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White House Delays Tariffs; Muller Questions for Trump; Pence and Ronny Jackson; Netanyahu on Iran Nuclear Weapons. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET
Aired May 1, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:30] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Time for "CNN Money Now."
The White House delaying its decision on steel and aluminum tariffs. The Trump administration giving U.S. allies an additional 30 days to negotiate. The U.S. has already reached a trade deal with South Korea and has preliminary agreements with Australia, Argentina and Brazil.
CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us with more.
What does all this mean, Christine?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, that expiration at midnight last night pretty dramatic. And the president now delaying those tariffs on key U.S. allies, at least for right now. The White House introduced metal tariffs in March with some exemptions. Those expired at midnight.
With just hours to spare, the administration extending the exemptions for the E.U., Canada and Mexico until June 1st. It agreed to permanent exemptions for the others. And now the U.S. and its allies will have more time to negotiate. The White House says it is focused on quotas to both curb imports and protect American national security.
The EU says it will retaliate if the tariffs go into effect, targeting $8 billion in U.S. exports, including strategic items from the home states of Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
This extension also lets the White House focus on its other trade battle, China. President Trump is sending his top economic officials to Beijing this week for trade talks, including Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow, and Trade Adviser Peter Navarro. Both China and the U.S. are threatening each other with billions of dollars of tariffs. The high-stakes meeting starts on Thursday.
And, Chris, it's a very big deal. And we had $150 billion in tariffs that the United States has promised to slap on China.
CUOMO: Right. Of course you always have a little bit of back story about what tariffs actually get paid, but Christine's point is well taken. This is brinkmanship and that is going to create uncertainty and the markets hate that. So that's just one big theme that's going on.
But you have these questions from Mueller. You have what they're going to do about the wall with the caravan there now and what -- you know, what steps. You have the tariffs. You have what Bibi Netanyahu just said. There's a lot on the president's plate.
CAMEROTA: Yes, indeed, there is. So we're going to talk about the political consequences of all of these things on the president's plate when we come right back.
[06:37:48] CAMEROTA: "The New York Times" reveals 40 plus questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Trump if the president were to sit down for an interview. What is the political fallout of this and we have more political topics to discuss with our CNN political analysts John Avlon and Brian Karem.
OK, so --
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, guys.
CAMEROTA: We'll start with just a question that's impossible to answer, John Avlon, which is, does the release of these questions, now that they're in the public sphere and we can all read them in "The New York Times," does that make that more likely or less likely the president's going to sit down with Robert Mueller's team?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as you kindly pointed out, it's impossible to actually answer that question. But, look, I think it does show the thinking of the Mueller team. It connects the dots in a lot of ways we haven't quite seen before, including highlighting the contradictions in many of the president's past statements.
One other theme I thought was interesting is that a lot of these questions aren't really covered, could not reasonably be covered by executive privilege. That's fascinating in and upon itself. I also don't think there's any reason to think this is a comprehensive list. That's important. But it really does lay out a series of arguments that shows that there are a lot of contradictions in the president's testimony. That's a political problem, that's a practical problem, that's a legal problem.
CUOMO: You know, the first time I read through these, Brian, I did it as a journalist, you know, and I was reading through the questions, would I ask --
KAREM: So did I. Yes.
CUOMO: Then I read them again and thought about, if I were legal counsel to the president of the United States. And I have to tell you, Jeffrey Toobin feels a little differently about this, feels it's a plus and minus. They would scare me because I don't trust -- if I'm the lawyer, I don't trust the investigators. They're in the business of finding proof of a crime. And I have no reason to believe that this is everything they know. In fact, I'd be surprised they want to talk to me at all if this is all they have. And the unknown is what is most scary, should it not be?
KAREM: Yes, absolutely. And I think, as it was pointed out earlier, these are merely topics. And I have to tell you, when I first read them, I went through them and I go, oh, there's a Jim Acosta question. Oh, there's a Jon Karl question. Oh, there's a Brian Karem question. A lot of these questions have been asked in the press room. And so I -- I -- the open-ended questions are just a mere starting point. And it's where they go from there that will take them in probably areas that the president doesn't want to go because as I said, since we've asked some of those questions in the press room, those answers have always been, we're going to refer you to counsel or we're not going to answer those questions. So it's not anything that they really want to answer to begin with. And if you've got Mueller sitting across from you, it's really not anything that you want to sit down.
[06:40:13] But I think it's an opening salvo to try and find out if the president -- to force him into a decision, to see if he'll sit down. And it gives people kind of an idea of how much Mueller knows or how much Mueller wants to look at or what he wants to look at.
CAMEROTA: All right, let's move on to some other political issue, because, as Chris has pointed out, there's a lot on the president's plate this week.
KAREM: It's been a busy day, hasn't it?
CAMEROTA: Yes, as -- as is every day.
But, listen, there are still so many lingering questions about what happened with Dr. Ronny Jackson, OK, who was the long-time White House president's physician. And so, what happened? You know, why was it torpedoed without ever a hearing?
So now we have a little bit more information. This comes from our Manu Raju. And CNN obtained some documents that I think are pretty telling. Let me just read to you what our CNN reporting is. According to copies of internal documents obtained by CNN, Pence's doctor, so the vice president's doctor, accused Dr. Ronny Jackson of overstepping his authority and inappropriately intervening in a medical situation involving the second lady, OK, so Mrs. Pence, as well as potentially violating federal privacy rights by briefing White House staff and disclosing details about Mrs. Pence to other medical providers but not appropriately consulting with the vice president's physician. So, that was in September, OK?
KAREM: Well, yes.
CAMEROTA: So, go ahead. Well, hold on, Brian. Go head, John.
KAREM: Sorry. The whole point about that is, I think what happened was, if you take a look at it, the president likes to move when the president likes to move and how the president likes to move. And if he gets an impulse to do something, he's an impulse. You want to take him to wherever the sales are at Kmart. I mean he'll walk in and just buy what's on his mind. Hey, blue light special. And I think that's what happened.
Dr. Jackson came out and supported the president, said he could live to be 200, and the president decided, hey, I liked this guy. And in --
AVLON: That kind of positive re-enforcement goes a long way. Yes.
KAREM: Yes, it does. And it -- and he ignored everything else. And there were plenty of warnings. And this points out that there were and that he ignored them.
KAREM: And that type of impulsivity is not conducive to good leadership.
AVLON: But I think it -- I think it's bigger than the impulse problem, which is well-known. This is actually concrete documentation that was presumably floated to at least the vice president that there was a problem with Dr. Ronny Jackson.
KAREM: And he ignored it.
AVLON: And -- yes. And it was utter -- utterly ignored. And it's not just questions of violating privacy. And Manu's reporting is phenomenal. WE don't know exactly what that alleged violation was. But then also the Vice president's doctor felt intimidated by Dr. Jackson and almost, you know, refused to meet with him anymore.
CAMEROTA: There was an angry altercation of some kind.
AVLON: An angry altercation, which Jackson apparently owned and said, you know, that's a problem.
KAREM: Well, I guess he wasn't Dr. Feel-Good for him then.
AVLON: That's the point.
KAREM: I mean everybody else. Yes.
AVLON: So there may be a kiss up --
CUOMO: All right, but let's -- let's try and put it into the category of, what does it mean? I'm of two minds on this. So this documentation comes out. No reason to believe it's not legit. Good. It's a good data point.
CUOMO: The White House pushes back and says, this was a dispute between doctors. They don't like each other. That's all it is. It doesn't show anything nefarious. OK, fine. Then they say, and by the way, all the other allegations that came out are false. And it's not just the White House that's putting this out. Friends of theirs. Ari Fleischer, a respected guy, you know, who did the job down there with the Bush administration, he puts -- it was in a tweet, right, so it's inherently incomplete and Ari would have to speak for himself, but he says, all of the allegations are false.
But we don't know that. We know that there was proof that rejects some of those, contradicts some of those, but not all. And then it raises the big question, if they had it and said, ah, we got you, media. You went after this guy wrongly with false allegations. Why did they throw him under the bus? Why didn't they push back, John Avlon, and say, you can't prove any of this.
AVLON: Well --
KAREM: Well, that's a great question. That's the point.
CUOMO: Let's let the process go forward. And he's going to fine and there's going to be egg on your face?
CAMEROTA: You've got five seconds.
AVLON: That's the subtext of why they didn't push back.
KAREM: Because he doesn't want to.
AVLON: That's right.
KAREM: He doesn't want it.
AVLON: But, I mean, look -- yes, so --
KAREM: At the end of the day, that's what it boils down to. He's afraid of the facts coming out. So squelch it, make fun of it and walk away from it.
AVLON: There's a lot of fear in this.
CAMEROTA: OK. Time up.
John Avlon, Brian Karem, thank you both very much.
CUOMO: All right, so big, big international development. Israel's prime minister says Iran is lying -- the i-n-g is important there -- about its nuclear program. He claims he has proof. He put on a display the likes of which we have never seen from a leader of that country, certainly from Bibi. Why did he do it this way? What is new? What does it mean? The man himself Bibi Netanyahu answers for you.
[06:48:35] CUOMO: All right, very big news here. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is accusing Iran of lying about its nuclear weapons pursuits. He claims that Israel has unearthed an enormous amount of files on the alleged program. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret nuclear files. In 2017, Iran moved its nuclear weapons files to a highly secret location in Teheran. From the outside, this was an innocent- looking compound. It looks like a dilapidated warehouse. But from the inside, it contained Iran's secret atomic archives, locked in massive files.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, the reporting reveals that the United States was informed about this potential raid. We've heard from Secretary of State Pompeo and others that they believe the information that was culled by this Israeli search of Iranian buildings and structures and that big library that was compiled. But there is pushback from allies and from the IAEA, the International -- whatever --
CAMEROTA: The Atomic --
CUOMO: The Atomic Energy Agency. OK, they're the watchdog that's supposed to be doing the monitoring under the 2015 deal.
So, the watchdog says, there is no evidence that Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons after 2009. OK? And that's going to be a big distinguishing point.
[06:50:10] So we're waiting for the prime minister.
Is the prime minister in position?
Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, joins us now.
Thank you very much for taking the opportunity, sir. We appreciate it.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. It's very good to talk to you.
CUOMO: So, first let's talk about how this came about and then we'll talk about why you think it matters. This is described as an unusually theatrical display for you and you gave this speech in English. Why give this speech in English and do it in such a big way?
NETANYAHU: Well, because I wanted the world to hear it, all of it. And there are only a few million Hebrew speakers and there are a few billion English speakers. So I think that's why and I did it.
Look, I would have done it in other places as well, you know, that I spoke before the American Congress when I thought there was an important message. President Macron of France spoke to the American Congress the other day.
This is a very important subject which relates to our quest for peace and security in the Middle East of the world and I thought it was important that the broadest audience possible would hear the dramatic findings that we found about Iran's secret nuclear weapon's program.
CUOMO: The suggestion is that you wanted to make sure that President Trump heard it and heard it directly from you. The question is, well, what did you change with this information? As you pointed out, you spoke to different allies. Putin says the deal stands as it is. The U.K. says they're not naive on what is going on in Iran. Germany says it's a -- there is landmark and robust monitoring. On the U.S. side, you had Secretary Mattis say that this deal was done in 2015, anticipating that Iran would try to be -- trying to cheat still. Michael Hayden, whom you know, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, say he didn't learn anything new. Even the U.S. statement from the White House changed from "has" to "had," that Israel has an active nuclear program to had. And it seems to be that the message is, we knew this already.
NETANYAHU: Well, I think no one had better intelligence on Iran than Israel. And when we got this trove of 100,000 documents, we learned so many things that we didn't know. We're still learning them. You know, we needed to translate it from Farsi, all these documents, all these simulations, all these -- all this data, all this testing, everything, all these sites. We've learned an enormous amount about Iran's secret nuclear program.
Now, the deal that everybody is talking about was premised on the fact that Iran had no such material. But Iran bothered, took enormous pains after the nuclear deal and before but especially after to hide this information. It's like an arsenal of knowledge. It's not just in the minds of people whom they have. It's the actual calculations that they've done, the blueprints, the measurements. They kept it hidden because they don't want the world to know what I showed yesterday, that they actually have this capability, a pretty advanced capability, to manufacture nuclear weapons because I think if this was known in 2015, the nuclear deal, as -- as was done, would not be done. And, in fact, the key condition for its implementation was that Iran come clean and it gave them a clean bill of health that they have no secret nuclear weapon. But that's not true.
CUOMO: So, Mr. Prime Minister, how do you reconcile --
NETANYAHU: They had it. They kept it. They kept it and they're ready to use it.
CUOMO: So, Mr. Prime Minister, how do you reconcile that notion with what just came out from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA. Of course you know, but for the audience, that's the monitoring agency in place to secure the different precepts of the 2015 deal. They say they have no proof that Iran has done anything new. They dated as 2009, that, yes, you're right, this what -- this is what Iran was up to. This may be even what it wants to be up to, but that there is no new proof.
NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, there's an enormous amount of new information that we didn't know that shows how -- how advanced they were in their bomb making work. So that's the first.
Second, if people knew this, then how could they close the file and say they never did anything like this? This was the condition for entering the deal.
Third, I think it's crucial to understand that the nuclear deal right now that we're discussing is premised on the assumption that Iran will somehow become a peaceful country. It's not. It's become, you know, an empire that is devouring one country after the other. And that they're doing before they had nuclear weapons. This deal will give them unlimited enrichment of uranium, unlimited in a few years. President Trump said yesterday, seven years. Unlimited enrichment of uranium.
[06:55:08] Second, it doesn't address their ballistic missiles to which -- in which they could carry the bombs.
And, third, as I've just shown, they have the wherewithal, the stored up preserved knowledge, to make a bomb very quickly if they wanted to do it. We could -- if you put all these three things together, enrich uranium, bomb, missiles together, that's a prescription for catastrophe.
CUOMO: Right, but it works both ways, right?
NETANYAHU: And I think it was important for me to put that forward.
CUOMO: But it works both ways, right, Mr. Prime Minister, because --
NETANYAHU: Well, if you have a bad deal --
CUOMO: Well, the secretary of defense right now, Mattis, said we put this deal together assuming they would try to cheat. So it wasn't done assuming that they would change as a state actor, Iran. Nobody went into it with their eyes closed to that, you know, that reality. But it's better than nothing, right? If there were no deal in place right now, you would have no idea what was going on.
NETANYAHU: No, I disagree -- I disagree with that.
CUOMO: And how would that make Israel safe? If by all accounts Iran has slowed or stopped what it was doing prior to the deal --
NETANYAHU: I disagree with that.
CUOMO: How would you be safer without a deal?
NETANYAHU: There are many premises that are incorrect in your -- in your statement.
NETANYAHU: The first is, we'd be better off -- we're better off because we have this deal. No, you're not, because this deal -- the fact that you have a dangerous deal, the fact that Iran is keeping or not violating a dangerous deal doesn't make it less dangerous. It's completely flawed. It's based on laws. It's based on the fact that they have the nuclear weapon program and knowledge that they stored up. They didn't come clean with it. And it's also based on the fact that Iran will somehow be a docile neighbor. That's not what's happening. The opposite has happened. I said from the start, look, if you want peace, if you want security,
you should have opposed that deal as structured. I said that. I said that Iran is not going to be more pacific (ph), more moderate once you sign the deal. And it's exactly what has happened. Iran has done the very opposite. It's taken in the money, the billions, and it's using it to conquer Yemen, to fire rockets on Saudi Arabia, to colonize Syria militarily, to arm Hezbollah with the most dangerous missiles on earth, to call for Israel's inhalation, to spread its totalitarian wins throughout the Middle East, and to oppress its people inside Iran to boot.
So the whole premise that this deal somehow guarantees a safer, more moderate Iran is wrong. This deal paves Iran's path to a nuclear arsenal. If you got rid of it, the first thing that would happen is you would crash Iran's money machine in which its pursuing its dreams of a conquest and empire. They're funding it with billions -- tens of billions of dollars their aggression throughout the region. And this deal facilitates it. If you take away the deal, they're going to be in a huge economic problem.
Second thing, I think you have to insist that you actually dismantle the components that allow Iran to produce an arsenal of nuclear weapons. If you don't and you do nothing, then I predict that what you do is head right into a wall. You would head into a terrible conflict and perhaps a terrible war in which Iran would be armed with nuclear weapons. That's bad. If you want peace, oppose this deal.
CUOMO: Well, it sounds like you're suggesting that that's the only course anyway. The way you outline the threat and the intentions of Iran, it seems as though you are indicating that you are on the precipice of war with this nation because that's the only way that you'd be able to guarantee that you smash all of their capabilities and stop all of their evil outreach in the surrounding region, as you describe. Is that what you mean? Are you prepared to go to war against Iran?
NETANYAHU: Well, nobody's seeking that kind of development. Iran is the one that's changing the rules in the region. Iran is the one that is practicing aggression against every country in the Middle East. Iran is firing rockets into the capitals of neighboring countries. And Iran is preparing 150,000 rockets to be fired at Israel with the explicit goal of annihilating us.
Iran is also moving its army, that's its declared purpose, right next to the Golan Heights, right next to Israel. So Iran is obviously on the campaign of aggression.
You know, I've learned something from history and I think you have, too. You know, when you have an aggressive, tyrannical regime with a murderous ideology, you know, stop it at the beginning. Don't let that tranny grow and expand. Don't let that aggression conquer more and more territories.
NETANYAHU: So, yes, you have to take a stand. We take a stand. I think that's the way to prevent war. If history has taught us anything is that opposing such tyrannies and their aggression early on actually prevents catastrophe. And if you don't, you invite catastrophe.
CUOMO: So, obviously how you do that is going to be an open question and it has very lethal implications. That's something that we'll have to see how it develops. The idea of disclosure, Iran won't tell the truth. We had to go in there, you know, is Israel's position, and steal this information so we can know the truth.
[07:00:10] Disclosure, as an issue, should work every way. The United States should say what it has.