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Embattled EPA Chief; Caravan Heads to Mexico City; Merger Trial Resumes; Israel Strikes Syria. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Leftists and airports. We're talking about him trying to save a few bucks on the overheated apartment market in Washington. Something that would improve (INAUDIBLE).

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: $50 a month that he doesn't even pay.

Look, these are ethical considerations. It's going to be a political determination.

CAPUTO: That's right.

CUOMO: On the -- you expect the president to stick by him until what, something comes out that's worse?

CAPUTO: I expect the president to stand by him until something that comes out that really requires him to be replaced. I urge the president to stand by the secretary. I think that he's doing great work over there. He's, you know, reforming the EPA in a way that conservatives want to have done.

And that's the real problem here. He's effective, so the busy body bureaucrats of the EPA want him out.

CUOMO: But, look, that's a political assessment and that's what you're supposed to do. But, you know, there are -- look, why is Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, you know, a rock-ribbed conservative, why does she say he was the wrong choice? Because if you value the science that motivates a need for clean air and clean water and regulation thereof, and we saw what happened when corporations didn't have the sword of Damocles over their own heads, we saw what happened. Climate science matters to a lot of people. That's not just bureaucracy.

CAPUTO: I get that. But I'd also argue the fact that Susan Collins is no rock-ribbed conservative. Ask any conservative.

You look at the people who are dragging the EPA chief right now. They're kind of a familiar cast of characters.

But, let's face it, he might have done something wrong. And the oversight -- you know, the oversight responsibility here is important. But at this point in time, I think most of us who support the EPA chief think that at most he needs to just apologize and move on and continuing to cut that agency down to size.

CUOMO: The temperature inside the White House -- as you know, I'm not a huge fan of this line of reporting because I don't know where it gets us. The idea that there's no chaos in the White House is laughable to me.

I know you liken it to Jack Kemp, who you know well and you worked for and you think that Trump wouldn't like being likened to Kemp. But he was an idea agitator. This isn't about ideas. This is about people who Trump thinks are good or loyal to him and his personal politics or not. This isn't a battle of ideas. This isn't Kemp assigning the same speech to two people and seeing who does it better.

CAPUTO: I think it's a version of the battle of ideas. I mean I've been around President Trump when he's discussing policies. I think that he's continued his old habits in the White House, challenging people on different sides of the issue to defend their ideas and push forward and see which one he will then take his own council from. I mean I think you see Ambassador Bolton coming in, who tends to be more in agreement with the president. The president deserves to have an NSC that agrees with him. You see Larry Kudlow coming in, who tends to be more in support of the president. But, of course, you look at Kudlow, for example, Chris, and Kudlow is someone, who like Jack Kemp, was very pro-free trade.

CUOMO: Sure.

CAPUTO: You know, I think he'll be talk --

CUOMO: Most of your party is.

CAPUTO: I understand that and I think we'll see --

CUOMO: Almost all of your party is, except for the president.

CAPUTO: But -- like -- but let's -- make no mistake here, Donald Trump did not run as a traditional Republican. He's not going to govern like one. But I think people like, you know, Larry Kudlow will take a very important role in the White House and get involved in the battle of ideas. I suspect Larry won't even sit down in many of those arguments in the Oval Office. He'll stand and pace like an idea man does and he'll make his best case and the president will take that counsel.

CUOMO: We'll see.

CAPUTO: I'm excited about those changes.

CUOMO: We'll see. And I have to say it that way because we've seen exactly those kind of people come and go.

But, Michael Caputo --

CAPUTO: But I'm real hopeful now. I'm real hopeful now, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, if we don't have hope, what do we have?

CAPUTO: That's right.

CUOMO: Thank you for being on the show.

CAPUTO: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So the caravan that became the focus of President Trump's tweets is still on the move. CNN is with them. We will give you an update, next.


[08:38:00] CUOMO: In just moments a caravan of more than 500 Central Americans are expected to board buses in Puebla, Mexico, bound for Mexico City.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Puebla with more.

What do we expect?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, let me sort of show you around, Chris. These are the lines of people. We were in these very lines with them over the weekend for the head count. They have more than 500 people. Men over here, families with children over here. And where they are heading, if you see in the background, there are 11 buses that they are getting on as we speak.

These 11 buses are heading to Mexico City, where the caravan will sort of have its last leg. And then they will break off into smaller groups. Some of these people will stay here in Mexico seeking asylum. Others will be heading to the U.S.

And for those heading to the U.S., I have taken much time to speak with them. They are aware of President Trump's thoughts on this very caravan. Many have been told about the National Guard. And yet this morning as I spoke to them, Chris, they were saying that they are excited. That they -- those who have hopes and dreams of getting to the United States, of fleeing the violence that they have been living with in Central America, they want to just get to the United States where many of them have families, although not everyone.

So right now you can see they have their bags. They come from a church. The church gave them some snacks to take along with them. But more than 500 people. That's about half -- less than half of what started this caravan nearly two weeks ago. And many of them, as I mentioned, will stay here in Mexico City.

But the majority of the people that I talked to who said that they had plans to get to the United States, they are planning to continue on with that, Chris. They know that President Trump doesn't necessarily welcome the van. They say that they are not dangerous, that they want what's best for their families.

[08:40:02] And I've got to tell you, I have heard so many horrifying stories of violence in Central America. I have seen the scars on their bodies from gunshots and assaults. So for these people, a simple tweet or threat isn't enough to hold them back because they are fleeing from something that makes their daily lives so horrible, they tell me.

CUOMO: All right, Leyla, thank you.

CAMEROTA: So helpful to have Leyla there on the ground. I mean because you hear what's happening in the tweets and then you get to see it with your own eyes, and Leyla's own interviews, about what they're fleeing, why they're coming, how many there really are. So now she's saying it's whittled down to 500. It had started as more than 1,000. And where -- we'll see what happens in Mexico City, if more peel off or if they head towards the U.S.

CUOMO: Well, look, I mean, you heard what she said, a lot of them are anticipating peeling off, trying to get into the U.S. And that's going to create a problem because even if they do have a legitimate claim for refugee status, they'd have to want to be processed that way. And if they illegally cross into the country without going through that process, they're going to wind up in the same basket of political kind of, you know, enemies of this current administration. So there's no good ending if they go that route.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, some of them, when this happened last year, the same thing happened and we know that three of them -- that was the latest number -- did get political asylum here in the U.S.

CUOMO: You've got to apply.

CAMEROTA: Right. But, I mean, hundreds of applications. It will be a paperwork and, you know, humanitarian challenge when that happens.

CUOMO: And a lot of them choose to go the easier route of trying to just make it into the country and make their way that way. That's why Trump's putting National Guard -- if he had his way, he would have had active duty troops. If he listens to some people on the fringe of his party, he would have them take action against them as they cross the border. So we're going to have to watch it and see how it goes.

CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, the AT&T Time Warner trial is set to resume today. The Justice Department is suing to block the telecom giant's purchase of Time Warner, which owns CNN.

So let's bring in CNN Politics media and business reporter Hadas Gold.

So, Hadas, what do we expect today?

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: This could actually be the week, Alisyn, that the government wraps up their case in this trial. And then we'll hear from AT&T and Time Warner's side.

We've heard now from more than a dozen witnesses from the government from both AT&T and Time Warner executives and also from rival cable companies, some experts as well. The key witness we have not heard from yet from the government's side is an economist from U.C. Berkley who did a study for the government where he said that if this merger goes through, cable consumers would see an increase in their cable bills. Something like 45 cents per month per subscriber, which translates into hundreds of millions of dollars across the country.

And that is the key part of the government's case here. They're saying this merger would cause prices to go up, would be anticompetitive. Obviously, AT&T and Time Warner don't feel that way. They say this is necessary to try to compete with all these new companies that are entering the content markets, like FaceBook and Amazon and Google. And they say that prices would not necessarily go up. And they're going to be countering that pretty heavily by doubting the methods that this economist used.

So this week we could see the end of the government's case and then we'll start hearing from AT&T and Time Warner.

CAMEROTA: And so, Hadas, we remember, of course, that the judge had told everybody to speed it up. And so what's happening with the timing of the case?

GOLD: So the timing -- so the government has definitely cut down their witness list. They initially said that they might be calling up something like 30 witnesses. So far we've seen something around I think 16 or so. At the end of this we might hit around 20. I mean they've clearly heard the judge's message and in the past week we definitely saw a lot more witnesses per day. And the government is -- he's pretty tough. We've heard him scolding lawyers while they're questioning if he doesn't like how -- if they're not waiting for his responses on certain things, he's not afraid to scold them in front of the full courtroom.

CAMEROTA: OK. Hadas, thank you very much for the update. We'll check back with you tomorrow.


CUOMO: President Trump talking tough, tweeting there will be a big price to pay for the suspected chemical attack in Syria, even calling out Putin by name for the first time. Is he going to talk about action, as well? Christiane Amanpour with "The Bottom Line" on what Syria needs to get better, next.


[08:48:22] CUOMO: All right, they're just horrific scenes coming out of Syria of an apparent chemical attack and they've drawn international condemnation. The question is now, well, what action should be taken against Syria's Assad regime to prevent attacks like these from happening again.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN chief international correspondent Christine Amanpour.

If the reports are to be believed, Israel sent some bombs down into a Syrian base in response. What kind of military action do you think would make a difference here?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, first and foremost, it can't just be just missiles in reaction to one attack. On the other hand, it had to have a response. This is a violation of international law and it is one under all the Geneva Conventions and all the international humanitarian law that demands a response. Chemical weapons are prohibited.

We do know, even at this moment, that all the allies of President Assad, whether they are Russians or whoever they might be, are doing what they always do under these circumstances, and that is muddying the waters and claiming that no chemical weapons were used. No matter how you define chemical weapons, whether it's a nerve agent, whether it's an actual chemical gas, or whether it's chlorine, which does have those same properties and is banned under international law.

You know, this is the same pictures, the same thing that we've seen in the past. And this has been going on for years throughout this Syria war.

So there obviously needs to be a strategy. There needed to be a response. We don't know because Israel has not obviously confirmed it. It never does. But former senior Israeli military chiefs and intelligence chiefs are saying that it could only have been Israel or the United States. That as far as they were concerned, this base that was hit is not just a Syrian base, it is a Syrian-Iranian base.

[08:50:16] The Israelis say this is the base from where the drone two months ago took off and then was shot down, if you remember, and that they are above all concerned about Iran's expanding influence and sending any weapons into Hezbollah in Lebanon and in any way threatening Israel. But also other Israelis are saying that a chemical attack -- and you can imagine of all people the Israelis would be incredibly sensitive to this outrage -- demanded an immediate response.

CAMEROTA: And so, Christine, I mean when we look at these videos, OK, it's gut-wrenching. I mean we see kids struggling for breath. We see their bodies foaming at the mouth. And so it feels, you know, to the layman, something has to be done now. So can you explain why Syria in particular is so complicated for the international community?

AMANPOUR: Yes. Look, Syria is now, if you look at a map -- and we were talking about this just a few days ago in response to President Trump saying he wanted his troops out now. There are some 2,000 U.S. troops who have been, you know, engaged in the battle against ISIS. And we said, look at the map. Syria is now a proxy war for major world powers. The United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, all of these groups that have militias, military, armies on the ground. It is a big, unholy mess.

And the fate of Bashar al Assad is see-sawing back and forth. The United States says, well, we can't have him there and then they say something different. The Russians say, well, we can have him there. We need some kind of political solution to this. But nothing has worked because there has been no united actual endeavor either for a political solution to this or military solution to this.

It has started now the eighth year of this war. It started in March of 2011. And it's now in its eighth year. And it has, you know, responsible for the unbelievable waves of refugees into Europe, which has created this backlash against refugees. There's populism. It's had a major effect on politics all over the west, from Europe to the United States. But also it is the most vial use of weapons and mass slaughter of civilians that we've seen since the Bosnia War. It is relentless, relentless, relentless. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and millions of them have been turned into refugees.

And this just continues with the actors on the ground, you know, those who are the most powerful winning. And this has got to have some kind of coordinated, smart, strategic vision if it's going to be anything other than a, you know, than a knee jerk response, because, remember, this time last year, and the White House just celebrated or commemorated a year since President Trump actually did deliver missiles attack when it happened this time last year. But in the interim, it happened again. Smaller, but it happened again.

And so this guy, Bashar al Assad, gets no lessons and no hurt. And then to have President Trump and have this public discussion about pulling out U.S. troops last week, as you saw the tweet from John McCain suggested that that may have emboldened him. Frankly, he's emboldened in any event.

CAMEROTA: Christiane Amanpour, always great to get your context in all of these things. Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We need some "Good Stuff." Let's do that, next.


[08:57:35] CUOMO: "The Good Stuff."

What would you do if you were driving and saw a car on fire? Take a look at this video. This car crashed into a ditch in Illinois. Flames erupting from the driver's side. Jose Martinez (ph) saw the whole thing and then did what most would not. He ran over to help.


JOSE MARTINEZ: The driver was slumped over. So I opened -- after I opened the passenger door, then I pulled him out.


CUOMO: Once Martinez led the way, others followed. Two other men also came over and helped. Luckily, the driver's OK. Joel Alvera (ph), one of the others who came over, said he did what anyone would do.


JOEL ALVERA: At that point, when I was looking at the car on fire and taking him, I was like, if the car blows up it's -- we're just going together.


I mean you always make the point, running towards trouble, that takes a special kind of person. Thank goodness for that good samaritan.

All right, you want to laugh?

CUOMO: Yes, always.

CAMEROTA: Alec Baldwin made his return as President Trump on "SNL." Here are your late night laughs.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": Mr. President, why do you keep attacking Amazon? Do you really hate Jeff Bezos that much?

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR, "SNL": I do. I hate Jeff. Because he's way mature than me and he admits to being bald, so I feel threatened on two levels.

Next question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": Thank you so much to President Donald Trump and welcoming the nation of Lithuania. We have very much in common.

BALDWIN: Oh, my God, I'm already so bored. I wish I was watching "Roseanne." How great is that show. Roseanne loves me. She's like a good Rosie O'Donnell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we want efficient energy or else you might say in America a big bang for your buck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "SNL": President Trump deployed the National Guard to the Mexican border, even though reports show that illegal border crossings are at their lowest level since 1971. It's all part of Trump's philosophy, if it ain't broke, I'll break it.


CAMEROTA: It is so good, "SNL."

CUOMO: I don't know how he keeps his lip out like that.

CAMEROTA: I don't either.

CUOMO: So often.

CAMEROTA: That has to hurt.

CUOMO: And the makeup people there, I was talking to Lou (ph) about it, he's one of the guys who works here and on "SNL," they do an amazing job because Alec Baldwin looks nothing like the president.

CAMEROTA: That's right. And then -- and then he becomes his doppelganger. I agree with all of that.

All right, we'll keep bringing you laughs when we can.

[09:00:00] It is time now for CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman. How about that segue?

CUOMO: That was good. It hurts my face.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. John Berman here.