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Trump Defends Tariffs: 'Trade Wars Are Good'; H.R. McMaster Expected to Resign. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 2, 2018 - 07:00   ET


CHONDI CHASTAIN, STUDENT, DALTON, GEORGIA: You never know -- if you give a teacher a gun, they could be fine whenever they're issued it. But you never know what could happen. Maybe something can snap, and they might -- I hope that this doesn't happen, but they could do something.

[07:00:19] And if there is a shooter in the school and we need to be protected, I think maybe that we should have more officers in the school. We go to a school with over 1,000 kids -- almost 2,000 kids. And we only have one police officer in our school. So maybe we could increase security or have more nonlethal weapons.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Chondi, thank God this was not what we've been dealing with recently down in Florida. Thank you for getting involved. Your tweet went viral. I think there was over 60,000 responses to it. So let's see what you do with your newfound relevance. And thank you for telling us about your teacher. Appreciate it. Be well.

CHASTAIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Thanks to you, our international viewers, for watching. For you, "CNN TALK" will be next. But for our U.S. viewers, we have news on our watch. Let's get after it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And here we are. Good morning, everyone.

CUOMO: Right away.

CAMEROTA: We are really getting right after it. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

Up first, the chaos in the White House is having reverberations around the world. Global markets are plummeting on fears of a trade war after President Trump abruptly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The president is defending his decision saying, quote, "Trade wars are good and easy to win."

On other policy, there are new questions about the president's commitment to gun control after a meeting at the White House last night with a top NRA executive. And the president seemed to shift after that.

CUOMO: All right. There's also growing chaos inside the West Wing. CNN learning that national security adviser H.R. McMaster could be leaving the White House by the end of the month. We've heard this before. The president said it's not true. He said McMaster is doing a great job. However, this news follows the resignation of communications director Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest advisers.

And now we're learning that Ivanka Trump is under FBI scrutiny for one of her international business deals. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White

House. Busy day for you, my friend.


The president is doubling down on his announcement of tariffs despite the spooking of Wall Street over -- yesterday. He tweeted this morning, "When a country, USA, is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don't trade anymore. We win big. It's easy."

So Wall Street's fears of a trade war seem to be very real. And the president is stoking them this morning.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be 25 percent for steel. It will be 10 percent for aluminum. But it will be for a long period of time.

PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump sending shock waves through Washington and around the world, announcing his administration will impose punishing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, despite strong objections from advisers at his own party.

TRUMP: What's been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. It's disgraceful.

PHILLIP: Fears of a trade war ending with the stock market plummeting and uniting Republican lawmakers in opposition.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: This is leftist economic policy. And we've tried it a whole bunch of times over the last two centuries. And every time, American families have suffered. It's bad policy.

PHILLIP: A spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan urging the president to "consider the unintended consequences of this idea and look at other approaches."

Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch warning that the tariffs are "a tax hike the American people don't need and can't afford."

And this "Wall Street Journal" editorial calls the move "the biggest policy blunder of Trump's presidency," adding that "He is taking a machete to America's trade credibility." President Trump's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, lobbied strongly against the move, and multiple outlets are reporting that Cohen is threatening to resign if the tariffs are imposed.

Another bizarre policy twist, the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, signals that President Trump may be backing down from his surprising support for gun control just one day after saying this.

TRUMP: Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified. It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18. I don't know.

Take the guns first. Go through due process second.

PHILLIP: After meeting with the president, Cox tweeted last night that Mr. Trump supports strong due process and does not want gun control. A White House official saying only that the president believes in the Second Amendment when asked about the shift.

President Trump tweeting that the NRA meeting was great.

DANA LOESCH, NRA SPOKESWOMAN: I think he's just entertaining both sides. I think he's listening to see what both sides have to say.

PHILLIP: The disarray in Trump's policy fueling questions about the president's ability to govern, given the chaos inside the West Wing.

[07:05:01] After months of tension with President Trump, an administration official tells CNN that national security adviser H.R. McMaster could be out by the end of this month, joining a growing list of staffers that have left the administration.

The White House denies that McMaster's departure is imminent. But there are a number of names already being floated as possible replacements. This as sources tell CNN the FBI is scrutinizing negotiations and financing surrounding the Trump International Hotel and tower in Vancouver.

The president's daughter Ivanka played a key role in getting the deal off the ground. The federal probe could prevent Ivanka from obtaining a full security clearance, something her lawyer refutes.


PHILLIP: While the concerns seem to be mounting for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, just this week Jared Kushner's security clearance was downgraded. And now there are ethical questions being raised about $500 billion -- million dollars in loans that were made by companies that he met with at the White House.

Meanwhile, President Trump is expected to leave this morning for Billy Graham's funeral -- Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK. Abby, thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for the "New York Times," Maggie Haberman.

So Maggie, you have an article out this morning about all of the chaos in the West Wing and how it is affecting personnel and policy.


CAMEROTA: So let's just talk about the overarching issue which is that he likes this. I mean, this is -- President Trump has always been known for sort of keeping people guessing--


CAMEROTA: -- shooting from the hip. And so why now does it appear to be blowing up in the West Wing?

HABERMAN: A couple of things are happening simultaneously. You've got the chaos that he creates or the chaos that he hasn't created or at least can't control, which is the investigations into actions by his campaign, actions by top staff members. You have departures of staff members. All of these things are happening at the same time.

And then to the policy piece, you have a president, who for all of his inconsistencies on policy, and we've gone over them repeatedly over the past year, trade is one of the few issues where his rhetoric has been pretty consistent over three to four decades. He has always talked about other countries ripping us off. And so he had indicated for a while that this is what he had wanted to do. He has said it for many months. His aides have staved this off.

CAMEROTA: Imposing the tariffs.

HABERMAN: Imposing the tariffs. This became an internal battle over the last couple of days that really exemplified this management style where one side is completely kept in the dark of staffers. Other people are trying to influence his voice. People showed up to work having no idea what would even happen the next day. This is not what we are used to seeing in a White House.

And so what happened in this case is Gary Cohn, his top economic advisor, who is, you know, not in favor of what the president said about tariffs, had told John Kelly, the chief of staff, you know, "I may have to resign if the president goes ahead with this." It appeared as if that wasn't going to happen. And then all of a sudden, the president had his comment.

We will wait and see what happens next week, when the president has said he will announce this, if it actually happens. But once again, you have people using, really, the only lever they have, which is threatening their departure.

CUOMO: Also, as an inconsistency barometer here, we see the president has put very uneven weight on Wall Street and on the returns there to validate his policies.

HABERMAN: That's right. CUOMO: People must remember, before he was president, he used to mock

people who looked at the Wall Street markets as the reflection of the economy in America. But now the -- just the word of this, it hasn't even happened yet, the futures all over the globe, red arrows. Bad.

All right. So that's the response to that policy. But there's something else that you raised in the reporting that I've got to talk to. The idea that the president might be using the chief of staff, John Kelly, to push out his own daughter and son-in-law, most of what is inside my suit cannot believe that would ever be true, that like, a father would do that to his own daughter.

CAMEROTA: Don't go too far down that road.

CUOMO: As tempting as it is. The idea -- the idea of this, help us understand this. Because it's crazy as an idea.

HABERMAN: I know. It's one of these things that actually, for those of us who have been swimming in this for such a very long time, it doesn't really sound that strange anymore. And that is what people mean when they talk about sort of a numbing effect.

But look, he has been sort of all over the place in terms on the president, in terms of what he says about his daughter and son-in- law's presence in the White House. So take the two aside for one second.

CUOMO: Meaning like working for him? Being his adviser?

HABERMAN: Working for him.

CAMEROTA: And that he -- he is ambivalent about whether he likes it or he doesn't like it?

HABERMAN: He is ambivalent about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. So for instance--


HABERMAN: -- several months ago, and this has been reported, he had been looking at having them leave, particularly Jared Kushner. Again, this is really less about Ivanka Trump; it is primarily about Jared.

But he has said repeatedly to aides, you know, "Ivanka Trump gets terrible press because of me. You know, this is all people taking attacks at me onto my daughter. This is terrible."

However, Jared Kushner is someone with whom he is now frustrated. He goes back and forth between being -- you know, feeling bad about what happened and then being irritated by the fact that Jared Kushner has become a liability of sorts in his own right.

[07:10:12] He is getting a ton of negative headlines on his own. It is all about the meetings he is taking. There's a lot of focus on investigations. He will talk about how, you know, Jared is getting killed, Jared is getting killed. And he's not only saying it with a sense of sort of self-reflection or this is an extension of how they're looking at me. Trump does not like when people attract negative headlines that could be a problem for him. And now he has a member of his extended family getting that in droves.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I'm just going to -- you just put a fine point on it. But I'm just going to read the key paragraph because I think it is so striking.

HABERMAN: And that had an editor's hand, which is better than my just sort of spewing.

CAMEROTA: No, no. Nothing's better than your spewing.

OK, so here it is: "Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president's daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained in the White House despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out."

HABERMAN: Yes. And it changes on the day. Right? It's not a consistent through line. It's not like there is this secret covert action to try to move them out.

But he was fine with it when what John Kelly was trying to do was curtail their power. And John Kelly, despite having told me on the record that it was wrong, it wasn't wrong. He had been talking to a lot of people about wanting to restrict what they were doing in his hopes that they would leave. And the president has at times encouraged that.

CUOMO: It makes sense. Because when you were first were reporting about Kelly pulling the clearance from Kushner, the common-sense notion was, "Well, that's it for Kelly. It was bad on Trump's family."

HABERMAN: That's right. That's right.

CUOMO: But this now informs why Kelly is still there. Because obviously, if the president is OK with it, the whole calculation changes.

HABERMAN: I think the president is not really sure what he can't see right now. And you are dealing with a lot of issues that he is unfamiliar with.

The situation with John Kelly was quite bad several weeks ago. It has stabilized right now. I don't know that it will stabilize forever.

But yes, the president was not going after John Kelly over this clearance issue. To the contrary, he was punting to John Kelly and essentially saying, "You deal with this problem with my children. I don't want to."

CAMEROTA: On to gun policy. Obviously, the country has been watching with rapt attention about where the president is going to land on this. It's -- he's been in lots of different places and positions this week.

That open-door meeting where cameras were watching him sort of test all the lawmakers and make them say -- you know, I mean, it was fascinating to watch him say, "Did you put in the age minimum? Let's raise that," you know, to Republicans.

But now he last night met with the NRA. And as we all know, whoever has his ear last is often where things get set. Do you have any sense of where the president is and what they're going to put out in terms of their gun policy position?

HABERMAN: I think the NRA was very nervous about what the president said at the meeting this week. I think also congressional Republicans in tough races were very nervous in suburban districts were very nervous about what he said and what that means.

I'm still not sure what this ultimately defines the policy as. Right? I mean, it is true that whoever is with him last tends to have the most impact.

But he had -- in that meeting the other day, the televised meeting, he basically said two different things. I mean, he was sort of talking about support. He tweeted repeatedly about what a great person Wayne LaPierre of the NRA is.

And then he said, "But we need background checks."

I think he is going to continue to say both things. It's really interesting, because if the president does go ahead with some real -- push through some real change, pollsters are telling me that they are seeing the movement in Republicans in favor of some additional gun measures is because the president has been moving. It's from Republicans. And it's the president moving them in that direction.

He has a huge ability to influence his party. If he gets something accomplished on guns, it will benefit him personally, I think, quite a bit.

CUOMO: Yes. It would be a huge deal.

HABERMAN: Correct.

CUOMO: It will show working across party lines. It will show that he is not captive of his base.

HABERMAN: That's right. That's right.

CUOMO: But the problem is, this is shaping up just like the DACA meeting--

HABERMAN: Correct.

CUOMO: -- and what happened after.

HABERMAN: Correct. And it won't help his party, which is a lot of why you are seeing the pushback as you are.

And to your point about the DACA meeting, this is very similar -- I was thinking about this before -- very similar to when you had that dinner, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. And they rushed out afterwards and said, "There is a deal," which there clearly was not a deal.

CUOMO: That was a mistake.

HABERMAN: Yes. And -- and Chris Cox of the NRA did something similar last night, which is essentially, "The president is on our side." He tweeted about the dinner before the president.

CAMEROTA: But then the president reinforced it, didn't he?

HABERMAN: Sort of.

CAMEROTA: He didn't go against what Chris said--

CUOMO: He said he had a great meeting.

CAMEROTA: He said it was a great meeting.

HABERMAN: I don't know what that means. I mean, as we know, this president often says things that different people can read as supportive of what they're saying.

CUOMO: He certainly gave cover to the NRA reps that he didn't give to Pelosi and Schumer.

HABERMAN: No question about that.

CUOMO: But look, as long as the president stays focused on wanting to do something on guns, we'll be OK. Which is why this morning his basically first tweet of the day was about Alec Baldwin--


CUOMO: -- whom he called Alex. And he was exercised enough about it that he forget how to spell the word "dying." And he's talking about his impersonation of the man -- of him.

[07:15:11] CAMEROTA: But Darrell Hammond's is better, Maggie. I mean, are you going to disagree with that?

HABERMAN: I don't feel like I have enough of a fine-tuned bit of reporting on that.

CUOMO: It just shows where his head is.

HABERMAN: His head is always about what matters to him. And what matters to him is -- who even knows why he was doing this? Did somebody air a clip that he had just seen that was, you know, the Alec Baldwin imitation? Did he see an Alec Baldwin interview? Was he reading "Page Six," and Alec Baldwin showed up? I have no idea. But again, as always, he tosses out these things. And to your point,

this is why, as difficult as his Twitter feed is for his advisers and as problematic as it has been in terms of policy and in terms of comforting people around the world, it is a rare X-Ray vision into a president's brain.

CAMEROTA: Well, he did delete that, and then he resubmitted it with spelling corrections.

HABERMAN: Thank goodness. That's good.

CAMEROTA: All right, Maggie, thank you. Thanks for sharing all your reporting with us.

All right. The president's move to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel is sparking fears of a trade war. So up next, a congresswoman from Michigan.


[07:20:04] CAMEROTA: President Trump defending his decision to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.

Let's discuss this with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She also has introduced legislation to ban all convicted domestic abusers and stalkers from being able to buy guns, so we will get into gun policy with her, as well.

Good morning, Congresswoman.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you?

CAMEROTA: I'm well. Listen, you're in the epicenter of, obviously, auto industry, then history there in Michigan. So what was your response to the president's surprise announcement on tariffs, on steel and aluminum?

DINGELL: You know, I have to say that I've said from the very beginning one of the reasons that President Trump won was because he understood what trade was doing in this country and that I would work with him on leveling the playing field in this country.

I have not seen what the actually -- the actual wording is of what's going to happen next week or the details, and that's very important to me.

I have shuttered steel plants. McCusk (ph) Steel is one of the biggest eyesores sitting on a river in my district. And I've got a lot of those workers who have now no jobs. Their pensions have been threatened. So I know what unfair steel practices have done in this country.

I'm also waiting to see the results of Section 232 investigation and what it's doing to national security. But my domestic auto manufacturers are worried about unintended

consequences. I've got suppliers. I need to see it. I need to understand it. We've got to do something, but I don't want unintended consequences either.

CAMEROTA: I understand. Look, obviously, it's going to take a lot more analysis and study. But just explain to us how will this announcement, how could this announcement help the unemployed steel workers and the shuttered plants that you talk about? This would churn them back up?

DINGELL: It's not going to -- no. Those jobs aren't going to come back. But I want to protect the industry that's here and make sure that we're not continuing to go lose more jobs.

You know, the other thing that people haven't talked about it. You see it sometimes. Is that some of the steel that's being brought in from other countries doesn't meet the same quality standards that we have in this country. So we're using steel that's not as strong as what we build here in bridges, in pipelines, and in automobiles.

I'm going to be introducing a bill that's going to call for random inspections of steel and probably some other metals as they come into this country so that we are examining and ensuring that they have to meet the same standards we do in this country.

CAMEROTA: But is it fair to say that this morning, with the president's surprise announcement yesterday, you don't know whether you support it--

DINGELL: I don't. I have to see it. DI mean, you know, the devil is in the details as the -- I've said I'd work with him on NAFTA, too. I mean, we -- NAFTA continues to be a very serious issue. And I talked to everybody back here. Everybody has different -- I'm here in Michigan when I say that. A lot of complicated -- you know, none of these issues are easy. And policymakers have to listen to everybody and try to navigate so you fix problems but don't have unintended consequences.

CAMEROTA: OK. Speaking of which, gun policy. You are the co-chair of the bipartisan working group to respond to the Parkland shooting. So everybody wants to do something in the face of this massacre.

What do you now believe , now that you've had these two weeks to dive in and look at this? What is the answer today? What do you want to see happen first?

DINGELL: So we are working -- the bipartisan problem-solvers caucus is an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. And if we get 75 percent agreement on whatever we're now talking to everybody, then we as a group vote and support it. So that becomes a very big block.

I think that we're not quite sure where the president is. But we need to remember we have a walkout on March 14 of the kids in solidarity with those in Florida. There are marches in Washington and around the country on March 24. So the work we're trying to do is in time for these events.

You also need -- what's important this time is we not go to our corners, have the same old discussion and nothing happens. That just can't happen anymore. I think I -- you know, I'm married to the strongest supporter of Second Amendment in the country. We've fought about this for years. And I've come about it from a very different perspective, as someone that's actually had to hide in that closet. So I don't want to have the same discussions. I want to keep someone from not having to do what I had to do again or that those kids have to do.

So I think that, you know, I think there's agreement on bump stock. I think there's agreement on background checks, tightening the loopholes. But also making sure that the states are putting the data into the database that needs to be there, if. We're working on red- flag legislation at a national level. Five or six states have it now.

One of the things that I've always said, my father shouldn't have had access to a gun. That's what happened. How do you keep -- and we've -- Fred Upton and I have met with everybody.

[07:25:05] CAMEROTA: But I just want to ask you about that, Congresswoman, just because you brought it up. So if you could just expound on that, you -- you felt that you were a victim of gun violence?

DINGELL: Well, I think I've talked -- you know, it's hard for me still to talk about it. But I more than once had to hide in the closet with my siblings when my father was out of control and had a gun. One night I literally kept him from killing my mother.

And I've been honest: He had an opioid drug problem, prescription drug problem, before anybody knew what it was. There's been some pretty dramatic nights. He shouldn't have had a gun.

I mean, in those days we didn't know what domestic violence was. When you called the police, which I did, they didn't come because of who my father was. We now recognize more things than they did when I was a child.

But I have frequently said, how do we keep the guns out of the hands of those that shouldn't have them? My father shouldn't have had a gun. And talking to law enforcement. I've talked to everybody -- mental health experts, judges, prosecutors, kids, parents, students, educators, ACLU -- these last couple of weeks. And what do you need? And every law-enforcement person -- the judges, the prosecutors -- "We need the tools so that, if we recognize that somebody is a threat to themselves or a threat to somebody else, we can take the gun away from them."

So I think that we're beginning to see some general consensus about that, as well. The mental health community is very worried about not being tainted or painted with a paint brush.

So, you know, I was happy to hear President Trump talk about how we need to make sure they don't have guns. I think we need to be very careful in how we talk about all of this and recognize there are people with mental health issues. But we need to take the stigma off it, too, and talk about it very carefully.


DINGELL: As you talked about my domestic abuse bill, which Amy Klobuchar -- and mine's the only -- Donovan -- Donovan from New York is cosponsor in the House, so we're bipartisan in the House -- would allow people that have been convicted of stalking and domestic abuse, who may not be married but they are domestic partners, would not allow them to have a gun. It would take the gun away.

We -- there are real problems still in this country. And gun deaths are still one of the highest incidence of death for women in this country.

CAMEROTA: Listen, I mean, as always, Congresswoman, it is so valuable to have your personal perspective on this policy. I think that it gives everybody wonderful context. And we just really appreciate you sharing your story and what you think can be fixed here. Thank you so much for being on on with us.

DINGELL: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: We have a panel of gun owners talking about how they were impacted by the Florida school massacre coming up. One of them posted this video Facebook where he destroyed his weapon. He cut it in half.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I loved that weapon.

What do I do with this?

I took it out to the yard. And I said to my wife, like, "I can't believe I'm going outside to do this."


CAMEROTA: OK. So we're going to see how he's feeling today, along with other gun owners.

CUOMO: And Vladimir Putin saber-rattling again, touting a new invincible nuclear-powered missile. We know what he's doing. He's trying to punk the president of the United States. What will happen next?