position so that people don't think this is an open-ended commitment -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Elise Labott, great reporting.

Just ahead, Facebook co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg, will be in the hot seat on Capitol Hill next week. This, as the social media giant now admits that tens of millions more users' personal data had been accessed than previously disclosed. We'll be discussing that next.


[14:47:36] KEILAR: More countries have announced investigations into Facebook. You have the U.K. and Australia confirming that officials are looking into the company's use of personal data of those citizens in those countries.

Meantime, Facebook founder CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will have to explain himself on Capitol Hill. He is set to testify two times before Congress next week about his company's handling of its users' personal data. The social media behemoth now admitting that more users' personal data may have been accessed than thought. They're saying there's 80 million people instead of 50 million people whose data may have been accessed.

Now Zuckerberg has to face the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

To talk about it, we have Phil Mattingly, CNN congressional correspondent, and Laurie Segall, out CNN senior tech correspondent.

Laurie, you were on the call when Mark Zuckerberg revised these numbers. Explain how he explained all of this.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: That's interesting. 87 million now, they're essentially saying this is the max impact. This is as many as it could be. That's not saying that it is, but as many as it could be. They don't want to have to walk back. You're already losing user trust. You say 50 million and weeks later we hear 87 million, that obviously doesn't look good for the company. They also talked about numbers and how many of those numbers were American. 82 percent of the people impacted by this breach of trust as he likes to call it, were American. 70 million people roughly. Quite a bit.

On this call, quite a few journalists asked, will you step down, Brianna. He said no, you learn from your mistakes. He started off by, let me be clear, we didn't do enough. Take a listen.


MARK ZUCKERBEG, CEO, FACEBOOK (via telephone): We're an idealistic and optimistic company. For the first decade we really focused on all the good that connecting people brings. But it's clear now that we didn't do enough. We didn't focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well.


SEGALL: And since then, I'll say, they've made quite a few changes, restricting access to third party developers. There's a new blog post telling us how they're going to protect our data. The frustration, I think you'll hear this next week when Zuckerberg testifies, is that this is reactive, not proactive and what else are we going to find?

[14:50:00] KEILAR: We were speaking earlier, Laurie and I, Phil, and we were talking about how it's almost a test run for the testimony he will be giving next week. What will he face when he comes to Capitol Hill?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not going to be pretty. A lot of times when you have these types of events, these types of hearings, Republicans will defend somebody, or Democrats will defend one of the witnesses as the other side goes off on them. That won't be the case this time. Bipartisan lawmakers said they're frustrated with what they're seeing, perplexed by the scope of this. And they want answers. There's a Cliff Notes way to watch these hearings. Pay less attention to the back-bench guys turning all red faced and trying to get YouTube clips for perhaps their 2018 campaign and pay more attention to who exactly is raising concerns. When you have committee chairs like Greg Walden or Chuck Grassley of Senate Judiciary and those Republican committee chairs are agreeing with Democrats on specific issues that they have and perhaps specific legislative changes they want to see or specific answers they want from Mark Zuckerberg, that's the important thing. Those are the issues you want to pay close attention to. Those are the lawmakers that can actually make things happen, force Facebook to do things and put extreme pressure on not just the CEO but also the company itself in the weeks ahead.

It's important to note, Facebook is a powerhouse in Washington, more than $11 million spent on lobby last year. They spent a lot of money through their campaign PACs to both Republicans and Democrats. They have a presence here and also a lot of talented well-known consultants working behind the scenes right now. They're keenly aware of what these lawmakers are going to say. They're trying to lay the groundwork for an easier run than we think is going to happen. My sense in talking to aides on both sides of things, not going to happen. He's in for a rough go.

KEILAR: It seems like a bipartisan lashing is about to take place.

What about, Laurie, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, will she be called to testify?

SEGALL: She's about to embark on a press tour, going to a bunch of different outlets tomorrow. What makes it fascinating, from a tech standpoint, they hadn't put Mark or Sheryl out there during a lot of this. We look at the Cambridge Analytica story, that's the tip of the iceberg. You saw the weaponization of platform, very challenging questions come up and you didn't really see the CEO of a company that has 2 billion users, you didn't see him in front of it. To a degree, a little backstory, he has been protected from talking to the media. Knowing him in Silicon Valley circles, he is more comfortable behind closed doors not speak on Capitol Hill. That's got to change. They bring in Sheryl Sandberg, the one known for being more media savvy, for humanizing these problems, for bringing in the grown-ups. We'll see her start that tour tomorrow and start talking.

A lot of this is very -- I think we have to look at it as pretty calculated, right ahead of these hearings. I think there are going to be a lot of challenging questions on stage that, quite frankly, Mark Zuckerberg hasn't really been on before.

KEILAR: Laurie Segall, thank you very much, Phil Mattingly, we do appreciate it.

We have some breaking news. President Trump has been asked, does he still have confidence in his embattled EPA chief, Scott Pruitt. How Trump responded.

And CNN has learned that Pruitt was warned against doing those interviews that got him in such big trouble, and he did one anyways. We'll discuss how that went, next.


[14:58:04] KEILAR: Top of the hour now. I'm Brianna Keilar.

We begin with the president's mixed messages as the job of one of his top cabinet members appears to be on the line. Moments ago, the president said, "I do," when asked if he has confidence in embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. But a senior official and others say the president wasn't pleased when Pruitt appeared on television appearance intended to calm the controversy over a string of scandals.

What's more, a source says Chief of Staff John Kelly warned Pruitt ahead of time not to do any interviews. But Pruitt, instead, went on the defense, responding to reports that he gave huge, unauthorized raises to his favorite aides and he received cheap rent for a D.C. apartment from the wife of an energy lobbyist.


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRSPONDENT: President Trump said he would drain the swamp.


HENRY: Is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?

SCOTT PRUITT, DIRECTOR, EPA: I don't think that there's even remotely fair to ask that question.

It's like an Airbnb situation. The landlord had access to the entirety of the facility. When I was there, I only had access to a room. He uses the facility in common areas at the same time I was there.


HENRY: You only paid for the nights you were there?

PRUITT: That's exactly right.

HENRY: But that's kind of a sweetheart deal because I've never heard of a --

PRUITT: No, it's not.


HENRY: I've lived in Washington over 25 years and have never heard of a deal like that.

PRUITT: That's something, something, that has been reviewed by officials here. They said that it's market rate.


KEILAR: Joining me now, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and Elaina Plott, one of "the "Atlantic" reporters that broke the story about Pruitt's staff salaries, and CNN political analyst, Josh Green, who is also national correspondent for "Bloomberg Business Week."

Dana, a source says there's general confusion about why Pruitt went forward with the interviews. He had actually gotten guidance not just from the White House but John Kelly himself to not to do this and he went ahead and did it. Why would he do that?

[15:00:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things. One is, as you know this from covering the White House, and I know this from covering the White House, that some things, even in the nontraditional Trump White House are pretty standard. And that is when a cabinet secretary gets an interview request, they run it by the White House, as you said. And in this case --