Return to Transcripts main page


White House Daily Briefing Wraps Up; U.S. Sanctions Russian President's Inner Circle; Dow Tumbles on Trump's Tariff Threat, Weak Jobs Report; Facebook Announces Changes to Fight Election Meddling. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 6, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] QUESTION: A couple of days ago the H.S. secretary was saying it could happen as early as that night. We still haven't seen them gone over. I was wondering if you could update us. I know California is the one who hasn't said what they plan to do. They're still reviewing. Will you all still go with the plan if it's just the three other states and not them? Can you tell us what the holdup is with California?

SANDERS: Absolutely. We'll continue moving forward with the other border states. We're working with states' governors right now to go through this process, and we hope to have National Guard on the ground as soon as possible.

And we're going to continue to work with California, and we're hopeful that they'll do the right thing and help protect our borders.

QUESTION: Do you have a time? Is there timing?

SANDERS: There's not a specific time, but as soon as possible.


QUESTION: On the (inaudible) 2,000 to 4,000 that the president mentioned...


SANDERS: It's going to be as many as it takes. We're looking at what that needs to be, and we're going to move forward in the process.

The president thinks that's a good first step to have 2,000 to 4,000. And if we determine that we need more, we'll make that decision at the time.


QUESTION: Follow-up -- a follow-up on that. And also on Amazon.

Really fast, what happens when this Honduran caravan gets there and you have this -- this presence of -- of National Guard? What is going to happen when the caravan arrives at the border with the National Guard? SANDERS: Well, thankfully, the Mexican government, in conjunction with our team and this administration, has broken up a lot of that and is continuing to do so.

In terms of what the specifics will look like of the National Guard, they will be working in conjunction with CBP and they will actually -- CBP will be the lead law enforcement on the ground, with National Guard backing them up and supplementing them in those efforts.

And for the specifics on that, I'd refer you to the individual states, who will help make some of those decisions.


And on Amazon, what is the administration doing with the issue of faxing and the issues of e-mails?

Administrations before this were dealing with the fact that the Post Office was losing money because of the internet, because of social media, because of people being able to correspond versus using a stamp or metered mail. What is the -- how is the administration talking that versus going to Amazon and looking at them as the -- as the problem?

SANDERS: Look, we're doing -- as I said a few minutes ago, we're working with the Post Office, we're doing a thorough review and looking at the best ways to modernize that. I don't have any specific policy announcements on that front, but that's something that we're in ongoing conversations with the U.S. Postal Service on.


SANDERS: Thanks so much, guys. Hope you have a great Friday.

[14:32:31] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: We've been watching Sarah Sanders at a pretty lively briefing.

We're back here with our panel.

I want to start, first, Elise Labott, with you on the Putin sanctions -- excuse me, on the Russian sanctions, which are clearly directed at Vladimir Putin -- and to unpack the diplo speak that we heard there about the big question is, what's the goal, what's the strategy, and what do you expect from Vladimir Putin in response to this. And the answer was that we want the totality of Russian behavior to change.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right. You know, I think what caught everybody's eye and attention is that these were because of election meddling. If you read what Treasury Secretary Mnuchin was saying it's about all of Russian behavior, in Ukraine, in Crimea, in Syria with President Assad. And what they didn't mention was the recent nerve attack against the former Russian spy in the U.K. I think that kind of fits into the whole tit-for-tat on Russian diplomats, so they didn't necessarily want to bring that into it. It certainly has something to do with the timing.

What they're trying to do, I think, is punish the wealthiest individuals who are profiting off Vladimir Putin's authoritarian behavior. By that extent, he seeks his -- he gains a lot of his power from these rich individuals, from this system. And so by punishing them they're hoping that that could not only weaken Putin but get him to change his behavior. Does that work? I don't necessarily think so. Certainly, that's the aim here.

BASH: I want to read part of a statement from Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is a giant Russia hawk who said that, "The United States must press forward with a broader strategy to deter and, if necessary, defeat Russian aggression and counter Russian malign influence activities. Anything less will only encourage Putin to continue attacking us, our allies, and democracies around the world."

So, David, he's saying this is great. We're glad that the, finally, the White House and the administration is finally punishing Russia. But what's the strategy?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He said something similar in the first round of sanctions after the 13 indictments came down from Mueller.

What I find interesting, if you take this story and the other story that dominated the briefing, the China trade issue, what you have here are two countries that the president himself as recently as this week would be saying, it would be really good if we got along and had positive relations. It seems that the path that the president is choosing with both of these countries to develop those relationships is to apply maximum pressure. That seems to be the approach. It's odd because you see this tough stance, this tough-man talk and action that he's taking with countries he has stated -- which obviously at times are adversarial with the U.S. -- that he thinks it would be better to have good right hip relations with.

[14:35:32] LABOTT: But if you listen to what he said during the campaign, he also said that countries don't respect us. I think he thinks part of this respect and part of them liking us is being a little bit scared and being a little bit strong. Let's just say, I mean, obviously, these Russian sanctions are now they're here, and they're going to be put into effect.

But on the tariffs, it remains to be seen whether they will be implemented. I think this is part of President Trump's negotiating strategy, put this tough position and then say, if I don't get what I want I'm going to walk out the door. Then you see over time, not only with this, but with Syria, he becomes a little bit more flexible. But he's going to start with the toughest position

BASH: Right.

LABOTT: -- and hope that will move --


BASH: Negotiations 101. But, Greg, as you answer -- Elise I'm sure you have been to China many

times with many different administrations, Democrat and Republican representatives. I remember going there with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. There's always talk about the trade deficit. But not action. That's the point that Sarah Sanders made in this press briefing, is that the president is going to do what other administrations have not done. But again, it's now a threat, not action yet.

GREG IP, CHIEF ECONOMIC COMMENTATOR, WALL STREET JOURNAL: That said, there's a very important difference between the responses to Russia and China here. With respect to Russia, the president has had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into taking this action. The sanctions today that were announced, he didn't have any choice in the matter. They were the product of a Congress action taken last year because they were afraid Trump would allow the sanctions to lapse.

With respect to China, Trump is very much in the lead, pressing for more pressure, dialing it up. Yesterday, in 24 hours, tripling the amount of tariffs he wants to apply to the Chinese. He is much more emotionally invested in the attack on China than he is on Russia.

CHALIAN: As he has been for years.

BASH: Right.

CHALIAN: And to Dana's point, Larry Kudlow, he's new head of the National Economic Council. He said there's no "there" there here, that these are just words right now.

LABOTT: He's trying to calm the markets.

CHALIAN: Of course, he is. Markets have not been responding kindly to this news.

BASH: Look at that. Right now, even after that -- especially, I think, after that press conference, it's now down 663 points. Before it started, it was hovering around 600.

LABOTT: And you also see what China is doing in response.

BASH: On that, I'm glad you said that. I want to ask both of you, but especially you, David, about it. Obviously, this is your wheelhouse as our political guru here.

Look at this map. As Elise said, we're talking about how China is threatening to respond to the U.S. and that is with sanctions or tariffs on soy beans. Look at those states right in the middle of the country there. Those are soy bean-producing states, mostly Republican, red states but some blue states. What they all also have in common is that they have about a dozen, all told, very competitive House races, David. This is important when you're talking about the Democrats having only 23 states to flip. If you have dozen--


CHALIAN: Districts.

BASH: Excuse me, districts, thank you.

When you have a dozen that could have concerned farmers/voters, that's not good for the president or House Republicans.

CHALIAN: I think the talk among them has been, well, part of the Trump based farmers and in a lot of these states that he won. I saw Washington Post analysis. He sort of won by 12 percentage points in counties that have soy beans over.

LABOTT: He's also talking about cars.

CHALIAN: It goes beyond soy beans. You are right to point out it is much more acute and imminent for House members who are running in this very tough environment. So it's not just a President Trump 2020 problem where there's time to improve that relationship. You heard she said, we're getting the secretary of agriculture involved. We're going to try to talk to farmers, Sarah Sanders said. But it is a big problem right now. The House map overlay, a lot varies there. There's tons of competitive districts where they are vulnerable in this. The last thing they need in this challenging environment is their own president, by choice, making it difficult.

IP: But it's not only one direction. Remember, on the other side of the farm stuff, there's lots of support, especially those blue-collar manufacturing states. We're getting tough with trade issues, especially China. Don't forget, in the special election in Pennsylvania, both the Democrat and the Republican supported Trump in terms of the tariff stuff.

The other point to make is the states hit hardest by those actions are Washington and California, Washington because of Boeing. It's not as strong -- by all means, it is definitely negative, but it may not be as strong as China hopes it is.

[14:40:15] LABOTT: I think it's really interesting though that, like, you know, he said he's going to be tough on China, and China said, well, OK, we can play that game, going after Trump's base. Clearly, the political map is David's domain and not my wheelhouse. But diplomatically, it's interesting how they did that. And they also mentioned cars. You forget that Michigan was one of the states that Hillary Clinton was expected to win, and Donald Trump won. He campaigned on this idea that life would get better for people in these industrial states. I mean that --


CHALIAN: That's Greg's point. That's why you see a Democrat like Sherrod Brown, running in Ohio for reelection, embracing some of this.

BASH: All right, such a great discussion.

Thank you all for being here.

On a very much related topic, we have breaking news. Facebook announcing significant changes to its platform just before Mark Zuckerberg is set to face lawmakers on Capitol Hill. We'll break down what those changes mean.

We're also monitoring the markets, as we've been talking about. The Dow is down 669 points right now. Wow, again, right before the White House briefing, it was about 100 points higher. That could tell you a lot about the way the markets are reacting to the discussions about a potential trade war with China. The White House saying moments ago that President Trump is the best negotiator at the table.

Back in a moment.


[14:46:06] BASH: News just in to CNN, Facebook is rolling out another big set of changes to its platform on Friday in advance of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony on Capitol Hill next.

CNN's senior tech correspondent, Laurie Segall, joins us now with the details.

Laurie, what exactly is Facebook proposing?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECH CORRESPONDENT: It's aimed at trying to combat election meddling, so now they're rolling out transparency around election advertising. We heard them talk about political advertising, labeling it and authorizing it. Now they're expanding that to issue ads. So they'll begin labeling all political and issue ads when you see them on Facebook. So that will look like -- in the top corner, it will say political ad. There also going to show who paid for them, require verification to run ads. So if you're running an ad, you have to get verified by sending in a mailing address and a government-issued I.D.

They're also creating a searchable database of ads so it's easier to find. They're using technology to look at ads that are already out there and make sure they were authorized.

This one is interesting. They're making people verify if they're a big user, verifying users behind large pages. So if you look at what happened in 2016, the IRA had taken up these big pages and had big followings and they were posing as Americans and they were trying to create discord and get people on all different sides, and no one knew that was coming from Russian trolls, essentially. They're trying to combat that.

What Mark said in this post, Mark Zuckerberg, he said these steps aren't going to stop people from gaming the system. We heard that earlier from Sheryl Sandberg, who talked to a lot of different folks. She said security is an arms race. We're never fully going to get on top of it. The frustration is that you want Facebook to be more proactive and less reactive.

All of these changes, this is days, and just days before, they came out with changes restricting access for third-party developers trying to protect user data. This is all ahead of next week, a monumental week for Facebook where Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying in front of Congress and will have to answer these hard questions.

BASH: No question about it.

Laurie, I want you and our viewers to listen to part of the rounds that Sheryl Sandberg made this morning. She was talking to the "Today" show and warning that more security breaches could happen. Listen.


SHERYL SANDBERG, COO, FACEBOOK: What we weren't focused on is protecting. That same data that you enable to use social experiences could also be misused.

SAMANTHA GURTHIE, HOST, TODAY SHOW: Do you think there could be other breaches like the one we saw in Cambridge Analytica, where tens of millions of people's data was accessed improperly?

SANDBERG: We're doing investigations. We're going to do audits. Yes, we think it's possible. That's why we're doing the audit.


BASH: Laurie, in addition to the substance of what she's talking about, what you mentioned, I want to ask you about the crisis management here. The fact that Sheryl Sandberg is coming out saying what they're saying, that they just made this announcement about new rules. We are going to see Mark Zuckerberg next week. Obviously, you had that great interview with him as well. There is an obvious realization that they were caught on their heels and they're suffering financially in the markets and elsewhere. What are you hearing from your sources about the strategy right now?

SEGALL: I spoke to someone yesterday who said this is a leadership moment for Mark. It's a bit of a make it-or-break it moment. The irony, this is a company that's asked us to put our lives out there, to be transparent, share our likes and our moments, and this is a CEO that's been protected. I don't want to joke but he has lived in his own filter bubble. He isn't used to going out in front of folks. He even said to me on camera when I had this interview, I don't like doing this. I know I have to start taking the hard questions. Now he has to do that on such a politically large scale that I think it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. And the thought is that they took too long to get out in front of this. These are not just issues with Cambridge Analytica. This has been going on for the last couple of years. We've seen them deal with it in blog posts and Facebook Live. We need a big leadership moment from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Folks wonder if it's too little, too late. Next week will be a watershed moment for this company and Mark.

[14:50:33] BASH: It absolutely will. They changed the world. They have been part of the Wild West. And that seems to be changing. And we'll see it play out for sure next week.

Laurie, thank you for that great reporting. Appreciate it.

We're following breaking news on Wall Street.

I want to bring in Cristina Alesci, who is CNN Money's correspondent.

Cristina, we've been looking at the Dow. Down 700 points at this point. What are you hearing from traders on the floor where you are right now about how much this is related to the China trade war threat?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: I'm hearing three things from traders and investors. One, they don't like the sabre rattling out of the administration and think there's a better, perhaps a more calm way to get China to the negotiating table than this sort of very public tit-for-tat that's going on. Two, traders are cognizant of the fact that a possible trade war may mean increased crisis for consumers and even possibly producers. That may curtail growth down the line at some point. And also three -- and this is something specific to Wall Street -- they were paying attention to the administration officials that came out after Trump floated this idea of another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. Both Larry Kudlow, the chief economic advisor, and Steve Mnuchin, came out and gave conflicting messages. Kudlow was trying to reassure the market early this morning. Secretary Mnuchin came out and said there's a possibility of a trade war. Those conflicting messages don't help. Really smart investors and economists say, look, we don't like it when the president over politicizes the stock market and perhaps is giving messages and putting messages out there to reassure his base that he's tough, but there are consequences. And this is a risky strategy, Dana. Because China has levers it can pull to retaliate. This isn't just tit-for- tat on the number of goods we tariff and tax. This is about China, perhaps, making it more difficult for U.S. businesses to operate there. This is about China, perhaps, curtailing the number of tourists that can come and spend money in the U.S. There's a lot going on behind the scenes. And it's tough for the markets to factor all that kind of stuff in. And going into the weekend, I think a lot of traders and investors don't want to hold these positions.

BASH: Cristina, not to mention the part of America's debt that China is in control of as well.

I wonder how much you think -- we were listening during the show to Sarah Sanders, the White House -- at the White House briefing. And she was continuing on the hard line that we have heard, particularly from the president, effectively saying, look, this is a problem. They, China, started this because of the fact that the U.S. has such a large trade deficit with China, that they haven't been acting fairly, and it's up to President Trump. He feels that it's up to him to act. How much is what we're seeing right now a reaction to that sabre rattling that we literally just heard from the White House?

ALESCI: I think there was a little bit of that. No one argues, both here on Wall Street and when you talk to CEOs, that something has to be done about China. You're not just talking about a trade imbalance but a possible theft of intellectual property. But they argue perhaps there's a cleaner way of getting to the negotiating table, and if you really want a solution when it comes to China, maybe embarrassing, you know, our biggest trading partner publicly isn't the right way to go about it. Maybe it's something a little bit more measured and behind the scenes, and maybe it involves also looping in the rest of your economic team on what you're going to do. The fact is Larry Kudlow wasn't aware of the announcement that President Trump made overnight --

BASH: Cristina --


ALESCI: -- and that makes the market very uneasy.

BASH: I want to play a little bit of Larry Kudlow talking about this issue. Let's listen.


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Why has China gone two decades without making the changes that the entire world and the governing organization knows they've been breaking? Why do they continue that? Blame China. Don't blame the administration. Don't blame Japan. Don't blame Europe. Blame China. They have to put their best foot forward and act like a world power.


BASH: Cristina, effectively, what we're hearing from the White House, if you were to break it down, there might be short term pain, but it's for long-term gain, to fix a very broken system and broken relationship with China.

[14:55:09] ALESCI: Yes. And again, I don't think anybody disagrees that that has to be fixed. But again, is this the right way to do it? That's what the market seems to be debating right now. Going into the weekend, I don't think anybody is comfortable holding positions. We might get a late-session rally. But it's very unlikely at this point -- Dana?

BASH: Cristina, thank you so much. We'll stay with you and watch the numbers on the screen. The Dow and Wall Street will be open a little more than an hour.

We'll be back in a moment.


[14:59:45] BASH: Welcome back. Top of the hour here on CNN. I'm Dana Bash, in for Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.

We are watching a wild ride on Wall Street. Look at that, down 722 points. By down, I mean, of course, the Dow. That after a disappointing March jobs report and, of course, what we have been hearing from the White House, threats from President Trump for $100 billion in tariffs against China.