Return to Transcripts main page
New Reports Indicate Low Level Talks between North Korea and U.S. Officials have been Taking Place; President Trump Deploys National Guard to U.S.-Mexico Border; EPA Director Scott Pruitt Gets Vote of Confidence from Reince Priebus; Bus Full of Canadian Hockey Players Crashes; Trump Campaign Official Reportedly Sought Hillary Clinton's Missing Emails on Dark Web; Tiger Woods Plays in Masters Tournament. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired April 7, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:25] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Dianne Gallagher in for Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. CNN Newsroom begins right now. And we're starting with this first on CNN. Secret talks between the U.S. and North Korea.
GALLAGHER: We want to be right to this story. Global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has all the details. She joins us now. Elise, what's going on?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dianne, you know that we've never really heard publicly from North Korea that it was willing to go forward with the talks after the South Koreans extended an offer from Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, to President Trump to meet and President Trump accepted. And we've been waiting to hear something. Now CNN has learned, multiple officials tell myself and CNN's Kevin Liptak and Jenna McLaughlin, that the U.S. and North Korea have been meeting. CIA officials, this is being run by the CIA, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, these lower-levels officials have been meeting with North Korea intel officials. They have been speaking on the phone, have even met in a third country, initially starting to prepare for these talks with nailing down a location. The North Koreans have ask for a meeting in Pyongyang. Not really sure the White House is going to be up for that, but the capital of Mongolia has also been raised.
And I think this really shows the involvement of CIA Director Mike Pompeo. We understand this is all in concert to try and set up a meeting before the summit with Director Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, the head of North Korean intelligence. And I think as he comes on as secretary the state, we'll hear a lot more about his role.
BLACKWELL: And Elise, this is what many when the talks were initially agreed to by the president, expected would have happened and should have happened before there was a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. LABOTT: That's right. Look, you don't just have a meeting of this
nature, a summit between two leaders with so many tough issues, particularly denuclearization, before preparatory talks. A lot of this is going to be going on in secret, Victor, but this North Korea/CIA intelligence channel has been in existence. And the White House felt this this is way to prepare that going forward. There's an interagency process that's being run out of the national security council, as National Security Adviser John Bolton, who starts work Monday, who is already in the office today, comes on. I'm sure he'll take a bigger role. And as Director Pompeo comes on as secretary of state, I think you'll see that all start to gel. I think we need to see an official declaration of a date and place which we're still waiting for.
BLACKWELL: Elise Labott for us there in Washington. Elise, thank you.
Let's get more perspective now on this. Gordon Chang joins us. He's the author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes on the World," and he writes a column for "The Daily Beast."
GALLAGHER: Thanks for joining us. First off, just house significant is this news really that the U.S. and North Korean officials have been meeting behind the scenes here?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN, NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": We've known this for quite some time but we haven't had the details which Elise just mentioned, and those are significant because we had news of the Swedish talks, the talks in Finland, and then all of a sudden it fell off the radar, and no one was really quite sure what was going. So this is important that these discussions have continued in the intervening weeks, and it indicates that both sides are serious to have talks because a lot of people outside official Washington were saying this meeting would never happen.
BLACKWELL: How about the potentially that these talks these could derail the plans for a summit between Kim and President Trump?
CHANG: Anything can happen because this is North Korea. But we have got to remember that North Korea has a real incentive to meet President Trump. There are reports that the Kim regime is running out of cash. They come of out China, Office Number 39, which was the Kim family slush fund, is low on money. And there are reports from South Korea that North Korea's foreign exchange reserves will be completed by October. I don't quite believe October, but nonetheless the Kims needs sanctions relief, and to get that they have to speak to President Trump.
GALLAGHER: So we're just a few days away. Today the first day on the job of John Bolton coming on as national security adviser. Rex Tillerson no longer secretary of state. How do these kind of changes affect the dynamic of all that's going on between North Korea and the U.S.?
CHANG: I think the U.S. negotiating position will be tougher. John Bolton has said that the purpose of negotiations is a very short one, that you get from North Korea the details of how they are going to let in U.S. inspectors, how they're going to turn over weapons. That is probably not happen in that fashion.
[10:05:11] But we've got to remember the U.S. holds the high cards here. Time is on our side. And so denuclearization of North Korea without the use of force I think is possible. I know most people disagree, but we're going to see I think developments that will surprise everyone.
BLACKWELL: Do you think that a summit or the president gets face-to- face with Kim without a guarantee and a process of denuclearization in these lower level talks without clearing that first?
CHANG: Yes, we would like to see that a lot of these lower level issues would have been cleared beforehand, and that's the way summitry normally occurs. But we've also got to recall that we've had normal processes, interagency reviews, doing things the typical way. That's sort of failed over the last three decades. And so trying something new I think is not only bold but is probably the way to go.
Now, yes, we need to have some preliminary discussions as Elise is reporting, but nonetheless I think we should be hopeful that we can actually move forward much faster than most people think.
GALLAGHER: Gordon Chang, thank you so much for your insight.
CHANG: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: EPA chief Scott Pruitt is hanging on in the Trump administration. We know there's one controversy after another that is following him around, but he got a resounding vote of confidence from former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus this morning.
GALLAGHER: Also, look, the revolving door of the White House just keeps turning. Newly minted national security adviser John Bolton, as we said earlier, he's at work today. This is just a day after former national security adviser H.R. McMaster left his job, large round of applause and sendoff there, but staffing issues aside.
BLACKWELL: Yes, the president has a lot more on his plate. White House officials tells CNN exclusively that the president's lawyers are prepping him for a potential interview with Robert Mueller.
GALLAGHER: CNN's Dan Merica is following this story from Washington. Dan, what exactly kind of preparations are we talking about here that are underway?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, we're told that these preparations are in their infancy, that President Trump is meeting with advisers, and they're just beginning at this point, because it's worth noting while in their infancy, according to a White House official and a source with knowledge of the situation, President Trump hasn't even agreed formally to meet with Robert Mueller. That would be a very high stakes meetings and there are many outside the White House who would be very worried, friends of the president, advisers to the president would be very worried about him sitting down and meeting with Robert Mueller.
This is a guy who used hyperbole throughout the campaign and throughout his business career. That works when you're a New York real estate developer. It doesn't work as well when you're sitting down with special counsel and FBI officials. That could get him into big legal trouble.
As you noted as well there's been a lot of turnover here at the White House recently. On Friday H.R. McMaster, the president's national security adviser, was given what is called a clap-out, which means as he left the West Wing there were a number of aides and advisers lined up along the street, clapping him out, hooting and hollering.
His replacement, John Bolton, who was just mentioned, actually walked right behind me during my earlier live shot, to go to work. So he is here bright and early on Saturday morning. He is taking over for H.R. McMaster, is obviously known for his more hawkish views, could signal a significant change in President Trump's foreign policy.
H.R. McMaster may not be the most recent official to leave the Trump administration, however. As you note, Scott Pruitt has been in hot water all week, has been really slammed with a number of damaging headlines. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, has said that President Trump is not OK with the ongoing drama around Scott Pruitt. But Scott Pruitt got a pretty substantial vote of confidence from former White House -- top White House official Reince Priebus, who regularly talks to the president, on FOX News. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No, I don't. I think what he's got to do is somehow show the American public that he's got the EPA buckled down, you know, come to the table, show how things are going to be different, which I think he's starting to do. Trump world love Scott Pruitt, so you also have a huge base of the party that actually knows who the EPA director is, which isn't normally the case.
I think if you look at the preponderance of the evidence, I think Scott Pruitt is doing a great job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MERICA: That's a significant vote of confidence from the former White House chief of staff. Obviously it comes on FOX News, a television station that the president regularly watches on the weekend. We don't know exactly what the president is doing this weekend, especially today.
[10:10:01] He has nothing on his schedule. He often goes golfing. It's a little gross and cold for golf today, but as we've noted before the president has spent 139 days at a property that bears his name or that his company owns. Guys?
BLACKWELL: A little gross and cold. GALLAGHER: I agree with that assessment. I agree.
BLACKWELL: Dan Merica at the White House, thank you very much.
GALLAGHER: All right, thousands of National Guard troops preparing to deploy as part of President Trump's vow to protect the border between the U.S. and Mexico. CNN's Nick Watt is on the Arizona border. We're going to go right there after the break.
BLACKWELL: Also, exclusive new details about another adviser to President Trump who tried to get dirt on Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. More on that, ahead.
GALLAGHER: In Mexico, hundreds of migrants are traveling across the country fleeing violence and poverty while also trying to bring awareness to the desperate conditions that are part of their everyday lives at home.
[10:15:01] BLACKWELL: And while President Trump and others warn the group is a threat to the U.S., those migrants say they are merely in search of a better life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm asking her why she's here. She's saying there's a lot of violence where she's coming from. I'm asking if there dangerous. She says a child of this age cannot be dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: CNN's Nick Watt is in Nogales, Arizona. Nick, good morning to you. And what are you learning about the National Guard members who will be deployed there?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this deployment is under way. We know that helicopters, we know that vehicles, we know that equipment is on its way to the border now. The Pentagon has said that 4,000 troops can come to the border. Their mission can extend through September of this year, but right now we have 150 troops that are going to be coming to the border here in Arizona, 250 going to the border in Texas, of course that 1,200-mile-long border just across the way from us.
Part of the initial mission that they will be carrying out will be to figure out where they should be and what they should be doing. We know they will be acting in a support capacity. They will not actually be confronting migrants coming across the border. They will not be dealing with detainees. They will be supporting in surveillance, aerial surveillance, and also here in Arizona apparently in building some infrastructure along the border. That is what we are told. Here in Arizona, they're going to be here next week sometimes, we don't know exactly when. In Texas Friday night they said within 72 hours, so that's by Monday, there would be 250 troops on that border.
Now, why they're coming? Well, that is an open question. If you listen to the Trump administration, they say that there is a crisis on this border. Apprehensions of illegal migrants coming across the border has ramped up in the past couple of months, and March was far higher than March of 2017, but in general border crossings are actually at a historic low.
But the DHS and governors have said they have identified areas of vulnerability, holes they want to plug along this border, and that is what's going to be happening. We're going to see over the next coming weeks exactly where these troops are, what they're doing, and how it plays out. Right now we know they are on their way, and next week we will see exactly what they're going to be doing. Guys, back to you.
BLACKWELL: There's 150 there in Arizona. The bureau chief of the National Guard says that there will be 500 immediately heading to the border across the country. Nick, thank you.
GALLAGHER: Joining us now to talk about this a little bit more, CNN national security analyst and former Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary Juliette Kayyem. President Trump and his aides have been pretty vocal about their plans to shore up the border with the National Guard. But this is not unique to him. Both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush did the same thing. So is President Trump's strategy likely going to be the same and is the outcome going to be any different? Here we are eight years later doing the same thing.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right, and doing it at a time when there is absolutely no crisis, as Nick was saying. When they were deployed under Bush or Obama there were actually numbers suggesting that the border may need extra help. And even in those cases those were well-constructed deployments, working with the governors figuring out where you would put the troops.
As Nick just reported, they don't even know their mission is right now. Then the fallacy they can actually do anything effective, I did the numbers here. You have 250 troops in Texas, a 1,200 mile border, 150 troops in Arizona, a 378-mile border. That basically when you take into account how long someone can work, that's basically one person every 10 miles. In the end this was a crisis created by the White House and potentially Trump mistake in understanding what troops could be sent to the border, and the governors are essentially given a few troops I think to sort of cover some political I think -- a political crisis that was created by the White House.
GALLAGHER: So let's expand on that here, because basically by law the National Guard is sort of there more in a supervisory role, where they're supporting, they're surveilling the border, and acting there in support. Is this just a visual concept? Because if President Bush and President Obama did the same thing, what makes it different about President Trump doing it? Is it because the border crossings are not at the same level at that point?
KAYYEM: Right. That's exactly right. You would generally want to deploy troop where there's an understood mission of what they are going to do. We have it backwards right now. We've said we're going to deploy them. There's a couple hundred. And now they're figuring out exactly what the mission could be.
[10:20:00] I used to oversee the National Guard here in Massachusetts, and I actually am thinking, oh, my gosh, those meetings of the state National Guard people trying to figure actually what they're supposed to do.
From the memos last night from the Pentagon, the troops are being deployed in what's called Title 32 status. That means they still work under the governor, so the governors can either deploy or bring back the numbers, but very importantly they're paid by the federal government. This was key because there's no way the governors were going to pay for deploying troops for a mission that is, at best, I'll say at best unnecessary at this stage. So it looks like the Pentagon and the National Guard got a compromise last night and the federal taxpayers are paying for this.
GALLAGHER: Juliette Kayyem, thank you so much. And stay with us, everybody, because we're going to be revisiting this border issue a little bit latter this hour.
BLACKWELL: We also want to talk about this breaking news, 14 people dead after a bus carrying a junior league hockey team crashed in Canada. CNN's Polo Sandoval is following this story closely and joins us now with the latest. What are you learning, Polo?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, this bus full of hockey players was very close to reaching its destination when it collided with a semitruck, killing 14 people aboard that bus, 14 survivors now that we're trying to get more information on. We also don't know yet who is among the dead.
This was the Humboldt Broncos that was headed to the town of Nipawin that was heading for a playoff game there, so only supposed to be about a two-hour drive. This picture shot two weeks ago today of that junior league hockey teams. Those teams usually made up of young players ages 16 to 20 years old. These are promising athletes that were in a place where hockey is a way of life. And as a result, this is certainly sending shockwaves throughout the entire country, really the entire country and the world. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau taking to Twitter about 10 hours ago, expressing his condolences and also his support for the team and their coaching staff, saying, quote, "I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy in the Humboldt community and beyond."
And that also includes perhaps some of these hockey fans as well in the United States. USA Hockey also expressing support online and on social media, tweeting "USA Hockey sends its deepest condolences to the Humboldt Bronco, the families, and the entire Humboldt community. The hockey world is behind you." This is certainly a place where hockey is a way of life there in Canada. So the families of these survivors, the survivors themselves, and fans are certainly now turning to the power of prayer, as we heard from some of those community members, members of the faith community there as well in Canada. So this is something that we're closely following at this point. Investigation underway as to try to find out, pinpoint a cause and also the current condition of the tractor trailer rig driver that could potentially provider more information. As soon as we hear back from authorities, we'll bring that info you.
BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval, thank you.
GALLAGHER: All right, still to come, another adviser to Donald Trump tried to get dirt on Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, this time, though, by using information that was found on the dark web. Those exclusive details coming up in just a moment.
[10:27:43] GALLAGHER: Welcome back. I'm Dianne Gallagher in for Christi Paul this Saturday.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.
GALLAGHER: We have new and exclusive details this morning, sources telling CNN that another adviser to then candidate Donald Trump tried to expose damaging information about Hillary Clinton during that president campaign.
BLACKWELL: Joseph Schmitz, the former Pentagon inspector general in George W. Bush's administration, he approached the FBI and other government agencies to review e-mails from the dark web which he believed to be Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails from her private server. CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has details.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that a Trump campaign adviser played a key role in an effort to find Hillary Clinton's 30,000 deleted e-mails on the dark web.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.
SCIUTTO: And reveal any damaging information contained within them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not easy being a whistleblower.
SCIUTTO: Joseph Schmitz, a former Department of Defense inspector general, was a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, seen here seated at a table with then candidate Trump in March, 2016. Meeting with officials at the FBI, State Department, and the intelligence community's inspector general, he told them a source he called Patriot had discovered what he believed were the deleted e-mails on the dark web. Schmitz then pushed for the government to review and declassify the material so he and others could review it without jeopardizing Schmitz's security clearance. All this according to multiple sources with direct knowledge.
Official at the State Department and inspector general briefly interview Schmitz, but they declined to review or accept the information. The FBI also interviewed as part of its ongoing criminal investigation into Clinton's emails.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did investigate.
SCIUTTO: Schmitz then took his information to the House Intelligence Committee. This is the latest example of Trump advisers mixed up in efforts to find dirt on Clinton. Fired chief strategist Steve Bannon told the House Intelligence Committee in February the Trump campaign staff were repeatedly contacted by outsiders suggesting ways to get the Clinton e-mails, this according to a source familiar with Bannon's testimony.
A Trump campaign officials tells CNN, quote, the campaign does not comment of matters of interest to the special counsel or the Congressional committees. The material was never verified. A cybersecurity expert who also saw the material on the dark web told CNN it appeared to be fake based on what he read and where it was posted. I'm pretty sure they were posted on the dark web equivalent of Reddit, he said.
[10:30:09] Schmitz, reached by CNN in person and via email, declined to comment.
BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Jim Scuitto for that report.
There are a lot of White House observers who really didn't expect that Scott Pruitt would make it through the night, but the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is still clinging on to his job this morning.
GALLAGHER: The number of controversies that have involved Pruitt shot up even more last week. Reports say that many of the White House aides want him out. Dozens of Democrats are demanding he be dismissed. Despite all that, the president is standing by Pruitt. And look, as recently as this morning, another high-profile Republican game Pruitt a vote of confidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: If you look at the agenda that he's put in place, the clean water executive order, you look at the energy, the changes that have been made in energy regulations, the coal industry coming back. He has done a huge chunk of the changes that have taken place that are making the economy hum again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Now, one of the latest controversies involves the room that Pruitt rented from a lobbyist couple in Washington. CNN confirmed that when the couple couldn't get him to leave, they were forced to change the locks.
BLACKWELL: Let's talk about this now. I'm joined by CNN contributor and former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, and David Rivkin, he's a constitutional lawyer and formerly worked at the Department of Justice under president George H.W. Bush. He has also worked with Scott Pruitt and knows him well. And from what I've read, you like the man very much.
So let's start with you, David. Welcome to both of you. David, do you find it problematic that the EPA administrator is renting a room -- or did rent a room from the wife of a lobbyist with business before the agency?
DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Not at all. I think that as far as the room rental is concerned, the key issue always is did he pay fair market value. I think EPA's ethics opinion on this is quite clear. They looked at comparable properties within the six-block radius and concluded that renting a single room on a day by day basis, the price was between $45 and $55, so it was entirely reasonable.
The next question is, so you rented from the wife of a lobbyist. The wife, by the way, lobbied on health care issues. Her husband did not lobby Pruitt. I am aware of no ethics laws that apply here, and I find the whole specter of this targeted assault on him quite frankly offensive.
BLACKWELL: So a couple of things. "Daily Beast" is reporting that the lobbyist is Steve Hart, personally representing a natural gas company, an airline giant, and a major manufacturer that had business before the agency at the time that Pruitt was also renting a room --
RIVKIN: But he did not lobby Pruitt from everything we have heard.
BLACKWELL: Walter, you were the director of the Office of Government Ethics. What do you think, is it problematic?
WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course it is. First the spouse's interests are imputed to him, so it's really far-fetched to say that just because the two spouses are involved in lobbying different areas has any significance whatsoever.
I'm also concerned about this idea that it's fair market value. "The Washington Post" today ran an article after having interviewed a number of real estate agents in the region, and they said this idea that you could come and go and only pay for the nights you're going to stay there and leave your belongings behind so that no one else could occupy that room is really completely abnormal and nobody gets a deal like that.
Even the idea of $50 a night, I'll concede that if you're only renting one room in the house that that's worth a whole lot less than renting the whole house. But now we know that his daughter was actually staying in the other room according to a number of EPA officials, and he had the run of the entire place and no one else was ever put in that house.
When initially the EPA ethics official issued an opinion that people interpreted as saying this entire arrangement was fine, but he actually issued a second opinion, saying that he want to do clarify that was based entirely on the idea he was only renting one room in a house where others could be staying. That analysis changes completely, if Pruitt actually had the run of the entire two-bedroom in an apartment in a neighborhoods where prices runs up to $4,500 a month when he was only paying $1,000 a month after they deducted nights that he wasn't staying there.
So the whole idea that is normal is preposterous. And the idea that this is a targeted attack on Pruitt, there is no administration that would have targeted this. David worked for George W. Bush, there's no way he would have tolerated this particularly when you have Pruitt retaliating against career officials who question his excessive spending. That is cause for removal right there.
[10:35:06] BLACKWELL: So David, you've said that these criticisms, the controversy is not driven by merit, not driven by fact. What specifically are you pointing to that is not fact. You can disagree with the criticisms, disagree with the people who are calling for him to resign and for the president to fire him, but where are the lies?
RIVKIN: Let's use common sense. I would need 20 minutes to go for each issue, including security details and alleged excessive travel. Let me just ask you a simple question. When was the last time you have seen an obsessive focus from the time of enormously consequential national and foreign policy stories, when "New York Times," "Washington Post" and frankly CNN and other networks spending days screaming for his head. If somebody thinks it's not coordinated, that it is the not driven by people who do not like his policy and is the most effective member of this president's cabinet, then I can have a bridge if Brooklyn I can tell you.
BLACKWELL: My question is, what is not factual? You've not offered any answers.
RIVKIN: I do not think that, with respect to Walter, other information has not been credibly verified. The notion that he dismissed people has not been verified. We are now talking about ugly rumors put forward in the context of a lynch mob attack. Let's look at the facts. We are entitled to presumption of innocence in our professional lives and personal lives even outside a criminal prosecution. Let an I.G. investigate this. The I.G. is investigating. Let's not try to lynch the man in the pages of the media. Maybe it's not true. Maybe somebody is lying with all due respect, that he disciplined those employees for crying foul about some allegations. Maybe he disciplined them because didn't like their policies. Maybe he disciplined them because he didn't like their performance. Gee, is that possible? Sure is.
BLACKWELL: Of course there's an inspector general investigation.
RIVKIN: Let's wait until he's gone.
BLACKWELL: They said they didn't have all the information when they first looked at this --
RIVKIN: I've read the memo. It's online.
BLACKWELL: It's here in front of me.
RIVKIN: And it doesn't quite say that. All it says, they're not retreating from fair market value. There may be other issues. If his daughter stayed there on a regular basis, I would submit that would create some concerns, but we don't know that.
BLACKWELL: OK. Walter let me get you back into this conversation. The point that David makes that Democrats, we know there were 64 members of the Congress who sent a letter to the president calling for either Pruitt to resign or for the president to fire him. There are now three Republicans members of Congress also saying it's time for Pruitt to go. To his argument, wait for the investigation, what would you say to those who are saying fire him now? He should resign now?
SHAUB: One of the things that bothers me about the defense of Pruitt, and you've seen that with Reince Priebus, is they all talk about how effective he has been in his job. That's neither here nor there. That's performance. What we are interested here is conduct, misconduct under the ethics rules. And that's a legitimate thing to look at no matter how effective somebody is, because the argument of saying he's been really effective is to say ethics don't matter if we like this guy. And that's just simply not appropriate.
Now I am sure there are people on both sides who have other interests. He has drawn a lot of attention and there are people who don't like because of his policies, and there are people who do like him because of his policies. What we have to do is get through the noise and ignore whatever their motives must be on either side, because I think we've seen plenty of reason to suspect that some people are motivated by their beliefs.
But the bottom line is this is not behavior that any order cabinet officials would have withstood. And I beg to differ that we don't have enough to act on now because the FOIA requests have revealed plenty about his spending, $43,000 for a bizarre cone of silence phone booth, and excessive traveling of first class where he says he has to travel first class for his own safety, but then new reporting has revealed that whenever he was flying on his own dime instead of the taxpayers dime, he flew coach because his security concerns weren't worth paying that much more for.
RIVKIN: I agree with Walter, it should be investigated. But I'm stunned that he believes that we already have enough because nothing, nothing suggests to me that that's the case. And with due respect, the business about flying first class, the notion that he was flying for his personal pleasure is ridiculous. Anybody who travels knows whether you fly first class or coach, it is not a pleasant experience. He's a very hard-working plan who traveled on business.
SHAUB: I will agree that flying is really unpleasant these days.
BLACKWELL: We have to wrap it there. Walter Shaub, David Rivkin, thank you both.
RIVKIN: Thanks. [10:40:01] GALLAGHER: Still ahead, the former Russian spy believed to have been poisoned by his own country now making a miraculous recovery. We have the latest on his condition, next.
BLACKWELL: The former Russian spy whose poisoning last month sparked an international backlash against Russia is recovering. The doctors who are treated Sergei Skripal say that he is no longer in critical condition and is improving rapidly. His daughter Yulia is now in stable condition. Russia has denied any involvement in this case.
President Trump is vowing to protect the nation's southern border by rolling out the National Guard until the wall along the border is built. Tackling immigration was of course, as you know, a central part of the Trump campaign.
[10:45:07] GALLAGHER: And it's an issue that he claims has reached a crisis point in the United States, but has it really? We want to do a little fact check on here. It's true, look, illegal crossing surged last month compared to February. Historically, though, those numbers are similar to previous years. This is sort of an annual trend around this time of year. CNN political reporter Rebecca Berg is in Washington. She joins me now. And look, Rebecca, the deployments follow a week of these tweet storms about immigration from the U.S. to the U.S. from the south. Is this more about shoring up his base than it really is national security?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely, Dianne. That's not to say that the president doesn't care about immigration as an issue or border security as an issue, but for President Trump, everything comes done to politics. And his has this great political instinct as we saw in 2016 to really hammer in on those issues that will energize and excite his base, especially Republican supporters. And this is an issue that we have seen consistently in polling does energize Republicans, and most Republicans, 75 percent in a poll earlier this year by CNN, said they support a wall along the southern border, and so you can extrapolate from that that they might also support these security measures that the president is talking about, sending troops down to the border.
So this is all about politics for President Trump. He sees the polling that we are seeing, that Republicans are not very excited about the midterms coming up later in 2018, and so he's trying to get those people excited to vote.
GALLAGHER: So, look, the National Guard is being rolled out. The number of asylum seekers, we're not talking very many, maybe 200 if they get to the border. So what exactly is the National Guard going to do once they get there?
BERG: My sense is this is much more symbolic than it is about the border security element here. The president wants to send a message that he is being strong, that he is taking action on border secure, even as Congress has held up some of the funding for his wall, even as of course Mexico is not going to pay for this wall. He wants to send the message that he is taking action, and by talking about this, by trying to send the National Guard to the border, he can send that message.
So again, this is about image, this is about politics. That's not to say that there might not be some impact in terms of border security, but for the president, it's always about messaging. That's what it comes down to, the marketing of his brand.
GALLAGHER: Thank you so much, Rebecca Berg, for your time.
BERG: Thanks, Dianne.
BLACKWELL: Rain and cool weather are in the forecast, along with Tiger Woods this weekend at the Masters. Andy Scholes is live in Augusta with a look at the tournament.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys, Tiger Woods just now teeing here in a rainy Augusta. Coming up, he barely made it into the weekend, but he says that was a win.
[10:52:51] BLACKWELL: All right. Tiger Woods just teed off this morning at the Masters after struggling to make the cut. Bad weather is also not expected, it's coming down right now in Augusta.
GALLAGHER: It's so great to be at the Masters, though. That's where Andy Scholes is live in Augusta with the Bleacher Report. Good morning, Andy.
SCHOLES: Good morning, guys. The first two days out here were just absolutely beautiful, but we're in for a gloomy one today, rain in the forecast all afternoon. Round three getting going as scheduled. Tiger Woods already out there on the course. He struggled through much of his second round. For a while there it looked like he wasn't even going to make the cut. He hit the ball in the water on 12 for a second straight day. Tiger is not going to be winning that fifth green jacket this year, but he said he's still pleased with where his comeback is at right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: Six months ago, I didn't know if I would be playing golf, and forget at the tour level. I didn't know if I would ever play but it's incredible to have the opportunity again, to just come out and play the golf course now on the weekend. Even though I'm a lot behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: Your leader heading into the weekend is Texas native Patrick Reed. The 27-year-old just came out on fire yesterday birdieing his first three holes. Reed, who is known as captain America for heroics at the Ryder Cup never won a major before. He's two shots ahead of Australian Marc Leishman heading into today. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth meanwhile both five shots back. And yesterday I asked Spieth how he thinks all this rain is going to affect play today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN SPIETH, GOLFER: It becomes a tactical golf course when the conditions get tougher or you're presented with tough breaks like that. I think that's an advantage for me. This weekend in contention at the Masters is nothing new to me, and therefore I won't be extremely anxious, I don't think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: Spieth tees off at 2010. Be sure to tune in to CNN this afternoon for a behind the scenes look at the Masters, "All Access at Augusta, A CNN Bleacher Report Special," that's at 2:30 eastern this afternoon.
[10:55:00] And guys, the leader, Patrick Reed, he might be able to deal with this rain here a little bit better than others because he actually went to Augusta State, winning two NCAA championships for them back in the day. So he's played this course here at Augusta National more than most.
BLACKWELL: Any advantage helps. Andy Scholes for us there at Augusta. Thanks so much.
GALLAGHER: We'll be right back.
BLACKWELL: Child hunger and inadequate education are huge global problems, but CNN Hero Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow had a solution to serve one free meal a day in schools.
GALLAGHER: His organization, Mary's Meals, started pretty small back in 2002, but its work has grown tremendously. And late last year it celebrated a major milestone.
MAGNUS MACFARLANE-BARROW, CNN HERO: We started serving 200 children, and it's beyond our wildest dreams that it would grow like this.