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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Declares "DACA Is Dead," and Blames Democrats; Did V.A.'s David Shulkin Quit or Was He Fired?; EPA's Scott Pruitt Under Fire for Lobbyist Condo Deal; Dow Drops as China Levels New Trade Penalties on U.S.; South Korean Singers Perform in North & Kim is "Deeply Moved"; Uproar Over Sinclair Stations Airing Scripted Media-Bashing Promos. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: For all intents and purposes, are Americans, even though they're undocumented. It is going to be an issue. Clearly, President Trump is, you know, he's got a hold on his base. But coming here into the midterm elections, there are a lot of Republicans who do not. There are a lot of voters where this issue is going to matter to them.

What do you think about what that is going to mean for the president's agenda after November?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it is also important to point out that most Americans think we need to have a secure southern border as well. You can't go and completely split off DACA from the issue of securing your southern border, building the wall, and all the other immigration reforms that the president wants to put into place. What the Democrats want to do is go and say, hey, let's go ahead and legalize 700,000 people and give them a pathway to citizenship now, and then wink, wink, nod, nod, we'll come back and talk about border security later on. That is complete -- that is --

(CROSSTALK)

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The president -- why did the president say --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: He walked away.

CARDONA: Chuck Schumer offered the president $25 billion for his border wall.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: -- and he wouldn't do anything about ending the visa lottery.

CARDONA: $25 billion for his idiotic border wall that, frankly, the majority of Republicans don't want.

(CROSSTALK) MILLER: They walked away.

CARDONA: They gave -- they offered him $25 billion --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: -- in exchange for citizenship for the 1.8 million.

MILLER: Maria?

CARDONA: President Trump said no.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: Those are the facts. I know you're on the RNC and the White House talking points, but --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: No. You need to call Chuck Schumer.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: President Trump said no to $25 billion for the border wall.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: That tells me he wants these kids to be a pawn. And you're right, going into the midterm elections, this is going to be a huge problem for Republicans who are now in all of these swing states, where the majority of Americans want these kids to have a solution. President Trump is the one who ended DACA. He promised a bill with love. He's the one who --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Maria, the president --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Maria, you need to call Chuck Schumer and say come back to the table and --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: He offered him the $25 billion --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: -- on the border wall.

MILLER: Everybody knows what the president's --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: No, let's not talk about who wants to blow up this deal. MILLER: No. It's because --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: You said Democrats --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: -- midterms.

CARDONA: You said Democrats don't want --

(CROSSTAKL)

MILLER: Right. They don't want --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: Democrats offered him $25 billion for a border wall that they don't want.

MILLER: They won't -- they won't do anything about chain migration.

CARDONA: Let's talk about the border security, let's do the border wall --

MILLER: Maria, respectfully speaking --

CARDONA: -- and then give them 1.5 million --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Respectfully speaking --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: There is always -- there is always an excuse for Democrats.

CARDONA: For Trump, there is always an excuse.

MILLER: They don't want to reform immigration and they don't want to secure --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: Here's the problem with what you're saying --

(CROSSTAQLK)

MILLER: No, the problem is you keep walking away from it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: The deal on DACA was always a deal on DACA.

(CROSSTALK) MILLER: This is where Trump supporters --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Maria, hold on one second.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: This is what it would say and that's what he wants.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: He doesn't want a deal.

MILLER: That line of thinking --

CARDONA: He doesn't want a deal.

MILLER: -- it didn't work for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and it doesn't work now.

CARDONA: What are you talking about?

MILLER: Because Trump supporters --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: We're not talking about Hillary Clinton.

MILLER: It is the same kind of logic --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: You have no -- you have absolutely no argument because --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: It's the same failed logic --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: You guys, you guys --

CARDONA: No.

KEILAR: All right.

CARDONA: The facts are $25 billion --

MILLER: And you know what?

CARDONA: -- President Trump said no.

MILLER: People don't - people don't agree with that position.

(CROSSTALK) KEILAR: Maria, thank you so much.

Jason Miller, thank you so much.

I love how animated you both are about this issue.

The next story that we're going to be talking about is David Shulkin, the former V.A. secretary. Did he quit or was he fired? He says the White House claims that he stepped down are wrong. And we'll tell you why it matters, how he departed, next.

Plus, the Dow dropping triple digits this morning after China levels new trade penalties on the U.S.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:38:02] KEILAR: David Shulkin joining the expanding club of former Trump cabinet secretaries. But was he fired or did he quit? And what difference does it make? The White House has said that Shulkin resigned as head of the Veterans Administration, but Shulkin told CNN this morning he got a pink slip or, in this case, a pink tweet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER VETERANS ADMINISTRATION SECRETARY: General Kelly gave me a heads-up that the president would most likely be tweeting out a message in the very near future, and I appreciated having that heads-up from General Kelly.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The tweet fired you?

SHULKIN: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: CNN Politics senior writer, Juana Summers, here with us now.

This is an important distinction to make. Explain to us why it is important whether he resigned or whether he was fired, even by tweet.

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: Right, Brianna. In that tweet last week, when the president announced that David Shulkin would no longer leave the V.A., he named a replacement, at least on a temporary basis. He said that Robert Wilkie, who is a Defense Department employee, would replace him until a permanent replacement is confirmed. Here is where this gets legally interesting. He bypassed Secretary Shulkin's deputy secretary, Thomas Bowman, and that breaks open an interesting legal question. Federal law says the president has broad authority to name a temporary replacement in situations like these. In a couple of cases, it says if the person holding the job dies, if they resign or if they're unable to fill their job duties. But what happens here, at least according to David Shulkin, is that he was fired by the White House. He says he did not resign, as the White House said he did. And the law isn't as clear as to whether the president then can actually make this change. That could set up a situation where people could actually press a legal challenge to actions taken by Robert Wilkie while he's serving as the acting secretary of the V.A., which means these efforts to modernize the V.A. and to transform it could get caught up in all of this.

KEILAR: Or potentially privatize part of it, all of that could be challenged. If he does anything bold, right, it could be challenged in court.

SUMMERS: Absolutely.

KEILAR: That's interesting.

Let's talk about the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He had a condo deal with an energy lobbyist. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who for, you know, about a minute, was part of the Trump transition, spoke out about this yesterday. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:10] CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: This was a brutally unprofessional transition. This was a transition that didn't vet people for this type of judgment issues. And I don't know how you survive this one.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: If he has to go?

CHRISTIE: If he has to go, it is because he never should have been there in the first place.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Can Scott Pruitt survive this, do you think?

SUMMERS: I think it is important to remember that this isn't the first time that Scott Pruitt has made headlines that have been unflattering for the White House. He's also one of the number of cabinet officials who have been under scrutiny for his travel practices. This is the second negative stream of headlines we're seeing about him. We know based on our reporting the White House does not like these stories. They don't want to keep seeing these cabinet secretary names popping up in this manner. It is a question of, is there is more to this story as we reported about his travels, taking a security detail to Disney and other places. So I think it just remains to be seen what more there is to this story.

KEILAR: The condo thing is a problem because it allowed him $50 a night, just for the night that he was in D.C. And it was an energy lobbyist who rented him the property, so then it creates this sense of, is that really what he should be doing.

SUMMERS: Absolutely. In this particular sense, it really ties back to the heart of what his agency's function is. That's why this raised a new level of alarm within the White House and those involved in the matters and running the cabinet officials, day to day.

KEILAR: Juana, thanks so much.

SUMMERS: Thanks.

KEILAR: Appreciate it.

Up next, the Dow is way down this morning. We're talking about 500 points. The big drop coming as China hits the U.S. with us $3 billion worth of new tariffs. We'll tell you how it could affect American companies, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:46:06] KEILAR: Beijing delivers on its threat and retaliates against President Trump's stiff new tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. China announcing tariffs of its own on 128 American imports. Global fears of a trade war between the world's two largest economies rattling nerves in markets as you can see right now on Wall Street. The Dow is down just under 500 points.

And CNN's Alison Kosik is joining us with the latest on this.

Alison, what do you make of the big drop we're seeing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I say pick your poison at this point. We have President Trump attacking Amazon on Twitter, so that's creating this big worry from the investment community, could there be this antitrust enforcement going on here. Could the president go ahead and change tax rules for one of the biggest companies in this country.

Then, of course, you got this threat of an ongoing trade war. That's also weighing on the market as well. So you don't see many positive reasons for investors to go ahead and buy in today, especially as we hear that, beginning today, China is going to go ahead and make good on its trade threats. China is going to go ahead and slap tariffs on 128 U.S. Products. A 25 percent tax will go on eight Americans good like pork and recycled aluminum. A 15 percent tax will go on 120 other products including fruits, nuts, wine, steel pipes.

You look at the bigger picture, though, $3 billion is actually a small portion of the hundreds of billions in dollars that ship between the U.S. and China each year. But if you look at these tariffs, they are politically strategic. Here is an example for you. Pork, the Pork Producers Council warns that this is going to have significant impact on rural Americans and on the top-10 pork-producing states. Eight of these states voted for Trump in 2016.

Now, clearly these tariffs are retaliation against President Trump's duties on foreign steel and aluminum. Those tariffs went into effect two weeks ago. China has said, though it doesn't want a trade war, but says it will take full measures if necessary. So this is just one more move in the escalating tensions between China and the U.S.

And here is the thing, Brianna, this may get worse. The president said that there could be a second wave of this. He may look to place tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. And if that happens, the big worry is that China may retaliate even more and place tariffs on bigger industries, on items we export to China, like soybeans, and that's a huge industry in this country -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Alison Kosik, thank you so much for that report.

KOSIK: Thank you.

KEILAR: How do you deeply move a reclusive dictator? You put on a good show. State media in North Korea reporting that Kim Jong-Un and his wife attended a concert in Pyongyang by South Korean musicians, and they were deeply moved by the crowd's response. Kim even thanked the group and took a picture with them. This marked the first time in more than a decade that South Koreans have performed in the North.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has more details from Seoul.

Paula, how is the South reacting to this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, there's certainly some surprise. When you look at the official South Korean reaction, they're delighted that the momentum is continuing, that there is this thawing in relations between the North and South Koreans. But when you come from an expert point of view, there is a fair bit of surprise, that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, is deeply moved by a K-Pop concert. This is the sort of South Korean pop culture that, if North Koreans are caught watching, smuggled copies, smuggled, they're put into prison. Some defectors suggest that these imprisonments can lead to execution in some cases. So there is severe punishment for watching this kind of thing that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, was sitting and enjoying, according to KCNA, the state-run media. So certainly, there is some surprise. But there is a fair bit of cynicism. There is also some hope that this is yet more momentum building ahead of that summit between the South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-Un at the end of April, April 27th, and, potentially, of course, that meeting between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-Un. But certainly, it is not the sort of thing that you would have expected. But South Korean officials say they will continue with this, they will continue with the cultural events. There is another concert coming up in Pyongyang on Tuesday night. And they will continue with sporting events that they'll try to increase this inter- Korean relationship as well -- Brianna?

[11:50:36] KEILAR: Paula Hancocks, thank you so much for that report.

Still ahead, tensions are rising between Sinclair Broadcast Group and local affiliates after the company told journalists at its stations to report promos echoing President Trump's anti-media rhetoric. We're getting new reaction from inside newsrooms.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:04] KEILAR: If you live in an area where broadcasting giant Sinclair owns a TV station -- and the company owns or operates 173 of them -- you might have seen this, local news anchors reading a corporate-written script bashing so-called fake news. The Dead Spin Web site edited dozens of these editorials from across the country together. The faces and voices are different, but the message is the same.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: The sharing of biased and --

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHORS: -- false news has become all too common on social media. They say things that aren't true without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of media platforms push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what we watch. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Sinclair mandated that its stations run these editorials. Critics say the company is basically doing Trump administration's dirty work and pushing his talking points.

Joining me now, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, is with us.

Brian, you learned that some Sinclair employees are pretty furious about this.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": That's right. In fact, when I first learned about this a month ago and broke the story, it's because Sinclair staffers came to me. They were concerned about these scripts they're being forced to read. Now, over the weekend, these promos are actually on local TV. And Dead Spin did such a great job editing all of these together, you almost feel like the anchors are robots, having to read these scripts word for word.

What's notable about this, Brianna, is Sinclair and its conservative politics are now on full display. It's been coming to a boiling point over a long period of time. They have been times in the past when anchors have been forced to run certain segments, run pro-Trump commentaries and other pieces that are favorable to the administration.

But these promos seem to be bringing things to another level. This talk about fake news and bias in the news, it can seem innocuous, except when you think about the company's political slant and how stations have been told to tilt the news in a certain direction. That's why these promos were so offensive to so many staffers. That's why they're saying they want to quit over this issue. It's something that's definitely coming to a head now.

KEILAR: When you think of how large Sinclair is, right, it's the biggest owner of local TV stations in the U.S. They own or operate 173 local stations. What kind of impact does a promo like that have?

STELTER: It's because the words are coming from trusted local anchors that they have so much significance, so much impact. Some anchors have told me anonymously they feel like their credibility, which they worked hard to earn, is being corroded because of this.

Here's why the company says it's doing the promos. Here's a part of an internal memo I obtained from Sinclair announcing this initiative. They say, of course, "Trust is the most fundamental issue when connecting with news consumers, and we are a trusted news source." They went on to say, "That's why we're moving forward about these local anchor messages about journalistic responsibility. Please produce the attached scripts exactly as they are written. The copy has been thoroughly tested and speaks to our journalistic responsibility as advocates to seek the truth on behalf of our audience."

There is nothing wrong with seeking the truth on behalf of the audience, right? It's a little bit like the Make America Great Again slogan. That sounds great, let's Make America Great Again. President Trump used that slogan during the campaign. But when you say that and then you attack immigrants, people start to wonder what you mean by making America great. There's something similar going on with Sinclair's promos. They're saying, trust us, we're fair, we're the ones that are honest, don't believe the others. That's sort of an echo of President Trump's anti-media messaging.

And the other notable piece of this, Brianna, is that President Trump this morning weighed in on Twitter. He said Sinclair is superior to CNN and NBC and other networks. He's really making people choose, or essentially choosing for them, news outlets he approves of and news outlets he doesn't approve of. Clearly, he views Sinclair as an approved news source.

KEILAR: What happens if the stations don't run these promos?

STELTER: That's interesting. There have been these internal memos saying you have to run these, you have to run these. Jobs are on the line if you don't. Essentially, all the stations are going along with it. It's the latest mandate from the company headquarters. But it's definitely exacerbated tensions between the company's management and these local stations. I've spoken to a couple journalists who say they want to quit. They may resign over this. We'll see if that comes to pass or not.

But once again, I think in this Trump era, we see this argument about fake news, this term "fake news" being exploited, being misused, and in this case, Trump is saying Sinclair is on my side.

KEILAR: Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

KEILAR: Before we go, we're keeping an eye on Oklahoma City. We have some pretty amazing pictures coming in. Tens of thousands of teachers who are marching on the state capitol. They're demanding higher wages and more school funding. There are similar walkouts today in Kentucky as well, for funding and also for pension reform that they are doing there in that state. Thank you so much for joining me. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King

starts right now.