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Market Continues Losing Streak; Macron to Speak to Congress; Trump Signals on Iran Deal; South Korea Calls for Summit; Nomination for Ambassador Switch; Melania Masters State Dinner; Comey Town Hall. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 25, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:33:20] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the markets have opened. It's been a very rocky few days on Wall Street.

Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange with the very latest, up, down, up, down the last few minutes.

Alison, what are you seeing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm seeing down. In fact, the Dow's actually in the middle of its longest losing streak in a year. And we're watching the Dow barely hold on to gains at all. It's wavering between gains and losses in a matter of seconds.

This despite the fact that first quarter earning seasons is going pretty well. In fact, Caterpillar, one of the industrial bellwether companies that we keep an eye on, reported great earnings. But the thing is, investors are focusing on the negative. And the negative yesterday with Caterpillar is it's CFO came out and said that the tariffs that the Trump administration placed on steel and aluminum, those tariffs are going to eat into profits going forward.

So that spooked the market yesterday. We saw the Dow sell off more than 400 points.

Also selling off, we are watching inflationary pressures. The ten year Treasury yield, that's a yield that actually helps set lending rates for mortgages, for auto loans, for other lending products, and we're seeing that yield inch up and it hit 3 percent yesterday. It's not a magic number, but we haven't seen it hit that in more than four years. That's really spooking investors because they're worried about those inflationary pressures hurting consumers, hurting corporate America and hurting the overall economy.

So as we watch stocks move this morning, we are seeing the Dow extend its losses.


BERMAN: All right, Alison Kosik at the exchange.

Thank so much, Alison. Very shortly, the French President Emmanuel Macron will address a

joint meeting of Congress. This might be the least physical of his appearances during his three day visit, though we can't be sure. Whatever the hand-holding, kissing and dander brushing, the real question is, did the French leader get President Trump to budge on the Iran nuclear deal. We'll have much more on that in a moment.

[09:35:10] But, first, let's go to Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, waiting for President Macron's address.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, we expect the French president to arrive up here on Capitol Hill at any moment in advance of this speech that's going to take place here in the U.S. Capitol in the next hour. This is a pretty rare occurrence. This is the first time a foreign leader has spoken to a joint address of Congress, meaning the House and Senate together, in over two years. So certainly notable.

Vice President Pence will also be on hand to watch the speech today. And, yes, I suspect that there will be, as you said, a little less hand-holding, a little less dandruff brushing here today because certainly this is a formal address in front of Congress. And so many lawmakers will be listening closely to the policy aspects that the French president says today in his speech.

And certainly most closely watched will be what he exactly says on Iran. As we've been talking about all week, this visit by the French president most notably comes when he's, of course, trying to make the case to stay in the Iran nuclear deal and he has, of course, spent the last 24 hours in talks with President Trump. That state dinner last night at the White House and in discussions in the Oval Office about exactly that.

So a lot of lawmakers up here, John, listening very closely, reading between the lines as they attempt to gain some clarity about how those talks went, about how President Trump thinks about that. And certainly one thing we know is that President Trump, for his part, will at least be watching this very important joint address to Congress. He just tweeted out, looking forward to watching. He calls it a great honor. Something that he says is seldom allowed to be done. And says the French president, Macron, will be great.


BERMAN: There have actually been many addresses to a joint meeting of Congress by foreign leaders. Nevertheless, it is an important honor.

Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

I want to go to Michelle Kosinski at the State Department.

Michelle, the big issue has been the Iran nuclear deal and the question is, would President Macron get President Trump to budge at all. There are those who have seen daylight with the comments that the president made yesterday. What have you learned?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean almost in one minute you hear President Trump calling the Iran deal as it stands now insane and ridiculous. And then you hear him talking about, well, maybe at least among us, among Europeans and the U.S., we could reach some agreement. And then you hear Emmanuel Macron's description of what he sees for a sort of follow-on deal from the Iran deal. It is so confusing to people who have not been watching this closely.

So let's break it down a little bit.

First of all, European allies tell us flat out as of a few days ago they still have no idea which way the U.S. is going to go on this. So they're now watching these talks between Macron and Trump extremely closely. They feel like they're going to have a lot more clarity on this early next week. After these meetings are over and also after Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, is expected at least to be confirmed. So they expect more information there, to get a more cohesive look at what the U.S.' stand is.

So there have been these meetings at lower levels of the government, including the State Department, where the U.S. and Europeans are trying to craft a political agreement to basically agree to work on a post-Iran deal deal. So to fix the things that they see wrong with it once it expires. Europeans feel like that's a way to satisfy the U.S., to toughen it up and make the changes that it wants, but still keep the U.S. within the deal.

So you hear President Trump seeming to be amenable to what we think he was talking about, that political agreement, to say, OK, let's stay in the deal for now, but let's change the things once this Iran deal expires. Still a question, though, because you also hear the president's national security adviser, John Bolton, around town telling people that he believes the Iran nuclear deal is, quote, unfixable.

We just have to wait and see and that's what U.S. allies are doing as well, John.

BERMAN: Michelle, North Korea, obviously, a major issue as well. The president surprised a lot of people yesterday suggesting Kim Jong-un was honorable. And there's a new development overnight, word that President Trump might meet with South Korea's leader before a possible summit with Kim Jong-un.

KOSINSKI: Yes, that raised a lot of heckles (ph). I mean he said that Kim has been very open and very honorable. Using that word "honorable" upset people. You saw the reaction online and people talking about it.

It's unclear. He didn't really explain what he meant by that. But as we've seen, President Trump often says things and uses language that he doesn't necessarily stick with or he doesn't necessarily mean it at face value.

[09:40:06] But a couple of things are happening here. First of all, yes, there could be a meeting between President Trump and the president of South Korea, after South Korea meets with North Korea this week. So it looks like they want to basically join forces before the big Trump/Kim meeting, get on the same page, talk about how it went, because you could see from the U.S. perspective at least the South Korea/North Korea meeting being kind of a practice just to see what North Korea says in there, because that's what -- what everybody's waiting to see, what exactly is North Korea talking about when they say they're willing to talk about denuclearization.

Also we know that they want to speed -- the new incoming secretary of state, Pompeo, if he's confirmed, he wants to speed up the process of putting a U.S. ambassador in South Korea. So admiral Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, who was supposed to be tapped for ambassador to Australia, he's now being moved to be the nominee for the ambassador to South Korea. They obviously want to put somebody in that position. They obviously want somebody who's a military person and somebody who has said tough things in the past about North Korea, John.

BERMAN: Michelle Kosinski at the State Department.

Thank you very much, Michelle.

So the menu, the hat, the attempted hand-holding, the first lady, Melania Trump, in the spotlight like never before. So what does it all mean? That's next.


[09:45:34] BERMAN: All right, First Lady Melania Trump very much in the spotlight this week co-hosting French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife at the White House for the administration's first official state visit, the first official state dinner. You're watching the arrival right there at the state dinner. Oddly, in this one case, no touching between President Macron and President Trump. That was the one time they weren't holding hands during the visit.

Our White House reporter, Kate Bennett, joins me with more details on the first lady.

Kate, highlights of the night, highlights of the state dinner.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I mean, first of all, we wanted to see what she was wearing, right, because she wore that white outfit during the day. So everyone was like, what's she going to wear tonight. And it was a beautiful dress. It was Chanel Haute Couture. Chanel, of course, an iconic French fashion house. And that was definitely a nod to the country they were hosting.

You know, we were watching a lot of the guests arrive. It was as predicted. Not a lot of Democrats. I happened to notice too that in terms of cabinet secretaries and the ones that have sort of made headlines lately weren't walking through into the dinner, perhaps, and the ones that seemed to get along best with the president were. So, you know, and we also saw the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, who has a meeting with the president later today at the head table. Dr. Henry Kissinger was there. The head of Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy, was there also at the head table.

It was an interesting mix of people. A lot of politicians. Some New York financier types as well, so friends of the Trumps.

But, all in all, pretty seamless. No major faux pas. Nothing sort of -- no one hung a flag upside down or anything like that. Everything seemed to go pretty well.

BERMAN: So a small victory in that.

Kate, it's interesting, not a lot of bipartisanship in the invite list. No congressional Democrats were invited. But there were signs of bipartisanship say in the china or in the floral choices, in the entryway, everything which is -- to say really everything was chosen for a reason.

BENNETT: One hundred percent, John. Melania Trump did this event sort of by herself, without hiring an event planner. And I think it's interesting, very much unlike her husband, who's sort of a little loosey-goosey on history, Melania Trump is meticulous. And she did a lot of research.

She used the Clinton china, these gold plates we're seeing here. It's from the Clinton area, china that was picked out by Hillary and Bill Clinton. There's also some of the George W. Bush china that was used during the dinner. Certainly vegetables and herbs from Michelle Obama's White House kitchen garden were used and so was honey from the beehives down on the South Lawn.

Melania Trump looked into all of this stuff. She spent months planning this dinner right down to the very details of the flowers, the cherry blossoms that were in the hallway. So she really -- she took her time. And she's very detail oriented and I think very careful and calculated.

BERMAN: So, Kate, we broke the news of the hat yesterday on this broadcast, which is to say we were on the air when she walked out wearing the big white hat. Since that moment, a lot of people have been looking for a message there as if it would her, you know, illuminati (ph) sign or something.

What's the story beyond the white hat?

BENNETT: Listen, I've said this before, I don't believe there are Melania Trump coincidences. I think she wore this hat for a reason. I think it's, a, fabulous, and, b, she stole the spotlight. And I think, you know, she's had a difficult past few months here of, you know, the oxygen in the room going out to her husband and some humiliating headlines and I think that it has been a difficult time and she really wanted to say, hey, this is my day, this is my weekend, this is my night. I'm going to wear this hat and people are going to look at me.

BERMAN: I've seen a lot of westerns. We know who wears the white hat in the westerns.

BENNETT: Right. BERMAN: Kate Bennett, great to have you with us. Thanks so much for your reporting. I appreciate it.

BENNETT: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right, you think you've heard everything from James Comey. You have not. Tonight, CNN's town hall with the fired FBI director. You don't want to miss it.


[09:53:47] BERMAN: James Comey has a hit on his hands. "The New York Times" reports the former FBI director's book, "A Higher Loyalty," sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week.

So many new issues have come up, though, since the book was released and Comey did his first round of interviews. There were the memos, the issue of whether they're classified, so much more. He will face questions on all of this at a CNN town hall tonight at William and Mary.

CNN's Sara Murray is there.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, that's right. So Comey has become certainly a very publicized figure, but also a divisive one. This will be an interesting setting, though.

It's about 600 attendees. There was a lottery to see which students and faculty could attend. And the students here at William and Mary are actually helping to organize and sponsor this along with CNN.

And it will be an opportunity for students here to ask questions of James Comey, who, of course, graduated from William and Mary. But he's also going to be back in the fall to teach a course on leadership. So, you know, if student have some questions about his own leadership or some of the decisions he made during his tenure as FBI director, they're going to get an opportunity to ask him those questions here tonight.

Now, as you pointed out, even though people have certainly developed a widespread set of opinions about James Comey, both Democrats and Republicans alike have found reasons to love him, reasons to hate him over the last year or so. That certainly doesn't appear to be impacting his book sales. In the first week he sold about 600,000 copies. Compare that to Hillary Clinton's memoir, sold about 200,000 copies in the first week.

[09:55:13] John.

BERMAN: But who's counting?

Sara Murray, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

And, of course, the James Comey town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper, that is tonight, 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

The White House is standing by embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. Ronny Jackson, standing by him for now, but there have been new developments overnight. We're on top of it, next.


[10:00:06] BERMAN: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

This morning, growing concerns over the man nominated to care for our nation's veterans, accused of casually handing out prescription drugs.