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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Slaps Steel & Aluminum Tariff's on Canada, Mexico, E.U.; New Puerto Rico Death Toll Higher Than Official Number; Trump Attacks Disney CEO, Quiet on Roseanne's Racism. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 31, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:31:46] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Did the Trump White House just fire the opening shots in a global trade war? This morning, the administration announced it will slap tariffs on steel and aluminum from three of the nation's biggest trading partners, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. And the markets already feeling it.

CNN's Alison Kosik is here.

Alison, these were tariffs that were already announced. What is happening?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In March was the White House announced was that there was going to be this 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum. This did start for China, but our three biggest trading partners, Canada, Mexico and the E.U., they were exempted from that tariff. At least until the deadline of June 1st. We learned that President Trump announced or decided that those tariffs will go into effect as of midnight.

What does that mean? It means that important goods that those countries import from us, goods like motorcycles and bourbon and cigarettes and denim, all of those could have taxes of their own when they are shipped overseas.

What could that potentially do to us? Company-wise, it could wind up hurting bottom lines for those companies, could wind up affecting jobs. That could wind up affecting consumers because those costs could be passed down to consumers, though the companies could still absorb those costs as well. Those are all "what ifs."

Right now what we are seeing is another salvo from the White House in this trading war not just against China, but our three biggest trading partners. And you saw the market there, lower right now, not lower by too much because this wasn't unexpected, but we have to remember it was maybe 10 days ago, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the trade war was on hold. I say it is not.

BOLDUAN: Seems like it is alive and well at the moment.

KOSIK: Right.

BOLDUAN: The countries affected, what does it mean for Americans? How are they going to respond to us?

KOSIK: Let's talk about how other countries are responding.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BOLDUAN: The E.U. already said within the next few hours we're going to learn about retaliatory tariffs from them, so what are they going to tax? What goods are they going to tax? I listed some of them they threatened in the past. Mexico is also threatening to throw out some retaliatory tariffs as well. This is just going to be a tit for tat situation, something that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says has to be done to revive the manufacturing industry because, since the recession, the industry, you know, lost jobs, it gained some back. What Wilbur Ross wants to see is the manufacturing industry to be more self-sustaining. While we produce our own aluminum and steel, we use it, and we don't have to import it from overseas.

BOLDUAN: Many folks having -- folks on both side of the issue for sure.

Alison, thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Sure.

BOLDUAN: On that exact note, congressional reaction is starting to roll in. And the title of the statement coming from Republican Senator Ben Sass, "Sass statement on trade war." Here is the Senator's statement: "This is dumb. Europe, Canada and Mexico are not China and you don't treat allies the same way you treat opponents. We have been down this road before. Blanket protectionism is a big part of why America had a Great Depression. Make America great again shouldn't mean make America 1929 again."

Just some of the reaction coming in. We'll have much more of that ahead.

Coming up, the Trump administration is defending its response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico after a new study estimates that the death toll could be in the thousands. That's next.

But first, a Memphis nonprofit is helping inner city kids reach their potential with a sport most of them had never heard of. That high- impact contest is this week's "Impact Your World."

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[11:35:27] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't just build character, it reveals character. I think it does that for our kids.

(CHANTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Memphis inner city rugby. We are operating and serving six schools. Nearly 200 kids around the city. We have boys and girls.

(SHOUTING) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the communities, we're bringing rugby to, so many of the kids are lacking outlets in life and pathways to opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to have a starting GPA. Zero tolerance with the attitude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Partnering with teachers allows us to fuse mentoring for these kids along with coaching them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scholarship eligible, 5,000 bucks, boom, living on campus now, 24.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 100 percent of our kids have been accepted to college or university. Now couple of handfuls of our kids have earned college rugby scholarships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I absolutely adore my coach. Sometimes you don't think that you can do something until somebody pushes you to do it and then you're, like, oh, OK. I just did that. What else can I do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fantastic job. Like we always ask you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The need for rugby can sound cliche who needs a sport. Leverage, love for the game and accountability to a mentor to go the right direction.

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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[11:41:17] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every death is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody has ever seen anything like this

What is your death count as of this moment? 17?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixteen.

TRUMP: Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people, versus in the thousands.

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BOLDUAN: That was President Trump in October congratulating the governor basically, congratulating the governor of Puerto Rico that the official death toll at that point, the official death toll after Hurricane Maria at that point. Fast-forward to today, the death toll is 64 in Puerto Rico.

But a new Harvard study says the actual death toll may be many times that. Many, many times that. Harvard team estimates it could be 4600 deaths in Puerto Rico. To put that in context, it would be more than double the number of lives lost from Hurricane Katrina.

So why is there such a discrepancy so many months later? We don't know. Locals tell CNN a lack of clean water and lack of electricity is still threatening even more lives on the island.

One example, CNN spoke to a woman who says her husband, her husband died when the machine that helps him breathe lost power.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw him, like, get on the floor and I couldn't do nothing to help him. That's why I say that. We had electricity, normal electricity. He could be alive, still today.

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BOLDUAN: Horrible.

Asked directly about the shocking new estimate coming out of Harvard of how many Americans may have died there, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not directly answer.

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SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president takes the situation in Puerto Rico extremely seriously. And the administration has been monitoring that from the beginning. We have been supportive of governor's efforts to ensure full accounting and transparency, and those who suffered from this tragedy deserve nothing less than that. The two category four hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico were historic and we have responded with the largest FEMA operation in history. And we're going to continue to work with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything we can to be helpful.

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BOLDUAN: That's Sarah Sanders.

But now, joining me now is the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for coming in.

REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ, (D), PUERTO RICO: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: So many months later, we're about -- tomorrow is the beginning of hurricane season. Do you believe the estimate coming out of Harvard? VELAZQUEZ: I do. But in December, ranking member, Ben Townsend (ph),

from the Homeland Security Committee, and myself wrote to the committee asking for an audit and Congressional hearings because anecdotal information that we were getting out of Puerto Rico was telling another story, a different story. Investigative journalists and different organizations were refuting the official numbers that the governor was presenting.

BOLDUAN: How could the numbers be so off? The official estimate still stands, coming out of Puerto Rico, still stands at 64. How could the numbers be so off?

VELAZQUEZ: It is really outrageous. What really bothers me, first of all, my heart is broken. It is so depressing. Even in my hometown, we still have not electricity, no running water. And --

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BOLDUAN: This is where your family still is?

VELAZQUEZ: Correct. And what he tells us is that the fact that the numbers, the real numbers were concealed, that didn't provide a real story as to the severity of the disaster in Puerto Rico and gave this opportunity for the president to continue to say that the response of the federal government was a problem. Well, in fact it wasn't. It was incompetent at best.

[11:45:26] BOLDUAN: You state numbers were concealed. Do you think there has been a cover-up?

VELAZQUEZ: Well, I do not know given the conditions that Puerto Rico was going through. The lack of communications and many of the roads and the bridges were gone, that it was difficult at the time. But the fact that we didn't -- the federal government and the Trump administration knew that this was a category five on its track to hit Puerto Rico, that they didn't deploy the kind of federal resources that we needed in order to assist.

BOLDUAN: Now what?

VELAZQUEZ: Well, now we are asking for a congressional investigation, I'm asking for the government accountability agency to conduct an investigation so that we have a better understanding and the American people really know what happened. And based on that, we need to have a type of resources that are needed in order to rebuild Puerto Rico. Look, the response that was provided by the administration and the steps they took prior to the hurricane is telling us that Puerto Rico was basically abandoned by the federal government. If Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they are -- they should deserve the help that any other state could -- will get if they are confronted with a natural disaster.

BOLDUAN: Months and months later, still no clear answer, and hurricane season begins tomorrow.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming in. VELAZQUEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, President Trump launching a new attack in the wake of Roseanne Barr's firing, and it is not against the fired TV star or her racist tweets. That's next.

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[11:51:51] BOLDUAN: President Trump today attacking the head of Disney, Bob Iger. Doing that for a second day in a row. Also for the second day in a row, avoiding the elephant in the room, in this case, his Twitter feed. The president not calling out the racist anti- Semitic tweets from Roseanne Barr. This seems to follow a pattern, racism happens, and he doesn't call it out, from David Duke to the violence in Charlottesville.

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TRUMP: Do I think there's blame? Yes, I think there's blame on both sides.

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TRUMP: You look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it, either.

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BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Keith Boykin, CNN political commentator and former Clinton White House aide, and Margaret Hoover, CNN political commentator and the host of the renewing "Firing Line" on PBS, which premiers tomorrow.

Congratulations, Margaret.

All right, let's get to it.

Margaret, it seems a pattern. Major event happens, racism occurs, Donald Trump struggles to call it out -- David Duke, Charlottesville, Roseanne Barr. Why does he resist calling out racism when it occurs?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I can't pretend to understand or give some sort of sensibility or reason for the president's behavior here. It is deeply appalling and almost a universally understood phenomenon when someone likens -- I don't want to recreate what he did. Racism is racism. What I would like is to see us have more conversations about this and why inciting those words are harmful, what the history is so that people learn something from these tweets rather than just us talking about who is up, who is down, because there's a real history of racism in this country, and the racism today looks differently from the Bill Connor racism of the 1960s. But it's still there, and we should have these conversations and use them as a teaching moment. BOLDUAN: Keith, with what happened in our tweeting moments in the

last couple days, I've heard about "what-aboutism," right, since Roseanne Barr blew up. The latest occurred last night with Samantha B. Watch.

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SAMANTHA B., COMEDIAN: Ivanka Trump, who works at the White House, chose to post the most oblivious post we've seen this week. Ivanka, that's a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, from one woman to another, do something about your dad's immigration practices you feckless (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(LAUGHTER)

He listens to you.

(CHEERING)

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BOLDUAN: What do you think?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the point she was trying to make was on immigration. I think the point got lost in her comment. And I don't know how people are responding to it, but I think --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's horrible.

BOYKIN: I think it's inappropriate.

BOLDUAN: What she said was disgusting.

BOYKIN: I think it's inappropriate. I think it's vulgar. I don't know if the point of it is to try to equate that to what Roseanne Barr was saying, but that's not the issue.

BOLDUAN: That's comes to "what-aboutism." That's part of where the discussion needs to be. Right? You have sexism, you have racism. Both are horrible, both what was said is disgusting, but there's a historical context behind what Roseanne Barr did that doesn't raise it to another level.

[11:54:07] BOYKIN: It's different than a white person calling a black person an ape than a woman saying something negative about another woman. I think the large point that is missing is the culture that is being generated from the president and the time. We had presidents in the past, Democrat and Republican, who tried to bring our world together. Lincoln talked about the better angels of our nature. Obama tried to heal the nation, said there were no red states or blue states. Donald Trump exists to divide us. Everything he does is divisive. This whole Roseanne thing -- we talked about this yesterday - it could

have been a slam dunk for him to say this was wrong, inappropriate. But he didn't do that. I think the reason why he's doing it, honestly, I thought about this last night, I think he's doing it because he wants to continue to have this perpetual outrage among his base so they can have a reason to vote for the Republican candidates in the midterms. There's no justification for him not to call out Roseanne for her racist behavior.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

HOOVER: What he is doing is, is hitting on these things of cultural resentment that motivates his base, and you're exactly right. I don't think he even plans or thinks about it strategically like, what could happen in the midterms, but he knows it riles up the crowds and the loves it.

BOLDUAN: I know, right. He riles them up. But even if he called it out, they're not going to leave him. They love him that much. That's the kind of thing that kind of sticks with me.

Guys, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the Trump administration hits key allies with new tariffs. The markets dropping in response. Details ahead.

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