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Former Trump Political Adviser Roger Stone On Internet Censorship; Does President Trump Deserve Credit For Low Unemployment?; Could A Democrat Take Devin Nunes' Seat In November?; New Yorker: Israeli Operatives Collected Info On Obama Advisers. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 7, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Let me give you a last blow on this. What do you say is the best reason to read Roger Stone's book?

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP POLITICAL ADVISER, AUTHOR, "STONE'S RULES: HOW TO WIN AT POLITICS, BUSINESS, AND STYLE": What's interesting to me is when I posted the link to buy this book on Google, within hours they called it spam. When I posted an ad to buy it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, they call it -- you know, they rejected the ad.

This kind of Internet censorship is very, very dangerous. It's what we're experiencing and for worse, I do a show that --

CUOMO: Who's they, by the way? Who is -- who is --

STONE: The tech left. The large --

CUOMO: Tech left?

STONE: Yes, indeed.

So, I do a show, as you do, five days a week. It's a lot of work. I can't get my show loaded on YouTube -- my "INFOWARS" show because it's controversial. I'm against censorship. Let --

CUOMO: You know what the problem is with "INFOWARS." You know what Alex Jones has done in the interest of publicity.

STONE: And you're familiar with the First Amendment, I believe.


STONE: Well, on that basis I don't think anybody should --

CUOMO: Just because you have the right to say something doesn't mean it's right to say it.

STONE: Millions and millions of people are watching.

CUOMO: He's smearing the Newtown people. You can't be on board with that.

STONE: I don't -- I disagree with some of the things --

CUOMO: Come on.

STONE: -- he has said but even he hasn't backed off that.

The point is censorship and we're struggling to stay alive because we can be arbitrarily censored, and that is dangerous.

CUOMO: All right.

Roger Stone, thank you for making the case. Your book is "Stone's Rules: How To Win At Politics, Business, and Style." Roger Stone, thank you very much for being here.

STONE: Great to be here.

CUOMO: Appreciate it -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, let's talk about jobs.

The unemployment rate falls below four percent for the first time in 18 years. How much credit does President Trump deserve? We debate all that, next.


[07:35:35] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unemployment rate -- you saw that just today -- just fell beneath four percent for the first time since the beginning of this century.


CAMEROTA: All right. That was President Trump celebrating the lowest unemployment rate in 18 years. How much credit does he deserve for these record numbers?

Let's debate with CNN senior economics analyst Stephen Moore, a former senior economic adviser for the Trump campaign. And, CNN political commentator Catherine Rampell.

Great to see both of you.

So, Catherine, what is the answer to that question? How much credit does President Trump deserve for this, you know, lowest in recent memory?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, OPINION CONSULTANT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Look, this is great news that we have very low unemployment but the economy under Trump is virtually indistinguishable from that under Obama. And by that, I mean this low unemployment rate is just a continuation of an existing trend.

The unemployment rate has been falling pretty consistently for about eight years. It's basically been going like this. And so -- CAMEROTA: I mean, after President Obama obviously came in during the worst recession. But then, you see that in -- right, in 2010 there starts to be this steady decline.

RAMPELL: Right, exactly. It's not like there's this moment when Trump came in and the Red Sea parted and suddenly there was this huge plummeting of the unemployment rate. GDP growth, unemployment rate, hiring -- the trends are pretty much exactly the same.

CAMEROTA: How do you see it, Stephen?


That's sort of, Alisyn, like saying LeBron James hit a -- hit a shot at the buzzer to win the game. Do you think he deserves credit?

Look, this is an amazing economy. It's rather ironic that Catherine is saying gee, you know, this is just a continuation because, of course, "The Washington Post," months and months before Donald Trump was elected, said if Donald Trump is elected president he's going to ruin the economy, he's going to wreck it.

And now, we have this incredible boom in the economy and the liberals are saying --

RAMPELL: Look, if you didn't describe the economy -- if you didn't describe the economy --

MOORE: I know, exactly. And now you are saying --

RAMPELL: -- as booming before, you shouldn't be describing it as booming now.

MOORE: Yes, exactly. Well, wait a minute. Catherine --

RAMPELL: It's exactly the same.

MOORE: Catherine, I mean, look, this -- there is an old saying. Sometimes you have statistics that defy spin and the "Post" just has a big problem. They said that Trump would ruin the economy. We have the best job market in 20 years.

CAMEROTA: But Stephen, do you think this is a continuation --

MOORE: Catherine, wait a minute. Well, Catherine, hold on.

CAMEROTA: Hold on. Is he doing something different now?

MOORE: Catherine, wait a minute.

CAMEROTA: No, I doubt -- I'm just asking you a question. Do you think --


CAMEROTA: -- that this is the same momentum that we saw in the final years of the Obama presidency?

MOORE: No, no. Actually, here's the thing.

If you look at the economy in 2016, which was Obama's last year in office -- by the way, Obama gave us the worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression. That's the reason that Donald Trump won because there was so much economic insight --

RAMPELL: We also had a recession coming out of a --

MOORE: But here's the point.

RAMPELL: -- out of a major financial crisis. Every time there's a --

MOORE: No, of course.

RAMPELL: -- a major financial crisis --

MOORE: Yes, I know, but he gave us --

RAMPELL: -- you have a very slow recovery.

MOORE: Yes, and he gave us the worst recovery from that -- from the -- look, Reagan came in and he gave us twice the rate of growth and he entered office during a crisis of almost immense proportions.

RAMPELL: No, we did not have --

MOORE: Yes, he --

RAMPELL: We did not have a major financial crisis.

MOORE: We had double-digit -- wait a minute, Catherine.

Catherine, we had double-digit inflation. We had a -- we had a misery index of 20 percent when Ronald Reagan came into office. The economy was flat on its back. I'm old enough to remember that.

RAMPELL: I'm talking about a financial crisis.

MOORE: But here -- but here's the point.

RAMPELL: I'm talking about a financial crisis. You can look at like the last --

MOORE: I know, but that --

RAMPELL: -- 100 financial crises. If Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart --

CAMEROTA: Let her make her point, Stephen.

MOORE: Let me just make this point. The economy is booming right now. The stock market went through the roof the day after the election.

Why is this happening? Because we have a pro-business president.

You know, Barack Obama had eight years to get the economy moving. Not once did he get three percent growth.

Donald Trump is -- in his first year in office, he's got to three percent.

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Stephen.

RAMPELL: No, that's not true.

CAMEROTA: Hold oh, hold on, hold on.

RAMPELL: That's not true. The first year in office --

MOORE: Yes, it is.

RAMPELL: -- was 2.3 percent.

MOORE: Yes, it is -- the economy -- 2.9 --

CAMEROTA: Wasn't it 2.3 the first quarter?

MOORE: The last year, the economy grew by 2.9 percent. The latest number for April, Catherine, is four percent growth. We've been averaging somewhere around three percent.


CAMEROTA: Wait a minute. What's your source, Stephen?


MOORE: That's something that Barack Obama never --

RAMPELL: Look --

MOORE: -- gave us in eight years.

CAMEROTA: Stephen, what's your source --

RAMPELL: What -- yes, what --

CAMEROTA: -- because our -- the U.S. Commerce Department says it was 2.3 growth in the first quarter of this year.

MOORE: Yes, but over the last four quarters the economy has grown just a little less than three percent. And in April, the economy grew at four percent. So we've got --

CAMEROTA: And what's your source for the April number?

MOORE: That's the Federal Reserve. Bank of Atlanta puts out a GDP now number. CAMEROTA: Yes.

MOORE: It just came out a couple of days ago.


MOORE: Four percent for -- but look, ask the American people. You've got 70 percent --


MOORE: -- of Americans -- wait, hold on. Alisyn, you have 70 percent of --


MOORE: -- Americans today that rate the economy good or great.


MOORE: Before the election and Barack Obama's last year in office, only 30 percent of Americans --

[07:40:03] CAMEROTA: Good.

MOORE: -- rated the economy good or great.

CAMEROTA: That's a -- that's a good point. That's a -- that's a great point.


CAMEROTA: OK. So why aren't wages rising? At a time of record corporate profits, obviously, that's important. It's important to have a job. It's important to be paid adequately for your job.

So what's going on?

RAMPELL: It's a little bit of a puzzle, right? Normally, when you see very low unemployment, that should suggest that employers have to pay more money, right, to attract workers because there aren't that many workers for them to attract.

We don't exactly know why. There are a lot of potential explanations.

One is that maybe there's more slack in the economy. This is this term that economists use, meaning that like there are sort of more people out there looking -- or who want work or who could potentially get work than are officially counted in the unemployment rate. That's one possibility.

Another thing that we have seen, basically since the eighties, is that more employers have been shifting to sort of one-time wage increases, like bonuses or there have been reports recently about paying off student loan payments, et cetera. So maybe you see employers trying to attract workers through other measures like one-off payments rather than permanent wage increases.

But it's really hard to say. Productivity growth has been slow, too, so there are a lot of potential explanations. We just don't know.

CAMEROTA: Stephen, one last thing because Douglas Holtz-Eakin who, of course, was at the CBO --


CAMEROTA: -- director for many --


CAMEROTA: -- years. He says that the picture, even though the number is really low and the lowest, as we've said, in memory -- it's not as rosy a picture, he thinks.

So let me just read this to you. He says, "The bad news is that there was no measured employment growth in the household sector. The decline in the unemployment rate was solely because the labor force fell by 236,000 dollars (sic)."

So what's your thought?

MOORE: Yes, this is the single-biggest issue for the economy going forward, is how do we get those millions and millions of Americans who dropped out of the workforce in the Obama years? And that's what happened in the Obama years, is we had millions of Americans drop out.

We need to get those people back into the workforce. There's no question about it. We're starting to see a tick-up in labor force participation -- not as fast as I'd like.

But, you know, there was a good story -- I think it was in your paper, Catherine -- the other day that blue-collar workers in some areas of the country, Alisyn, are now getting $25,000 signing bonuses. You've got a really tight labor market out there.

And I guess my point to Catherine is look, you guys were just wrong. You had the whole story wrong. Why don't you just admit you were wrong about what Trump did?

RAMPELL: Because I never said that. I never said that.

MOORE: No, I'm talking about the -- I'm talking about "The Washington Post" editorial board. It consistently said --

RAMPELL: I don't know. Send me a --

MOORE: -- that Trump would wreck the economy.

RAMPELL: Send --

MOORE: And he didn't. He --

RAMPELL: Because of a trade war. CAMEROTA: Are you on the editorial board?

RAMPELL: No. I'm not on the editorial board.

MOORE: OK, all right.

RAMPELL: But moreover, look --

MOORE: Get your friends over there to do a mea culpa and just say we were wrong.

Because look, you've written columns saying we shouldn't have done the tax cut. The tax cuts one of -- been one of the great economic achievements --


MOORE: -- of recent months.

CAMEROTA: All right, we know where you stand.

RAMPELL: And adding $2 trillion to budgets, yes.

MOORE: Is that right?

RAMPELL: I mean, I'm sure that's a great economic achievement.

CAMEROTA: All right. Let us know when that apology comes through, Catherine.

MOORE: Yes, I don't see that.

RAMPELL: Don't hold your breath.


Stephen Moore, Catherine Rampell, thank you --

MOORE: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: -- very much -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right.

He is the controversial chair of the House Intel Committee but will his actions affect his support back home? We're going to go to Congressman Devin Nunes' district to see the election challenge that he is facing.


[07:46:48] CUOMO: The House Intel Committee chair is Devin Nunes and he's now threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt for not turning over classified Russia materials to Congress.

This is one of the big ignored stories, really, in the media right now because it's so significant. It just doesn't have the word "Trump" in the headline. But imagine that -- Devin Nunes, the man who is actively working with the White House during part of his investigation now going after the president's choice for attorney general.

There are signs that his actions in this committee and his close ties to the president are putting his reelection at risk. Could Democrats pull off an upset -- and this would be a big one -- in November?

CNN's Miguel Marquez spoke with voters in Nunes' district. Here's the story.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California's Central Valley -- farming, ranching, conservative -- deeply conservative.


MARQUEZ: Devin Nunes, the Republican congressman from the 22nd District, chairman of House Intelligence Committee -- a man the left loves to hate for his central role in the Russia investigation. He's viewed by protesters who have gathered in front of his district office every Tuesday for a year as vulnerable come November.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Do you really think a Democrat has a chance of winning the election here in November?

DAVE DERBY, RETIRED EDUCATOR: Why would I be standing here if I didn't? Absolutely.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): What gives them hope? Trump won the district by just 10 points. Republican presidential candidates typically do better.


MARQUEZ: Also, the presumptive Democratic challenger. Andrew Janz is a deputy district attorney in Fresno County who, in the first quarter of this year alone, raised more than a million bucks.


MARQUEZ: And, the Conor Lamb effect. Democrats argue if it can happen in a conservative district like Pennsylvania 18, why not California 22?

MARQUEZ (on camera): Will you consider Devin Nunes?


MARQUEZ: Why so against him?

WEATHERSPOON: Because he's too close to Trump.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The president looming large in this race. Even some disaffected Republicans coming out to support a Democrat.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Have you voted for Devin Nunes in the past?

BEV PETERSON, REPUBLICAN: Yes, because he was a Republican.

MARQUEZ: What is it that upsets you? Is it -- is it the Russia stuff? Is it immigration? Is it --

RON SCHAFER, REPUBLICAN: It's more the backing -- the backing of Trump, no matter what.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): But it is a tall order -- very tall. Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 30,000 votes here.

Nunes has a multimillion-dollar campaign war chest and in the last two elections, he's whooped his challengers by more than 35 points.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Do you really have a snowball's chance in hell of winning this district?

JANZ: Look, what I tell people is anytime a first-time candidate for Congress raises $1.1 million in 90 days, the CD's (ph) running and is definitely in play. And I've been talking to a ton of people that have said that they have -- they've had enough with my opponent, Devin Nunes.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Nunes preferring local conservative talk radio, Fox News, and his own Website funded by his campaign, purporting to report real news to town hall-style events. Even his supporters say none of it makes up for face time with constituents.

[07:50:09] GENE YUNT, NUNES SUPPORTER: He needs to make his presence before -- you know, before the election to help himself.

MARQUEZ (on camera): And as a Republican, that would be your counsel to him?

YUNT: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Get out here?

YUNT: Yes and help himself. You know, show up.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Fred Vanderhoof, Fresno County Republican chairman, says Nunes may have to work a little harder this year, but he's not worried.

FRED VANDERHOOF, REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN, FRESNO COUNTY: We can't assume that we're just going to come out walking and take the election. We're going to work for it. There's a silent majority out there that back us.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Miguel Marquez, CNN, Fresno, California. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: OK. Now to this.

President Trump has a few days left to figure out whether to stay in the Iran deal. So why were supporters of that deal in the Obama administration recently targeted in an effort to dig up dirt on them?

Ronan Farrow, the reporter breaking this story this morning, joins us next.



"The New Yorker" has a bombshell report out this morning. It says that Israeli operatives collected information on former Obama officials who were supporters of the Iran nuclear deal. Why would they do that?

[07:55:02] The report also says the operatives came from the same firm used by Harvey Weinstein.

Ronan Farrow broke this story. He joins us now.

That's an interesting coincidence.


CAMEROTA: So the firm is called Black Cube.

FARROW: Right.

CAMEROTA: And give us the headline of what you've learned about how this connects to the Iran deal.

FARROW: Black Cube is this international elite private intelligence agency staffed by former members of the Mossad and other Israeli intelligence units. And what they did here was dig into the personal lives of former Obama administration officials.

We uncovered documents showing that they were tracking the types of cars they drove, events in their personal lives --

CAMEROTA: Which ones? Which Obama officials were the targets?

FARROW: So, a number of them but two prominent ones were Colin Kahl and also Ben Rhodes.

And, you know, I point out Kahl is interesting because he was a prominent advocate of the Iran deal but also sort of a low-level policy wonk type.

These are odd individuals to target in this vicious and personal way.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, I think, according to your reporting, it wasn't just them. Their wives were also targeted.

FARROW: So, right. What we document here is that the wives of these two men, in particular, started getting strange e-mails from individuals that we now report were using aliases -- false identities -- and trying to pump them for information, essentially.

Things like a shale company called, literally, Shale Productions, reaching out to say will you consult on a film about foreign policy.

CAMEROTA: Why were they doing that?

FARROW: It appears that this may have been an effort to try to undermine and discredit the Iran deal. And obviously, this is coming out a time when the Trump administration is on the verge of its next deadline to certify that deal so there are a lot of individuals in the political scene with a vested interest in undermining the credibility of the deal and those behind it.

CAMEROTA: OK. So that leads to the burning $64,000 question.

Who hired Black Cube -- this private investigator firm? Who hired them to dig up this dirt?

FARROW: You're exactly right. That is the question.

I have to be careful to stick to what we've reported so far. But what I will say is the picture is a lot murkier than we thought it was as this story began to emerge.

It seems, at this point, to be quite speculative that this was a direct hire through Obama aides. I have sources near this organization and this operation that say this was, in fact, done through -- at least in a direct capacity in terms of who was doing the hiring of Black Cube -- a private sector firm with a commercial interest related to sanctions on Iran.

CAMEROTA: OK. So a private sector firm that doesn't want sanctions, but have you been able to make any ties to the Trump administration?

FARROW: So that continues to be the question. All we know is that there are some individuals around us who feel strongly that that's the case. Some of the individuals targeted certainly feel that this seems undeniably political in nature.

Colin Kahl said look, this coincided with leaks in the press linking --

CAMEROTA: We have that.

FARROW: -- him and Ben Rhodes.

CAMEROTA: Let me -- let me read that because I think that that's important -- what he thinks.

So, Colin Kahl said "he believed Trump associates may have been involved because of unsubstantiated reports in conservative media outlets accusing Rhodes and Kahl of damaging leaks about the Trump administration.

Why Ben and I? Why conjoin Ben and me?" Kahl asked. "Of all the other senior people in the White House, I'm least senior."

FARROW: It was a distinctive choice to link these two men. This isn't linking Ben Rhodes, who was a very senior official, to Susan Rice or some other senior official or a prominent architect in the heart of the Iran deal negotiations, like a Wendy Sherman.

This was a relatively lower-level guy, as he points out in this quote. And for some of the individuals involved that seems like a suspicious sign that it matched up with rhetoric from Trump administration officials linking them in the same way.

CAMEROTA: And so, is the sense that this was about the Iran deal really, or is this retaliation for something? What did you learn?

FARROW: You know, it certainly seems when you look at the documents and what the sources around this say that this was a concerted effort to target weaknesses in the Iran deal and those who were supporting it. I mean, this was agents who were tasked with asking question after question about whether these individuals profited personally off of the deal.

CAMEROTA: Did they profit personally?

FARROW: There is absolutely no evidence of that.

CAMEROTA: And so, what were some of the tactics? I mean, this is chilling stuff when your wife starts getting a call about her kid's school.

Tell us about some of the tactics that they were using.

FARROW: It's extraordinarily upsetting when you're targeted by this kind of a campaign and that's one reason why I think these stories are important.

Obviously, this is the same firm that was employed by Harvey Weinstein's attorneys to dig up dirt on women who were coming forward with sexual assault allegations and many of the same tactics were employed.

Looking at their sexual histories, looking at where they lived, what they do, who they hung out with. You know, detailed list of addresses and phone numbers for everyone they're in contact with and really trying to dig up any dirt that they can find.

And this is an unusual tactic to direct at policy officials but it's really an unacceptable tactic for anyone in any walk of life, and if you're powerful and wealthy enough it turns out you can hire people to deploy that tactic.

CAMEROTA: Ronan Farrow, thank you for the great reporting. Please keep us posted on what you learn next.

FARROW: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

FARROW: Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: All right, we're following a lot of news so let's get right to it.