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Trump Taps Larry Kudlow As New Economic Adviser; Sessions Considering Whether to Fire Ex-Deputy FBI Director McCabe; Students Across U.S. Stage Walkout Over Gun Inaction. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:15] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Welcome to CNN. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We've got some breaking news here. That being another television personality is joining the Trump administration. The president has now selected CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow to lead his economic council. Kudlow is replacing former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn who stepped down last week in protest over President Trump's new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Kudlow, too, has opposed the tariffs, co-writing a piece in "The National Review" just days before Cohn's announcement. So, we're keeping a close eye on how the markets react to the news.

Let me bring in our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny with the why, and the when. And our Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, to sort of go through some of this.

But, first, Jeff Zeleny, to you. When did Kudlow accept and why did the president pick him?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we're told that the president offered a job in a phone call formally last evening and was accepted at the time. It could be announced as early as tomorrow. Of course, the president is flying from Los Angeles to St. Louis. He will be holding an event on the economy this afternoon. He wants to sort of draw attention to the economy.

But, look, he is, you know, trying to reshape his circle of advisers and is turning to some very loyal and trusted friends in many respects. And, of course, Larry Kudlow fits that directly. He's not always been on the same page but has always been on the president's side. He was a key adviser back when -- I mean, during the presidential campaign, excuse me, back when many Republicans and conservatives were keeping at arm's length, Larry Kudlow was supportive.

Now, he's been at odds with the president on immigration, on some other matters. But, by and large, you know, there's chemistry. Simpatico here a little bit.

So, the president, we are told, is also eyeing other changes in his cabinet. This is hardly the ending of this revolving door here that we've seen spinning pretty quickly over the last couple of weeks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Gloria, you just wrote about the revolving door. And I want to ask about your column here in just a second. But, you know, yes, there is this piece that he's another TV personality coming to the White House.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BALDWIN: But to me the top line is, you know, Cohn was out, and Cohn was a free trade guy and he opposed tariffs. So does Larry Kudlow. So, tell me why the movie ends any differently?

BORGER: Well, it's about the president's comfort level. This is what I wrote about, which is that the president now, I'm told by a friend of his, says, the president thinks he's coming into his own, that he thinks he's kind of mastered the job, that he can -- and the friend said to me, the president believes, quote, I don't need anybody to tell me how to do this anymore.

So, what he is doing is bringing in people, maybe Larry Kudlow disagrees with him, but he doesn't think that Larry Kudlow would quit over disagreeing with him. So, he is bringing in somebody he knows, he's comfortable with. He's going to get rid of people he's not comfortable with.

Rex Tillerson was one of the people he disagreed with, but he wasn't comfortable with him. He felt that Tillerson treated him badly and he didn't like that. He felt that Tillerson was way too arrogant.

And I think he feels Kudlow is kind of like an old shoe. And he has known him for years. He also thinks he can go on TV and give the president --

BALDWIN: That matters to the president.

BORGER: It matters a lot to the president.

BALDWIN: Quickly back on your point saying from this friend, that the president feels like he has mastered the job.

BORGER: Yes, right.

BALDWIN: Was there one thing that happened that suddenly made him feel this way? Just curious.

BORGER: You know, it's really -- I mean, it's really hard to know. I think he felt that, OK, I got tax reform done and that's good. And I figured it out. And there's a good economy.

And we're heading into a midterm, which is going to be tough. Unless I take charge, nothing is going to get done around here. I mean, you know, the president is very well known for being his own spokesman. He believes he's his best spokesman.

You see him orchestrating all kinds of things, including popping into the press room the other day when he said oh, an announcement is coming on North Korea.

BALDWIN: Right.

BORGER: So, I think what you're seeing is the president taking charge here and saying, you know, people are trying to tell me how to do things and it didn't work so well. Now, I'm going to tell people how to do things. I'm going to put people in I'm comfortable with. This is how we're going to be how we roll.

BALDWIN: OK, Gloria and Jeff, stand by for me, because the other breaking story we are following right now, ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe might just actually get fired a couple of days before his planned retirement this Sunday.

[14:05:05] Here's what sources are telling us, that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now the one considering whether or not to fire McCabe before then. The stakes are incredibly high for McCabe, because if he's fired before Sunday, he loses his pension after a 22- year career at the FBI. Sources also telling CNN that the issue stems from an internal Justice Department report, claiming McCabe misled investigators in the FBI probe into the Clinton Foundation.

So, let's go to Laura Jarrett, CNN justice reporter, with more on this.

And at first -- you know, when I first read your reporting, it looks bad for the White House if it's, you know, Jeff Sessions who is considering firing him days before his tenure is up. But reading deeper, it's the FBI who is recommending the firing.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Brooke. Our understanding is that the Office of Professional Responsibility at the FBI, the one that handles disciplinary matters is the one that has actually made that recommendation to the attorney general.

And as you pointed out, this all stems from a forthcoming report from the internal watchdog at the Justice Department, the inspector general's office, which has been working on this report, much anticipated for over a year. The president has even tweeted about it, the fact that it's late. And it's a wide-ranging look at how the FBI handled everything leading up to the 2016 election and what sources are telling us is that in that report, McCabe is being accused of misleading investigators about his role in approving other FBI officials to talk to the press in connection with a report about the Clinton Foundation back in 2012.

Now, the attorney general has not yet made a decision here. So, McCabe may still have a chance. And a department spokesperson over here said that the department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated and that process includes recommendations from career employees, meaning at the FBI, and no termination decision is final until a conclusion of that process, and Sarah Isgur Flores goes on to say, we have no personnel announcements at this time, Brooke.

And a representative for McCabe declined to comment here. But, Brooke, as you mentioned, this is serious because it would mean he would lose his pension. Even though he stepped down rather abruptly in late February, his official retirement date is this Sunday.

BALDWIN: Laura, thank you with the reporting.

Gloria, let me bring your wise Washington voice in to this, because, you know, yet another possible firing this week, right? Twenty-four hours ago, it was all about Rex Tillerson. Now, we're talking about Andrew McCabe. You again wrote this column, Trump flexed his muscles.

Is this going to be another muscle where the White House is flexing?

BORGER: Well, you know, this is sort of an excruciating position for Jeff Sessions. I mean, you know, that Donald Trump has been tweeting about McCabe for quite some time. He can't stand the guy. And he was pushing for the guy to be gone for a long time.

Now, Jeff Sessions has an opportunity to do that because of this FBI -- because of this internal investigation, which, by the way, is not good for Hillary Clinton and that's a whole other story. But, you know, misleading FBI investigators is not a good thing.

So, I can only imagine that in a way, maybe the president is saying to Jeff Sessions now you have the opportunity to do what you should have done a long time ago and then Sessions is sitting there thinking, wait a minute. This guy served honorably for 22 years and is three days before retirement. Am I going to do this?

So, I think it's a -- it could be another real source of tension between the president and his attorney general.

BALDWIN: Wow!

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: It's just Wednesday. We'll see if there is any news about this firing by the weekend.

BORGER: Isn't it just Wednesday?

BALDWIN: Yes, it is. Gloria Borger, it's Wednesday, thank you so much.

Also, the huge story today, I don't know about you, I saw a lot of students as I was on my way to work this morning. There's mass protests under way as thousands and thousands of students walked out of their schools today in protest of inaction in this country on gun control. This, as the Parkland school shooter appears in court. There he is. Prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty. We'll have a live report on that.

Also ahead some are calling it a political earthquake. What the Pennsylvania special election last night signals about midterm elections ahead this November as the White House looks to distance itself from the candidate who lost. And United Airlines is calling it a tragic accident. A family says a

United flight attendant forced them to put their dog in an overhead compartment.

[14:10:01] And that little precious puppy there did not survive the flight.

United, once again, facing tough questions about how the heck this happened.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We are back with more breaking news this morning.

These mass demonstrations happening right now all across the country, thousands of students walking out of their classrooms, taking to the streets to protest inaction on gun control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(STUDENTS CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Those never again protests happening one month after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida high school, that killed 17 people.

[14:15:05] And in a show of solidarity, lawmakers joined the walkout at state capitals and in Washington, D.C.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: One month ago, 17 Americans, 14 children, were killed at Stoneman. Let us remember them. Let us remember the thousands upon thousands of children who have died at the hands of gun violence.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We're all moved by your eloquence and your fearless insistence on action to prevent gun violence. Thank you for bringing your urgency to this fight, to the doorstep of America, the doorstep of the capital of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We have reporters all over the country. Here's Brynn Gingras in Brooklyn where a walkout is underway.

Brynn, tell me what these young people have said to you today.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke. You know, earlier today, we're at Brooklyn borough hall where hundreds of students gathered from at least nine or ten different schools at downtown Brooklyn, kids from 14 years to 18 years old, just being vocal about what they want. And they want a change. Here, we're in the middle of Prospect Park, and we want to kind of

give you a lay of the land, because this is sort of turning into somewhat of a rally, where students who couldn't participate in those walkouts are now coming here to the park and participating in these different tents. We got a sign-making tent over here for kids to basically say how they feel about everything. We've seen a number of signs.

We've got over here it says call them out. It has all the names of the NRA contributors for both the Senate and House of Representatives. So, really, this is almost like a civic lesson for all these students, really even younger than 14 years at this point.

But you asked me what were kids saying. I've got to say an 18-year- old who really organized all of this basically said he's 18, he can vote, he can make a change. But he hopes that he can carry the momentum of what those students at Parkland did and influence younger kids, the next generation of voters, to get out there and speak up for what they believe, and that is safer schools -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I saw you surrounded by students earlier today, and we're looking at these pictures out of Seattle. It's stunning, from coast to coast, what's happening on this Wednesday.

Brynn, thank you so much.

And today, we should also mention with regard to the shooting in Florida, the shooter made an appearance in court hours after the FBI made this revelation at a Senate hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Did the FBI reach out to law enforcement to give them a warning about Cruz and if not, why not?

DAVID L. BOWDICH, ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI: We did not.

GRASSLEY: Push the red button.

BOWDICH: No, sir, I did not. I do not know why she -- the call-taker did not do so. I do know she conferred with her supervisor and made some sort of presentation about what was contained in that call. And a decision was made -- there was discussion about the fact that the local department had been notified.

You're absolutely correct, Senator, the call was very explicit. However, they made a decision to close it, no lead value and no call was made to the local jurisdiction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The FBI also said that the call taker and the supervisor have, quote, different recollections of those tips. Also worth mentioning that neither of them have been fired.

So, with me now, Lewis Mizen, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School.

And, Lewis, last time you and I chatted, it was in front of your high school after you lost 17 friends. And so -- I mean, because of what happened a month ago, today, I'm sure you've seen the pictures, thousands of young people are walking out across schools across the country in support of you. What does that feel like?

LEWIS MIZEN, SURVIVOR OF MASSACRE OF STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH: Honestly, it's fantastic. I said a lot of times this doesn't feel real. The support that's been shown has been phenomenal.

I have people have been messaging me from around the country saying we're walking out to support you. It's just amazing. The idea that kids our age around the country are backing us up, and like across every state it's just fantastic.

And the idea that we're all kind of standing up together as the next generation, I think it shows the kind of unity that past demonstrations haven't demonstrated and I think that's really optimistic for the future.

BALDWIN: Yes and while this has been happening the NRA, Lewis, tweeted I'll control my own guns, thank you. What's your reaction to that?

MIZEN: I actually had a conversation with the NRA member yesterday. And it was one of those things where we try to have a conversation and try to find some common ground. Obviously, one of the things that's happened that the NRA have been attacked (INAUDIBLE) organization and the one thing I don't want people to forget is that they are people, too, and the person I spoke to is really passionate about this issue.

[14:20:06] But, obviously, everybody has differing views about what we need to change things and what legislation needs to be passed to change things. NRA members obviously want to protect their Second Amendment rights but I don't believe those Second Amendment rights should overturn the rights guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence, that said life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That shouldn't be overturned by the Second Amendment.

BALDWIN: Last month, I was standing next to you, but I was also standing next to Emma Gonzalez. Here's a clip of our interview.

MIZEN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIZEN: Obviously, the FBI made a mistake. It's a good thing they're holding their hands up saying it's our fault. But they don't always make mistakes and there have been 18 shootings the last 35 days. Those aren't mistakes.

Here at this school, I mean, credit to the administration, they did everything perfectly. Mr. Porter (ph), our assistant principal, he took charge of security a month or so ago. At the time we hated him because we had to do extra drills and it was so annoying. I know he may not be feeling it right now but he has saved so many lives with what he has done.

EMMA GONZALEZ, SENIOR, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I don't think the FBI is to blame. They did mess up, that's true. And the fact that they're owning up to is an incredible step in the right direction. No other politicians are owning up to the fact that they've made mistakes not putting forward anti-gun lobbies and I don't really care what people who defend the Second Amendment have to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, there is this Republican candidate in the state of Maine who has attacked Emma and another one of your classmates, calling Emma, quote, a lesbian skinhead and calling David Hogg, another one of your classmates, quote, a bold-faced liar. Now, this lawmaker did apologize but what would you say to this person?

MIZEN: You know, one of the things that's kind of disgusted me the most about this are the fact that people seem to forget that we're kids who just went through a traumatic experience. That's exactly what we are. We are kids who went through this traumatic experience.

And the idea that we can be attacked for standing up and talking, for using our First Amendment rights is ridiculous. If somebody is trying to get into a position of power and is going to do that by bashing children, then, you know, the next generation, my generation, certainly aren't going to vote for them, because we want to be a generation that speaks about things peacefully and is able to have conversations about things and not just attack people. That's where, you know, things have gone wrong in the past. That's where we want to change it.

And I think if this person is willing to say those things, he's kind of the epitome of where the past has failed and where we need to step up and succeed.

BALDWIN: Speaking of change, Lewis, last question, you know, we think this is a huge showing today, all these students walking out. I mean, think about the massive march in Washington, march for life a week from Saturday.

What -- you know, when everyone has come and gone from D.C., what do you hope will be accomplished?

MIZEN: Honestly, the one thing we want to do is we want to get the ball rolling. We want to -- it doesn't matter if it's small bit of legislation and again, we're not even expecting legislation to be passed. But we want to get the ball rolling, we want to get people talking, we want to get things happening in Washington, in Tallahassee, across state capitals across the country.

We -- for a lot of us, this is going to become our life mission. This is something we'll continue until, you know, the day we die. It's going to be something we take -- because it's in our hearts and we're going to fight for this as long as we possibly can.

And we're not going to stop until every child in America, every child in the world, really, should be able to go to school safely without fear that they're not going to get home at the end of the day. And so, I want the march on Washington right now, owning up to it, that's kind of becoming the critical aspect of this entire movement.

But I don't want us to end now. I want us to continue. I want people to continue talking about this and to continue fighting for change that will keep kids safe.

BALDWIN: Lewis Mizen, we will see new Washington next week. Thank you so much.

MIZEN: See you there. Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Next, political earthquake? My next guest says the Pennsylvania special election was not an isolated incident and Republicans should, indeed, be concerned. Sources tell us the White House is putting the blame on the Republican candidate saying he ran scared. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:23:55] BALDWIN: Let's talk about this Pennsylvania congressional race that is too close to call but too alarming for the president and his party to ignore. Democrat Conor Lamb on the left side of your screen here has taken a big, blue bite out of deep red territory, western Pennsylvania, a place the president, his son and one of his top aides all visited to campaign, a place where the president won by 20 points in 2016.

Lamb is now leading by more than 600 and some votes over Republican Rick Saccone, the likely Democratic victory just more proof that a wave against Republicans maybe coming in November. Democrats have flipped 39 state legislative seats plus the governor of New Jersey, now a Democrat, along with one of Alabama senators all since the president took office.

The race is also a sign to Democrats that the way to win more votes is to campaign less along party lines. Listen to the House speaker who downplayed any trends that this tight race indicates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the candidate that's going to win this race is the candidate that ran as a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative. That's the candidate that's going to win this race.