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Trump Orders National Guard Troops to U.S./Mexico Border; Border Patrol: Attempted Border Crossings Surged in March. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired April 5, 2018 - 06:00   ET



KIRSTJEN NIELSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The president has directed that the Department of Defense to deploy the National Guard to our southwest border.

[05:59:27] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm frankly glad to see him stepping up. I think it's actually a necessary step.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just a political fix because he made a stupid campaign promise over a stupid border wall.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: His entire national security team said you can't do this. The president apparently got very testy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have special responsibility. If he pulls out precipitously, it's very likely that the coalition falls apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mueller's team is now targeting certain Russian oligarchs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The questioning of these people certainly isn't focused on donations and money surrounding the campaign.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: It's always been follow the money. That's the way it was in Watergate. That's where it is here.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, April 5, 6 a.m. here in New York. Chris is off. David Gregory joins me.

Great to have you.


CAMEROTA: We have a lot to talk about. Here's our starting line.

President Trump moving one step closer to deploying National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. The plan is scant on details at the moment. We don't know how many troops, where they will go, how long they'll be there, or who will pay for it.

And as for the plan in Syria, CNN has learned that President Trump got testy with his top military brass and national security team when they advised him against an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. A source tells CNN the president has given them six months to finish the mission and get out.

GREGORY: At the same time, the White House is pushing back against concerns of a trade war after China retaliated with tariffs on U.S. goods. The tit-for-tat with China is rattling investors and American workers. Could this all just be a negotiating tactic for President Trump?

Plus, a CNN exclusive this morning. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is questioning wealthy Russian oligarchs who traveled to the U.S. to determine if they illegally channeled cash into the Trump campaign. It comes as the administration is expected to sanction several Russian oligarchs over election meddling.

We want to begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip. She's at the White House this morning.

Abby, good morning.


The president has sent his national security and immigration teams scrambling this morning after some sudden pronouncements in public have caused them to try to make them happen in real life on both Syria and on this border wall.


TRUMP: 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.

PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump officially signing a memorandum to deploy the National Guard to the border with Mexico, calling the situation a point of crisis after fuming about immigration for days.

NIELSEN: It will take time to have the details in place, but we are beginning today, and we are moving quickly.

PHILLIP: The memorandum declaring that the security of the United States is imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why is this such an urgent priority right now for the president to sign?

NIELSEN: I think, you know, what I would say is the numbers continue to increase. April traditionally is a month in which we see more folks crossing the border without a legal right to do so.

ZELENY: Data from a Department of Homeland Security study last fall indicated that illegal border crossings through 2016 were at their lowest point in nearly five decades. A continuing trend Mr. Trump has repeatedly bragged about.

TRUMP: I'm very proud to say that we're way down in the people coming across the border. We have fewer people trying to come across, because they know it's not going to happen.

PHILLIP: But late Wednesday, new Border Patrol statistics show a 37 percent spike in attempted border crossings in the last month. The secretary of homeland security saying this when pressed about President Trump's suggestion that the military pay for the border wall.

NIELSEN: What he meant was there are some lands that the Department of Defense owns right on the border that are actually areas where we see illicit activity. We're looking into options for the military to build a wall on military installations on the border.

PHILLIP: "The Wall Street Journal" reports that U.S. officials are planning to build a wall along at least part of a bombing range along the Arizona-Mexico border.

But the military installation only covers 31 of the nearly 2,000-mile- long border. This as CNN learns new details about President Trump's tense meeting with his national security team Tuesday. Sources say the president grew irritated with his military brass when they advised him against immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria days after Mr. Trump said this.

TRUMP: We'll be coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.

PHILLIP: Senior administration officials said the president complained at length about the amount of money being spent in the region, telling advisers he wants troops out of Syria within the next six months. Press secretary Sarah Sanders releasing a statement Wednesday night insisting that the administration will not rest until the Syrian regime is held accountable for chemical attacks after saying this about the president's desire to pull troops out of the country.

SANDERS: We want to focus on transitioning to local enforcement, as well as have our allies and partners in the region, who have a lot more at risk to put more skin into into the game.


PHILLIP: Well, after all of this, the president is pivoting back to taxes today. He's going to be heading to West Virginia for the fourth time since taking office for a roundtable on that issue. All of this. The border, Syria, tax reform, about shoring up Republican voters ahead of the 2018 midterm elections -- Alisyn and David.

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

[06:05:04] Let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN political commentator Errol Louis. Great to see both of you. So Errol, I'll start with you.

As Abby just reported, border crossings for the month of March were up 37 percent. Here's the numbers. They're interesting to look at. So 37 percent. But look specifically at what has happened in March through the years. So you can see in 2017 there was an outlier year, which was quite low, 16,000 border crossings.

And then 2018, look, it goes up to 50,000 border crossings. The point is, the president has a predicate for sending troops to the border. He can just look at these numbers. He can reveal these. That may not have been his motivation.


CAMEROTA: But other presidents have done this. So how significant?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. I think it's significant politically, more so than operationally. I don't think we're going to look at the next round of numbers and see it drop down to 16, or 14, or 13, or anything like that. And it's not intended to.

This is what I would call security theater. It's akin to what you see at the airports, where you know, they make you take off your shoes and hop on one foot and do all kinds of stuff to try and make everyone feel as if some effort is being made to secure the nation. We know, though, from the experts that's not really what's going on at all. This is not simply a matter of if there's a wall there, if there are troops there, then you can stop people. And if it's not there, they'll just come flooding in. It's really a lot of push/pull factors that are a lot more complicated.

On the other hand, complicated is not how you win elections. This is election year politicking. And what he wants is the image. What he wants is the number. What he wants is a discussion like this, so that his base will hear that the president is meeting with --

GREGORY: Back in 2006 when Bush did it, when President Obama did it, in both cases there was a broader context, as there is here, some type of bigger immigration deal with more enforcement and whether a pathway to citizenship or not. Now you have the specter of the wall. But there is always a political component that this is set against.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. It's usually part of a carrot stick offering a president's trying to put forward show I'm willing to be tough on the border if maybe we can pull together a broader deal. Here's the thing.

This is a president that exemplifies governing by impulse. This isn't governing by plan. And he's willing to break with his advisers and cause a scurry of activity for them to get to backfill the president's promises. But occasionally, he breaks from reality. This particular instance is simply about him reacting to a problem with his base and things he's seen on television.

And all of a sudden you have more National Guard troops at the border and a government trying to implement his desires. When it comes to other issues like Syria, it's a little more complicated, that reality show. But this instance in particular is not being driven by a real problem. It is being driven by the perception of a problem and a political problem with his base.

CAMEROTA: The Mexican foreign minister said something interesting. He said that our homeland security secretary said that they wouldn't be armed. And also, there's unfair who's going to pay for this? So I don't know. Is that -- is that different? I mean, what do you do with a bunch of people who are scattered, unarmed?

LOUIS: They're National Guardsman, so it's coming from deep within sort of the civilian population, right? So again, more politics. People can say, "Look, I wasn't concerned. I tried to deal with the border. It is -- it's for show.

Frankly, you know, again, operationally, it's not like you have to have people with guns to stop desperate, starving, low-income migrants from crossing the border. All you need is somebody in the uniform. This actually would fit the bill. So on one level that actually makes sense, if all you want to do maybe scare people away and make a show of things.

And here again, that's really what this is most about.

GREGORY: There is this issue, too, of a complicated reality of people coming not just from Mexico but from Central America who are seeking asylum status, who are seeking to escape danger. There have been well-documented cases of single women escaping abusive relationships in Mexico, maybe part of the drug trade and elsewhere.

None of this is addressed by this. If you can come while the matter is being adjudicated, you can stay in the United States. It raises this question of why now is this a priority?

Our Jeff Zeleny was questioning Sarah Sanders at the White House about this yesterday.


ZELENY: Why is this such an urgent priority right now for the president to sign?

NIELSEN: I think what I would say is that the numbers continue to increase. April traditionally is a month in which we see more folks crossing the border without a legal right to do so. We are seeing more and more advertising, very unfortunately by the traffickers and smugglers to our south, specific to how to get around our system, and enter our country and stay. So why today, not yesterday, tomorrow? Today is the day.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GREGORY: I mean, it's amazing. It's like -- you know, is this

homeland security? You know, Passover is coming. We've got to stop the border flows.

AVLON: It's a seasonal thing. You can set your calendar to it. It's April. Illegal crossings will be up.

[06:10:06] But you know, the answer, if you parse it carefully, is basically because the president said so. That's the reason it's today. Because the president got a bee in the bonnet about this. Because if it were attached to a broader immigration deal, as seemed to be possible in October, this would be great policy and great politics. But it doesn't seem to be. It's government by impulse.

CAMEROTA: All right. There's something else the president said that doesn't seem to be that people are not immediately springing to do, and that is remove U.S. troops from Syria.

Our Elise Labott has some reporting that, in fact, he's getting pushback from his military folks about how to do this, when to do this, why to do this. Here's her reporting. At one stage, General Joseph Dunford asked the president to state explicitly what he wanted to see happen in Syria, according to an administration official.

The president responded by saying the troops need to finish its mission against ISIS in Syria within six months. A time line military officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis warned would be too short, according to this official.

So the president wants our troops home. He's said that before. But interestingly, Errol, this is -- you know, this is what he hit president Obama for time and again. Don't tell the enemy what you're going to do. Don't give them a timeline. Don't play your hand. Don't telegraph it to the world. So why is he doing this?

LOUIS: Right. This is what he said, and of course, his actions are now taking him in a different direction. I think, again, sort of impulsivity. He wants -- he wants it done. He wants to get it done by six months from now? Well, that's right around the time the elections are going to roll around.

I think that's some portion of it, which is OK for a political leader. Everybody wants to bring the troops home by Christmas. It's understood. It was World War II, Korean War, on and on and on.

On the other hand, you have military officials who were telling him in so many words this is a long war. This is not going to get done in six months. It might not get done in six years. This is sort of an ongoing fight against the forces of radicalism which, if you allow them to regroup, if you pull out and just let them sort of hang out in the desert and reconstitute themselves. We'll be having this conversation again.

GREGORY: So that is the tension, because the president said as a candidate we're going to defeat ISIS. You know, we're not going to cut and run. He made a huge deal of that. But at the same time, the tension piece is just what President Obama felt with, where he felt he got rolled by the military. And in terms of the surged up troops in Afghanistan.

This is a perennial problem over how long do you stay in a region where the absence of U.S. leadership can create a vacuum?

AVLON: Yes. I mean, the entire reason we have a problem with ISIS in Syria is because, in large part, a vacuum was created. Al Qaeda in Iraq was not contained, morphed into something new. But here's a president who believes deeply that we need to get our troops out. He says at a rally in Ohio, we're going to pull out of Syria.

His Pentagon and his staff are utterly taken aback. They don't know the timeline. There's a scramble to do it. It has two knock-on effects. OK, first of all, he's contradicting, as Alisyn pointed out, by insisting on six months. Exactly what he hit President Obama on. In other words, a chilling line from the Taliban at the time, maybe apocryphal saying.

You have to watches but we have the time. You know, I know when you're withdrawing. We're going to win this fight ultimately.

The second thing is the generals trying to say, "Well, what is your real outcome?" You make a lot of noise appropriately about ISIS being on the run. But Baghdadi is not yet caught. It's not entirely extinguished. And you could be replicating a problem. So here you have unanimous dissent, basically, from the military brass and Trump being very frustrated. But he clearly wants to get out. Maybe he wants to actually create a condition to move the costs onto Saudi Arabia and other countries. That could be part of a larger game. But here, you have the military brass with real-world responsibilities and the president with an impulsive political concern.

GREGORY: All right, guys. Stand by. More to come.

When we come back, the Mueller investigation. We're now learning that Russian oligarchs are in the special counsel's crosshairs. Why is Mueller's team questioning the wealthy Russians. We're going to discuss that coming up.


[06:17:28] GREGORY: CNN learning exclusively from multiple sources now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the U.S. Investigators are asking whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations, directly or indirectly, into Don Trump's presidential campaign and his inauguration. And it's coming as the Trump administration is expected now to sanction several Russian oligarchs with ties to President Putin over election interference.

Let's discuss that now again with John Avlon and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

So Carrie, what's the play here? What are they looking at? Is this in the sweet spot of Mueller's mandate? CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.

I think that it certainly adds another layer to what we already knew about the special counsel's investigation, as revealed through the indictment, the big indictment of the Internet Research Agency and other Russian entities and oligarchs that the special counsel's office already had filed.

So in that indictment, those entities and individuals were charged and in this case. And so what this new report shows is that the activity of certain Russian oligarchs is not from the investigator's perspective just limited to the activity that was laid out in that indictment but also there may be another layer of activity in this case perhaps providing money directly or indirectly to the campaign.

So there's more to come. I think we already have indicators that they were looking at this set of individuals. But there's more to come.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, it just stands to reason. Follow the money, right? So if the Russian --

AVLON: Follow the rubles.

CAMEROTA: Follow the rubles. If the Russian oligarchs have tons of money to spread around either in a campaign or before, maybe even with real estate, right? I mean, to figure out if Donald Trump was compromised somehow before that.

AVLON: Right, right. I'd say the questions of real estate and money laundering may be separate from what Mueller seems to be going through here. One of the things he's looking at is did Russian oligarchs use, for example, straw donors to make illegal donations to a Russian campaign? That's fascinating. That hasn't been exposed yet.

I'm sorry, the Trump's campaign. But the question in money laundering, which is really one of the big, you know, accusations against Manafort and open questions around Russian influence in this election, they are -- the fact they're targeting oligarchs, the fact that CNN's reporting shows that people are being detained when they try to come here, that they're being asked tough questions.

The Mueller probe is widening and it's getting granular, with respect to Russian involvement in the election. Not just a psy-op via the social media but money and perhaps attempts to compromise key figures, as well.

[06:20:09] GREGORY: Right. I mean, it's important to -- it's illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to an American campaign. But you -- and the interesting piece of this, there is -- there's questions about potential financial ties that Donald Trump and his businesses had to Russian oligarchs.

Now if they're investigating whether there is money coming into the campaign. All the while you've got the administration getting ready to levy sanctions against Russian oligarchs. So you have a crackdown coming. There's no coincidence for that. CORDERO: You're absolutely right, David. So it is clearly illegal under the campaign finance laws for foreign entities or individuals to provide campaign donations. And so what we're seeing on the upcoming sanctions, actually, that I would look at from the perspective of a positive development. Because what it indicates is that there are parts of the U.S. government, notwithstanding sometimes the president's rhetoric, but there are parts of the U.S. government that are working together to put together investigative and intelligence information that are then laying the groundwork to be able to establish additional sanctions.

There already have been some sanctions against Russian entities and individuals who were also named in the special counsel's indictment. But John is absolutely right that where we see the overall Russia investigation looking at, on one hand, social media and propaganda- related efforts, on another hand, actual trying to influence people's behavior on the ground during the election campaign time period, trying to work with protestors and things like that, where there was actual interaction with Americans here in the U.S. during the election.

And then the money piece is another aspect of the investigation, whether or not the Russians, in addition to personal interaction and social media, also had financial impact.

GREGORY: This is the point. We can -- there could have been all of these attempts, all of these measures taken. It's a separate matter to whether somebody knew about it, was working with them on it. That is the critical distinction.

AVLON: It is. Because if -- if the Facebook attempt to influence people's minds actually did impact people's votes but only in their heads. It wasn't actually -- that's a very murky 21st Century behavioral psychology question.

CAMEROTA: Well, here we are.

AVLON: And here we are. But if it's money, if it's direct influence, if it's buy-offs, if it's money laundering, you know, oligarchs and/or the Russian Internet Research Agency influencing things directly, that's a different criteria. And then you've got, you know, questions of collusion between the campaign, the broader Trump associates, and Russians.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that segue.

AVLON: You're welcome. That was an assist.

CAMEROTA: I saw that. That leads us to Roger Stone. So a long time --

AVLON: All roads.

CAMEROTA: All roads lead to Roger Stone. Long-time friend and associate of Donald Trump's. And the question has always been what exactly did he know? Who exactly was he communicating with? And it's tough, because he seems to be bragging during this period of communicating with Julian Assange and maybe others and then trying to walk it back.

But our investigative arm at "The K File" has unearthed an interview that he gave to Info Wars in which, once again, he was sort of explicitly trying to say what he knows. Here it is.


ROGER STONE, DONALD TRUMP ADVISOR: The Clinton campaign narrative that the Russians favor Donald Trump and the Russians are leaking this information, this is inoculation, because as you said earlier, they know what is coming and it is devastating.

Let's remember that their defense in all of the Clinton Foundation scandals has been not, "We didn't do it, it has been you have no proof. Yes, but you have no proof." Well, I think Julian Assange has the proof, and I think he's going to furnish it to the American people.


CAMEROTA: OK. So Carrie, I mean, that's where he somehow knows what Julian Assange has, and he says it repeatedly. That was August 4. On August 10, he says that he's bee in touch with Assange. Sorry, that he's communicated with Assange. That's August 15. He says that he's also had direct messages, we know this, with the DNC hacker Guccifer, who turns out to be a Russian intel guy.

And so how are they going to figure out what, in fact, Roger Stone knows?

CORDERO: Alisyn, I think what we can derive from that is that from the investigative standpoint, there will come a point when investigators are able to piece together the truth of what Roger Stone knew, who he communicated with, when he communicated with them. That piece will get resolved through the investigation, I feel confident.

What is less unclear [SIC], and we'll see whether or not the eventual factual story reveals this, is whether or not Roger Stone had advanced knowledge and then what his communication with or coordination with the campaign was, if he did have advanced knowledge.

[06:25:14] And then another piece is the role of WikiLeaks in this.

AVLON: Right.

CORDERO: So there's the Roger Stone personal piece, what his personal involvement may or may not have been, or knowledge. And then there's what is the role of WikiLeaks? And this is a bigger question for the intelligence community. Because the CIA director, Pompeo, has come out and said last spring that WikiLeaks is a hostile -- works with hostile intelligence agencies.

GREGORY: Good -- quick point. AVLON: Look, just -- "K Files" has been crushing it, but Roger Stone

has created his own trap. He can say he's a dirty trickster who gets over this skis when he's talking. But there's a pattern of hum bragging and talking about things he expects from Julian Assange. About information coming out that later comes out. That's a problem you can't spin your way out of. It's actually going to be significant.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon, Carrie Cordero, thank you both very much.

So President Trump getting testy with advisors, reportedly, over trying to immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. What are the risks if the U.S. leaves now or in the next six months? We dig deeper on that, next.