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Trump Slaps Steel & Aluminum Tariff's on Canada, Mexico, E.U.; ISIS Supporter Admits Plotting Attack on Prince George; Trump Weighs in on Roseanne Again but Doesn't Concern Racism; U.S. Quietly Funds Police Accused of Illegal Gang Executions. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 31, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It could hurt some of the farm states out there, agricultural products, a huge U.S. export to a lot of these countries. If they're going to cut back, that's going to be a problem politically for the president as well.

JIM TANKERSLEY, TAX AND ECONOMICS REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is something we've seen with the China tariffs also, that there's this fear, rightly so, in the Farm Belt that farmers will be the first to get hit here when exported agriculture is such a big part of their business. If you see big allies like Canada, Mexico and the European Union, and even China, who buys a lot of American soybeans, if they start to having retaliatory tariffs because of what we're doing, that raises the prices, reduces exports. Things are not going so great in the farm industry as it is because prices are still low, and this just makes it worse.

BLITZER: The fear politically is that some of these representatives and Senators from these states, they could get pretty upset if it starts affecting the pocketbooks and jobs in their home states.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and there's also a fear that this will totally nullify any benefits Americans would see from the tax bill. Obviously, Republicans are run o running on their tax package and they're telling people, look at your pocketbook, you should be doing better economically. But if prices go up, people are going to say, who is in charge? The Republican Party is in charge right now. They're going to blame the Republicans.

BLITZER: We'll see who blinks first, the U.S. or some of these key allies, these trading partners of the U.S. If it escalates, it could have an enormous impact not just here in the United States but globally as well. We'll see what happens.

Guys, thank you so much for joining us.

An ISIS supporter convicted, charged with plotting an attack against four-year-old Prince George. What he's telling investigators. We have details.


[13:35:49] BLITZER: In a surprise reversal, this British ISIS supporter admitted he encouraged his social media followers to attack supermarkets, soccer stadiums and even one member of the royal family, 4-year-old Prince George.

For more, let's go to CNN Europe editor, Nina Dos Santos, who is joining us live from London right near the Scotland Yard.

Nina, Husnain Rashid had maintained his innocence since his arrest but, today, he pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses two weeks into his trial. Why the change in plea?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Well, it seems as though, Wolf, it was just the sheer mounting evidence against him that prosecutors managed to glean that caused him to change his plea. We're talking about someone who sent 200,000 extremist messages by encrypted social media channels but also apps like, for instance, Telegram. It was that particular system, Telegram, that he was using when he disseminated that message and image of Prince George outside his school in southwest London just one month, the prince was. And he superimposed onto that image pictures of jihadi finders with the difference with the message, "Even the royal family is not alone." That was taken very much as an indication that he was encouraging his supporters to target members of the royal family.

But I should point out, he also had encouraged his supporters to commit jihad both in the West and also in places like Syria. He was accused in this trial of having communicated with terrorists in Syria and, indeed, planned to travel out there.

But some of those charges still lie on the sheet. As you said, before he pleaded guilty to four terrorist charges, three planned terrorist attacks and one for encouraging other people to make terrorist attacks as well. He's likely to be sentenced next month on the 28 of June -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Nine, was the prince's life ever in danger?

DOS SANTOS: We have no indication that his life was ever in danger, but we do have some indications that, obviously, this threat was taken very seriously, because, of course, the Crime Prosecution Service has investigated this and managed to glean so much evidence on this individual. They were obviously quite concerned about his modus operandi and his motives.

But I should point out that the Metropolitan Police here, whose headquarters are at New Scotland Yard, are charged with providing very tight security, and in particular to Prince George, because he is number three in line to the British throne.

I should also mention this wasn't the only time his school had been targeted. In the first couple months of his term, there was also another woman who was cautioned by police here at the Metropolitan Police headquarters because she had scaled the perimeter of that particular building. And again, a security threat towards Prince George.

But so far the palace hasn't commented on today's events, or indeed they didn't comment before when that woman was cautioned, either -- Wolf. BLITZER: Very disturbing developments, indeed.

Nina Dos Santos, thanks very much for that report.

Coming up, President Trump once again responding to Roseanne but twisting facts instead of condemning her racist remarks.

[13:38:55] Also, more on the breaking news. The president pardoning a conservative commentator and now considering pardons for Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart. Stand by.


BLITZER: For the second day in a row, President Trump is speaking out about Roseanne Barr's racial tweet. However, he's still not condemning it. Instead, he claims he's a victim. His tweet this morning reads as follows: "Iger, where is my call of apology? You and ABC have offended millions of people and they demand a response. How is Brian Ross doing? He tanked the market with an ABC lie, yet no apology. Double standard," closed quotes.

A quick fact-check, by the way. ABC did apologize to viewers for Roseanne's racist remarks. Brian Ross was suspended for his inaccurate reporting.

This isn't the last time, however, the president has passed on an opportunity to condemn racism or to apologize or attempt to clarify his own often questionable remarks. Listen


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me -- I saw the same pictures as you did.

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the field right now, out, he's fired.


TRUMP: He's fired!


[13:45:04] BLITZER: Joining us now, Michael Eric Dyson. He's an author of a brand-new book entitled "Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to Right America." Actually, that's not the new book. This is the new book.



BLITZER: That's his old book.

DYSON: That's right.

BLITZER: His new book, "What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin and Our Unfinished Conversation about Race in America."

Congratulations on the new book.

DYSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: You've watched the president. Why is it hard for him to go out, especially after the racist comments from Roseanne Barr, and condemn what she said?

DYSON: That bigotry speaks to him. Some said he is the biggest chief of racism, and I think this president has shown just by the lineup of spots you showed there that he is incapable of coming out and saying, look, this is wrong, racism is a problem. Here's a man who accused five black men, even after they were exonerated by DNA, that they couldn't have been the people who committed the crime, he didn't apologize for it. He has had questionable relationships with black people in terms of his own real estate. The point is, here is a man saying that there are good people and bad people on both sides, Nazism, Communists, racist bigotry, and people who are fighting it. So this president is amplifying the worst instincts in our country and, not like Abraham Lincoln, amplifying --


BLITZER: What would you like to hear from the president?

DYSON: Racism is wrong. It is evil to indict people because of their skin color, because of their racial or sexual or religious identity, and to say we as Americans stand up behind them, stand with them against those who would deny and sully the tradition of American democracy. Until the president can do that, he hasn't earned the right to amplify the voices of other people.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another book coming out by President Obama's former deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes. He details the president's reaction, President Obama's reaction to Donald Trump's election victory. After the election, according to the new book, Rhodes recalls the president saying, quote, "What if we were wrong? Maybe we pushed too far. Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe." The president went on to say, "Sometimes I wonder if I was 10 or 20 years too early."

When you hear that, those are words, according to Ben Rhodes, from President Obama. What do you think?

DYSON: He had an incredibly difficult position. He was describing, on the one hand, addressing the historic legacy of inequality that persists in this nation and, on the other hand, trying to lead the nation forward as the president for every American. The problem is, if you're a true American president, you have to grapple with the most serious sin in this country's history, which is race. Obama felt, because of his own personal disposition to be calm and cool and collected, that he shouldn't be get into the fray.

And I think that was a tragic problem and a flaw. Because when you don't address the history of race in this country, someone like a Donald Trump will step in and have no, if you will, hesitation to address the issue of race in a distorted and in a harmful way. Plus, Obama was trapped by the fact that a lot of people didn't like him and didn't like the fact that he was a black man. Look what Roseanne said about Valerie Jarrett to witness and sample some of the persistent bigotry in this country.

BLITZER: Earlier, what he said about Susan rice, the president's national security adviser.

When I read "What Truth Sounds Like," your brand-new book, what will I learn?

DYSON: Yes. You'll learn that Robert F. Kennedy had a big meeting with James Baldwin. He thought, I'm a white man, I'm liberal, I'm going to be celebrated. Harry Belafonte, Lena Horn, they lit him up. He was mad, he got mad, he sicced the FBI on them. Then he calmed down and said, you know what, I understand black rage now. And I had been raised in the same condition, I would feel the same way. He changed course. He got his brother to give a speech about the moral dimensions of race in America and it changed his own understanding of race, and he became one of the great advocates for racial equality and justice in this land. That's what "What Truth Sounds Like" is all about.

BLITZER: I'm looking forward to reading it, "What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin and Our Unfinished Conversation about Race in America."

Michael Eric Dyson, thanks for joining us. Thank you for writing this book.

DYSON: Thank you for having me on.

[13:49:03] BLITZER: Coming up, a dangerous war on gangs in El Salvador, but this special unit, quietly backed by U.S. dollars, has a dark past. A CNN exclusive coming up.


BLITZER: There's a disturbing side to the U.S. fight against gangs in El Salvador, particularly against M.S.-13, considered one of the most dangerous gangs in the world.

In a CNN exclusive, our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, gained access to an elite police squad, a law enforcement unit with a dark history and backed by American money.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an undeclared war here in El Salvador, elite group against M.S.- 13, an elite gang that menaces, beheads, rapes and terrorizes. And it's America's war, too. Because President Trump has declared M.S.-13 animals, they must be eliminated. And these men are fighting with U.S. money and help.

A lot of this equipment American government supplied, part of an effort to try and tackle gang violence back in El Salvador.

These men, the Jaguar Unit, say they're targeting gang leaders to cripple the gang hierarchy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translation): The U.S. participate in training, as well as providing equipment. The only thing that the U.S. does not supply is lethal equipment, the weapons and ammunition. But it supplies us with protective equipment, helmets, bulletproof vests and knee pads.

[13:54:45] PATON WALSH: There's something U.S. taxpayers should know about how America fights in this proxy war. This unit has a dark history, many once in an elite unite called the Special Reaction Forces, the SRF. It was disbanded after troubling allegations. SRF had a very lethal track record on the street, killing a staggering 43 people they say were gang members in just six months last year. Some, and it has repeatedly been alleged, illegal executions.

That's a problem for the U.S. who aren't supposed to fund units guilty of human rights abuses. Critics say some SRF police evaded this dark past by being folded into a new Jaguar Unit so the U.S. had no issues funding them.

I fact, the number of gang members each year killed by police have risen five times in two years. The higher body count that hasn't, say polls, made people feel safer.

It's a culture of alleged impunity exposed in WhatsApp messages CNN obtained where FSR police discuss executions and ask for informant's help identifying gang members.

"Can you send us a picture of Shadow", the message says. "We're going now to locate him. Right now. We're going to crash that (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

A local police railed the sloppy cleanup of an execution of a gang member by a fellow police nearby.


PATON WALSH: "There are witnesses who saw that they were beating that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) before killing him, but our comrades portrayed it as a shoot-out. Here you have bad procedures in practice. If you're going to do some (EXPLETIVE DELETED) like that, you better be sure there are no witnesses."

Brutal tactics can drive people away from the police towards gangs like M.S.-13. Interviews here, we get rare permission to answer.

(on camera): We're headed to one of the scenes of the more prominent killings deep inside gang territory, carried out by what locals here say was a police death squad.

(voice-over): No one disputes that Eclipse, as he was known, was a local gang figure, but they do dispute that Eclipse was armed when police shot him dead. Neighbors say it was simply an execution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): They came inside and a little time passed. They are screaming, "Hand in your weapons." We hear, "There they are, we're surrendering." Then we hear the shots fired. And after, there was silence. Then after, another four shots were fired.

PATON WALSH: His distraught mother shows us the scene, his bedroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER OF ECLIPSE (through translation): Here he was lying down, his hands like this, as if sleeping. They killed my son.

PATON WALSH: She claims they shot him in the back. They say the police never come around here now.

This case was investigated but charges were not filed. Police rarely, if ever, prosecute their own.

In fact, one of the officers accused in this shooting likely now serves in the new Jaguar Unit.

Using his photograph, a facial recognition expert, who used to work for British police, identified him in the new Jaguar Unit.

UNIDENTIFIED FORMER BRITISH POLICE OFFICER: These are clear, very good images. I'm confirmed this is the same person I'm looking at.

PATON WALSH: An officer accused of a killing in the old unit, the SRF, is likely in a new one, the Jaguars.

A forthcoming U.N. report will declare a pattern of behavior by security personnel amounting to extra judicial executions.

Salvadoran police reply they are fighting, quote, "terrorists," and often arrest them without the use of arms while keeping human rights paramount. More than 200 officers faced court for improper armed aggression last year they said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): There's a general belief about this unit having a green light to kill these gang members but that's a lie. This does not happen here, not in any other country. We stick to the legal norms of our country. We can only respond against aggression and we use the force level that applies to our police corps. And as last resort, we fire our weapon.

PATON WALSH: In a statement from the U.S. embassy said, "The U.S. government takes allegations of extrajudicial killings extremely seriously and has certainly express concerns regarding allegations of security force abuses. It provides assistance to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate all types of violent crimes, including those involving suspected human right violation." They added, "The U.S. recently provided 500 body cams and tracks alleged abuses so no corrupt officers get their help."

The U.S. has tried brute force here and elsewhere before and failed or got caught in a longer conflict. As the threat of M.S.-13 rises, they will have to hope the gangs crumble, rather than escalate the fight.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, San Salvador.


BLITZER: We want to thank Nick for that excellent, excellent report. He worked really hard on it and we're grateful he did it.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.